Freelancing For Dummies: Just Ask Me

Posted: October 25th, 2008

I’ve been a freelancer for a little over five years now and I’ve finally come to a point where I am really taking time to evaluate my business to see how I can improve…  which is more or less thinking about how to earn more money. My primary conclusion: I could be doing A LOT better.

I know a lot of people would kill to be in the position I’m in working without a boss and making a good living out of it (though I won’t give it out here). I could easily sit back, continue my routine as usual and cash those checks at the end of the month. At least that’s what we are molded to do in the J-O-B.

Well, this is freelance and you get the green light to do whatever the hell you want. To grow in your freelance career, though, it’s a pretty good idea to break your routine, no matter how comfortable you are in it, and do a self-evaluation. After five years, I guess it would be a good time to give myself a performance review.

To my own relief, I found I was doing a lot of important things right. Not surprisingly though, I was doing a lot of things wrong, too. What was interesting to me was that nearly all of the things I do right had to do with my work ethic, working habits and good instincts. All of the things that I was doing wrong, however, was strictly business related. I’m sure I’m not the only freelancer in the same boat so I’ll go ahead and outline the major ones here. Who knows, maybe someone else can learn from this.

The Rights

First of all, I pride myself in the work I do. And it gets done when I say it will get done. Period. My reputation developed as a hard worker who could solve problems and I’ve done that since day one. I wouldn’t say people were lining up at my door to hire me for projects (I’m a web programmer), but most of my work were from referrals and I’m contracted full time for a small company which provides very steady work.

Next, I take care of my clients. If something goes wrong, I fix it. If I make a mistake, I fess up to it and fix it as soon as possible. Also communication is key, never leaving a client in the dark about anything. These are also things I pride myself on. Given that I have never met most of my clients face to face, any way I can build trust works in my favor. That’s not a hard one to learn.

Last, I manage my projects in a way where I have no down time. No downtime = steady stream of income. This took me a while to become a habit but I developed a sense to always plan ahead even when your current situation looks great. I try to have at at least two projects to work on simultaneously and in slow times I’m always working on one. It’s as simple as looking for more work while your working. It should always be a part of your routine.

The Wrongs

Finances – I am pretty good about spending. Don’t spend more than you earn and save when you can. Check. An example of the bad is that I had to pay the IRS a $200 fine for not paying my quarterly taxes. Taxes have always been a nightmare since I didn’t save receipts or track business spending. If you have your own business these should be a priority! Needless to say, I’m still looking in the trash for those receipts.

Marketing – My business has been primarily on referrals, but I’ve never actually marketed myself to attract new clients. I realized that this hurt me by not getting those clients willing to pay a premium for my service since I do have quite a portfolio. You can guess that equals a smaller check at the end of the month.

Branding – This relates to the above but I also haven’t branded my business. I’m just Johnny that does web programming. With a nice portfolio and putting a name to your services, however, you have half your marketing already done for you. The rest is just letting those in need of your service know you exist.

. . .

During my years as a freelancer I’ve always come across advice through the occasional web page and friends who are also freelancers. I never really noticed that much of that advice has gone between the ears.  Maybe it’s time to take notice… or essentially leave a bunch of cash on the table for someone else.

The Revolution Will Not Add You As A MySpace Friend

Posted: October 19th, 2008

I hate to admit it, but I think I’m stuck as a part of the product that evolution has brought about our world. In other words, I’m glued to a 19″ flatscreen for a good chunk of the day… every day. On one hand, I’m employed, earn a living and can keep in touch with friends rather easily (I’m residing in Spain). I look into the flatscreen, type a few keystrokes and checks come in the mail on time every month. What a concept, huh?

Though I do not take for granted my means of supporting myself, I do loathe my dependancy on computers to the point where I notice it and try to somehow break free of the habit. Think about it… what’t the first thing you do when you wake in the morning? Check email? News? ESPN? Yep, I’m guilty of all of those.

I got rid of my TV long ago just for this reason. To take up other “creative” outlets such as reading, learning Catalan and mastering my flamenco guitar. The sad news (or pathetic) is none of which has been realized. The reality is that just the internet has taken the reins of occupying my free time. I have no idea of why the NBA draft intrigues me 2000 miles away and without actually having seen an NBA basketball game in six years.

For starters, I’ve decided to take control and start writing, as you can see. Quite ironic since it still keeps me in front of the flatscreen but, hey, a start is a start. It’s funny, but I do notice a change in my way of thinking and I am slightly more motivated to tackle those previously mentioned outlets. One thing and one day at a time I have to keep telling myself.

One thing is that I’m very lucky to live in a rather large city (Barcelona) that isn’t modern, by American (or MySpace) standards anyway. People here communicate face to face. Not through some rented website message board. Blackberries are still common, but amongst the yuppies. The “hip” community looks down on it though as if it were a tool of the devil. The most popular of advanced technology around these parts is blasting reggaeton mp3’s from a cell phone. It’s rather cheesy but luckily, for the sake of maintaining human interaction, it hasn’t progressed a whole lot further.

I am also glad to say I haven’t given in to all that MySpace or Facebook crap that I keep hearing about. I have amused myself and visited some of my friends pages, albeit anonymously. There’s no way to respond to them without creating an account myself but I’m still not selling myself out to those quite yet. My local friends around the hood in Barcelona hang around one of the fifty bars within a rock throw’s distance of my flat. Now that I like though it already opened a new can of worms which I won’t get into here.

Which now brings me to my point… I’m a freelancer and proud of it. We are a breed that sets ourselves apart from all the rest who are managed and kept on a short leash for the most part. OK, I hear those jobs at Google and pretty much whatever tech mega company aren’t so bad. I have my freedom though. The freedom to fuck off when I feel like it. The freedom to work a 50 hour week if I’m in the mood.

That freedom comes with the freedom to do something creative or good for mankind on your downtime. I’m checking up on the NBA draft on my downtime so I might as well be back giving tech support and hawking software at my old cubical job.

From here on out, I promise to be creative on my downtime. I’ll check a score or two for sure but if you see this article in an archive of hundreds of articles then that means I lived up to that promise. Check me on it if you will.

Top Ten Freelance Habits You Might Need To Ditch Eventually

Posted: October 13th, 2008

Hey, we’re freelancers. Cut us a little slack, we’re not alll perfect. If you find yourself giggling at any of these, though, maybe its time to update those upcoming New Year’s resolutions.

10. Windows 98 was from a decade ago. Get with the program.

9. Taxes… did April 15th pass already?

8. Cut back to maybe one instant message program to chat with friends.

7. Internet porn is not considered working. Unless of course you work for internet porn.

6. Work over the internet? Why aren’t you working out of the Bahamas?

5. Ever heard of the sun? You’re allowed to leave the house to look at it on occasion.

4. Even though you can, a freelancer should not make it to EVERY happy hour.

3. You work at home. Your shower is right there. Use it!

2. Working out a Starbucks is no longer cool if you want to pick up chicks (or dudes).

1. No more bong rips before starting your day.

Day 1 For A Freelance Blogger

Posted: October 5th, 2008

I just got done with 8 hours of hard labor, also known as my job as a freelance programmer. I’m tired as hell but I’ve been putting off starting this blog for months on end. So dammit… I’m gonna start this thing now. So welcome to The Freelance Rant.

I’m Johnny. Nice to meet a new reader so thanks for dropping by.

If you happen to see a banana on the top of this page, I apologize for the blog design. I’m in the process of changing it. I figured it would be more productive to start this blog out and put off the design until someone complains.

I know there’s six trillion blogs out there and this will be the new drop in the ocean. Probably by chance, too, someone else may have a very similar blog that I don’t know of. That’s fine. I don’t really give a shit. Don’t even tell me about it. Even if it never gets traffic and my most loyal readers are viagra spammers, I’ll still carry on with this here diary of a freelancer.

OK, don’t get the wrong idea about this being a diary. My intention is create an outlet for some of the nuances of freelancing that me and every other freelancer has experienced in their careers. I may offer some advice, but the objective here is to humor, entertain and make light of our occupation. It’s also an outlet so there will be some creative ways to vent our frustrations… just you wait until future blogs.

Even though we’re freelancers and have all that freedom and shit, we take it too seriously sometimes. Some of us maybe all of the time. Well now is the time to kick back, drink that beer while you finish up that project and tune in. This is just the beginning.