Freelancing Links: Week of Feb. 23th

Posted: February 27th, 2009

The name of the past Freelance Rant feature, Around the Horn, has been changed to Freelancing Links since it happens to be the name of some show on ESPN. Not that they have served me an order or anything like that. I’d like to have a little originality in this website, but I’m also a little sick of coming up with catchy names. At least you won’t mistake this for the ESPN show anymore.

All Freelance: Sure, the work may be slow during these trying times, but freelancers always stay busy. Here’s a list of things you can do when business is slow.

Elite By Design: STILL looking into starting a blog? Here’s a list of must-have tools for the beginning blogger.

Freelance Folder: Ever had an “ugly duckling” project? You know, that one that never ends or the one you would rather gouge out your eyes than work on. Here is a good article on how to evaluate them and turn them down if not for you.

Freelance Folder: Need a jumpstart on your freelance career? Here are a few tips to help.

Freelance Switch: Being a jack-of-all-trades freelancer can hurt your income due to lack of specialization on any one thing. Being a jack-of-all-trades freelancer with a primary skill, however, can benefit you in the long run.

Geekpreneur: Writers block sucks. It’s impossible to sit down and write every time you set aside time to do so. You have to ride your creativity wave as it comes and follow other methods of increasing your writing productivity. I just write a blog, too. I can’t imagine what freelance writers go through who write full time.

The Germz: Have you incorporated your business yet? Seems like a major hassle, though, doesn’t it? Actually, incorporating your freelance business can be done online.

Greep It: Why is it that we have a hard time focusing on some days but are fine on others? Knowing your five creativity killers is a start. Avoiding them is the next step to better focus ourselves in our work.

Net Tuts+: Are you a web developer? Here are the 10 most sought after skills in web dev.

Spark Plugging: It’s fair to say most of us have experienced working at a wage per hour at some point in our lives. Yet when we work in freelance, we have a tendency to stick with this dollars for hour mindset which can leave us vulnerable, especially in the current economy.

ValleyWag: The secrets of MySpace, revealed. Who new  their founders came from a history of spamming?

Hands Up If You Charge More Than $100/Hour

Posted: February 26th, 2009

When setting your freelance rates, it is hard to overlook the fact that there are others in your field charging $100+ an hour while you ponder setting yours at a fraction of that. So what gives? How do they manage to get away with charging so much and probably earning an income well into 6 figures while you are still figuring this all out?

Personally, I’m not one of these lucky bastards but that light bulb went off in my head after reading Peter Bowerman’s article on What Makes a $125-an-hour Writer. He mentions talent and marketing are key components, which goes without saying. After all, you do need to be the best at what you do to be earning these rates. You also have to actively search out those clients and convince them you are worth the high cost. This takes some skill in selling yourself as well.

Another of his points is that you need to be highly specialized in what you do. The specialist can do a few things quickly and very well as opposed to the jack-of-all-trades who has talent in many things but is not an expert in any one of them.

What drew my attention the most, however, was his last attribute mentioned: speed. It is a no-brainer that freelance experts work faster, but when you combine faster work with higher rates, then you have the secret of the $100/hour freelancer AND you have your marketing tool for attracting new clients.

Say, for example, if you work twice as fast as a freelancer charging half your rate, then to a potential client, there is no difference in the price of the work. You become the more attractive option, however, due to your speed and perceived expertise. I say perceived here because you still have to convince the client you are the expert you say you are.

Here is where we go back to marketing yourself. Peter says:

Developing that marketing sense – which just isn’t that difficult – simply requires the ability to think strategically about a business. Translation? Being able to intelligently discuss with clients issues like strategic objectives; audience and that audience’s hot buttons; features and benefits; and USP (Unique Selling Proposition) [see my post on the USP] – what sets your product/service apart in the marketplace.

The important thing to note, though, is that as we become more knowledgeable and work faster in our profession, our rates need to increase as well, It is very likely we are still working at the same rate as in the past when we were much slower in our work (I was guilty here). The irony in this case is that we are losing money as we become faster in our work, quoting fewer hours as a result but keeping our same rate.

Let’s take for example a project you may have once charged $25/hour for 4 hours netted you $100 in the past. If it now only takes you two hours and you charge the same rate, it nets you only $50 thereby losing $50 in the process. Now, we can’t just set our rates at $100+ an hour and start looking for clients, but rather evaluate our skill level and the speed at which we work THEN raise our rates accordingly.

One simple method is to find a project in the past, calculate the time it took to complete it then divide this result by the time it would take you to complete it today. Take this result and multiply it by your hourly rate to find the increased rate you should be charging. To illustrate:

Time to complete project in past  – 20 hours
(Divided by)
Time to complete same project today – 10 hours
Result: 2
If your current rate is $25/hour, multiply by result which equals $50/hour

Set your rates in accordance to your expertise and focus on that expertise and speed when marketing yourself to clients and you have your winning formula for achieving the goal of being a $100/hour freelancer. You may not be quite there yet, but at each stage you quicken your work pace, your rate can increase accordingly.

I know I’m practicing this as we speak.

10 Things You’ve Heard About Freelancing That Are Actually True: DEBUNKED

Posted: February 25th, 2009

Recently, Laura from Freelance Folder wrote about the 10 Things You’ve Heard About Freelancing That Are Actually True. Now we can’t have freelancing truths listed without a little conspiracy theory applied to them so we’ll see if each one of these these really holds water or not.

1. You Can Earn a Full-time Living

You probably could if you like eating ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This gets a sort-of-DEBUNKED.

2. Freelancing has Flexible Hours

Hey, getting up and having to work is not too flexible. Who cares when you do it. DEBUNKED.

3. You Can Work Wherever You Want

I work at home, not in the Bahamas. Home is not wherever I want. Have to go with DEBUNKED here.

4. You Can Wear Whatever You Want

Freelancers must save time wherever they can to be efficient. Putting on clothes wastes time and therefore it is absolutely mandatory that you work stark naked. Who is going to complain anyway? Semi-DEBUNKED.

5. You Can Deduct Your Expenses

I think this is for something called taxes which is completely unnecessary in my opinion. Remember, save time and be efficient so I wouldn’t see the need for this. DEBUNKED.

6. You Can Turn Work Down

Turn work down? In this economy, if you get tossed a bone what are you going to do? Leave it for the next dog or lick it clean? DEBUNKED.

7. There’s No Commute

Imagine yourself with your usual hangover, crawling from your bed to your desk in the other room. That qualifies as a commute unfortunately. DEBUNKED.

8. You’ll Have Lean Periods

I’m fat all of the time. Oh wait… this may refer to work here. OK, we’ll give a half-DEBUNKED for this one.

9. You’ll Spend a Lot of Time Alone

That’s what pets are for. DEBUNKED.

10. Networking is Important

Yeah, you really have to know what all your friends are up to on the IM. Talk to your pets instead. DEBUNKED.

* * *

Well, there you have it. Freelancing isn’t quite what we thought it was, eh? We love it anyway.

What’s Your USP?

Posted: February 24th, 2009

The attraction to freelancing as a career is pretty obvious. You are the boss and you play by your own rules. For those of us that are freelancers, though, we know that this is indeed true but there is a lot of added responsibility to go along with it. First of all there is the stress of managing our own business and income which can overwhelm us at times. Despite this, what keeps us moving on?

The answer is simple. Its our purpose, or in a term related to our careers, the USP, or unique selling position.

USP is common knowledge among the sales and advertising community. It is a sentence or phrase which summarizes your business. Sometimes it includes a mission statement and other times it includes a catchy slogan. The main point of it though defines your business and purpose for the services you provide.

For freelancers, it works the same. It defines your purpose for the services you provide. I can almost guarantee that any freelancer who does not have a USP has either quit or is on their way to quitting in the near future. The reason is that if you do not have “that” reason to keep you going as a freelancer then there is no reason to continue on, especially when times get rough such as a slow workflow.

It is not uncommon to have the “office” mentality when freelancing. We work during the day, sometimes without thinking about it, and collect a check periodically. Our purpose therefore doesn’t lie in the actual work we do, but instead, the anticipation of getting that check.  The work may or may not be great. We don’t care though. We just want to get paid.

The problem with the office mentality is that it diminishes the quality of our work and murders a freelancer’s  business and career in the process. That is where the USP comes in. When the pupose of your USP becomes more than working for a check, then you will see your career grow and those checks will come automatically anyway.

My personal USP as a web programmer is “Honest, Professional Service With Fast Turnaround or Your Money Back.” It may not sound like anything out of the ordinary and may even be a little cliché. I do, however, pride myself on being upfront, giving my clients my best service and have all work done when I say it will get done. You might be surprised on how many previous freelancers some of my clients have had that didn’t have these values that I do. I am also a successful freelancer because of them, too.

With this in mind, what is your USP? Don’t forget this is the reason why you are freelancing in the first place.

The Philosophy of Freelancing

Posted: February 17th, 2009

On the internet you can find countless articles and resources on how to be successful in freelancing. Despite this, countless people will fail while others will find success, even without the advice from experienced freelancers. Whether you succeed or fail does not depend on following advice. It simply boils down to a lower denomination of preparation. That is, mentally preparing yourself to do it.

I rant into an interesting page not too long ago, the The Ten Rules For Being Human” by Cherie Carter Scott, which could arguably summarize your proper mental outlook when taking up a freelance career. Her rules apply to any aspect of life in general but it has a great significance in our careers, especially when we are working for ourselves.

Here are a few rules to dwell on:

Rule Three – There are no mistakes, only lessons.
Growth is a process of experimentation, a series of trials, errors and occasional victories. The failed experiments are as much as a part of the process as the experiments that work.

Rule Four – The lesson is repeated until learned.
Lessons will be repeated to you in various forms until you have learned them. When you have learned them, you can go on to the next lesson.

Rule Five – Learning does not end.
There is no part of life that does not contain lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

Yes, freelancing is filled with trial and error as we experiment on what does  and does not work for our business. That’s the point of freelancing, though, to learn and grow on our own terms in our career. We do this by making mistakes. Of course the bottom line is to earn a decent income but we’ll never get there without learning the lessons of our trade which doesn’t always put money in your pocket.

The lessons will humble but make you grow faster than you imagine, too. It doesn’t stop there either. Once you as a freelancer there will be other, more advanced lessons to approach. By then, you can be assured you will have an excellent  grasp on how to face them as they come.

These other two rules should also be your mental approach  as a freelancer:

Rule Eight – What you make of your life is up to you.
You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you.

Here’s where all those articles and resources come into play, so use them. This also refers to your own mind here. Unlike a regular day job where most of the time someone higher makes decisions for you, you have to use those instincts of yours that you may never have had to use before. Many freelancers don’t realize they have this capacity or are too scared to use it. Failure is often the result.

Rule Nine – Your answers lie inside of you.
All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

I can’t emphasize enough how much you need to rely on your instincts and gut decisions as a freelancers, though it is very difficult to explain how. The reason is that they are acquired and come with experience and time… and making A LOT of mistakes. Again, you will make mistakes but they should be welcomed and not be seen as a roadblock to your success.

Finally, there is Rule 10: You will forget all [these rules] at birth. This is very true but its never too late to learn them all again.

A Freelancing Industry Taking Off… For Dominatrixes

Posted: February 9th, 2009

Tracy Quan’s article from The Daily Beast brings to light an industry we know little about (although some may), but never really connected with freelancing. And now it’s as popular as ever, even in this economy: the dominatrix freelancer. While there have always been escorts and clandestine call girls, it particularly draws more and more women due to less intimate contact while they still make good money.

She writes:

Though dominatrix work is considered by many to be the hardest in the sex industry, being able to avoid actual intercourse is key to its appeal to “everyday” women who are just looking to pick up a little extra money to pay the bills. Because of this, counterintuitive as it sounds, the kink sector tends to attract women who are more risk-averse than traditional call girls—and more law-abiding.

Like most freelancers who often branch out their services for a higher income, being a dom can offer another attractive revenue stream, too:

Jessica recently got a new day job working for a website designer three days a week, leaving her time to see a few regular fetishists. Like other freelancers, she’s responsible for her own health insurance. Does she want a full-time tech job with benefits? “In this economy? Forget it,” she says. “I didn’t really try to get a full-time job.” She embraces her role in the gig economy—one gig, her tech job, enhances her resume, while her fetish work makes life in New York affordable.

For those lovely ladies out there who can put up with donning a strap-on and beating the shit out of their subjects, you might want to look into this. They make more than I do an hour, that’s for sure.

Around the Horn: Week of February 2nd

Posted: February 8th, 2009

Big week… did anyone catch if that Punkytawny Fred saw his shadow in Pennsylvania? OK, me neither so we’ll go right to the happenings in freelance for this week.

Anywired: Hands up if you have a website or blog with a “hire-me” page in it (ahem… mine is not, sigh). Maybe it can get you (and me) an extra client or two in the process.

CNN: Freelancers love the freedom of working at home. Then that gets old really quick since they eventually turn themselves into lonely hermits. Coworking is catching on to alleviate the loneliness and bring back the social atmosphere of the office.

Daily Blog Tips: Still haven’t jumped on the blog bandwagon? How about some convincing reasons and tips to get started?

Freelance Folder: Sure, we may be freelancers and work and receive a check here or there but do we really take ourselves seriously?

Freelance Folder: Some of the worst times a freelancer has is when they make mistakes. Sometimes it’s big and other times small but there are ways to deal with the situation.

Freelance Switch: Most freelancers would say they enjoy what they do. After all, they ARE doing what they want. Here are ways for freelancers to get the most out of their work and enjoy it even more.

Freelance Switch: The lines of communication with your clients need to be crystal clear. Quite often, they are not clear themselves when trying to determine what they want from your services. Here are ways to bridging that communication gap.

HR World: This site has compiled a list of ten jobs that are worse then you thought and ten jobs that are better than you thought.  Guess which is the number one job that is better than you thought?

The Simple Dollar: Trent Hamm abandoned his typical 9 – 5 job to start freelancing. He gives an assessment after his first four months in which can accurately summarize what most freelancers go through when they make that jump, themselves.

Zen Happens: Freelancers often do not stick to doing one particular thing in their work. For instance, you may be a graphic designer who moonlights as a blog writer. If you do not find your balance while multitasking, though, you could be cheating yourself out of happiness in your career. Worth the read a few times over.

Top Ten Reasons To Quit Freelancing NOW!

Posted: February 6th, 2009

Look, you know it when you know it. Freelancing is not for you so time to cut your losses and move on to other opportunities… or just chill, drink beer and watch TV full time. Here’s how you know its time to quit:

10. Clients are real mean to you.

9. Couldn’t handle the flexible scheduling.

8. Need more time to freak out about bad economy.

7. Found better job cashing checks for some Nigerian company.

6. Didn’t know freelancers actually worked.

5. Out of sick days and vacation.

4. For some reason, you just don’t get those checks every two weeks like you use to.

3. Them clients just don’t understand good work when they see it.

2. Didn’t get that promotion that you were hoping for.

1. Your boss is a total loser.

My apologies for those of you who ended up here thinking this was serious. Freelancers don’t quit… we suffer on!

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