Freelance In 40 Days [Day 40]: Congratulations, You Made It

Posted: December 12th, 2009

Photo by Stephen Poff (Flickr)

Photo by Stephen Poff (Flickr)

This is Day 40 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today is the final day so congratulations on making it through. Here are a few parting words of wisdom.

Well, you either read ahead or you finally reached the last day of this tutorial. If you made it all the way through then hats off to you. I sincerely hope you found this tutorial useful and I wish you the best of luck in the freelance career ahead of you.

And now some parting words.

Work Hard

Nothing replaces hard work in whatever you do. Sure, freelancers are given every ample opportunity to goof off whenever they feel like it. You won’t grow as a freelancer nor as a business, however, without putting in the time. Taking from a quote I like to refer to once in a while:

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
– Newt Gingrich

If you envision yourself as a successful freelancer with your ideal six-figure income, it doesn’t happen by working only a few hours a day. It takes burning the candle on both ends, some sleepless nights and a little patience. The spoils will eventually come to you.

Have Faith

Freelancing will test your will and ability to confront obstacles in your path. Believe me, you’ll have times where you second guess yourself and wonder if you can continue on.

Challenges you face in freelancing are all a part of the learning curve, so the best thing to do is to just get used to it. They also teach us lessons we may never have learned by being an employee at a job. Lessons that we need in order to work on our own.

Having faith that your career will be a successful and prosperous one, even in the difficult times, will help reassure you overcome those challenges.

Never Stop Improving or Learning

You may be good at what you do but, remember, there are always others out there that are better. Keeping this in the back of your head is enough reason to set aside some time everyday to learn something new to eventually be in the upper echelon of those “others” up there.

Besides, the work we do evolves over time and we need to keep up with those changes for our services to be marketable for years down the road. So never stop asking yourself, “How can I do my work better?”

Give Me Some Feedback, Man

If you found the Freelance In 40 Days tutorial helpful or you noticed some ways it could be improved, feel free to enter in a comment. Each one gets read and, time pending, will be responded to.

Cheers and Happy Freelancing.

Johnny Spence

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 39]: Just In Case You Run Into Trouble

Posted: December 11th, 2009

Photo by Richard Parmiter (Flickr)

Photo by Richard Parmiter (Flickr)

This is Day 39 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll see how to tackle some common issues that freelancers face.

Freelancers are guaranteed to face some sort of challenges in their careers. It’s all a part of the growing process.

Sometimes, though, they can leave you a bit frustrated.

To get you aquainted with some of them, though, I’ll list some common issues that freelancers face and how to handle them.

Issues With Clients

Sometimes you run into clients that tend to butt heads with you or require a lot of your time to maintain outside of projects. Usually, they usually fall under one or more of these types:

  • Excessive emailing or phone calls with questions.
  • Trying to get more work out of you than what they are paying for (i.e. haggling).
  • Constantly coming to you with changes in a project scope.
  • Vague in what they want done in a project.
  • No specific idea of what they really want. They just want some kind of X.

It’s wrong to consider these types of clients as bad clients. If you work with them properly, you can handle these situations coming out on top and with minimal time wasted. These are ways to do so:

  • Always use a project agreement with every project, big or small. Review Day 16 for more on these.
  • In the project agreement, be sure to clearly define the scope of the project, or outlining exactly the things you will do and the cost to the client.
  • Also in the project agreement, be sure to define any costs associated with revisions or any “extras” a client decides they want at the last minute.
  • One last thing in the project agreement, too, don’t forget to define the costs of maintaining the project after it is completed.
  • Review the project agreement with the client through a phone/Skype call  and make sure they understand each point of it.
  • After the project starts, if you notice a client emails or calls excessively, set aside a time for a phone/Skype call and let your client voice and his questions and concerns. Most of the time, he just needs reassurance that a project will get done correctly.

The Never Ending Project

Once in a while you could run into a project where the scope grows and grows and grows beyond your control. This happen when you encounter some kind of obstacle or extra work needed that adds time to a project. Most of the time, you aren’t able to see this coming beforehand.

It’s quite normal for projects to go over budget and time slightly, but other times they can go over significantly by 50% to 100% or even more. So when this happens create a detailed list of the extra work that has to be completed. Then estimate the time and the cost to complete it.

Now comes the hard part. Negotiate with your client to be compensated for the extra work. A client always expects that you know these kind of things will happen and you’ll draw resistance. If you are willing to meet halfway, though, by charging a discounted fee and giving him ample reason why you couldn’t foresee the extra work, then they will be more willing to give in.

If your client decides they will not pay any extra fees, then you have a decision to make: complete the extra work for anyway for free or leave the project altogether. By leaving the project, you may save face financially but your reputation will be severely affected and it could cost you future work.

By completing the project, though, you notch another piece for the portfolio and your reputation stays intact as well as client relations. It may hurt the wallet, but in the short term, it probably won’t matter for long.

I Have No Work At The Moment

All freelancers will go through periods of slow business. Much of the time it is welcome so freelancers can catch up on personal projects, administrative work or just take some time off.

If you go through periods where you are working followed by periods where you are desperately searching for work, know as the feast or famine cycle, then this is not healthy for your business. The feast or famine cycle is covered in Day 26.

I can’t say this enough, but always be looking for new clients, even when you have work at the moment. If you don’t see yourself with projects to work on three weeks ahead, then set aside an extra hour or so each workday dedicated to hitting the job boards and submitting a bid or two for projects.

Missing A Deadline

Every freelancer should try his or her best to never miss a single deadline. Your reputation and reliability depend on it.

Once in a while, though, a missed deadline can happen. Such is life. To keep things cool with the client, however, follow these tips:

  • Try to foresee a missed deadline well in advance and let your client know.
  • Remember, how your client reacts is inversely proportional to the notice you give him. In other words, you won’t look good telling him the day before or, worse, the day of the deadline.
  • Let your client know the new deadline date.
  • Do whatever you can to meet that second deadline. If you have to stay awake three days straight, hire other freelancers or whatever, just do it. Two missed deadlines in a row murders your reputation.

Waiting For Payments

In a perfect world, a freelancer receives a payment the very second a project is completed. Many of your clients will even be more than happy to send off a PayPal payment immediately when work is finished without even asking.

Freelancers are businesses, however, and we work with other clients that are businesses. So we need to get use to the business standard of NET 30, or allowing 30 days for payment from the date of the invoice. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t absolutely necessary (review Day 17 for more on invoicing).

When I first started freelancing, though, I demanded payment on receipt and usually had to send reminder emails every few days to politely say that I needed my money NOW. What I realized this does is create a burden for the clients since most handle their payables once a month as what typically businesses do.

Switching to NET 30 will keep you from stressing and sending out frequent payment reminders. Plus, the clients that pay right away will still continue to pay right away anyway.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 38]: Freelancing Zen

Posted: December 10th, 2009

Photo By Iane Machado (Flickr)

Photo By Iane Machado (Flickr)

This is Day 38 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll see ways to improve your daily life that will positively affect your freelance work.

A freelancer could have the best computer, desk, comfy chair and office possible to do his or her work more effectively.

Even these won’t make you work the most effective way possible if you don’t learn to develop good habits during your working days. Sure, we do have those habits that carried over from our previous jobs.

Surfing the internet, munching on snacks, wasting time in general. Sound familiar?

So it’s good to start out with good habits to improve how we work as freelancers. The following are some ways to do this:

Manage Your Time Wisely

Almost everyone falls for distractions while working. Whether it’s checking up on scores, reading the latest news or gossip out there or seeing what the buddies are up to on Twitter, we all do it. Freelancers are especially susceptible because no one looks over their shoulder to say, “hey back to work!”

Distractions for freelancers don’t necessarily affect your productivity, but they do kill your time. That time could be spent with family, starting up new hobbies… reasons you became a freelancer in the first place.

Here’s a little technique that I tried with great success which isn’t hard to do at all:

  • Set blocks of time during the day, say 2 – 3 hours, where you work and only do work. No distractions. Make these during the times of the day when you work the best.
  • Then set aside blocks of time for your distractions of maybe an hour or three if you are a real net junkie.
  • When you start a work block, concentrate on nothing but the work for the first 15 minutes. The rest of the time will follow suit.

The desired outcome is that you’ll notice you get more work done in less time. Then you may hopefully notice those distraction blocks take up time where you could be doing other more productive things.

The whole idea is recognize where your time is going and determine where it could be better spent. Distractions might not be your thing after all.

Eat Right

What you eat directly affects your energy levels throughout the day. Eating junk food gives you a quick energy spike then negatively impacts your energy levels  making you feel sluggish on after. Being sluggish does not help the freelance worker.

If you are not already eating healthy balanced meals, I’m not saying to drastically change your diet. That never works out. You can however, get in the habit of eating a few pieces of fruit a day just to start out. Then eventually incorporate a salad a day into the diet. The junk food gets naturally replaced with the healthier food in the process.

Also replace those chips and other carby snack foods with raw nuts. You’ll see after a while that eating healthy impacts your health, how you feel and how you work.

Exercise

Probably 99.9% of all freelancers spend the day in front of a bright flashing rectangle. In other words, we don’t move around much during the workday. Though we can’t really take a walk while finishing up that article draft, this is not healthy for us.

Doing some kind of physical exercise where we breath heavily and break a sweat (sex not included) does wonders for our physical health and increases our energy level. Start out by going to a gym, going out for a brisk walk or jogging a few times a week for a half hour or a full hour if you can.

I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in how you feel.

Get 8 Hours Of Sleep a Night

There will be times when you have have to pull an all-nighter or two to get a project done. This happens on occasion. For the rest of the time, however, stick to getting eight hours of sleep a night. No more and no less. Our energy level is optimal with this amount of time for sleep.

Take a Day Off When You Need It

Ask any freelancer and he will tell you of the many times when he was stressed with project deadlines, client arguments and just too much work at the moment. There will be those times when freelancers are stressed beyond belief. Working with that stress, though, impacts our work by decreasing our motivation in doing it.

So take a day off.

Of course this is extremely difficult for a freelancer to do since it is viewed as a working day lost. The reality is taking a day off to clear your head will ease that stress enough to where you can go back to work the next day and handle your work with more calm and focus.

But do keep these unscheduled holidays to a minimum. You don’t want a new bad habit forming.

Some Resources to Improve Your Freelance Zen

Zen Habits
As you can probably tell, I was thinking of this blog when writing this tutorial, but this IS the blog for tips on simplifying and improving your life and work. The advice in itself is easy to follow and do too.

Dumb Little Man – Tips For Life
The name says it all. Handy little tips we take for granted that helps us out in our everyday lives, from how to properly use a comma to creating more free time in your day.

The Positivity Blog
This is a great blog to turn to for that pick-me-up on whenever you need it.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 37]: Passive Income

Posted: December 9th, 2009

Photo by M Kasahara (Flickr)

Photo by M Kasahara (Flickr)

This is Day 37 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll learn some ways you can earn a passive income as a freelancer.

Wouldn’t be nice to earn a little side income as a freelancer… without doing the additional work?

Many freelancers do it everyday and earn what is known as passive income, or additional revenue streams that adds to the income from their own work. Even the new freelancer should get familiar with this right away.

By not taking advantage of establishing a passive income stream,  you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Not only can it supplement an income and savings but it also provides a little relief when you hit the slow times on projects.

So here are some ways freelancers earn a passive income.

Website Hosting

For designers and developers who build web pages, offering to host a website for a monthly fee is the easiest way to generate a consistent income stream. Consider that each client who takes you up on this will have a website for years, multiply this by a lot of clients and you can see this can become lucrative in itself.

The best part is that hosting companies have special accounts you can set up, known as reseller hosting, which makes this all simple process for you.

Two of the most reliable hosting companies that provide reseller hosting plans are HostGator and Lunarpages.

Sell Stock Images and Photos

Graphic designers surely have (or will develop) a cache of jpegs sitting around on their harddrives collecting dust. While some of those may be logos and other material that can’t be reused, there also might be some other unused images that can be sold as stock images to others. So why not put them to work for you?

To get yourself aquainted with the process, have a look at WebDesignerDepot’s thorough how-to on selling stock images.

Upselling Clients

OK, this is technically not passive income, you can consider this a nice little bonus on top of what you make on projects. That’s easy money, too, right?

Tack on a few dollars to your projects by offering upgrades or additional services to your clients each and every time. They won’t always take you up on this but there are those that will. Skip this, however, and you leave money on the table. Have a look back at Day 27 where upselling to clients is covered.

Publishing Websites

For the writers, there are sites where you can publish articles and generate a share of revenue from the Google Adwords ads that appear along side of them. The catch is that you have to write articles that provide useful information, such as how-to’s, which draw a lot of visitors to click on those ads.

Like the old saying goes, solve a problem and the world will beat a path to your door… or something like that.

Some publishing websites to get you started are Squidoo, HubPages and Xomba.

Sell an Ebook

Is there something you know how to do that many others out there have no clue about? Write an ebook and sell it on a web page for a fee. This isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, though, so before you take this on, ask yourself the following:

  • Is there a real need for a solution to the problem you are solving?
  • Is the market already saturated with other ebooks and free tutorials on your problem?

To answer these, do a Google search on the problem and see what’s out there. Also try out Wordtracker’s free keyword tool to see what kind of search queries are made on the problem as well.

If you notice a lot of tutorials and ebooks that solve the same problem then nix the idea and try another. If you notice there isn’t much help out there and there are searches done on the problem you can solve, then you could potentially have a money-maker.

For some good help on writing ebooks, check out Jim Edward’s 7 Day eBook (no affiliation). It will set you back 29 USD but it provides good information for the beginner ebook writer.

Additional Information on Passive Income

For some additional information, Collis Ta’eed from Freelance Switch has a guide to passive income available online or in a pdf file and free of charge.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 36]: Stepping Outside of The Box

Posted: December 8th, 2009

Photo by Doctorious (Flickr)

Photo by Doctorious (Flickr)

This is Day 36 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today will be a lesson in stepping outside of the box as a freelancer.

Stepping outside the box, or letting our creative freedom roam wild isn’t something the new freelancer is use to. Surely the jobs we had prior to freelancing made sure this wasn’t the case… unless you were lucky enough to be an employee of Apple or Google.

One of the greatest freedoms we have as freelancers, however, is the ability to call our own shots… and do whatever we want.

i.e. freedom to step outside the box.

By learning to step outside the box as freelancers we not only open the door to more innovation in our work, but it also makes our work fun and interesting; something we actually look forward to doing.

The likelihood, however, is that many of us have been inside the box for so long, that we’ve taken up permanent residence there.

So it’s time to snap out of it and take that first step outside the box. Here are a few ways.

Forget Everything You Learned In School

Sure, there is always some practical knowledge from your education worth keeping in memory. The general basis of school and college, however, teaches you to do the same thing that others before you have done. In other words, it’s teaching you how to conform to the real world.

Being like everyone else is actually a hindrance to your career. You don’t set yourself apart as a freelancer, especially in the work you do. A result is you fall in the middle of the pack of mediocrity.

Mediocrity is not all bad and you can be successful regardless. But we want to be the best we can, don’t we?

So don’t rely on what others have done before you. Apply the practical knowledge you learn but blaze your own trail with your own ideas and apply them in your work.

Do The Opposite

The American TV viewers can probably relate but I constantly think about the Seinfeld episode where George does the exact opposite of his typical miserable ways to land a girl of his dreams plus a cushy job with the Yankees.

Even though this was done for a good laugh on TV, it is not a stretch to think that this could work in our own freelance careers too.

When you think about it, isn’t doing the exact opposite of our own routines essentially breaking down our comfort barriers and trying new things we aren’t used to?

You never know where those new things we try eventually lead us to.

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

Failure is, by far, the biggest obstacle we as freelancers face in our careers.

The real truth is that failure also gives us our best lessons that we’ll never forget as freelancers. You see, freelancing is full of hot stoves waiting for us to slap our hand on. Sometimes they burn our hands right off.

Don’t get me wrong. Failures we have can wound the ego and even the bank account but we get over them, like our last boyfriend/girlfriend. Live and learn is a motto for our lives.

So happily embrace failure.

Have Fun

This can be best summed up in a quote by the great motivator, Tony Robbins:

“Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process.”

While we definitely have to take the actual work we do seriously, there’s no reason we can’t make the process fun.

There’s a million ways to have fun… listen to polka music while you work, set up your workstation beside the street, or wake up each morning by singing Jingle Bells outside and at the top of your lungs.

That little bit of fun you make will translate into the work you do too.

Last Thing… Read This Article

Not too long ago, I came across an article on the CNN website on the five secrets of innovation. Learn a few interesting ideas from studies by major universities on how innovators, such as  Steve Jobs of Apple, actually do their thing.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 35]: Special Offers: The Tried And True Method To Drum Up Business

Posted: December 6th, 2009

Photo by InspirationDC (Flickr)

Photo by InspirationDC (Flickr)

This is Day 35 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll learn ways to throw a sale to generate immediate business.

Ever thought about how often you are drawn to sales or special offers? Does “Black Friday” or, hell, even a  Subway $5 sub sandwich ring a bell for you?

It’s obviously not news to you but people are drawn to good deals. It’s in our nature to want to save money and, on the flip side, will generate some business to the seller.

Guess what… this works in freelancing, too.

When just starting out in freelance or trying to bring about new business, there’s nothing better than promoting a special offer to pick things up. For example:

Opening Day Offers

You have to be careful here since you don’t want to specify that you as the freelancer are new but, instead, you as the business are new. On your website home page or anywhere you have an online portfolio, mention that you are a new company and post special rates or offers for a limited time.

Then, of course, back this up with a good portfolio so you aren’t seen as that new freelancer.

Special Occasions

Take a cue from your local businesses and throw a sale on your services. It could be a special dedicated to an upcoming holiday, a local sports team winning an important game or anything that people look forward to. The point is to find an occasion that people are excited about and associate your services and specials along with it.

In other words, try an old psychological trick in selling.

Now To Spread The Word

An offer is no good without getting the word out.

The best place to start is locally. Don’t forget that, wherever you live, you have a bountiful supply of potential clients who don’t necessarily look to the internet for help. Place ads for your offers in your local newspaper want ads or local magazines. Include a link to a page on your website with more details on the offers.

You can even go as far as having flyers made with your special offers and hand a few out to everyone you know.

Your best bet to take you up on offers, though, are your clients, present and past. Send each one of them a newsletter email on a regular basis with your offers at the moment. Change up your offers and wording in the newsletter each time, too, so it doesn’t look like the same repeat email that eventually gets discarded with familiarity.

One other added benefit of a newsletter is that it reminds clients that you are always there.

One Last Trick… Referral Discounts

Clients are always willing to refer new business to you but, dangle a carrot in front of them, and it gives them an extra reason to do it sooner rather than later. Try a 10% discount on a project for each new client referred or suggest a list of upgrades or additions they could receive for each referral.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 34]: Small Daily Tasks That Pay Off

Posted: December 2nd, 2009

Photo by Prettyemmy (Flickr)

Photo by Prettyemmy (Flickr)

This is Day 34 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll learn some daily tasks that pay off for a freelance career.

It’s fairly normal for freelancers to get caught up in their work when it starts rolling in. After all, that’s the point of freelancing. Find work, do it and get paid.

We can easily overlook other important aspects of our careers, though, in order to grow as freelancers.

Let’s take, for example, our New Year’s resolutions. When we are busy, isn’t it hard to get around accomplishing those? Then we carry them over to the next year or forget about them completely.

Just setting aside an hour a day to help us grow in our careers can eliminate the New Year’s resolution effect.

After all, drops in the bucket add up buckets over time. And the truth is, no matter how busy we are, we always have a spare hour in the day that we tend to waste anyway.

So here are three tasks that can be done on a daily basis to help you grow in your career.

Twitter and Other Social Media

Some may say that time spent on Twitter is counter-productive to your work. I say hogwash. Twitter is probably the best way to meet other freelancers and grow your network, not to mention extending your name and brand.

Also submitting links to useful articles on Stumbleupon and Digg is a great way to establish your authority and expertise as a freelancer while extending your brand as well.

Just remember that, if you are just starting to use social media, it will take some time to establish yourself and become known in the freelance community. So be patient, but keep at it.

Also remember the point of social media. Be social and interact. Other users don’t find you but you have to find them instead.

Marketing and Looking For New Clients

The key for a freelancer to consistently find work is to be on top of their own marketing and searching for new clients. The real secret to this, though, is doing this all the time. Here are a few ways you can do this, especially when you’re pressed for time:

  • Go through the job boards and search for just one project that suits you. Then submit a bid for it.
  • Keep your portfolio and website up to date.
  • Send an email to a previous client asking him how satisfied he was with your work. Then mention that if he knows anybody that could use your services, to give you a ring.

Learn a New Skill

Every freelancer has to keep up with the ever-changing trends or their own skills will become outdated faster than they realize. Not only this but broadening your skills opens the door to a wider range of projects available. So this isn’t something to be ignored.

Find a new skill you want to learn and check out the endless amount of tutorials available online by just doing a Google search. If you are a web developer or designer, don’t forget to check out the many free tutorials at Tuts+.

Dedicating even a half hour a day will add up to a lot of knowledge over time… and more job possibilities.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 33]: Take Advantage Of Other Freelancing Resources

Posted: November 30th, 2009

Photo by Johnny (The Freelance Rant)

Photo by Johnny (The Freelance Rant)

This is Day 33 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today I’ll give you some excellent resources for freelancers.

As a freelancer, it is essential to take advantage of the resources out there to help you along in your career. The list below are some of my personal bookmarks due to their useful articles and frequent updates.

Freelance Blogs

Freelance Switch
One of the original freelance blogs with a huge archive of useful information. You can pretty much find anything you want by doing a search on their site.

Freelance Folder
Another freelance blog that has been around for a few years. Offers great articles, tutorials and information on anything freelancing.

Freelance Shack
A new kid on the block this past year but offers spot-on advice on freelancing.

oDesk Blog
Offers interesting freelance articles and advice here or their on using job boards.

Design/Dev Blogs

Smashing Magazine
An awesome blog with excellent tips and tutorials on web design and development. There’s even a good article on freelancing every once in a while.

Tuts+ Network
If there is anything you want to learn about web dev, audio, video, Photoshop… basically anything we related, then this is the place. There are plenty of free tutorials available and, for a small fee, access to source files.

Bkmacdaddy
An up and comer in the design blogs with great information on design, freelancing and social media. Don’t forget to check out his series on building your online presence on the cheap.

Spyre Studios
Learn some of the insider tips of graphic design from Jon Phillips, coincidentally the founder of Freelance Folder.

Dessine moi un objet
Though not dedicated to web design, this is a great blog to check out for their insight on design. Note that it is in French but can be translated by Google by clicking on the little English flag to the right of the page.

Writing Blogs

Freelance Writing Jobs
If you are a freelance writer, get to know this site. Great advice and how-to’s but especially for the rookie freelancer.

Men With Pens
Some witty writers who churn out great information on writing, copywriting, blogging, and of course freelancing.

Inkwell Editorial
An all-in-one for the freelance writer. Check out their 40 Days To a Successful Writing Career series (on old blog).

Inspiration

Some days when you when you need a good pick-me-up, these are the places to turn to.

Zen Habits
A great site for motivation and easy ways to simplify your work and lifestyle to enjoy life more.

Dumb Little Man
Their motto is tips for life. And good ones they do provide.

And If These Weren’t Enough…

Here you can find an exhaustive list of other freelance blogs. They will overlap, but you’ll find the complete listing in these.

Page 1 of 612345...Last »