Top Ten Reasons a Freelancer Would Rather Be Back In Grade School

Posted: August 25th, 2010

It’s that time of year again, as if those million ads you see all over the place haven’t reminded you already. Yes, back to school for the kiddies but freelancers often reminisce of those days of old. In fact, here are the top reasons we wouldn’t mind stopping by class with Mrs. Daily again.

10. Bullying kids is a little more profitable these days.

9. Could really impress other students with your Twitter follower count.

8. Might as well check back on that old teacher crush you had. You know, just to be sure.

7. Have to see in person why those damn kids are so smart nowadays.

6. Can recruit classmates to fill in on projects in exchange for candy.

5. Have to warn all the kids about the perils of getting a real job when they grow up.

4. You have excellent trade value with your stash of gourmet coffee and and Red Bull.

3. Trying to end caffeine addiction with phonics.

2. Need some new people to swoon about my iPhone to.

1. Have to warn the kids what a real nerd looks like when all grown up.

How To Royally Screw Yourself In Freelancing

Posted: August 23rd, 2010

Photo by Sancktime2007 (Flickr)

Photo by Sancktime2007 (Flickr)

A big part of earning the real income in freelancing is maximizing the time on work that generates it and minimizing the rest of the time that doesn’t.

Well, that thought can sometimes leave you in a bind and end up costing you dearly, too. How? In just one word.

Details.

We’re not talking about the actual work you do either. If you are good at what you do, this will never be an issue. No, the details I’m referring to are in the planning stages before starting the actual work.

I’ll admit that I tend to get a sudden onset of attention deficit disorder when it comes to contracts and specs to carry out before starting on projects. This is especially true due to my belief that time not working on projects is money lost.

Guess what though? Sooner or later you’ll run into a client who pays more attention to detail to specs than you do. If you’re caught off guard, that means he can leverage more work out of you. You left to either bite your tongue and do it or put up a fight which can get ugly and put a dent in your reputation should the client protest as well.

I’ve known these for a long time but, along with my onsets of ADD, I do tend to get bouts of  “short memory,” too, so remember the following before you dive into any project. Yes, it does take extra time and, in some cases, way more than you would like it to but, trust me, it’s well worth it.

1. Understand what the client wants.

Knowing exactly what your client wants means knowing exactly the work you have to do. No more, no less. Nuff said.

2. Document everything.

You’ve probably heard it time and time again. Maybe you do use contracts or never had to use them since your clients are “easy going.”  Either way, it is extremely important to channel your inner lawyer and pay attention to every word you document with your client.

With everything, I mean everything: payment terms, milestones, credit history (ok, maybe far reaching) but, most important, project specs. Then with the project specs, document it with, you guessed it, everything you’ll do. The whole point is to cover yourself in case the client tries to get more work out of you because they will try. Believe me.

Have a visit at one of my older posts for help on documentation and check out Kyle Weiber’s post on bulletproofing your freelance contracts.

3. Spend the time.

Yes, creating and going over your contracts and specs are time consuming and really eat into your work time. There are even days where the only thing you do is create contracts and specs. Personally, though, I’ve lost several days of work completing a project in overtime due to a single bad contract I made.

So as time consuming as it is, you’ll thank yourself later when a client demands another redo and the contract specifies he doesn’t have one left without that extra charge. If it eases things further, creating contracts and specs will become easier and quicker over time.

Have you had experiences where you’ve had to do more work than you had thought you documented. Let’s hear it in a comment below.

The Week In Freelance: August 13th

Posted: August 13th, 2010

10 Random Thoughts On Why My Freelancing Career Is As Weird As Yours

Posted: August 11th, 2010

Photo by Bigandyherd (Flickr)

Photo by Bigandyherd (Flickr)

I’ve been freelancing for just over 8 years now. While I never dreamed or planned on being a freelancer, there is certainly no way I’ll ever go back to traditional employment. Looking back on those eight years, though, makes me think what a long strange trip it’s been through ten random thoughts:

  • I graduated with a degree in Psychology, but started freelancing doing web programming with no experience. I even write what you see here after many past failures in writing. Uhm, what just happened?
  • My most valued possesions are now whittled down to just a computer, Wifi, PayPal account, passport, and discipline. Sunlight, too, but I don’t really own that.
  • Of all my clients, who are located in Spain, USA, Canada, Australia and Sweden, I haven’t met 93% of them face-to-face.
  • Of those remaining 7% of clients, all except one live in the same city. I actually travelled 5266 miles once to see that last one. Not even the one in Australia either.
  • Out of those who I haven’t met personally, I can recognize 22% through their voice, YouTube video, photo in Facebook or a Gravatar. Who knew a “gravatar” would become a univeral means of recognition?
  • Probably my worst occupational hazard has been a severe addiction to caffeine and Swedish tobacco pouches (a.k.a. “snus”).
  • Definitely my worst occupational hazard… current withdrawals from drastically cutting back on each.
  • All of these will happen at least once in your career: You get stiffed on a payment, your equipment gets lost/stolen/damaged/eaten, you’ll survive a week on a $10 food budget (borrowed from a friend).
  • Then again, the following will also happen at least once too: You’ll find a cash cow of a client (through pure luck), you’ll truly enjoy that first vacation you take and you’ll also truly savor those meals when you begin to eat out again.
  • Then there is the discovery of one of Murphy’s Law of Freelancing: If there ever is a point when you are so desperate for work, that you consider the sex trade, it will be immediately followed by a period of so much work that you won’t be able to stop complaining about it.

Productive Use of Twitter: Are You Stalking or Are You Talking?

Posted: July 29th, 2010

Probably not the best use of Twitter here

Probably not the best use of Twitter here

I tend to have an on-again, off-again relationship with Twitter. Some weeks are just so busy with work that Twitter plays second fiddle to it. I still don’t get paid to use it so, sorry there little avatars with personalities, you’ll have to wait until next week (or after a night out later tonight).

Maybe it’s time to rethink that again for a second.

Now I’m not one to buy into using Twitter for the whole celebrity “reaching out to your fans” experience. I can just see it now if I did my daily Twitter stalking and finally received that coveted response.

@freelancerant Back off dude. I got armed bodyguards and an unlimited legal fund.

I prefer its “proper” use such as networking, sharing links and trading a friendly jab once in a while. When I really thought about it, though, it’s much more than that.

  • I’ve improved by leaps and bounds in my work as a web developer because I’m in constant contact with those who seem to know quite a bit more than I do. OK, they DO know more than I do.
  • I’m friends with others outside of my field such as marketers, designers, writers, Twitter socialites and the general population with free time on their hands. You definitely learn a thing or two by branching out and learning from users you wouldn’t normally expect to learn from.
  • I’m up-to-date on absolutely everything. It can be crucial to your success being on top of your work, technology and what Justin Bieber had for lunch an hour ago (so I don’t have to follow him myself).
  • I’ve made great business contacts who I know, with a reasonable degree of intuition, are good peoples.
  • Considering all the above as what I get out of Twitter, an hour a day invested in it is rather minimal.

I’ve been on Twitter for over a year now and, while it is a no-brainer to use, it does take some time to realize how it can put a positive jolt in your freelancing career. Pry yourself from the distraction side, though admittedly I can’t help but to have humor and sports in my feed, and you have a tool that can move you places.

That or witness people moving places. Nothing like something to motivate you to move forward.

On a side note, I say this as I unfollow @Alyssa_Milano. You were a distraction and never responded but I have my real friends now, thank you.

Top Ten Freelancing Rules To Break, Just So Things Don’t Get Boring

Posted: July 26th, 2010

Some wise man once said that all rules were made to be broken (I know, cliche). It’s true though. Who ever got by as a freelancer by happily obeying the rules of the working world? Yet despite this career choice, there still always seems to be more rules to have to follow. Well, I give you permission to break these ten so you can get on with your career already.

10. Set and meet deadlines. If it doesn’t involve kidnappings, legislation or nuclear standoffs, then it really isn’t important in the grand scheme of things, is it?

9. Be attentive to your clients. Your clients are mature adults fully capable of handling themselves. So be repectful and treat them as so.

8. Quality is everything. Yeah, they say that at McDonalds but you still eat there right?

7. Always collect a 50% deposit at the beginning of any project. I’d think a 100% deposit would be better. You know you’ll be high-fiving me later.

6. Learn to just say no. Didn’t work during your teenage years. No sense in trying now.

5. Eliminate your work distractions. Spending hours on end on Twitter and checking up on Lindsey Lohan makes for a pretty dull life. See how distracting yourself with work turns out.

4. Take a vacation once in a while. Now would be a good time to go all crazy with Twitter and the Lindsey Lohan updates instead of doing something lame, like travel.

3. Keep up with your health. Live young forever. Spend day after day high on Red Bull and coffee and burning out your retinas. Kids are totally jealous of this.

2. Save money whenever possible. Well, have to keep up with the stash of Red Bull and coffee, right?

1. Always use a contract. Go with the pinky swear instead.

The Week In Freelance: July 23rd

Posted: July 23rd, 2010

Winning The War on Computer Disasters

Posted: July 22nd, 2010

The Deceased

The Deceased (R.I.P.)

Well, it happened sooner than I thought it would. Not too long ago, I gave the automated online backup a try so I could relieve myself of the pesky task of having to remember to do it myself. Turns out it was like buying life insurance before a vacation to Afghanistan. The beloved tower of power, a workhorse to countless projects and surviving several deadly viruses, had passed away.

He was 4.

Despite a quick mourning, the sudden death didn’t really phase me. His understudy, the Vista laptop, quickly took over the reins and was left a nice fortune from the completed and up-to-date backup sitting online.

Carrying out the work duties from the little Vista wasn’t cause for much pain and downtime. There are, however, some new protocols that I’ve put in place in order for the next unexpected death to create absolutely zero downtime and zero cause for pain, work buddy death notwithstanding.

1. Having a laptop that is completely synchronized to your desktop computer

I’m pretty thankful for the Carbonite backup saving my ass but there is one gripe I now have about it. I have about 20 GB of data to download and it takes three days to complete it. While I’d recommend to get an online backup, of any kind at the very least, a three day wait for your data can set you back.

Recently, though, I tried out Dropbox (thanks Jon) and wished I had started with this from the beginning. It not only backs up your data, it can synchronize files between any number of computers so, if one bites the dust, you have another computer to fall back on without the wait to update it.

Dropbox is even free for up to 2 GB of data and 10 USD/month for up to 50 GB of data.

2. Using an online service for the RSS reader and bookmarks

To me, it made the most sense to utilize a Firefox add-on for an RSS reader and save bookmarks through the browser. They are all part of a happy family so why not?

Not so smart. These were long forgotten as a part of the backup. Similar to the feeling of losing a few dollars from your wallet, it wasn’t anything too serious, but I would like them back.

While you can technically utilize an add-on, FEBE (Firefox only), to backup your bookmarks, RSS and browser configurations, it’s easier just to stick to online appplications with Google Reader and Delicious to store bookmarks. You can carry on without missing a step if you have to switch to another computer.

3. Use a password storage service instead of auto-saving passwords in the browser

OK, this one I started doing even before the online backup. We do tend to get lazy when it comes to passwords though. I mean, do you autosave in the browser (not exactly bad) or, worse, use the same password for everything from the Gmail account to your blog server to your online bank?

The issue is, of course, is that it is hard to remember all those passwords, much less, coming up with them. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have to handle this than someone who hacked my PayPal account then emailed all my friends to tell them about it from my Gmail. Uhm, not that it happened…

Anyway, I’d highly recommend you try out Mitto which has proven to be safe, using online security similar to those of banks. Plus it’s free. And it would be wise to change those “password123″ passwords you’ve been using since the 90′s to stronger ones with a random mix of letters and numbers. This password generator makes it a whole lot easier.

* * *

Have any Plan B’s in case your computer goes down or have any other suggestions to minimize downtime upon computer disaster? Let’s hear it in a comment!

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