The Week in Freelance: August 3rd

Posted: August 7th, 2009

  • Web Design Dev has a must-bookmark list of 20 rules all freelancers should follow. Even if you’ve been in the biz a while, it doesn’t hurt refresh yourself on these.
  • Do you use a contract before starting any project? Contracts clearly outline the work you do for a client plus the terms for receiving payment and are a must to avoid potential conflicts later on. Get to know what should be included in a contract too. [from Mayhem Studios]
  • Freelancers have the freedom of a flexible schedule and can sometimes find themselves working the twilight hours of the morning since that may suit them better. Keeping regular business hours may actually benefit you more and here are five reasons why. [from The Freelance Writing Jobs Network]
  • Looking for advice… on anything legal, business or just on life? Here is a good start. [from MakeUseOf.com]
  • Sparkplug CEO on strategies for a down economy: A tip we probably havent thought about; “Make sure that you’re doing all that you can to reach as much of your target market as possible.  I’ve actually seen some entreprenuers pulling back from their usual marketing activities becuase they perceive that their market is cash poor and unlikely to respond. That’s a mistake.”
  • The Logo Factor fills us in on the continued debate between the good and evils of spec work and crowdsourcing.
  • Here’s a new concept. Theme each day of your workweek. Make it fun and you just may be more productive in the process. [from Freelance Switch]
  • Is being self-employed causing you to work seven days a week out of fear you may be passing up opportunities for work? I believe it is just that: fear. Take a day off or a vacation when you need it. Available work doesn’t all of a sudden dry up. [from The Wall Street Journal]
  • If you are a designer and need a boosts once in a while to get into your creativity zone, this “little guide” just may help. [from Zen Habits]
  • Sometimes we are on Twitter too much when we should actually be working (or having a social life outside of it). We can rationalize our use of it better, hoever, with ways to use Twitter for our business. [from Web Worker Daily]
  • Here’s a good laugh for all you programmers.

Freelancing’s Biggest Disclaimer

Posted: August 6th, 2009

If you’ve been under a rock the last few years, you probably haven’t heard that freelancing has been taking off like a bullet in the last few years. Even during the recent recession, the demand for freelancers has continued to climb making this career path an enticing choice for those who want to go down this road.

Anyone can see the benefits of freelancing: work when you want, be your own boss, no middle manager to answer to and, if you do it right, the salary is comparable (or better) to that in a paid position. There is also a big asterik that’s appended to the word freelancing; The big disclaimer that follows closely behind:

You want control of your career? You got it!

Now don’t get the impression I’m trying to dissuade anyone from freelancing nor believe it’s the wrong route to go down. I’ve been a happy freelancer for the last six years and I have no regrets whatsoever. Some thought, however, should be made in the decision to become a freelancer. Some of the other facets of freelancing aren’t so obvious.

If you happen to work at a job then, from the outside looking in, freelancing is the ultimate goal from the benefits outlined above.  From the freelancer’s perspective, though, a job offers you the following perks that you may take for granted:

  • Paid vacation (well, for most of you)
  • Paid or discounted heath and dental insurance
  • Company marketing is done by the company, not you
  • All accounting and taxes (except filing) are handled
  • Office supplies including computers/software are handled as well

In an office setting, these are always expected and almost an afterthought. As a freelancer these all have to be handled by you and take up a lot of time that is unpaid and cost money out of your own pocket. While you could probably skip the vacation to save money, the rest are essential to a freelancer’s business and cannot be ignored.

The unpaid time and business expenses are often enough to overwhelm a new freelancer into quitting soon after he starts. Plus, of the above list, the biggest X factor is the marketing you do for you own business. Done right, you are able to eat. Done wrong and, well, you get the picture.

So how do you prepare for them when starting out?

Its simple. By planning and being organized right from the start, you have a jump on the preparation needed to successfully grow as a freelancer. There is an endless supply of advice out there for freelancers to eat up and apply to their businesses (check out the Resources here too). Take advantage of it.

Now being organized is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to preparation. The rest comes to you as you learn the ropes. There will be surprises and the highs and lows that comes with every career. Keeping your head up and dealing with the suprises and lows will keep you moving forward, too, and away from your job calling you back.

Top Ten Guilty Pleasures Of A Freelancer

Posted: August 5th, 2009

Let’s admit it. Working as a freelancer affords you the opportunities to enjoy things that you otherwise wouldn’t in an office setting. Yes, we all do have those little vices and here are the ten best in case you were wondering:

10. The sweet smell of nag champa incense (covering up body odor).

9. Raw coffee, Red Bull and leftover crack blended into a nice smoothie.

8. Same as above but directly injected into veins. Good with a cigarette.

7. Oh, looking at a computer screen and watching the minutes change on the clock.

6. Working… ahh, I’ll work a little later.

5. The bi-weekly vacation trip to the shower.

4. The personal Happy Hour… at noon!

3. Scraping the stuck food off of the keyboard for a light snack.

2. Yeah, like I didn’t see you pick your nose and eat that too.

1. Listening to old Hansen cd at full volume.

The Week In Freelance: July 27th

Posted: July 31st, 2009

  • Freelance Folder on seven lies that freelancers tell themselves: We have a tendency to believe certain things about ourselves and our business that give us a false sense of the reality of freelancing. Sometimes they negatively impact our attitude and our bank accounts.
  • Web Worker Daily has five ways to tell if your clients are abusing you and polite ways to prevent it altogether.
  • From Bizzia: Its hard to say no to any work that comes your way. The drawback is that it can pile up, delay completion and stress out you and your client. Therefore, it helps to learn to say no without losing the client.
  • Web Worker Daily on finding the perfect full-time telecommuting job: One of their points that helped me personally; “While many large companies have reputations as great telecommuting employers, there are many small companies willing to consider employees who want to telecommute. While you may need to do a little more convincing, the financial benefits of working with telecommuters can be particularly attractive to small businesses…”
  • From The Simple Dollar: Trent Hamm has an insightful podcast on the realities of freelancing. He discusses his own personal habits and touches on organization, diversifying your income and the process of being able to blog for a living.
  • From The Freelance Writing Jobs Network: In case you still haven’t learned, it is always best keep negative rants and incriminating photos away from any public medium. To reinforce this further, “If you rant about all your clients or former employers on your blog or forums, we can find it. If you’re an incredible gossip, we’ll find it. If you’re stirring up trouble, we’ll find it. This may have no bearing on the job I’m hiring you for but if you’re saying stuff about everyone behind their backs, what will you say about me?”
  • From Sparkplug CEO: Need a good reason to start a blog? How about to get your freelance business found; “Image [sic] you write just three new blog posts a week. […] In a month you’ll have an additional twelve pages published to the Internet where you prospects and customers can find you! […] Now if most of your competitors only have an old outdated five page HTML website you’ll effectively eliminate your competition from the Google Map!”
  • Think you can disconnect from social media for a day and survive? It just may be good for you. [from bkmacdaddy]
  • Zen Habits on three ways to enhance your willpower: “[…] people only have so much willpower. When you have to control yourself, there is less willpower available to you for other parts of your life. This fact is a good one to know because people who lose their will-power often do things that they would rather not. They become aggressive, sexually impulsive, and give up too early on puzzles.”
  • Here are two questions to help you gain perspective on life… and you career. [from Zen Habits]

Survived The Recession So Far? Time To Thank Those Reponsible

Posted: July 30th, 2009

Just the other day I received an email from a client, actually a long term contractor, that said something that made me really happy but really made me think:

“We’ve got a bunch of projects coming up in the queue.
Thank goodness the recession didn’t wipe us out!”

To give you the quick fill-in, I’ve been contracted as a programmer by a small company of four in Santa Fe, NM called Desert Elements Design for the last few years now. They supply the majority of my work, pay me at a premium and have been incredible about consistently sending me work even through the hard times of this recession.

Even though their business is down slightly from years past, it really got me thinking that, hey, I made it though this recession on top while there were many many others who have fallen victim. I’ll admit, too, that I really didn’t do much to combat the effect the recession could have on me. The work came and I didn’t ask how or why.

While some sectors are survivable during a recession, web development being one of them, it still takes some serious marketing to draw in business since virtually no one has been willing to spend. It didn’t a genius to put two and two together and see that there was a candle burning on both ends to market DE services along with managing the design projects between just three people.

And all of this while I completed the steady supply of assigned work and enjoyed my weekends in the summer visiting pristine beaches and attending a multitude of concerts like longtime favorites Neil Young and AC/DC. All the while being completely oblivious to a recession at hand.

So now I sit here and realize like a slap in the face that I am luckier than a good chunk of the workforce out there. Lucky to work and earn a living. Lucky to be associated with the intelligent and hard working ladies of DE. Luckily to be able to buy an imported beer and drink it while writing this.

So time for me to stop thinking and give thanks. Right now.

Top Ten Best Remedies When A Freelancer’s Day Isn’t Going So Well

Posted: July 29th, 2009

We’ve all been there before. Clients scream at us, projects have to get redone, payments aren’t received… and that was just before noon today. Well here you have the best remedies to get you through the rest of the day:

10. Turn on the caps lock key for the day.

9. Quit and return to the comforts of your old job at the IHOP.

8. Go postal. Shoot the faces off the pictures on your desk.

7. Go to Las Vegas. If everything else goes bad, your luck must be good here.

6. Take it to Twitter and Facebook where everyone loves to hear about your bad day.

5. Try to cheer yourself up with that next day being a brand new day bullshit.

4. Pretend its all one big conspiracy playing a cruel joke on you. Have nice chuckle.

3. Find a glass house to throw rocks at.

2. Fill a glass full of water. Drink half of it. Now look at the glass as half-full.

1. A can of Coca-Cola along with a quart of rum.

4 Surefire Ways To Stay A Mediocre Freelancer

Posted: July 28th, 2009

Its almost guaranteed that as a new freelancer you will go through some major growing pains until things start to work out for you and your business. Right at that point we feel like we’re cruising and everything seems easy when we can juggle around our work while maintaining the business. We finally made it.

Believe it or not, we still have a ways to go before becoming the absolute best freelancer we can be. Until then, we may be paying the bills and things might be looking good but we may be falling into the traps that keep us just mediocre freelancers. The following are four ways to guarantee this:

1. Getting into a comfort zone.

When the time comes when we have clients that give us a lot of steady work, we take for granted the fact that steady work can disappear at any moment. This is in addition to the fact that, for developers and designers, technology is evolving fast and it is imperative we keep up with it.

That means freelancers have to consitently dedicate a portion of their time marketing their services and searching for new clients. It is a myth that all your time should be spent working on projects and earning the dough. And for those who rely on the latest developments for their work (hello jQuery), visiting a few tutorials every once in a while will keep your skills fresh and your services at a premium.

2. Not organizing your business.

Once a freelancer’s business gets rolling and and the work starts piling on, its easy to overlook essential tasks like accounting and time tracking.  Keeping on top of accounting and hours worked helps make the freelancer more efficient and keeps him from scrambling to find those receipts come tax day. Plus it helps to have some hard figures to see how your business is doing and if you are meeting income goals.

If you are not quite at the level to hire your own accountant, here are some recommended free tools:

Time tracking: Paymo Timetracker

Accounting: Quickbooks Quick Start

3. Faulty communication with clients.

Most freelancers work over the internet so the primary form of communication is usually email and instant messaging to a lesser extent. Let’s face it, its hard for typed words to clearly express what you or your clients want to. Plus there is huge potential for miscommunication. Speaking from experience, it is very important to word emails and explain whatever you have to in a very clear, simple manner.

Likewise, on your part, it is important to get to know the style of communication from the client. Many of them are unaware that, they too, need to explain their needs clearly to you. It is you job to pry it out of them by asking questions until you understand the tasks at hand fully.

It also helps to read every email completely and even multiple times if you have to. Nothing is worse than making mistakes and having to redo work due to something you missed in a message.

In the long run, good communication will inspire confidence from your clients and helps those projects go smoothly and more efficiently. More importantly, you virtually guarantee yourself repeat business in the process.

4. Not bothering with networking.

Many freelancers do not want to bother with networking their business since it is more or less viewed as asking complete strangers for work or, in other words, begging for jobs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, getting to know other freelancers, especially in your own field, have the following benefits:

  • You keep up with the latest going on in your industry
  • Sometimes collaborations on projects in your network can come around
  • Sometimes work gets referred to you
  • You can turn to your network for advice  (and even social stimulation)

Networking is not hard, either, especially with Twitter and Linkedin perfectly suited to freelancers. It just takes a little action on your part to say hi and meet others.

Take it from a once-mediocre freelancer

These ways of the mediocre freelancer weren’t observed from others but were all things I went through personally in my journey. The truth is we are all constantly learning and evolving in our careers and mistakes are a just part of the process. It helps to learn from those of others so I hope this can help you recognize what can hold you back so you it doesn’t happen to you.

If you have any stories of personal mediocrity in freelancing, I’d love to hear them. Send a comment below.

The Week In Freelance: July 20th

Posted: July 24th, 2009

  • Freelance Folder has 5 simple tricks that make you more attractive to your clients.
  • oDesk on putting a price on your services: “One of the hottest new trends in negotiation theory is “mutual problem solving” which has – to some extent – replaced the more basic bargaining-based approach. The key to mutual problem solving is looking for hidden benefits or creative possibilities for both parties when working together.” In other words, get to know your client’s needs beyond the project scope and sell your specialized skills to maximize your earnings. Part 2 of this post is worth a read too.
  • We all want to find ways to spend less time at work. Zen Habits has five ways to help you get started.
  • Bizzia on using give-aways to promote your business: “Three reasons why you should be giving stuff away to people: (1) People respond to gifts by feeling a sense of obligation.  It’s the principle of Reciprocity I talked about several months ago.  If you give them something, they will feel they should do something for you. (2) People can put the gift somewhere to remember your business. (3) They can share the gift with friends as they refer your business to them.”
  • Do you know the formula for success and happiness? You probably can already guess optimism, but grounded optimism is something we should really be applying. [from Goodlife Zen]
  • A lack of funds can be a reason your vacation might not be in Hawaii this year. The “staycation”, however, can really make you see the true point of a vacation. [from Goodlife Zen]
  • Instead of taking time off only to return to a mountain of stressful work, try taking mini mental breaks. [from Web Worker Daily]
  • Still procrastinating? Give yourself a procrastination innculation. [from Zen Habits]
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