Posts

Setting Yourself Up For Success as a Freelancer

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | Freelancer
 
Many people crave the freedom that comes from working for yourself, be this as a freelance individual or a small business owner.

The reality is that many people today, and particularly in the new year are making the transition from being employed to being self employed, but the two worlds are so disparate it can be useful to learn some of the freelancing core principles in order to set yourself up for success.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the differences between employment and self-employment with a view to helping you set yourself up for success as a freelancer.

The Safety Net of Employment

The majority of people have financial commitments and a lifestyle to maintain, perhaps even a family to provide for, so starting up as a freelancer is something that should be considered carefully because whilst there are many benefits to being a freelancer, one of the greatest concerns is that you will be trading the financial security of a job that pays you regularly with the uncertainty associated with working for yourself.

Of course, with a decent plan and fantastic execution, you can secure your own future and there’s no reason why you cannot replace your full time income as an employee with freelance work; but it’s important not to “bite your nose off to spite your face” which is why many people set up a freelance business whilst remaining employed.

This way, as the freelance side of things picks up and grows over time, you can start to reduce your hours at work or even quite altogether – but it allows you the safety net of keeping a basic income whilst setting up your freelance business. In the alternative, you could consider an insurance policy that pays out if you are unable to work due to ill health – something many employees take for granted, in terms of statutory sick pay in addition to company specific policies.

With that said, freelancing can be a great way to earn money as you are more able to have your work fit around your life, rather than having to fit your life around your work – or rather, your boss’s demands!

Feast or Famine

The freelance lifestyle tends to be associated with much more freedom and flexibility, however, many freelancers work seven days a week, as there’s a touch of “feast or famine” when it comes to freelance work.

There will be periods of feast where you are overwhelmed with work and can barely keep up with demand, whilst at other times, there will be very slow periods where there’s barely any work.

There’s a saying about making hay that is appropriate for the freelance lifestyle, as akin to how a squirrel works very hard to gather nuts in autumn, you need to gather as much money as you can, when the demand is high.

The challenge, however, is that you can find yourself running into periods of exhaustion due to responding to high demand. You therefore need to focus on pacing yourself, and considering ways to maintain a steady flow of work. This can be challenging as most people want their project to be completed almost instantly.

Keeping Costs Down

When it comes to making money, revenue should be a secondary aim to profit – and one of the best ways to maximise your profit is to keep your costs down.

Interestingly, as a freelancer, one of the most expensive costs associated with business is the cost of marketing your services. Whilst word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing, it takes some time before word of mouth starts to reach a level which can sustain your business – meaning, at some point, particularly in the early days you are going to have to pay for advertising of some description.

This is where platforms such as Freelancer and Fiverr come in. Admittedly, they charge a fee in terms of a percentage of the revenue derived from the project – but as they only charge you when you are making money, it’s cashflow positive, meaning you don’t have to shed out lots of money with a risk of getting nothing back in return.

Staying Compliant

There’s something about being a freelancer that feels a lot less formal than having a business in the conventional sense, it feels a lot more “free” in the sense of it’s free from regulations associated with having a limited company where you must publish accounts and annual return documents.

However, freelancers are still subject to stringent rules around paying tax, and laws such as contract, negligence, and misrepresentation.

If you’re used to being an employee then you won’t have had to deal with tax matters before, as this tends to be done by your company’s HR department. Yet, as a freelancer, this responsibility falls on you – and if you fail to comply with tax law, it can have very serious consequences.

That said, the benefit of being a freelancer is that it means a lot of your expenses are tax deductible which means you are likely to be paying much less tax on your income. For instance, when you consider that driving to a meeting is a tax deductible expense, but the cost of your daily commute as an employee isn’t – shows how much of a better deal freelancers tend to get.

Staying Motivated

As an employee, it can be easy to stay motivated, in the sense of staying on track – because you have someone breathing down your neck to make sure you reach targets and are accountable for your performance.

As a freelancer, however, you have more freedom, meaning you don’t have this burden… yet, in some ways with more freedom comes more responsibility – and in this context, you have the responsibility to keep yourself motivated and on top of your workload.

This is where goals, and goal planning comes into play, as this will keep you on track to perform at your optimum.

In summary, starting out as a freelancer has many benefits from time freedom to tax advantages, yet, it is a completely different world to employment and lacks some of the security and structural advantages.

Becoming Self Employed – Is It For You?

Becoming self employed is an attractive prospect for many people. It offers a degree of flexibility and you have no boss to answer to. Being self employed can also be lucrative, any profits made are yours once you have met ongoing costs. If taking the plunge to go self employed appears tempting, it is important to take a rain check and remember that there many downsides too.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | Freelance
 
One of the main cons of being self employed is that being employed on a payroll actually offers a great deal of security. When you decide to become self employed you give up many of the benefits enjoyed by employees. Employment gives a worker lots of rights including, a contract, regular pay, sickness and holiday pay as well as some legal protection. Of course as a self employed person you can still access benefits, but it will be instigated and paid for by yourself. Thankfully there are lawyers who specialise in offering support to businesses in different sectors, for example a truck labor lawyer will represent truck drivers working on a piece rate basis.

So why do so many people choose to go self employed, when there is so much security and benefits to being an employee? Read on to discover why some business owners choose to make the switch.

Earning potential

Most people working on a freelance basis earn more than if they were self employed in the same role, in fact it is estimated at around 45%. You are able to put certain expenses through “the books” which further enhances earning power. As you are working for yourself you will be able to develop your business without constraints, you will be able to pitch for work at higher prices as your reputation grows and any profit will be yours.

You are your own boss

Being self employed means that you don’t have anyone monitoring your every move. You will need to meet the requirements of your clients, but how you get there is up to you! On the flip side however, you will need a high degree of motivation and a strong work ethic. Otherwise your business will not progress as much as you envisaged.

Flexibility

If you require time off to watch the kids nativity or go to the dentist, you won’t need to grovel to your boss. You won’t be constrained to the 9-5 routine, as you can choose your own hours. This is particularly useful if you wish to become a player on a global scale in the future, as you will be accessible 24 hours a day and not just when you are in the office.

Variety

Being self employed and running your own business is a constantly evolving role. You need to stay one step ahead of your competitors in order to survive in the marketplace. You will need to adapt manufacturing processes, services and product design to meet your target audience requirements. All of which offers variety to your role.

To conclude lots of research needs to be undertaken prior to becoming self employed, but if you’re sure that being self employed is for you and your personality will allow a high level of commitment, then take the plunge and enjoy the freedom!

How To Get Your First Clients As A Freelancer

StrategyDriven Online Marketing and Website Development Article | Entrepreneurship | Freelancer
 
If you’re just getting started as a new freelancer, even if you’ve run other freelance businesses, one of the first things you’re probably focusing on is how to get your first paying clients.

Although it’s going to take some work and effort on your part to get yourself out there and find those initial clients and certainly isn’t easy or something you can expect to happen overnight, if you’re staying focused on the right strategies and not trying everything all at once, then you can definitely make the process of getting clients a simple one.

In this post, we’re going to give you some actionable tips and strategies that you can use to start getting your first paying clients as a freelancer so that you can start building a freedom-focused business that allows you to help people and build a life and business on your terms.

Decide who you want to work with:

In order to be able to get clients, you have to know who your clients are that you want to be working with. The ability to choose your clients is one of the main benefits of freelancing instead of working in-house where your employer will already have the clients in place and you just have to do the work. If you’re not sure what kinds of clients you want, or how to identify them, then doing an ideal client avatar exercise is something that can really help you gain more clarity around this. It will help you identify the traits you want to have in your ideal clients, the type of budgets they may have available for the project, and also what industry they work in. There are many types of ideal client avatar exercises available that you can fill out for free online, so it’s best to take a look at a few different ones to see which one best suits you to help you come up with the answers you need.

Determine your positioning:

To make the process of attracting your ideal clients easier, then it’s important to define how you’re going to position yourself in front of them. For example, do you want to attract and work with only larger companies as opposed to small businesses? Do you want to charge high-end prices for premium work or do you like the idea of offering a more tiered pricing that would allow clients with various budgets to work with you? The other thing to think about when it comes to positioning your freelance services is whether you consider yourself to be a specialist or a generalist. Whilst both have good and bad points, it’s something that you’ll need to be clear about because it’s going to be something that will help you set yourself apart when it comes to pitching and offering your services to clients. For example, do you have strong data visualisation examples in your portfolio that you can show clients because this is something you specialise in or are you someone who has a wide variety of different examples of all kinds of copywriting you’ve done as a more general copywriter?

Create prices and packages:

If you want to get clients to pay for your freelance services, then you have to determine what those prices are ahead of time so that when you send out proposals you can come up fees that reflect your prices and not just something you’ve plucked out of the air after being asked what your prices are. Being able to offer your clients different packages according to their needs is also something that you should have in place before even looking for clients because this will help you keep your earnings in line with your goals and stay organized when it comes to looking for clients because you’ll know how many you can work with at any one time.

Be proactive in reaching out:

Even if you have the most beautiful and most expensive website on the planet, clients aren’t just going to come flocking through the door to work with you, so you’re going to have to put yourself out there if you want clients to hire you. This will involve things like creating content for your website and blog, posting on social media, reaching out to clients you want to work with and letting them know about your offers and services. Of course not every client will hire you, and you’ll probably get more rejection emails than you will replies from people wishing to work with you, but you need to keep going and stay proactive in your search because this is really the only way to build your business.

How to Market Yourself as a Freelancer

StrategyDriven Online Marketing and Website Development Article | FreelancerIf you have a talent in a particular industry and you have the determination required to work for yourself successfully, then there are plentiful opportunities in the freelance sector at the moment. Freelancing has several advantages over setting up a business, because it requires a far lower level of investment and you don’t have to employ anyone else. All you need are the skills, computer facilities, and the will to succeed.

There are many jobs that lend themselves to freelancing; in fact, there are very few specialties that don’t have some kind of online application. For example, even the most practical, hands-on jobs such as construction, teaching, and medicine, all need web-based services such as training and consulting. If you have the urge to go it alone, there’s very little holding you back – but the critical difference between success and failure will be your ability to market yourself effectively.

Why marketing matters for freelancers

You may consider marketing to be more appropriate for a small business than a freelance enterprise, especially if you have good contacts and can start off with some ready-made clients. While it’s always advantageous to have a couple of clients on your books before you take the plunge into full-time freelancing, there are a couple of points you should bear in mind.

Firstly, if you’re planning to take clients with you from your present job, you could be heading for trouble. Somewhere in your employment contract, it will probably say something along the lines of employees aren’t permitted to poach clients from the business if they leave for a period of six months or so. You may not have such a clause, but it’s still considered underhand to take contacts with you if you leave a business.

Whether you have such a clause or not, you may feel that there’s very little your previous employer could do anyway once you’ve left, but regardless of whether they seek to claim damages against you, which they could well do in some instances, they do have the power to sully your reputation. Businesses live or die on their reputation, and if you become known in the industry as someone who can’t be trusted, your future will be bleak.

Furthermore, you can’t rely on the handful of clients you start with to keep you going or generate new business for you. To build up a sound, stable business, you need to master the art of marketing yourself.

You are the product

In a business, you’re selling a service or a product, and while you would do well to include yourself as a valuable part of the package, you wouldn’t necessarily be the focus. However, if you’re a freelancer, you need to be selling yourself – in effect, you are the product. The only difference between you and all the thousands of other bookkeepers, writers, tutors, or whatever you specialize in, is yourself. All the other freelancers in your sector will be offering broadly similar services, so the only way you can stand out from the crowd is to promote the benefits you offer potential clients.

Some people have no problem with this at all, and happily talk themselves up; others find it hard to sell themselves and promote their abilities. Being over-confident can be off-putting, as you can come across as arrogant; but failing to market yourself as one of the best in your field isn’t likely to impress prospective customers. A middle ground is usually the best approach, showing confidence in your skills without being too full of yourself. If you do struggle with self-confidence, it doesn’t mean you can’t succeed as a freelancer, but you’ll need to put a concerted effort into learning how to present yourself in your marketing.

Marketing tools for freelancers

Many freelancers underestimate the importance of having a website. If you think it’s a bit over the top to create a website just to promote yourself, think again. A website impresses potential clients and reinforces the idea that you’re a serious, committed expert in your field. You can use the website to provide full details of the services you offer, host a portfolio of previous work, and display customer testimonials. It’s a good platform to introduce yourself and help clients get to know you as a person so they make a connection with you, and it’s invaluable for being found in web searches.

If you’re not sure how to create an effective website, find out more about using a design service to create the optimum site, and compare the pros and cons of using a website builder compared to a design service. Your site doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated, just well designed, easy to use, full of relevant information, and updated regularly. In addition to your website, listings in directories not only make your business easier to find, but improve your rankings in search engine results lists too.

Social media can also be a powerful tool if used regularly, but don’t overwhelm yourself by signing up to every possible platform. Have a look at the usage statistics for each one and select one or two to start with. You want to get the hang of posting regularly and managing your accounts effectively without having too many different ones to worry about. Once you get accustomed to writing a daily FaceBook post, or tweeting a few times a day, you can always expand onto other platforms. You should also look at specialist websites and publications that focus on your field of expertise, as a presence in these will be perfect for reaching your target customers.

Many people make a very decent living from going freelance, and have a better quality of life working for themselves. Some go on to establish a fully-fledged business based on their freelancing, but you can follow whichever path appeals most to you. The important thing to remember is that you need to sell yourself, and take the task of marketing yourself very seriously if you want to bring in the right clients.

8 Things Freelancers Need To Think About Before Something Critical Happens

Being a freelancer has some incredible perks, but it can also be tough at times. You don’t always know if you’re going to get paid, and what exactly are you supposed to do if you fall ill and can’t work? Here are 8 things freelancers need to think about before something critical happens!

Getting Insurance

Getting insurance is possibly one of the smartest things that a freelancer can do. Insurance can help to cover you when you’re ill, even in the hospital, and you won’t be left in the lurch so badly if you can’t work. It’s a small expense to pay each month for long-term peace of mind!

Knowing Your Worth

Knowing your worth is crucial as a freelancer. Have you ever considered that you could be undervaluing yourself? Many freelancers make the mistake of offering really cheap rates to get clients, but this could be a huge mistakes. Your clients will want quality, rather than to save money. They want to make sure they get the most out of their money, so rather than trying to do the cheapest price, figure out your worth and make sure they get the best value for money. If they give you $3000 to design their new business website, make sure you design the best business website for that price imaginable.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article
Photo courtesy of Free Images via flickr

Finding Somewhere Suitable To Work

Finding somewhere suitable to work is imperative as a freelancer. Working from home is relatively cheap, but it can come with many issues. You can experience interruptions, find distractions, and find it difficult to separate work and home life. It could be better to lease an office – there are sites out there that make leasing offices easy for you. You need to consider what’s more important; getting things done in a healthy environment, or working in your pyjamas?

Keeping Accurate Records

Keeping accurate records is something every freelancer must do to avoid getting into trouble with the government. You must make sure you accurately record what you earn, what your business expenses are, and every other relevant piece of information that impacts your business. When it comes to filing your tax returns, you’ll need this information, and you’ll wish you had it if you ever get audited!

Building A Wonderful Reputation

You get a wonderful reputation by consistently producing quality work, pure and simple. You must do your best for your clients again and again, and this will help you in terms of recommendations and things like that. If you cut corners, chances are, your reputation will be mediocre at best.

Developing A ‘Paid Up Front’ Policy

A paid up front policy can be a little scary to reel out, but it makes sense when you have unpaid invoices to worry about. You should ask for a deposit at least from new clients or those who haven’t been to you in a while. This not only ensures you get your money, it shows you that a client is serious about the work.

Turning Clients Down

Turning clients down is sometimes something you have to do if you’re going to be true to yourself. You must be honest about limitations if a client asks you to do something you’re not comfortable or confident with. Clients are not as scary as they seem, and will respect you for being honest. You could even offer to refer them to somebody else who can do the thing you can’t. Who knows, the client might hire you anyway!

Knowing When To Take A Break

It’s too easy to exhaust yourself mentally and physically when you’re a freelancer. You must set boundaries for yourself and only break them in exceptional cases if you’re going to produce the best work and have a great work/life balance. You should take at least one day off and do not work on that day. Everybody needs some down time and a day off! During your work days, make sure you get up from the computer, stretch, meditate, go for a walk, or do something else to give you a break from the screen. It can be tempting to sit there and plug away to get things done as quickly as possible, but sitting in front of a screen for 10 hours without even having eaten lunch isn’t healthy at all. Never feel bad for taking a break!

If you’re a freelancer, make sure you make a note of these things today. The sooner you take them on board and implement them, the more your quality of life should improve and the safer your business will be!