First of all, this is not an advertisement. I’ve been using FreshBooks for a few months now and I absolutely love it. It just works so perfectly and saves me so much time and allows me to collect more from clients in my freelancing business. This is my honest & sincere endorsement.
As a freelancer like me, your time is extremely valuable. You’ll need software that is straight to the point and easy to use. This is where FreshBooks comes in. FreshBooks is cloud-based accounting software primarily for service-driven small businesses, which is perfect for freelancers and small agencies. To us freelancers, it’s a timekeeping and billing service allowing a variety of uses such as invoicing, expense tracking and time tracking. It also has accounting reports and tax features.
Many creative, independently-minded people find, when they finish schooling and get out into the workforce, that they do not enjoy holding a staff position at an agency or publication. These individuals may find they have a need for autonomy, or would like to work a more flexible schedule than a 9-to-5 job provides. For such a person, self-employment is often the answer to their needs and desires. Instead of going in to an office, working at the same desk all the time, and always doing the same types of projects, a freelancer enjoys the freedom of doing business on his own terms; and no one employer is there to restrict his potential creativity. Due to these perks, more professionals across a broad spectrum of industries are choosing to pursue self-employment.
If you want to have a full schedule of projects and a list of solid clients to draw from, there is one key ingredient that many newcomers to freelancing do not budget enough time for – that’s prospecting for new projects and new clients.
In my book, The Fast Track to Freelance Success Online, I made the statement that my bidding ratio is 30 to 1. That means that I may bid on an average of 30 different projects in order to be awarded one. One of my readers commented on that statistic. She had given up after bidding on less than six projects on the freelance bidding sites. She’s going to go back and will put a bit more effort into the process.
That ratio is simply my own estimate and does require some qualification. First, one project might mean doing a single press release, it might mean a set of six blog articles, or it might mean an ongoing order for 10 articles a week. Not all projects are created equal.
Being a freelancer is ideal in many ways: you can set your own schedule, you can work around emergencies that pop up and you can be in control of your time and the money that you make. However, freelance work can sometimes fluctuate and be undependable. People turn to freelance work for a variety of reasons. Mothers may want to make a little extra money while their children are at school. Parents may prefer to work from home to maintain a better work/life balance. A slow economy may make it difficult for someone to reenter the work force. Regardless of the reason, by following some basic rules, you can become a successful freelancer.
Owning a freelance business is a dream come true for many people. It gives you complete control of your life and your own schedule. It is ideal for those with family obligations that make a “normal” work schedule difficult. Freelancing can be ideal, but it is business ownership, so you must work hard to create success. In addition to your projects, you also need to market your business, and handle administrative tasks, all while maintaining your health and home. Achieving this balance is challenging, but it is easier if you focus on a few important things.
There are a million awesome things about freelancing. You are your own boss. You set your hours. If the weather’s nice, you can stop and take the dog out for a jaunt in the park. You get to do what you love, every day, and nobody else takes credit for your hard work. Having built your own business gives you an incredible feeling of accomplishment.
It’s not all butterflies and roses and three-hour lunch breaks, though. I’ve found that some of the biggest—and least expected—challenges I face as a freelancer have been problems of perspective, of priorities, of wondering if this really is a legitimate career. In other words, the “mental” side of freelancing.
Below are three things I’ve struggled with, along with some solutions that work for me. If you have anything to add, either a problem or a solution, please leave a comment!
Freelancing: A Secure Form of Employment?
My freelance income distribution from 2011 -- as you can see, I had 3 clients who comprised more than half of my income, which increased my financial risk
One of the facts of life that freelancers face is that we often need to deal with an unsteady cash flow. Freelancers have good times and bad times financially and our earnings reflect those situations. Most people are scared off by this unpredictability, which prevents them from even considering freelancing. (After all, your rent, student loans, and car payment will be the same every month regardless of how much you earn in that period, so shouldn’t your income also be the same every month too?) Compared to being employed by a single company and receiving a steady paycheck month after month, freelancing – at first glance – seems like the opposite of a “steady job.” However, being a freelancer can actually provide more job security than having a single employer. Here’s how…
Should you concentrate on a particular niche or have a more generalized knowledge base and skill set?
One of the most common questions beginning freelancers ask themselves is, “should I be really good at one thing or pretty good at many things?” The answer is – you guessed it – it depends. There are advantages and disadvantages to both specializing in one area and having more general knowledge in several areas. Here are the main pro/con arguments.
Laziness Doesn’t Have to Be Bad
She may be lazy, but she's also being more productive than you
“Lazy” is probably one of the last words a typical freelancer might use to describe him or herself. Indeed, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful as a freelancer if laziness is your motto. However, laziness isn’t all bad. In fact, laziness – if used properly – can lead to higher efficiency, better productivity, more free time, and less overall frustration.
The Beginning (ca. 2004-2006)
This is the kind of thing that initially motivated me... (a PowerBook G4 at the time)
I’ve always been a techno nerd, gadget geek, and somewhat of an Apple fanboy (less so now than when I was younger). Unfortunately, for a 14 year old kid with no job, I didn’t have a means of affording and playing with cool new computer equipment or electronics. A small allowance, birthday gifts, and Christmas gifts were my only “income” generators.
To change this, I decided to start a small neighborhood business helping people with their Macs (naturally, because I was obsessed with Apple and knew a lot about Macs). I asked my parents if I could put a small advertisement in a small, local newsletter and they agreed to help me pay for that ad. My starting hourly rate was a very respectable $10.
Over the next year or two, I slowly and irregularly began acquiring clients, mostly friends and acquaintances of my parents. My legs, bike, and scooter were my modes of transportation. I troubleshooted and fixed computers, printers, and networking issues and taught clients how to perform tasks on their Macs, as well as answer any random tech-related questions they had.
Around this time, I also became very interested in web design and taught myself HTML, CSS, and Photoshop. This interest and these skills would become very useful later.
Opening Up Doors (ca. 2006-2008)
1. Underestimating time & project costs
Skip the frustration by learning from my biggest mistakes as a freelancer
Underestimating time and project costs is easily the biggest mistake I’ve made, and also the biggest mistake freelancers make in general. Why? Because it’s extremely difficult to calculate how long a project will take when you haven’t completed a similar project in the past to use as a reference.
I’ve found that the largest “unknown” factor that consumes much more time than I expected is communication with clients and making countless revisions and minor changes to a project.
I believe the only truly effective way to produce more accurate estimates is to carefully track time on projects now so that in the future, when you have projects similar in scope, you have some real, hard data to use for calculating the estimates.
2. Accepting equity (shares) in startup companies as compensation instead of hourly compensation