Freelance Clients

  • Keeping your business in the black and out of the red (Guest Post)

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    Getting paid by your customers or clients is one of the most important things that a business needs in order to flourish. But simply sending out your invoices isn’t enough – you need to remember that a sale isn’t a sale until the money’s in your bank account!

    Emily Coltman FCA, Chief Accountant to online accounting service provider FreeAgent, gives her five top tips on how to collect payment from your customers and clients, and ensure your books stay in the black – not the red.

    Make payment and collection easy

    Think about the different ways your customers could pay you, and which would be the most straightforward for them.

    It’s also worth considering whether there’s any risk to you that the payment might not be processed successfully.  For example, direct debits may be returned if the customer’s bank balance is too low.

    If you want to provide an easy method for your customers to pay you, it may be a good idea to use a service such as PayPal that lets you take card payments without a merchant bank account.  Using PayPal means that your customers don’t have to give their credit card details to you directly, and you won’t incur the fees and additional admin of a merchant bank account.  However, it’s important to also do your sums and check PayPal’s fees too, because they charge you when you receive money in from your customers.

    Finally, make sure you communicate clearly to your customers how they should pay you, including putting your bank account number and sort code on your invoices.

    When should you take payment?

    You need to make sure you achieve an acceptable balance of risk between yourself and your customer in this area.

    Asking for full payment upfront could put prospects off if they’re worried about losing their money if they’re not happy with your product or service.  Consider offering a money back guarantee to make them feel more comfortable.

    You could alternatively spread the risk by asking for part payment upfront and part on completion of the work, or delivery of the product.

    Asking for payment only once the work is done, or the product is delivered, puts a lot of the risk on to you.  If your customer delays payment, or refuses to pay altogether, but you’ve already delivered the service or the product, you could end up out of pocket.

    Communicate your payment terms clearly

    Make sure your customers and prospects know when they can expect to pay.

    Set your payment terms and make sure they’re clearly visible on your website, and reinforce the message by including payment terms on your invoices, too.

    You may also want to consider adding a more personal approach onto your invoices to better communicate them to your customers. For example, we had one FreeAgent user who customised his invoices with a picture of his children and a note saying that they wouldn’t get fed until the payment was received.

    While you might not want to go as far as this example, a personal message or style could still help ensure your clients remember your invoices and deal with them sooner – rather than leaving them lingering in their “to do” piles.

    Chase late payers

    A lot of small business owners make the mistake of not chasing money that they’re owed, because they’re worried about losing customers.

    Remember, you’re providing a product or service that your customer wants and needs.  Don’t be embarrassed to chase them for the money.

    If you’re worried that doing this yourself could damage your customer relationships, consider using a virtual PA service.

    Using an online accounting tool also allows you to send automatic reminders by e-mail to your customers, both before and after your invoices are due.

    No non-payers

    Especially if your customer’s business is a lot larger than yours, it’s sometimes tempting to take the line of least resistance and stop chasing them for payment – but keep selling to them, hoping that they will eventually pay up.

    In a word, don’t!  No business can survive for long without cash to pay its suppliers and its taxes, and remember you’ll want to draw some cash out yourself.

    So if your customers don’t pay you, and if they are still unresponsive even after you’ve chased them, you should consider not selling them anything else – because it’s not a sale if they don’t pay you!

    Emily Coltman FCA is Chief Accountant to FreeAgent, who provide an award-winning online accounting system designed to meet the needs of small businesses and freelancers.  Try it for free at http://www.freeagent.com

    (If you fancy giving FreeAgent a try, they have a 30 day free trial. Here’s a referral link. This post is not paid for, but the referral link does give me a small discount on my own FreeAgent account if you love and continue using it after the initial 30 days)

  • How to create a client checklist

    Client ChecklistWhen a potential client approaches you about working together, it can be pretty exciting. But hold your horses! Just because they’ve approached you, doesn’t mean you have to say yes. In fact, you should ask yourself a few questions to make sure they’re the right fit for your business.

    Recently, I’ve been using the following checklist of questions before I proceed:

    • Do they fit with my values?

    My three values are passion, freedom and choice. If a client doesn’t share their values, the relationship is less likely to work. This is more the case for work I do for The Freelance Lifestyle, but it’s important that these values are respected by other clients too.

    • Do they value what I do?

    This is one everyone should have. If they can’t respect what you do and the price you charge, it’s unlikely a positive client relationship will be created. If they try to barter you down in price to something you’re uncomfortable with, let them go. This is one thing I’ve been learning this year – it’s ok to be too expensive for some people. You can’t please everyone.

    • Are they ethical?

    This one depends on what you consider ethical. Personally from a social media manager point of view, mine includes things like not buying large amounts of fans on Facebook, not lying to customers/fans or copying other’s content. One way to find out this is to have a peek on Glass Door, where you’ll see reviews of how companies treat their staff. This can give you a small indication of how they work.

    • Do any alarm bells ring?

    Every time I’ve ignored my gut instinct, I’ve regretted it. The key is working out the difference between gut instinct and nerves (the previous checklist items should help)

    • Do I have the resources?

    Finally, do you have the resources to take on the client? Do you have the time, the technology and the know how to make sure you can do the job well?

    EDIT November 2017: Another question to ask! Are they happy to sign off on my terms and conditions? Make sure you get their confirmation before you proceed with any work. You can find a Terms And Conditions template here.

    What’s on your client checklist?

  • Six reasons why you should hire a freelancer

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    While the USA seems to have a good grasp of the concept of hiring freelancers, it’s still a largely foreign concept in the UK – especially outside the creative industry. This is starting to change though, with the economy improving and companies looking at what options they have with hiring. The question is, should they bring someone in full time, or hire a freelancer by the day?

    So, why would you hire a freelancer over an employee?

    Being paid by the hour or day makes us more productive

    When you’re paid by the hour or day, you’re a lot more conscious of the work you’re producing. Knowing you have a day to turn a project around is likely to lead to more efficient results than passing a project to an employee who has a dozen other things to do. Essentially, we’re there to get the job done – not lose hours in meetings, dealing with colleagues or on Facebook.

    Short term work makes us more focused

    In most roles, an employee will get to a point where they start to lose interest and coast a little. Freelancers tend to work on a short term basis, so we’re fresh and enthusiastic to a project – then move on to the next client/project once the job is done.

    We can bring an expert approach

    Freelancers tend to have a specialism, so you can hire one in to offer consultation on a particular topic. For example, you may want to train your employees on how they should be using social media from a business point of view. Bringing in a freelance social media consultant for a workshop means you’ll have a team of more savvy employees – for the cost of one day of freelancing.

    It could be cheaper than hiring someone

    While freelancers are by no means cheap (or shouldn’t be), it can still be a cheaper option than hiring someone. For example, hiring in a freelancer for a couple of days a month could cost you £600 – but hiring a PR full time would undoubtedly cost you more each month. Plus the employee is paid by the month – while the freelancer is paid by the work done.

    You’re not limited by location

    Buffer recently wrote a great post on why having a remote team works well for them. Hiring a freelancer means you’re not limited to the candidate pool in your local area, so you could end up with a team that is more experienced and higher skilled.

    We’re self-improvers

    Good freelancers will constantly be learning and teaching ourselves new skills. After all, the more skills we have, the more valuable we can be.

    Know of any other benefits to hiring a freelancer? Tell me about them in the comments.

  • The A-Z of Freelancing: Bad Clients (and a little favour….)

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    This week’s A-Z of freelancing is ‘bad clients’, voted for by the fans over on The Freelance Lifestyle Facebook page.

    I can see why they want it covered. Dealing with bad clients is tricky, time-consuming and frustrating. It can take freelancing from fun to a big fat fail.

    I’ve discussed before that bad clients come in lots of different disguises, in my post Five difficult clients and how to deal with them. You’ve got late payers, the goal post changers, the vague ones, the ones that expect you to be on call 24/7 and the manipulative ones.

    In that post, I’ve outlined how to deal with bad clients. But how do you spot them and avoid them in the first place?

    It’s not always easy. But there are some things you can do.

    • Do your research. Have a search of their business online, on Twitter and Facebook. It’s best to know the full picture before you go forward.
    • Offer a consultation session. This is a great way to get to know them and their business without a commitment. 
    • Go with your gut. If your gut isn’t sure, either don’t go for it (or make sure you charge enough to make it worth it!)
    • Send your Terms of Business, and don’t work with them until they’ve agreed to them (on paper/email). Include your hours, the maximum use of free revisions if applicable, where your work can be used and payment terms.
    • Ask for an initial payment, if it’s a big project. This will weed out the flighty ones, and often the late payers too.
    • Be firm and confident. Potential clients that constantly request or expect a discount don’t respect your work – and are therefore likely to be tricky further down the line.

    Chances are, you’ll pick up the odd bad client here and there. To be completely blunt, a well-paid project can often blind us to downsides of a particular client. And even great clients can occasionally become bad clients. The key is how you deal with them.

    How do you spot bad clients?

    The little favour

    I have a little favour to ask of you, dear readers.

    Remember a few weeks ago when I told you about Task Squad, a project that helps young people get paid temporary work? Helping young people find work is something I’m really passionate about, and I know the team at Vinspired are just as passionate about it.

    As a disclosure, my friends Sam and Lea from The High Tea Cast are involved with this (in fact, Task Squad was an idea pitched by Sam to her bosses) 

    Anyway, the favour. Task Squad is up for the Google Global Impact Award. There are just 10 UK organisations up for this award. This is a huge deal for them, and could lead to a £500k award that could help 270,000 young people get access to paid work over the next 3 years. So I’m asking for your votes, which takes just a second to do. You don’t need to give any info, just click the ‘vote’ button.

    Want to know a little more? Jump on the Twitter Q&A on 28 May from 1-2pm.