Freelance General

  • Saving Money as a Freelancer or: How to Afford Better Cereal

    Today we’ve got a guest post from Josh Boyd, a freelance copywriter, who wants to share his tips for saving money as a freelancer so you can enjoy more of the good stuff!

    Hurray! You’ve thrown off the shackles of full-time employment and are now reaping the benefits of being able to work in bed while eating Sugar Puffs. You relish in the ability to do your top quality work in your garishly bright pyjamas, while you pity the poor souls going to the office from your window. How foolish they seem now. Unfortunately, this feeling of happiness and sense of superiority will likely be brief and misleading. A few months have passed since you walked out of your old job laughing and mocking your ex-coworkers and the Sugar Puffs have now turned to Morrisons own brand corn flakes (the ones that don’t even come with a cardboard box). You’re also on the powdered milk too. Turns out the work hasn’t come as thick and fast as you’d hoped and all your friends with proper jobs have started to complain about your raggedy clothes. Time to start saving some money, you short-sighted fool.

    So, chances are you’re going to want to claim some tax back for those corn flakes as some kind of business expense. Unfortunately, you have pretty much no idea what you’re doing and so you got an accountant. This will have been bleeding you dry and has left you in the sorry cereal state you’re in. There is a much better alternative to this. You should try online accounting instead. It simplifies the whole process massively meaning that even your malnutritioned brain will be able to use it and keep track of everything. You’ll also have much easier access to your accounts and what’s going on too. So, find your trousers with the least holes in, get down to your accountant, fire them and then get online.

    You might have decided that your genius deserved it’s own .co.uk website. You guffawed as you saw other freelancers use blogs as their websites. “Unprofessional!” you scoffed as you bought way more bandwidth that you really needed. Time to scale back. Move all your stuff to Tumblr instead. It is completely free and very customisable. You can make a great site with Tumblr, plus you can use it to link up with people who might be interested in your work. If people like your stuff, it’s also very easy to share it with other people who too might appreciate your incredible skills. Plus Tumblr is, like, cool and stuff. Don’t be a square, daddio (and if you’re that fussed about having your own URL, just buy one and have it re-direct to your Tumblr).

    Marketing yourself can be a difficult task, especially when you start out. For some reason, people just aren’t drawn to your impeccable work through unprecedented word of mouth spread. The few jobs you have done so far has, as of yet, failed to cause panic among prospective clients to hire you. There are a few ways to get free publicity. One of the best is to find a blog dedicated to your field and attempt to get an article posted on there which outlines some thoughts from your incredible mind. You’ll be unlikely to get paid for this, but suck it up and enjoy the chance for more people to discover you.

    Decrease your outgoings enough and you’ll be back on the Sugar Puffs within no time. One day, with enough work, you might even reach Lucky Charms levels.

  • Five difficult clients and how to deal with them

    In the years that I’ve been freelancing, I’ve had a mix of clients. On the whole, 80% have been brilliant. They communicate well, pay on time and generally make the job enjoyable. I love working with them and giving them the results they want.

    Then you’ve got those that make you question whether the work is really worth it.

    Difficult clients are par for the course in freelancing. I’m not talking about demanding clients here (I actually love working with clients who work as hard as I do to get the results they want). I’m talking about the ones that move the goal posts constantly, are late paying (or come up with reasons why they shouldn’t have to pay you) or take advantage of your good nature.

    So, who are these difficult clients and how do you deal with them?

    The constant late payer (or non payer)

    I invoice on the 24th of each month. My favourite clients are the ones that pay by the end of the first week of the next month. It means I can pay the mortgage. My least favourite are those that require constant chasing – and they’re often the ones that I stop working with if I have to spend large amounts of time requesting payment. My opinion is, if they can afford to pay their staff for their work, they can afford to pay their freelancer for their work.

    Solutions:

    • Make your payment expectations clear in your Terms and Conditions, and put into place late fees for those that pay outside that set period.
    • If you’re working long-term with a client and they’ve continuously put off paying you, stop producing any work for them until they pay up. It’s surprising how many clients suddenly find the money when you do this.
    • If you’re working on a project (or you’re unsure of the client), you should also ask for half the payment up front.
    • If all also fails and it’s a sizeable amount, you can take legal action against them.

    The goal post changer

    Goalposts
    Goalposts (Photo credit: Adam Bruderer)

    The goal post changer, is the client who constantly changes their mind about what they want you to do. This isn’t the same as a client who challenges you so you’re constantly learning and improving. They might want you to do Facebook, then change their mind a week later as they’ve not had the 1,000 likes they had hoped for. Essentially, they want instant gratification. More often than not, this client wants to have all their correspondence on the phone.

    This kind of client is often in charge of a start-up business (my personal experience is that they often fail, as actions are not seen through.)

    Solutions:

    • If they insist that all correspondence should be done on the phone, make sure you follow up with a summary email of your confirmation and ask them to confirm it. This should help if they ask to change direction again, as you can forward that email as evidence of what you’re currently doing.
    • Go with your gut when deciding to work with them. If your gut says no, it’s probably right!
    • Ask for 50% deposit for a project

    The vague one

    The vague client isn’t necessarily a difficult client. They just need a little guidance. They want the results, but they’re not quite sure how to get there. The great thing about this client, is that they’re generally open to suggestions and are great to work with on a project. Managed well, working with this client can actually be great.

    I have a feeling these clients are toughest for web and graphic designers, who get vague directions like “I’d like it to ‘pop’ more” or “Can you make it…better?”

    Solutions

    • Sit down with them (online or offline) and discuss a plan going forward. Set deadlines and targets, so you both know what is going on.
    • Have a thorough discussion of what they do and don’t want, so it’s clear what both parties want.
    • Keep them constantly informed.

    The 24/7 one

    Watch-vi

    The internet has completely revolutionised the business world. Sadly, it’s also meant that some clients expect you to be on call all the time.

    This is particularly frustrating when clients call you at 8 or 9pm at night, without forward notice. Especially when you’re at the pub.

    Solutions:

    • Include your work hours in your Terms and Conditions, and explain what your client can expect
    • While you might work at the weekends, I wouldn’t let your clients know that unless strictly necessary.
    • Request that phone conversations be booked in advance, rather than spontaneous.

    The manipulative one

    The manipulative client is the most difficult client. They’ll probably have attributes of all the above. They won’t pay on time (but they’ll have dozens of reasons why), they’ll constantly change the goal posts so you’re unable to finish anything (which they’ll use as an excuse for not paying you) and they’ll play constant mind games.

    They’re not always easy to spot. Some manipulative clients will play on your good nature, and spin you a sob story for why they can’t pay you. There are definitely cases where clients can’t pay, and I’m sympathetic to that. But if it’s month after month, they’re probably not genuine.

    Solution:

    • Honestly? Get rid. No matter how much they’re going to pay, it’s probably not going to make working for them any easier.
    • If the money is amazing, or you’re really passionate about it, stick with them but create some strict guidelines.

    Have you experienced working with any of the above? Let me know in the comments how you dealt with them!

    (It should be noted that there are just as many difficult freelancers. Neither party is perfect!)

  • Video: What it feels like to be a freelancer

    As a freelancer, it’s par for the course that at some point you’ll deal with a client who is…shall we say, difficult?

    Which is why I love this video, which fellow freelancer and all round lovely lady JJ (she runs This Little Lady Went To London) alerted me to. It gives passers by a little idea of how it feels to be a freelancer…

    Have you ever had to deal with this sort of thing?

  • Freelance Finance: Living with a feast or famine income (Guest Post)

    Feast or Famine

    This week, the lovely Leanne has written a guest post on the feast/famine cycle of freelancing – something that a few people have asked about recently. Read on for some useful advice on how to deal with the up and down financial situation of working for yourself.

    There’s nothing quite like being able to work for yourself. It’s liberating to know you’re your own boss and it offers a kind of freedom like nothing else can—yes, it may be hard work but you get to reap the rewards of success, but it isn’t without its issues. There’s one aspect of freelancing that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves yet can be tough to get accustomed to, and that’s the feast/famine cycle.

    Think freelancing means you’re going to be rolling in cash month in, month out? Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s time to think again. Yes, your earnings can technically be limitless—you’re free to work as much as you want and can set whatever rates you see fit—but it isn’t always that easy. You have to actually get the work in for it to all come together, and unfortunately it doesn’t always go according to plan.

    It doesn’t matter how effective your marketing efforts are or how many steady clients you have, you can never tell what’s around the corner. You don’t have the luxury of having a fixed income each month which means you need to be prepared for the fact that some months will be better than others—in fact, some months you could have so much cash coming in you don’t know what to do with whilst others you’ll be scraping the pennies together.

    And don’t think it’s an issue that only the novice freelancer can face. Yes, it’s always going to take a while to build up a solid foundation but even the most experienced of freelancers can face the dreaded famine from time to time, and that means you need to take precautions. So just what can you do to keep things on an even keel? Well, here are a few tips to bear in mind:

    • Save for a rainy day. You need to get into the habit of saving straight away. It can be tempting to treat yourself when those first few invoices start coming in, and whilst you need to celebrate you also need to start putting a bit of cash away, just in case. You never know when times could get tough, after all…
    • Don’t be cocky with money. When times are good it’s easy to start getting a bit reckless. You might shop in slightly more expensive places, go to pricier restaurants or simply treat yourself more often, and whilst you deserve a bit of luxury you need to stay sensible. Yes, you want to bask in your success, but that invoice you just got paid? It could be the last one you get for a while, so don’t get cocky.
    • Don’t get complacent. You’ve got a steady income, a solid base of clients and plenty of projects to keep you going, so you hold off on the marketing and let yourself relax for a bit. But what about when those projects reach their conclusion? What if clients decide they don’t need your services anymore? It can be a huge jolt back to reality and can put a serious dent in your income, so always keep up with your marketing efforts and keep a lookout for new income streams.
    • Remember the tax man! Ok, the tax man may not be high on your Christmas card list, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about him. He’s reviled for a reason—don’t pay your tax and you’ll suffer the consequences, and don’t leave it too late to start thinking about saving. You may not be getting money automatically taken out of your paycheque but you should treat it in the same way, so make sure to save a bit back each month (ideally in a separate savings account so you can keep track of things) because there’s nothing worse than knowing you’ve got to raise thousands of pounds out of nowhere.

    It’s all about being sensible. Going freelance can give you huge amounts of freedom but it needs more dedication, commitment and perhaps even common sense than any other way of working, so the rule to remember is this—enjoy the feast, but prepare for the famine!

    [custom_author=Leanne Richards]

  • Guest Post: A day in the life of a newbie freelancer

    I’m on a spa break! Which means that somehow, I’ve been surgically detached from my laptop and I’m hopefully floating in a pool of bliss. Thankfully, some of my fellow freelancers have kindly stepped in to write a guest post. Today, the talented Fran Swaine shares her experience of beginning the freelance life. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    6.45am: Alarm goes off and the boyfriend dives in the shower. Now I work from home I get a lie in. I used to get up at 6.20am. Hells yes – I love that extra time in bed!

    8am: After showering and making breakfast I head upstairs to my office. I turn on my computer and tune in to BBC 6music. Good tunes are essential for a productive day and a mid-morning bum wiggle.

    My first tasks include checking emails, Twitter and my Google Reader. Digital marketing moves so fast, I need to ensure my knowledge and understanding are kept current. Twitter is the best way of doing that. I run through my feed and find interesting links to either schedule through Tweetdeck or load up on Buffer.
    8.30am: I’m annoyed I haven’t started work yet but admin has got in the way. You’d be surprised how much admin there is as a freelancer!

    9am: Finally, I can start some paid work! It’s crucial at this point I open up my time sheet. I record exactly how much time I spend on any projects I’m working on. I work on a day rate, but realistically you end up switching between projects so this is the best way of keeping track.

    Today I’m working on some copywriting for a client’s new events website. Luckily I’ve already set the tone of voice for this website, so it should just be a case of applying this to the new text.

    9.20am: I’ve had to turn the radio off as I can’t concentrate (mainly because I keep singing along). I really should turn my email off too – it’s the most productive way to work! I used to happily email friends throughout the day – but these days I only do that if I have a quiet day. I’m a pretty strict boss!

    10.30am: Copy finished. Phew! Took longer than expected but I’m happy with the results.

    10.45am: After a cuppa and a snack, it’s time to face my next project. I’m working on a marketing strategy for one of my retained clients. I’ve already done the initial analysis for their website, so today I’ll be looking at their PPC campaigns and starting to look at their social strategy.

    The morning is also littered with calls and emails from clients – I’m a good multi-tasker so I like working this way.

    12.30pm – It’s been quite a busy morning – but a productive one. I also managed to get tickets for an awesome free digital event happening in Brighton in September. I head downstairs to make lunch. It also means I can take a bit of time out to read my book and sit in the garden.

    1pm: I only usually take 20 minutes for lunch, unless it’s a beautiful day and then I try and make the most of sitting outside or going for a bit of a walk. Today – it’s grey out, so I head back up to my office and prepare for a meeting at 3pm.

    2pm: Just finished up a blog post for my website that I started yesterday. I try to blog at least once aweek. The topic of this post is on Facebook pages and how to avoid getting Facebook fatigue.

    2.30pm: I head in to town for a meeting with a potential new client. I’m about a 30 minute walk into town, and I try to walk it rather than jumping on the bus. Working from home means you are much less active. I’ve recently got into hula hooping which I can do at home. I can currently do 124 in a row. Needless to say if anyone could see me they’d be in fits of laughter.

    My meeting is at one of my favourite cafes in Brighton. Must resist the temptation of cake!

    4.15pm: The meeting went really well and it’s a client I really want to work with. Fingers crossed they want to work with me too!

    4.45pm: Get home – fuss Rocky and grab a snack. Having a cat makes such a difference to me when I work from home. Yes I am a crazy cat lady! Afternoons are always sound tracked by my Spotify playlists – today it’s time for my summer sizzlers playlist (because it’s raining and horrible outside and I need to get motivated – plus I know my neighbours love hearing me sing Summer of 69 at the top of my lungs!)

     

    5pm: This is the time I used to finish work – but most days I work 8am – 6.30pm now. It’s funny – I always used to be straight out the door at 5pm but I no longer feel the need to stop bang on 5pm. Today I’m going to spend the last hour or so of the day putting together the proposal for the meeting I just had. The proposal is for setting up a marketing strategy for their business and being hands on in the implementation.

    6.15pm: Proposal finished! I’m pretty happy with it but will sit on it overnight and re-read in themorning. I often do this for work I’ve done in the afternoon if possible – best to look through stuff with fresh eyes!

    6.30pm: Time to switch off my computer! Today there are no looming deadlines, so I won’t be working late. Some days can be 12 hours long. It’s a hard graft but I love it. Before I shut down – I take a look at my diary and write a list of things I need to do tomorrow. Now it’s time to put my feet up!

    Thanks for your guest post Fran! I love the timesheet idea, may have to start doing the same.

    How does your daily freelance life compare to Fran’s? Share your thoughts in the comments!

    [custom_author=Fran Swaine]

     

  • Guest Post: Working back at the ranch

    I’m on a spa break! Which means that somehow, I’ve been surgically detached from my laptop and I’m hopefully floating in a pool of bliss. Thankfully, some of my fellow freelancers have kindly stepped in to write a guest post. Today, Betty Bee shares her experiences of working from home…

    Once upon a time working from home was shorthand for waiting in for a washing machine to be delivered. Fine for a one-off but impossible to do full-time. Now with broadband, laptops, Skype and robots (ok I made that last one up) having a home office is fast becoming the smart way to eliminate time-wasting travel and work in a more flexible way. It’s practical, it’s cheap and for working mums it’s often an ideal way to continue a career in-between the tyranny of the school run.

    Working from home may seem like the answer to all your prayers and swapping the inane chat of work colleagues for Woman’s hour is in itself a thing of joy but it’s worth remembering that the pros of working at home are also the cons.

    Not having to leave the house may mean less time wasted on the dreaded commute (no more listening to the tinny beats of an overloud iPod on the train or scraping ice off your windscreen at 7am on winter mornings), but it will mean you have to discipline yourself to ignore household obligations and get down to the task in hand. Procrastination in the form of the ironing pile is not unheard of and daytime telly has to become a no no. Watching the Wright Stuff is not “research” it’s skiving.

    So how do you change your mindset from duvet dayer to office worker?

    One of the easiest ways is to create a workspace that screams productivity.  If you are lucky enough to have an entire room to devote to your office this is an easier task-keep all family life out as much as possible (no Lakeland catalogues nestling next to the report you need to read) and once the door is shut behind you consider yourself at work. Give yourself scheduled breaks and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by what next door is doing in the garden or by poking people on facebook.

    If you are having to work from the kitchen table or in the space under the stairs  (like Harry Potter with a laptop) try and ensure your working area is free of any other household clutter and invest in some file boxes so all paperwork can be neatly stored away. This will be your saving grace once the family come home and your “hot desk” becomes unrecognisable under that particular brand of debris, which can only be created by children. Like space junk, but stickier.

    Educating others that being at home is not the same as being available is possibly one of the greatest hurdles to overcome. You may find at first that friends think its fine to drop over for coffee it’s not. You are not Starbucks despite what the squashy sofa and magazines strewn everywhere might suggest. Keep that kettle switched off.

    Working from home does allow a certain sense of personal freedom and this can be harnessed to great effect-if you are having trouble with a particular problem or need to formulate a plan of action being able to step outside into the garden for a few minutes to clear your head can make all the difference and with no outside distractions you will be amazed how more efficient you will become. Try and remember to get dressed occasionally though-padding around in your dressing gown may be liberating to begin with but meeting clients wearing reindeer slippers may not give the right impression.

    Copyright Betty Bee  2011

    [custom_author=Betty Bee]

  • Pretty panels = instant home office

    Earlier this week, I was contacted about some sliding panels you can have in your home to divide a room. I know quite a few freelancers and home workers reading this won’t have the luxury of an office area at home, or a room they can get some peace and quiet in, so this seems like a great alternative. Install the sliding panel across a section of your room (for example, if you have a large lounge or spacious spare room), and you’ve got instant office space. Then once you’re done, you can slide it back across again.

    Actually, can I have one of these in every room to hide my untidiness behind? A tidy side for guests, and an untidy side where the clothes bomb has gone off?

    The panels are from The Fabric Box, and there’s a ridiculous amount of choice. Here are a few of my favourites below.

    Prices start from £77.84. This isn’t a sponsored post, I just think it’s a charming idea (and cheaper than building an extension!)

    How do you create an office space at home?