Freelance A-Z

  • The A-Z of Freelancing: Keeping in touch

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    One of the things I learnt early on in my freelancing career, is that it’s always best to be the one contacting your client, rather than the other way around. As a freelancer, you maintain control of the situation if you can spot and fix a problem with a client without waiting for them to notice and contact you. And maintaining regular contact with a client means you’re more likely to spot a problem – or simply make sure that you and the client know that things are on track.

    There are plenty of ways to keep in touch with your client on a weekly basis, without annoying them.

    • Set up a weekly catch up call
    • Send them weekly reports
    • Drop all of your clients a regular newsletter of the industry news

    It’s also important to keep in touch with previous clients, for potential repeat business. You can do this by:

    • Sending ‘check-in’ emails every couple of months, checking in on how they’re getting on and if they need any help
    • Add them to your client newsletter, for added value (plus you could add special offers into the newsletter sidebar to potentially tempt them back)
    • Offer them a referral bonus if they send other clients your way
    • Encourage them to like your brand Facebook page, Twitter account or blog

    How do you keep in touch with your clients?

  • The A-Z of Freelancing: Invoicing

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    Sending out an invoice is pretty satisfying. Seeing on paper what you’ve achieved can make a tricky month worthwhile.

    But waiting for a payment (and chasing it) is less fun.

    However, there are plenty of tools at your disposal to make invoicing and chasing so much easier.

    Here are just a few options:

    • Manual – many of my more organised friends favour a manual system, of creating their own invoices and logging it in a spreadsheet. The bonus is that it’s free to do! If you’re disorganised like me though, you’re possibly better to use an organised system, as this won’t send you alerts when someone is overdue.
    • Freshbooks (which, in the interests of being transparent, is my choice and I have a referral link if you’d like to try it).  It’s an online tool and app that allows me to set up invoices quickly and send them automatically at the same time each month if I choose to. It also adds on late fees for me if they pass the 30 day payment period without paying. The benefits are that it takes a lot of legwork out of the process. The downside is that you do have to pay for it (I currently pay $19.95 a month)
    • Crunch – I’ve heard a lot of good things about Crunch recently, partly because they also give you access to a number of accountants too.
    • Google Docs – Google Docs/Drive have a number of apps you can use with their docs, which can be used to create invoices

    A couple of hints before you invoice:

    • Let the client know, before you start working with them, what your terms are. This includes payment periods, late fees and early payment discounts
    • Add your terms to your invoice, particularly if the invoice goes to the company finance team rather than the contact you initially agreed the terms with
    • Stick to your guns. If you state when a late fee applies, and they repeatedly ignore it, make sure you add the late fee to the invoice.

    How do you invoice?

     

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  • The A-Z of Freelancing: Health and Safety at home

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    Coming up with something for ‘H’ in the A-Z of Freelancing was trickier than expected. Holiday would have been the obvious option at this time of year, but I’ve already covered how to take a holiday before. Instead we’re going to look at the far less festive, but very essential, health and safety at home.

    Do you work from home?

    Have you ever performed a risk assessment on your workspace?

    I’m guessing for a decent proportion of you, the answer is ‘no’. Me included. But it’s a good idea to do one, to assess your current working situation and see if anything needs tweaking. HSE have a useful guide to this. But the section really worth a read, is their Working with display screen equipment (DSE) booklet, which contains lots of info about how best to sit, how far you should sit from your computer screen and the correct amount of light required.

    This is officially the dullest post I’ve written so far for The Freelance Lifestyle. But it’s an essential part of what you have to do if you’re going to work from home today, so it’s worth putting aside an hour or so in the new year to do it.

  • The A-Z of Freelancing: Garden offices, extensions and treehouses

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    Freelancing and working from home often goes hand in hand. Which is great, but it can sometimes make the whole work/life balance thing tricky. I’ve talked a lot on the blog about the difficulties of sticking to work hours, and the problems with friends and family not respecting your workspace. Thankfully, freelancing doesn’t mean you have to work from your sofa (you can, obviously. In fact, I often prefer it). But you can work from a co-working space, a coffee shop, a library or from one of the increasingly creative garden offices and sheds around.

    For example, did you know you could work in one of the following unusual workspaces?

    Obviously most of them are pricey (I was lucky that the previous owners of our house had already built an office on to the side of the garage), but a freelancer can dream, right?

    Check out ShedWorking and WorkFromHomeWisdom for a few more unusual working from home options.

    If you could build a dream office at home, what would it be like?

  • The A-Z of Freelancing: Finding work

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    One of the toughest parts of freelancing, aside from dealing with your accounts and tricky clients, is finding work in the first place. Where do you start?

    Here are just a few places to start looking:

    • Social Media – through Twitter, Facebook, local networking groups and websites, Google+ and other social networks
    • Online marketplaces – Peopleperhour, Fiverr and CreativePool
    • Offline – networking events in your local area, co-working venues (check the Freelance Lifestyle Co-Working Map or the new selection of co-working spaces from Regus Connect)
    • Referrals – Get in touch with your contacts, ask your Twitter friends for referrals and update your LinkedIn page with a request. Referrals are one of the best ways to get new business.

    Where do you find work? Share your top tips in the comments below…

  • The A-Z of Freelancing – Expenses

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    A quick post today, about expenses. Yup, the bane of every freelancer’s life. I don’t want to particularly dwell on this because it’s utterly boring, but it’s also essential.

    If you’re new to freelancing, you might be getting your head around the idea of expenses. I’m not going to go into what counts as expenses in this post (that’s a whole other post, and one that I may get an expert in for). There’s a great guide over on the HMRC site though.

    So, here are a few tips for storing and tracking your expenses.

    • Get snappy. I use tools like the Freshbooks app to take a snap of any quick expenses, like train tickets or shop receipts. This is then added to my online accounts, and I pop the expense in my purse to transfer to a box I keep at home, at the end of each week.
    • Create a folder in your email, and transfer any emails with business expenses to that folder. Print them out each month.
    • Don’t go paper-free. Yes, I’m fully aware of the environmental impact. But the reality is, I’m going to be printing a huge number of accounts/phone bills etc at the end of each month, so I may as well get them sent to me for free by the banks.
    • Create a folder with sections for each month. Grab some of those clear pockets, then pop a piece of paper in each one. Once a month or so, I then staple each of the expense docs (tickets, receipts etc) with a quick description of what it was for. Pop the email in there too if relevant, giving each part a number to match them up.
    • Set time each month to deal with them. An hour should do, unless you do a lot of spending.

    What are your top tips for dealing with expenses?

    p.s Still confused? Give Rosie from OneManBandAccounting a shout. She has plenty of packages for advising and helping you with your expenses and accounting.

    p.p.s There’s a serious lack of attractive accounting software. Get on that, stationery-making types. Not everyone wants to use a dull office binder.

     

  • The A-Z of Freelancing – Dealing with doubts

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    Freelancers, unless blessed with sky-high confidence and self-esteem, will have a moment of self-doubt during their work day. In fact, I’ve had doubts about whether freelancing is for me during the following times:

    • In the run up to Christmas or a holiday, when ALL OF THE WORK needs doing beforehand. 
    • When dealing with a tricky client, and having no one to talk to face-to-face about it
    • When I’ve taken on too many clients, and I’m doing all of the hours
    • When times are quiet, and I’m scrambling to pay the bills
    • When chasing a client for a very overdue payment
    • When taking on a project that seems far too big and complicated for my skills

    But y’know what? Doubts are normal. No one coasts along feeling 100% sure about anything. The key is how you feel the rest of the time. When I feel those doubts creeping in, I remember that 90% of the time I LOVE being a freelancer. When I was a full-time employee, it was closer to 30-40%.

    Most of all though, go with your gut. If you have doubts but your gut says go for it, you’re doing the right thing. If you have doubts and your gut agrees, consider other options. Your gut is rarely wrong (unless you’ve had a curry the night before.)

    Do you ever have doubts about freelancing?

  • The A-Z of Freelancing – Creativity

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    Where do you usually come up with your best ideas? When hard at work at your desk? In a serious business meeting?

    I don’t know about you, but my brain usually shifts into creative mode when I’m doing something else entirely. Places like:

    • The shower. Which is why I’m eyeing up this Aqua Notes notepad.
    • While driving. My best blog post ideas pop up in my head while driving. I used to jot it all down once I’d finished driving, but now I have Siri I can shout it out into a note.
    • At the gym. Hahahahaha….yeah, this doesn’t happen very often. When I’m not hating every second of it, an idea occasionally pops into my head.
    • At 3am. These ideas aren’t usually my best.

    Point being, you need to take a break sometimes in order to be at your most creative. Get away from your desk and go have a little adventure. Spend time with people who inspire you, or make time to be on your own. Create a creative environment at home where you can relax and think. Switch off your tech. Try something new. Anything to free your brain up a bit.

    There’s nothing better than getting a really good idea. Give yourself the chance to do that!

    What are your top tips for getting creative?