You,Want,Freelancer,...,What,t DIY So You Want to Be a Freelancer ...
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What's the difference between running your own home-basedbusiness and freelancing? (tick, tick, tick ...) Give up? Metoo. If you want to work for yourself from home and have aspecial talent or skill that you think others would be preparedto pay for on an hourly or per-project basis, why not stopthinking in terms of the traditional "home business" paradigmand start thinking in terms of freelancing instead?WHAT IS A FREELANCER?Quite simply, a freelancer is an independent contractor whoearns his or her living by contracting for projects on a projectby project basis. A freelancer is not an employee of anyoneand so he or she must actively seek out work, negotiate theterms and conditions of the project (the contract) and completethe work to the satisfaction of the client. Once the project iscomplete, the freelancer seeks out and enters into anothercontract for another project.Alternatively, the freelancer may have obligations under anumber of different contracts with different clients at the onetime.Another variation involves the freelancer producing work and thenseeking buyers for that work. A freelance writer of magazinearticles, for example, would fall into this category.WHO HIRES A FREELANCER?Those who hire freelancers are as diverse as freelancersthemselves. In some cases, companies will hire freelancersto complete a short-term project as an alternative to hiringa new employee. This is often the case where the work inquestion is spasmodic or ad hoc and the company cannotjustify hiring an employee for such work. Companies alsohire freelancers to help smooth out the peaks and troughsof workload. Again, where there is a temporary oversupplyof work, the company will hire the freelancer on a short-termbasis to help cope with the backlog.In other cases, companies hire freelancers for their specialexpertise in a certain area. A company may want to createa new website, for example. Hiring a freelance websitedesigner for such a project makes more sense than hiringa website designer as an employee since once the websiteis complete, the function will no longer be required.Magazine and newspaper editors also hire freelancers or,more precisely, buy rights to freelancers' work. A freelancerin this type of situation may write a piece and submit it toa number of different editors in the hope that his or her workwill be "picked up" by that editor and published, in return forwhich the freelancer receives payment. By its nature, suchan approach is speculative since the freelancer can't be surethat anyone will actually buy the work. Of course, once thefreelancer has been published, it is relatively easier to get theeditor to buy the freelancer's work in the future and, as thefreelancer's reputation grows, so too do the opportunities forfuture business.WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DOES A FREELANCER NEED?To be financially successful, a freelancer obviously needsmarketable skills. A freelancer therefore needs the samequalifications, skills and talents as someone who had beenhired as an employee to do the job would need. In other words,if you are seeking work as a freelance website designer, youmust possess the same skills and qualifications that a full-timeemployee website designer would possess.IS A FREELANCER RUNNING A BUSINESS?In short, yes. If you do not have an employer, if you have tosource your own work and negotiate your own terms, if youhave to chase payment, if you have to pay your own taxes(i.e. no one is withholding them from your check), you are, inessence, self-employed. Ergo, you are running your ownbusiness.There are a number of consequences you need to think about.The first is taxation. You need to set aside from every paymentyou receive an amount sufficient to cover your state and federaltaxes on the income you receive. Likewise, you need to keepproper books and records so you can claim the deductions andexpenses you are entitled to as a self-employed person.As a freelancer, like any independent contractor, you will alsobe expected to provide your own equipment and supplies. Ifyou are a website designer, you need to have your own computer,software and other tools of the trade. The party hiring you willnot provide this stuff for you. Similarly, if you are a freelanceeditor, you will be expected to have all the reference materialsand style books, word processing programs and other sundryitems any editor would need to do the job. From a legal point of view, you should also give some thoughtto the legal entity of your business. Will you be a soleproprietor or will you incorporate? If you incorporate, will youchoose S-corporation status? There are important taxconsequences of each of these alternatives so be sure to getadvice from your accountant before starting.Think also about what licenses you may need as well asinsurance (health, life and liability depending on the natureof the work).WHERE DOES A FREELANCER FIND WORK?OK, onto the nitty gritty. You've decided to start work as afreelance website designer. You have the appropriatequalifications, training, experience and equipment and you'veconsulted your accountant to determine the most tax-effectivebusiness structure and your lawyer to set up your new companyand advise you in relation to issues such as business licensesand fictitious business names. You're ready to hang out yourshingle. Now what?=> Approach Your Warm MarketStart with who you know. Where did you get your websitedesign experience? If it was with an employer, considerwhether that employer may not be a source of business foryou. That will obviously depend on the circumstances underwhich you parted company but if you left on good terms anddidn't burn any bridges on your way out, by all means contactyour former employer and let him or her know that you are nowin business for yourself and ready, willing and able to take onnew projects. If possible, get a reference or testimonial too.That will come in handy when it comes to touting for newbusiness from strangers.Next, turn to your network of business associates you developedwhile working for your former employer. Note, we're NOT talkingabout clients of your former employer, rather your own networkof colleagues. Contact them and let them know about yournew venture and your availability for project work.Be extremely cautious about approaching clients of yourformer employer if your current business puts you in evenindirect competition with that employer. You may be constrainedfrom approaching former clients if you signed a non-competecovenant in your employment contract, for example.=> Create Brochure/ResumeGo to the time and expense at this stage to prepare somesort of resume of your experience and services. Get thisprofessionally printed as a brochure and send it, together withyour business card, to your former employer and colleaguesas a follow-up to your conversation. By giving them somethingtangible about you, it is more likely that you will come tomind when next they have a need for your services. If you'vealready provided them with your brochure/resume, when thetime comes, the person concerned will think "hey, Joe's doingthis sort of thing now. Where's that information he sent? Oh,here it is. I'll give him a call and see if it's something hemight be able to do for us."=> Approach Your Cold MarketOnce you've approached your so-called "warm market", it'stime to start on the cold. Start by gathering up a list ofbusinesses in your local area or industry that you think wouldhave use of your services. Prepare a letter of introduction andsend it, together with your business card, to your list ofprospects. Your letter of introduction should make if veryclear why you are writing. Identify yourself and the specificskills that may appeal to the reader and why.Follow up in a week with a telephone call to make sure thematerials arrived safely. If the other person is approachable,try and strike up a conversation about what you could do for thebusiness. Otherwise, thank the person for their time, ask themto keep you in mind for future work and calendar to contact themagain in 30 days' time.Continue to work your market like this. Remember, persistencepays off. Don't be discouraged if you receive little warmth orinterest in response to your approaches to your cold market.It takes time and persistence. Just don't take it personally.A good way to approach it is to tackle a fixed number per day.Start out by making a list of, say, 300 businesses you wantto approach. Develop your list from the Yellow Pages, local libraryand the web to start with. Calendar to approach 10 businessesa day for the next 30 days. That means ten calls a day, followedby 10 letters of introduction (together with a copy of yourbrochure/resume and business card) and a follow up phonecall a week later.Where there is interest, you may be able to schedule ameeting. Where there is no interest, schedule for a furtherfollow up call in 30 days. If there is still no interest, schedule for afurther call in 90 days. Or maybe you would prefer to do somethingelse to stay in contact. A good way is to publish a newsletter foryour clients and colleagues. Make it relevant to the recipient andit's a good way of keeping your name in front of your prospects. Aquarterly newsletter is probably frequent enough. Send it, withanother of your business cards, to your list and, over time, you willsee that it will start paying off in the form of business.=> SamplesAnother idea to think about is to produce a set of samplesof your work; a portfolio if you will. Make 8.5 x 11 copiesof your work and keep them in an artist's portfolio forpresentations when you're able to arrange face to facemeetings with potential clients.=> Advertising and PromotionNext comes advertising. If you're a website designer,possibly your best advertisement is your own website. Butdon't stop there. Advertise in the publications your targetmarket reads.Another good way to generate business is to join associations andgroups affiliated with your industry. Chambers of Commerceare a good place to make handy contacts.You will probably find that in the early stages of your freelancecareer you spend more time marketing yourself and yourservices than you spend actually working. There's a financialcost to that, of course. How do you finance your marketing ifyou don't have any money coming in? For this reason, theearly days will be lean and mean. Make sure you have thefinancial wherewithall to survive this period.HOW DOES A FREELANCER MAKE MONEY?You will only make money as a freelancer if you charge morethat it costs you to do the work in terms of your time, expensesand materials. Factor in a profit component to every job you quotefor and make sure that that profit component is in ADDITION toan allowance for your time. For more on pricing your services,see "Pricing Yourself To Get and Stay In Business", athttp://www.ahbbo.com/pricing.html .Some freelancers charge by the hour and others by the project.In reality, you will probably use a combination of both methodsdepending on the nature of the job and the client.You can get an idea of current market rates by surveying yourcompetitors. Don't be obvious about it though; competitors are,naturally enough, reluctant to divulge information about theirbusinesses to their competitors. So you'll probably need toemploy a bit of subterfuge here by posing as a potentialcustomer, for example. In fact, it's in your legal intereststhat your competition doesn't give you pricing information if itknows you're a competitor. Such conduct can be construedas price fixing which can land both of you in extremely hotwater. So, keep it safe and use circuitous methods ofobtaining pricing information from competitors.PROTECTING YOURSELFA question often asked by freelancers is "do I need a contract?".Well, to start with, once you've negotiated a deal with a newclient you have a contract. The question is whether it's oral orin writing. An oral contact is just as enforceable as a written onebut the problem becomes one of proof. How do you prove theterms of your contract if all you have is one person's word againstanother's? For this reason, a written contract is always a goodidea. It needn't be anything too elaborate. In fact, even anexchange of letters will do. Just be sure to include the basicterms:=> Describe the jobWhat must you do to perform the contract? Be as specific aspossible here and try not to be open-ended. "Create a websitefor client" is too vague. What would you do if the client came backafter you'd finished and said, "but there's no shopping cart, there'sno feedback form?" and you hadn't quoted your time for thesethings in striking the price? Better to say, "Create websiteat client's direction consisting of (a) home page; (b) products andservices page; (c) order page; (d) shopping cart and (e) feedbackform". By requiring the client to be very specific about what it isthey want from their website, how they want it to look etc. youcan go a long way to avoiding misunderstandings caused byvagueness.=> Set the priceState in unequivocal terms the price you are to receive for thejob. This can be either a project cost such as $5,000 or anhourly rate such as "$150 hour or part thereof; minimum often (10) hours" or whatever.=> State time for performancePerformance means not only when you will complete your partof the bargain (i.e. delivering the completed website to the client)but when the client must complete his or hers (i.e. by paying you). Article Tags: Hire Freelancers, Website Designer, Former Employer, Business Card, Make Sure