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        Making Money as a Freelance Writer, Programmer, Copywriter



        Another AHBBO Article
        So You Want to Be a Freelancer ...

        © 2013 Elena Fawkner

        What's the difference between running your own home-based
        business and freelancing?  (tick, tick, tick ...)  Give up?  Me
        too.  If you want to work for yourself from home and have a
        special talent or skill that you think others would be prepared
        to pay for on an hourly or per-project basis, why not stop
        thinking in terms of the traditional "home business" paradigm
        and start thinking in terms of freelancing instead?


        WHAT IS A FREELANCER?

        Quite simply, a freelancer is an independent contractor who
        earns his or her living by contracting for projects on a project
        by project basis.  A freelancer is not an employee of anyone
        and so he or she must actively seek out work, negotiate the
        terms and conditions of the project (the contract) and complete
        the work to the satisfaction of the client.  Once the project is
        complete, the freelancer seeks out and enters into another
        contract for another project. 

        Alternatively, the freelancer may have obligations under a
        number of different contracts with different clients at the one
        time. 

        Another variation involves the freelancer producing work and then
        seeking buyers for that work.  A freelance writer of magazine
        articles, for example, would fall into this category.


        WHO HIRES A FREELANCER?

        Those who hire freelancers are as diverse as freelancers
        themselves.  In some cases, companies will hire freelancers
        to complete a short-term project as an alternative to hiring
        a new employee.  This is often the case where the work in
        question is spasmodic or ad hoc and the company cannot
        justify hiring an employee for such work.  Companies also
        hire freelancers to help smooth out the peaks and troughs
        of workload.  Again, where there is a temporary oversupply
        of work, the company will hire the freelancer on a short-term
        basis to help cope with the backlog.

        In other cases, companies hire freelancers for their special
        expertise in a certain area.  A company may want to create
        a new website, for example.  Hiring a freelance website
        designer for such a project makes more sense than hiring
        a website designer as an employee since once the website
        is complete, the function will no longer be required.

        Magazine and newspaper editors also hire freelancers or,
        more precisely, buy rights to freelancers' work.  A freelancer
        in this type of situation may write a piece and submit it to
        a number of different editors in the hope that his or her work
        will be "picked up" by that editor and published, in return for
        which the freelancer receives payment.  By its nature, such
        an approach is speculative since the freelancer can't be sure
        that anyone will actually buy the work.  Of course, once the
        freelancer has been published, it is relatively easier to get the
        editor to buy the freelancer's work in the future and, as the
        freelancer's reputation grows, so too do the opportunities for
        future business.


        WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DOES A FREELANCER NEED?

        To be financially successful, a freelancer obviously needs
        marketable skills.  A freelancer therefore needs the same
        qualifications, skills and talents as someone who had been
        hired as an employee to do the job would need.  In other words,
        if you are seeking work as a freelance website designer, you
        must possess the same skills and qualifications that a full-time
        employee website designer would possess.


        IS A FREELANCER RUNNING A BUSINESS?

        In short, yes.  If you do not have an employer, if you have to
        source your own work and negotiate your own terms, if you
        have to chase payment, if you have to pay your own taxes
        (i.e. no one is withholding them from your check), you are, in
        essence, self-employed.  Ergo, you are running your own
        business.

        There are a number of consequences you need to think about.
        The first is taxation.  You need to set aside from every payment
        you receive an amount sufficient to cover your state and federal
        taxes on the income you receive.  Likewise, you need to keep
        proper books and records so you can claim the deductions and
        expenses you are entitled to as a self-employed person.

        As a freelancer, like any independent contractor, you will also
        be expected to provide your own equipment and supplies.  If
        you are a website designer, you need to have your own computer,
        software and other tools of the trade.  The party hiring you will
        not provide this stuff for you.  Similarly, if you are a freelance
        editor, you will be expected to have all the reference materials
        and style books, word processing programs and other sundry
        items any editor would need to do the job.

        From a legal point of view, you should also give some thought
        to the legal entity of your business.  Will you be a sole
        proprietor or will you incorporate?  If you incorporate, will you
        choose S-corporation status?  There are important tax
        consequences of each of these alternatives so be sure to get
        advice from your accountant before starting.

        Think also about what licenses you may need as well as
        insurance (health, life and liability depending on the nature
        of the work).


        WHERE DOES A FREELANCER FIND WORK?

        OK, onto the nitty gritty.  You've decided to start work as a
        freelance website designer.  You have the appropriate
        qualifications, training, experience and equipment and you've
        consulted your accountant to determine the most tax-effective
        business structure and your lawyer to set up your new company
        and advise you in relation to issues such as business licenses
        and fictitious business names.  You're ready to hang out your
        shingle.  Now what?

        => Approach Your Warm Market

        Start with who you know.  Where did you get your website
        design experience?  If it was with an employer, consider
        whether that employer may not be a source of business for
        you.  That will obviously depend on the circumstances under
        which you parted company but if you left on good terms and
        didn't burn any bridges on your way out,  by all means contact
        your former employer and let him or her know that you are now
        in business for yourself and ready, willing and able to take on
        new projects.  If possible, get a reference or testimonial too.
        That will come in handy when it comes to touting for new
        business from strangers.

        Next, turn to your network of business associates you developed
        while working for your former employer.  Note, we're NOT talking
        about clients of your former employer, rather your own network
        of colleagues.  Contact them and let them know about your
        new venture and your availability for project work.

        Be extremely cautious about approaching clients of your
        former employer if your current business puts you in even
        indirect competition with that employer.  You may be constrained
        from approaching former clients if you signed a non-compete
        covenant in your employment contract, for example.

        => Create Brochure/Resume

        Go to the time and expense at this stage to prepare some
        sort of resume of your experience and services.  Get this
        professionally printed as a brochure and send it, together with
        your business card, to your former employer and colleagues
        as a follow-up to your conversation.  By giving them something
        tangible about you, it is more likely that you will come to
        mind when next they have a need for your services.  If you've
        already provided them with your brochure/resume, when the
        time comes, the person concerned will think "hey, Joe's doing
        this 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 he
        might be able to do for us."

        => Approach Your Cold Market

        Once you've approached your so-called "warm market", it's
        time to start on the cold.  Start by gathering up a list of
        businesses in your local area or industry that you think would
        have use of your services.  Prepare a letter of introduction and
        send it, together with your business card, to your list of
        prospects.    Your letter of introduction should make if very
        clear why you are writing.  Identify yourself and the specific
        skills that may appeal to the reader and why.

        Follow up in a week with a telephone call to make sure the
        materials arrived safely.  If the other person is approachable,
        try and strike up a conversation about what you could do for the
        business.  Otherwise, thank the person for their time, ask them
        to keep you in mind for future work and calendar to contact them
        again in 30 days' time.

        Continue to work your market like this.  Remember, persistence
        pays off.  Don't be discouraged if you receive little warmth or
        interest 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 want
        to approach.  Develop your list from the Yellow Pages, local library
        and the web to start with.  Calendar to approach 10 businesses
        a day for the next 30 days.  That means ten calls a day, followed
        by 10 letters of introduction (together with a copy of your
        brochure/resume and business card) and a follow up phone
        call a week later. 

        Where there is interest, you may be able to schedule a
        meeting.  Where there is no interest, schedule for a further
        follow up call in 30 days.  If there is still no interest, schedule for a
        further call in 90 days.  Or maybe you would prefer to do something
        else to stay in contact.  A good way is to publish a newsletter for
        your clients and colleagues.  Make it relevant to the recipient and
        it's a good way of keeping your name in front of your prospects.  A
        quarterly newsletter is probably frequent enough.  Send it, with
        another of your business cards, to your list and, over time, you will
        see that it will start paying off in the form of business.

        => Samples

        Another idea to think about is to produce a set of samples
        of your work; a portfolio if you will.  Make 8.5 x 11 copies
        of your work and keep them in an artist's portfolio for
        presentations when you're able to arrange face to face
        meetings with potential clients.

        => Advertising and Promotion

        Next comes advertising.  If you're a website designer,
        possibly your best advertisement is your own website.  But
        don't stop there.  Advertise in the publications your target
        market reads.

        Another good way to generate business is to join associations and
        groups affiliated with your industry.  Chambers of Commerce
        are a good place to make handy contacts.

        You will probably find that in the early stages of your freelance
        career you spend more time marketing yourself and your
        services than you spend actually working.  There's a financial
        cost to that, of course.  How do you finance your marketing if
        you don't have any money coming in?  For this reason, the
        early days will be lean and mean.  Make sure you have the
        financial wherewithall to survive this period. 


        HOW DOES A FREELANCER MAKE MONEY?

        You will only make money as a freelancer if you charge more
        that it costs you to do the work in terms of your time, expenses
        and materials.  Factor in a profit component to every job you quote
        for and make sure that that profit component is in ADDITION to
        an allowance for your time.  For more on pricing your services,
        see "Pricing Yourself To Get and Stay In Business", at
        http://www.shelteredturtle.com/pricing.html .

        Some freelancers charge by the hour and others by the project.
        In reality, you will probably use a combination of both methods
        depending on the nature of the job and the client.

        You can get an idea of current market rates by surveying your
        competitors.  Don't be obvious about it though; competitors are,
        naturally enough, reluctant to divulge information about their
        businesses to their competitors.  So you'll probably need to
        employ a bit of subterfuge here by posing as a potential
        customer, for example.  In fact, it's in your legal interests
        that your competition doesn't give you pricing information if it
        knows you're a competitor.  Such conduct can be construed
        as price fixing which can land both of you in extremely hot
        water.   So, keep it safe and use circuitous methods of
        obtaining pricing information from competitors.


        PROTECTING YOURSELF

        A question often asked by freelancers is "do I need a contract?".
        Well, to start with, once you've negotiated a deal with a new
        client you have a contract.  The question is whether it's oral or
        in writing.  An oral contact is just as enforceable as a written one
        but the problem becomes one of proof.  How do you prove the
        terms of your contract if all you have is one person's word against
        another's?  For this reason, a written contract is always a good
        idea.  It needn't be anything too elaborate.  In fact, even an
        exchange of letters will do.  Just be sure to include the basic
        terms:

        => Describe the job

        What must you do to perform the contract?  Be as specific as
        possible here and try not to be open-ended.  "Create a website
        for client" is too vague.  What would you do if the client came back
        after you'd finished and said, "but there's no shopping cart, there's
        no feedback form?" and you hadn't quoted your time for these
        things in striking the price?  Better to say, "Create website
        at client's direction consisting of (a) home page; (b) products and
        services page; (c) order page; (d) shopping cart and (e) feedback
        form".  By requiring the client to be very specific about what it is
        they want from their website, how they want it to look etc. you
        can go a long way to avoiding misunderstandings caused by
        vagueness.

        => Set the price

        State in unequivocal terms the price you are to receive for the
        job.  This can be either a project cost such as $5,000 or an
        hourly rate such as "$150 hour or part thereof; minimum of
        ten (10) hours" or whatever.

        => State time for performance

        Performance means not only when you will complete your part
        of 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).


        FROM THE COAL FACE

        Here's what real-life freelancers have to say about the freelance
        life ...

        =>  Once you leave the workforce and start freelancing, it can
        be very difficult to get back in and the older you are the harder
        it is.  Once you've been out of corporate life for any length of
        time, the more likely it is that employers, rightly or wrongly,
        will see you as not "corporate" enough to fit back into the
        traditional 9 to 5 routine.

        => Isolation and loneliness.  No surprise there.  It's the same
        bugaboo that anyone working alone from home must face.
        For ways of overcoming the isolation monster, see
        "Overcoming Isolation In Your Home Business" at
        http://www.shelteredturtle.com/Overcoming_Isolation.html .

        => Procrastination.  Again, a common problem for many who
        work from home without a boss to crack the whip.  For ways
        of overcoming procrastination, see "Overcoming Procrastination
        In Your Home Business" at
        http://www.shelteredturtle.com/Overcoming_Procrastination.html .

        => Hard times with no checks in sight. 

        => Pay is usually better.  A very good freelancer can generally
        do much better than the average employee doing the same work
        but it takes time to develop a reputation that people are prepared
        to pay a premium for.

        => You have to chase payment.  Not everyone is going to pay you
        merely because you tender your invoice so be prepared to have to
        spend precious time chasing payment from slow payers.  For
        more on getting paid see "Getting Paid ... Minimizing Bad Debts
        In Your Home Business".  It's at
        http://www.shelteredturtle.com/gettingpaid.html .

        => If you don't like cold-calling, selling and marketing yourself,
        freelancing is not for you.  A good proportion of your time will
        be spent doing exactly that.


        When you think of all the things the freelancer must do to generate
        business and income, it quickly becomes apparent that freelancing
        is really just another term for working for oneself.  It brings with
        it the same challenges and opportunities as any home business
        and really doesn't introduce anything new to the mix.  Hopefully,
        though, this article may have got you thinking about YOUR skills
        and talents and how they could form the basis of a home business
        of your own.  For all you know, you may not need to go out and find
        widgets to sell to start your own business.  Start with what's already
        in your own head and everything else will surely follow.

        _________________________

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        Elena Fawkner is editor of Home-Based Business Online. Best business ideas and opportunities for your home-based or online business.

        Copyright 1998-2017, AHBBO.com. All rights are reserved. Tuesday, 26-Jan-2021 03:07:22 CST

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