The world is divided between the self-employed and the salaried workers. While the vast majority of people have an office job and rarely change jobs in their lives; freelancers must deal with job and financial instability.
But not always, how do you get clients? How do you earn an income by working from home? How do you organize yourself so you don’t collapse?
In this article I will tell you what it is like to work independently, the obstacles you will encounter, but also the incredible advantages. In addition, I will give you some tips on organization and productivity that will help you improve your work.
1. You are not sure of your monthly earnings
Bullshit. When the work you do is requested by the client only once, because it is not a recurring service, then you are more likely to earn nothing in a given -and disastrous- month. Your earnings depend on the type of services you offer and whether or not you have any steady customers. There are jobs that have a very clear beginning and end, for example, making a wedding cake or designing a website. But almost any kind of service can be offered on a monthly basis and provide financial stability.
2. You are your own boss
Bullshit. Your boss is the client. He’s the one paying you, so you have to look at him as a boss. It’s true that most of the time the client is not right and doesn’t know what he wants, but it’s your professional duty to guide him to make the best decisions. The client is the one who decides, and he may well go somewhere else with his money.
Therefore, you have to be patient, know how to put yourself in their shoes and advise them. On the other hand, if you offer consulting services and you want to raise it to the level of “partner” or “success case”; you must invest enough time to know its methods and work processes, detect problems and advise it in a comprehensive way. And be careful: you must learn to detect clients who are not suitable for you and who will make you lose time and money.
3. You work from home in your pyjamas at the time you want
True. If you live alone, as long as you have WiFi, food in the fridge and are free from online meetings during the week, chances are you won’t even need to leave the house. So why dress up? Long live resistance! On the other hand, if you’re disorganized or easily distracted, or if inspiration comes to you at night, forget about holidays and weekends and be prepared to stay up a couple of times a month.
What is the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur?
Let’s say I have a small flower plantation in my backyard because I love it. I can grow several types of flowers and I already have a couple of acquaintances who buy bouquets from me. My niece, who draws very well, could make me a logo.
I could print business cards to give out to my friends or publish in my FB that I make flower arrangements for my friends to order from me. Or better yet, I could create a fan page to digitally market my business.
Am I a freelancer? No. A freelancer is a qualified professional or technician with studies, certifications and verifiable experience. He is an expert in his field and charges a fee. An entrepreneur is eager to make money doing what he likes, but will not necessarily have the qualifications or experience necessary to achieve success in his business.
When are you a freelancer and when are you an entrepreneur?
A freelancer provides proof, does not have a company and does not have an accountant. He works alone, so he is the person who actually does the work he offers. And he spends or reinvests in himself and his family members, loved ones and pets what he earns from work done with occasional or stable clients. An entrepreneur owns a business, bills his customers, (usually stable), and keeps complete accounts. Many times he does not directly do the work, but hires employees and derives work. He earns profits, is accountable to shareholders, and has many other business responsibilities.
Problems of being a freelancer
1. You have no customers
If you have only been working for a short time because you have just finished school/university or you simply want to start from scratch as a freelancer, you will have to go through a professional reputation building process to get your first clients.
It is common not to know when your first client will arrive. So if you don’t have any other source of income, it’s not in your best interest to go freelance. Don’t leave your steady job without having at least a couple of steady clients. Expect the best and prepare for the worst, with a plan B, C and D.
2. You have no one to replace you
If you get sick or something happens to you, the customers have to wait. And not everyone can be understanding. Find a partner who can help you in these cases, someone you can trust to give you a hand in these cases.
3. No working hours
Set a work schedule and stick to it. With freedom comes responsibility. Don’t force yourself to stay up until 3 a.m. to work unless you have no other choice.
Keys to being a successful freelancer
1. Have clear working rules
Have a written contract, a package deal and an hourly rate. You must detail very well the services you offer with an entrepreneurial mindset. Because without clear rules, clients do not know how to recognize the limits of the job; or they “get confused” and think they can ask you for whatever they want without being charged. This often happens when clients have no idea how to quote the work.
2. Always charge 50% up front
Having a contract and collecting 50% up front should be every freelancer’s mantra. I’m very angry when I read in FB groups about freelancers claiming that the client didn’t pay them for a design or had them make lots of “test” items for candy balls. Learn to respect and value yourself as the professional or expert you are.
3. Don’t waste time in meetings
The client must learn from the first contact what your time is worth. Today, almost any kind of work can be coordinated by phone or video conference. Limit face-to-face contact with the client as much as possible and **don’t go to meetings without an approved budget. ** Don’t waste time going to quote the job to a potential client, unless he is offering you a millionaire and you feel able to leave the meeting with the advance check in hand. It’s happened to me like 5 times 😃
4. Designing recurrent or monthly services
It will sound obvious, but monthly service packages should be commensurate with the effective work we want to do with clients. Don’t you like going to meetings? Don’t include them in your services at no extra cost. Would you prefer the client to take care of something instead of you? Define it in your contract. Don’t you want to work on weekends? Define it in your contract or assign an extra cost for after-hours requirements.
5. Limit unique services
For non-recurring or “one-time” services, you should limit the scope very well so as not to fall short of the value or development time. But don’t be inflexible either. The important thing is that you make the rules. And if the client does not agree, you can negotiate exceptions or design a service to suit him. The idea of the service packages is to give the client your “base rates” so that he can be interested in your work and call you for a quote.
6. Develop a memorable personal brand
By creating a personal brand you can communicate who you are and what you can do. This will help you to make people who know you remember when they need your services. How do you present yourself to your potential clients? How do they know you exist? How do you sell your work? Only when you have a strong personal brand can you work on the aspects of marketing that will help you “sell” yourself better.
7. Focus on what you like
Choose a niche market that you like and focus on getting customers from that area. If you like cooking, you can work with chefs or food brands; if you like pets, you can work with animalist or veterinary NGOs; if you like to travel, look for travel agencies, etc. It is much easier to relate to clients you like because you share their values or way of life. In turn, clients will find it less difficult to trust a person with whom they have something in common.
8. Seeking and finding good customers
You have to learn to spot customers who don’t suit you. Develop your sense of smell so that you know in a phone conversation if the person on the other end is a good potential customer, gaining experience. A good method to gain practice is the cold call, which consists of putting together a list of potential customers and calling them.
Tips for quoting by phone
- Facilitates the quotation process to the maximum
- Listen to your client to identify the problem he is trying to solve
- Ask for work deadlines, estimate a delivery date
- Ask the customer how much he is willing to pay for the service and if he has quoted with someone else
- It’s not bad to ask if you had problems with your previous suppliers
- Mention the client’s name while you talk to him, because people are made to pay more attention to their own name
- Mention something positive and unique about your services so that it stays in the customer’s memory
- Quote clients from the same field you have worked with
- Ask and confirm the contact details to send the quote
- Ask for the time when you can call to find him
- How to build your own marketing plan
Once you have your personal brand, you must develop a marketing plan. The goal is to map out the experience your potential customer would have when hiring your services. It is very important to think about how we will approach the customer for the first time.
The creation of promotional material for our website is an excellent way to establish ourselves as experts in our niche. As an example, I recommend you to visit this website of the freelance designer Francisco Aguilera. To integrate digital marketing into your advertising plan you can start by creating a blog and a list of subscribers.
I recommend the MadMimi email marketing platform, as it is very friendly and delivers easy to understand reports. You can create corporate videos, design informative brochures of each service, record tutorials on how to quote a certain service or make a computer graphics of your way of working, etc. Don’t think that digital marketing is going to replace the traditional ways of finding clients. Ideally, your first customers will recommend you to their acquaintances, for which you can create an attractive referral plan to stimulate the generation of new customers.
These are just a few tips that I follow in my day-to-day life. However, in the end, everyone has their own way of working. The important thing is that you feel comfortable and do not lose that financial stability that is so important.