Thursday, October 31, 2013

Making an Upgrade

In my previous post, I talked about making an upgrade to keep sustaining yourself as a professional freelancer. Here are the other essentials that you must get:

(3.) A basic bookshelf

After several years of freelancing, you must have figured out what your specialties are and chose to focus on those. Take it to the next level and start investing in books about your specialties.

Other people may argue that everything can be Googled these days, and if you were smart, you should have joined at least a couple of networking groups for freelancers.

But reading to keep abreast of the latest developments in freelancing still remains to be an important aspect if you don't want your career to become stagnant. 

A bookshelf is also needed if you submit feature articles to editors, and you have a growing collection of published articles in magazines.

(4.) A filing cabinet

Freelancing professionals who learn to manage their work load, schedule, and income will eventually stabilize their cash flow. Attaining a five- or even six-figure salary is not totally impossible, even for freelancers.

Your files must always be kept current, and make sure to double-check for accuracy. You need documents as proof of your transactions and cash flow. 

Financially stable freelancers here in the Philippines may start thinking about getting some form of coverage and making monthly contributions to the Social Security System

Also, affordable health care is being made available these days to freelancers. However, I'm not in the best position to help you determine the best company where you can get access to health care. If you're interested, make sure to do some research and talk it over with your family.

Monday, October 28, 2013

When Is It Time for You to Upgrade?

When you've been freelancing successfully for two, three, four or more years and you have managed your cash flow, you may now think about "upgrading," or investing money to help you go further in your career.

Some professional freelancers are nervous, or at least hesitant, about shelling out money to land more lucrative projects. They may have reached their comfort zone after years of being aggressive in presenting themselves to clients, and now they may not want to rock the boat.

But upgrading has nothing to do with spending more of your hard-earned cash to sustain a high-spending lifestyle. It only means that you're putting a certain amount back into your business by going for something that will make your job easier.

Now, when I mentioned "making your job easier," what immediately came to your mind? Was it having your workdays shortened because you became more efficient, leaving you with more time for recreation?

It could also mean weeding out your clientele, settling for the ones who recognize your worth and respect you as a professional instead of constantly going after those who haggle for the lowest rates just because you don't want any dry spells.

Now, take a look at the following essentials that, in the long run, will save you more time and money:

(1.) A post-paid mobile phone plan

Even the cheapest, most basic plan will already allow you a variety of perks, and using your mobile phone is ideal for making and receiving calls. If you're not at home, this would be the best way to contact you.

(2.) A web hosting service that allows you to choose from a wide range of monthly fees

Again, even the cheapest plan is usually more than enough to have more space for your portfolio. This is ideal for copywriters, web developers, editors and proofreaders, artists and illustrators, and aspiring models and actors.

In my next post, I'll cite three other essentials crucial if you want to make a career upgrade.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Handle an Unreasonable Client

By citing two of the most common "sticky situations" you're most likely to encounter in your career as a freelancer, you now have the idea that you need to alert and prepare yourself. There's no need for you to push the Panic button should you find yourself in a tight spot.

Let me orient you towards the last one, and this is especially tricky:

Sticky Situation #3: Unreasonable Demands Made by Your Client

To illustrate, an unreasonable demand could be a client asking to be billed after you dispatch the finished project to him, either through snail mail or email. And then, as soon as you send your invoice, your client contacts you and asks for further revisions in your work, otherwise, he shall withhold the remaining balance.

The danger: The worst that can happen is for your client to get you to cave in to his demands, and you're pushed to the losing end of your transaction.

Your way out: If you have a copy of your Freelancer's Contract, calmly explain to your client that you are only allowing a certain number of rewrites within a given time frame, and should your client end up dissatisfied with your finished work, tell him that you'll revise your work after he has paid an additional fee.

Now, you might think that you're being too harsh by asking for more money, and be prepared for objections and complaints, but this is not a financial issue. Rather, it has more to do with your professional integrity. You're sending off the signal that you value not just your skills and creative talent, but your time as well. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Here's A Terrific Web Site for Project Management and Billing

If you want a one-stop resource center where you can manage your tasks and projects at an affordable rate and even download free basic templates to use for your invoices, click the link below:

I came across this web site through my Twitter account (look me up as @gcblogger) when Cashboard "favorited" two of my Tweets. 

I'll finish this article series by citing the last "sticky situation" that you'll surely run into as a professional freelancer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Importance of Keeping A Paper Trail

In my previous post, I named a "sticky situation" that a professional freelancer is sure to encounter in his career and possible solutions to save face while still maintaining professionalism. 

Here's another one for which you must watch out:

Sticky Situation #2: Billing a Client When You Have Incurred A Lot of Expenses

The danger: Your client may feel like you're charging him unjustly.

Your way out: Keep a paper trail.

Keeping a paper trail involves getting all your expenses accounted. Develop a system and enter any data that have to do with money you spent within the given time frame for the project.

You must be ready to submit a document with a breakdown for the following:
  • Meal expenses, although keep in mind that paying for three Starbucks lattes when you could have had a meal at an affordable diner is never reasonable.
  • Money you spent for your fare.
  • If you drove a car and spent money for gas, keep the receipt and have it photocopied. Have one copy for your client and one to be kept among your files.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Are You Caught in a "Sticky Situation"? Here Are Possible Solutions

In my previous article, I mentioned several tight spots that a professional freelancer is sure to find himself at one point of his career or another.

These tight spots can aptly be called "sticky situations." If you don't know how to handle them adeptly, it could cost you your freelancing business.

When you do encounter one, don't fret and hit the Panic button, for there are solutions for these tension-producing incidents.

Take a look at the following:

Sticky Situation #1: Missing a Deadline

The danger: You might be seen as unreliable, or worse, inconsiderate because you didn't care enough to see the project through until the end, and this may put a dent in your reputation.

Your way out: Own up to your mistake by maintaining professionalism and ask your client for an extension.

Possible steps:
  • Politely negotiate with your client and ask for an extension, but make it no more than one week. Rearrange your schedule and set aside large blocks of time in that extra period. You can devote an hour after breakfast and another hour before preparing lunch to finish the project. 
  • Be willing to offer a "buffer" for falling short of your client's expectations. For example, when it's time for you to bill your client, you can deduct a certain percentage from his remaining balance (three to five percent is adequate).
  • As soon as your client has paid your fee in full, write a message of appreciation and send it through email. 
Stay tuned for my next few articles as I cite other possible "sticky situations" you may encounter in your career as a freelancer.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Watch Out for "Sticky Situations"

When you are in business, it's easy to think that it's all about the product or the service. But here's the truth: business is all about turning people into loyal, satisfied customers. And the more satisfied customers you have, the faster your business will grow.

It's the same thing with being a professional freelancer. You may think of yourself as an independent contractor because you're not in any company's payroll. 

And yet, pause for a moment and consider: you are competing not just with other freelancers for jobs and projects, but with salaried professionals as well.

You are in the business of presenting yourself to potential clients, making them see your worth 

Now, I have mentioned the importance of being professional in all your encounters and transactions with your clients, but be reminded that there will be times when you'll find yourself in inevitable "sticky situations."

What are these "sticky situations"? Consider the following:
  • You have underestimated the length of time it would take to finish a proofreading assignment. Your client has made it clear that he's on a tight schedule and expect you to deliver on time. But the truth is, it's just impossible for you to meet the deadline.
  • You accepted a project where you have to write copy for a three-fold brochure promoting a catering business that specializes on parties and events on a budget. In addition to knowing everything about the business, you had to look for satisfied customers and interview them for the testimonials section of the brochure. You racked up a considerable amount of time calling people on your mobile phone, and, not to mention, expenses on mileage. How should you bill your client?
  • You made it clear to your client that you are only allowing up to a certain number of rewrites in your article writing service. You email your client the number of articles he wanted, and he replied that "you did a good job" and asked you to bill him right away. You had your invoice prepared and emailed it to your client, but when he replied, your client says that your articles "could still use some work" (read: further revisions). Otherwise, he will withhold full payment. What would you do?
As you can see, "sticky situations" require handling with extreme care. I'll talk about possible solutions in my next articles.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What Ruins a Freelancer's Reputation

When you as a freelancer do your best at all times, gradually you will build a solid reputation for being no-nonsense and reliable.

I'll let you in on a little secret on how business is conducted in the corporate world. With the meteoric rise of networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn during the past several years, many employers have used them to screen applicants.

Now, employers want to make sure that a potential hire has what it takes to be a team player and the patience to ease himself into the company's culture. So should they spot any form of indiscretion (e.g. lewd or questionable behavior shown in photos in the accounts of a potential hire), employers will not hesitate to pass him up no matter how strong his credentials.

As a freelancer, you most certainly can use Facebook and LinkedIn to build your platform. But be selective about what you choose to upload. 

If you're a graphic artist or illustrator, make sure that you have your best artworks laid out in a way that it will attract a lot of potential clients. If you write online articles, provide links to the ones that have most recently been published.

You may also allow a certain level of interaction in your Facebook account, where you allow your work to be critiqued by your peers. But you must make sure that comments are moderated. Otherwise, you run the risk of dealing with hecklers, or even worse, cyber-bullies. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

If You Don't Do This, Your Freelancing Business is Doomed to Fail

A good number of people who aspire to be freelancers end up disillusioned after just a year or two of trying. That's because when we think about working without a boss, we immediately paint a rosy picture in our heads about getting ardent calls from clients, working at our own pace, and getting paid at a rate that is at par with our creative talent. 

In short, we fantasize about every aspect of our careers running smoothly.

Well, I'll be honest with you. This is something that happens only after you've gone through all the hard work necessary for you to sustain yourself as an independent worker.

You may find it appealing that a freelancer has the freedom to choose from a wide selection of projects and tasks. But it will take time building a resume, and it's even more difficult to build a good reputation, so let me give you the formula -- the only formula -- you should master if you want to be a top-earning freelancer.

Here it is:

Be professional at all times.

Allow me to illustrate further as I talk about another field that has similarities to freelancing: modeling.

Talent scouts and agents are unanimous in saying that the most lucrative jobs and assignments don't always go to the best-looking or prettiest models. One even went as far as saying, "There are lots of pretty faces in the business, but they have the most horrible people skills."

And no aspiring model can make it big if it's apparent that she's not prepared during go-sees and is often late for photo shoots.

Likewise, you need to conduct yourself in the most professional way possible if you want to be a joy to work with. As soon as you receive a request for a price quote, whether by phone or email, do your best to respond within no more than 48 hours.

Improve your skills in articulating your worth as a freelancer and learn to negotiate. There will be clients who will allow you to "name your price," so to speak. And unless you have a fairly accurate assessment of your skills, you might come out in the losing end of the project.

Stay tuned for my next few articles about developing professionalism.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How to Cut Your Time Writing Emails by at Least One-Third (Part 5)

As I round up this five-part article series about cutting your time composing emails, here's the last type of template you must learn to write:

A template expressing thanks and telling your client that you'd like to work with them again should they need your services.

In the field of freelancing, it's always easier to eventually build a network of repeat clients, which means those that would be willing to hire you every time a new project comes up, than you going around looking for new clients again and again. 

This is the main reason doing your best and being professional can't be stressed often enough. Clients enjoy working with freelancers who possess a positive attitude towards their job, has initiative, and is creative and flexible. 

And clients already know that they'll get a real bargain by hiring a freelancer because they'll pay less for the services, so finding a freelancer who prioritizes quality and excellence is like discovering a goldmine. So think about the advantages of having six, eight, or more repeat clients giving you jobs year-round.

So once each client has paid every remaining balance, compose a thank-you email. Here are a few samples that you can use:

Here's to acknowledge your payment of (state amount of remaining balance) made through (state mode of payment) for my copywriting services. Thank you for being prompt. Should you need a copywriter in the future, don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

I appreciate the way you've entrusted me with applying guerrilla marketing to sell tickets for your three-day event that is aimed towards raising cultural awareness and appreciation of literature.  

As a freelancer who has participated in literary festivals and awareness campaigns, I would like to help you promote any of your succeeding events.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Cut Your Time Writing Emails by at Least One-Third (Part 4)

By now you have probably realized why developing effective communication skills through email is crucial to keep your career as a freelancer growing. Let's continue this five-part series as I explain the next template:

A template referring a potential client to another professional freelancer.

There will come a time when you will be swamped with projects that are more than you can handle. The key here is to express clearly to a potential client that you're declining the project but you're giving them the option to have another professional freelancer who's just as competent and reliable referred to them.

Once you've had three, four, five or more years of freelancing experience tucked under your belt, you will find that it's a huge advantage to team up with fellow freelancers in your field.

For starters, you can help establish each others' careers quicker and with greater ease, because you can fill "gaps" in each other's work history. After you have referred a potential client to another freelancer in your professional network, you can ask him to return the favor should there come a time that he would need to decline a project.

If your network is made up of freelancers who are charging rates within the upper bracket of the pay scale, you can decide to charge each other a commission every time someone has successfully referred a client, which means that the client has ended up satisfied with the job and left no outstanding balance.

Here's how you may phrase your email:

I have read your email requesting for a price quote regarding my copywriting services. I'm afraid I would have to decline your offer because I'm simultaneously working on two projects and can no longer accommodate a third one. However, I can refer you to (state name of freelancer), who's had (state number of years of experience) in writing advertising copy. You can find out more about him and view his portfolio through his web site (provide links) and contact him if you're interested.

Stay tuned as I round up this series in my last installment.