Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to Keep A Record of Items for Possible Reimbursement (Part 3)

In my two previous posts, I talked about the items that would qualify for a reimbursement and how a freelancing professional can accurately present a record to his client.

To illustrate, let's say I was hired to write copy for a three-fold flier and I have to beat a six-week deadline. My client represents a training institute focused on equipping students with technical skills for career advancement in the workplace.

Let's say my client instructed that the institute's coordinators would like to attract more students to take up short-term courses that allow them to acquire a specialized skill. The flier would be part of their marketing strategy. 

Consequently, I will be tasked to interview some of the institute's successful graduates who have since gone on and landed entry-level positions and gradually worked their way up the career ladder.

Additional tasks include writing at least four concisely written testimonials vouching for the competence of the training institute and providing figures on how a certificate can increase an employee's salary within, say, a five-year stint in a company.

I create charts using Microsoft Word. Your record of incurred expenses can look like this:

Date                                       Meals                                         Fare

September                    Php220 (Lunch)                      Php100
   12                             Php220 (Two snacks)                  

September                    Php270 (Lunch)                      Php120
   24                             Php200 (Two snacks)

October                         Php250 (Lunch)                       Php100
    2                              Php200 (Two snacks)

TOTAL:    Add everything up and calculate at least 30 percent of the total.

Now, if I were to enter the amount into my invoice, here's how it would look:

Invoice of

Freelance Writer/Proofreader

Magazine Features * Ghostwriting * Resumes
Copywriting * Web Content * Blogging * SEO

Rate: Per project

Date                                          Tasks                                       Charges*

September 8-11           Brainstorming /
                                              conceptualizing                       Php2,000
September 12          Interview with graduates

September                Market study, feasibility            
   15-19; 22-26             study, day out on the 24th        Php4,500

September          Make follow-up calls for possible 
   29-October 3          rewrites; day out on the 2nd

October 6-10                        Revisions                                 Php1,500

October 13-15                 Finalize drafts

                                      Add at least 30 percent of
                                         incurred expenses.                      PhpX,000

                                          Add your flat fee.                           Php500

TOTAL                                                                                    State exact 

*Keep in mind that freelancer's fees vary, even flat fees. The crucial issue is to make sure that you're being justly compensated.

Monday, December 1, 2014

How to Keep A Record of Items for Possible Reimbursement (Part 2)

In my previous post, I talked about the possibility of claiming reimbursements from clients. Here's the last item that you should include in your invoice:

(3.) Telephone and mobile phone bills

In the Philippines, people can get access to unlimited Internet through offers called "bundles" by companies like PLDT and BayanTel. You can get a telephone line with your Internet at a variety of monthly rates. 

Paying for a telephone-and-Internet bundle is an excellent idea to be able to sustain a freelancing professional's career. It can qualify as a tax deductible, which can help you reduce costs in the long term. 

Provided that you live within an area where it's easy to avail of such services, consider a telephone-and-Internet bundle as essential to your career. As a side note, there are reputable companies that outsource tasks and projects, and they allow a budget for a freelancer's Internet connection.

Now, if you schedule occasional days to go out to attend events and network, pay bills, and make appointments with people who can lend authority when you do research, a post-paid cellular phone plan may be better than making calls through telephone. 

But whichever you decide to use, have your telephone bills photocopied within the duration of the project and include them among the receipts you've incurred for your meals and fare. 

Next, add up the amount and calculate the equivalent of 30 to 40 percent of all expenses incurred.

In my next post, I'll show you how to include reimbursements in your invoice.

Friday, November 28, 2014

How to Keep A Record of Items for Possible Reimbursement (Part 1)

If you write advertising copy, business plans, or feasibility studies for entrepreneurs or grants for fundraisers, you may be required to do research or conduct a market study.

The extent of your research will depend on the scope required by your clients. And more often than not, Google, Wikipedia, and other search engines will prove to be inadequate.

When interviewing people who can lend authority to your reports and feasibility studies, I need not mention that you as a freelancer should fork out a budget to gain access to people and information. So the question "Do reimbursements apply in freelancing, too?" hovers among the heads of many freelancing professionals.

Plan ahead by knowing the right people from whom you can get information, and secure their phone numbers or email addresses. You may have to schedule a couple of days out within the duration of the project to interview all your sources, especially if the project will stretch for several weeks to a month, or even more.

Include a portion in your Freelancer's Contract that your client/s would have to shoulder 30 to 40 percent of the total amount you have incurred for the following:

(1.) Meals

If you'll be out all day, set a budget for lunch and two snacks. One of the perks of being a freelancer is you're entitled to choose from a wide array of diners.

However, keep within certain boundaries. The purpose of your interviews is to enable you to know your target market better. As a general guideline, remember the following:

  • Forego fancy coffee shops that charge three figures for a latte. Never justify whiling your time away and spending money at coffee shops as part of your day out for research.
  • Choose a diner or restaurant and have a reasonably priced meal than ordering at a fast food joint. 

(2.) Transportation

You may need to spend time at a public library, or gain access to an archived collection of documents located somewhere that requires you to use public transportation. 

You have to keep two things in mind: (1.) deciding whether getting to your destination in less time but end up paying more for fare would be worth it or not, and (2.) staying within a budget.

In the Philippines, you can take several rides on a jeepney, or choose the bus, MRT, LRT, or cab. Keep tab of any raise in minimum fare. When you do ride a bus, keep your tickets and have them photocopied and filed later.

If you drive your own car or you have a family member who allows you to drive the family vehicle, decide on what may be better for you in terms of greater ease and reimbursements.

If you use a credit card, opt to charge for your gas instead of using cash. Organize your receipts and have them photocopied and filed later on.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Become A Better Freelancer By Taking Breaks and Yearly Sabbaticals (Part 2)

By now you may have gotten a more clarified view why taking periodical breaks and vacations are crucial to maintain your sanity and keep yourself sharp as a freelancing professional.

Now I'd like to talk about sabbaticals, which simply means a longer period of time where you remove yourself from anything work-related. Remember this basic tip:

(3.) Take no more than two sabbaticals a year. 

I highly recommend taking two consecutive weeks off every year to recharge your mental batteries. Also, two weeks is more than adequate for your body to reap the benefits of easing into relaxation without growing accustomed to total inactivity.

Your sabbaticals could be any random two-week period, like the week before and during your birthday, or the last week of June and the first week of July.

Sabbaticals work best if you'd like to take advantage of taking tours abroad or even locally. There are airlines that charge airfare at horrendously low rates, mainly to promote tourism and make travel increasingly accessible to more and more people. 

It's perfectly all right to take your spouse, a relative or friend, or several friends along with you. However, be very discerning about the way your companions may want to spend their time. Even if a sabbatical is an opportunity to have fun, you need to have some alone time.

Wherever you decide to go and whatever activity you decide to do, never make the mistake of bringing work with you. If you're taking a trip somewhere, it's highly likely that you'll meet people and possibly make new friends. Avoid taking mental notes that you'll later ask for their contact information and talk about your work as a freelancer.

The whole point of this article? When it's time to work, work. And you should work avidly and with all the perseverance you could muster. But when it's time for play, then by all means play with reckless abandon, too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Become A Better Freelancer by Taking Breaks and Yearly Sabbaticals (Part 1)

In some ways, freelancing professionals work harder and should be better in time management and negotiating than employees on a payroll. There's no denying the fact that a regular cash flow  depends upon a freelancer's ability to act fast on his feet.

But while the majority of us choose to have one day out of the week as a day off, we also need the equivalent of vacation leaves, birthday leaves, and non-working holidays in order to stay focused and maintain our long-term sanity.

You may think that since freelancing, as a career, operates on a no work, no pay basis, it won't be right to justify taking vacations. Take too many, and not only will you find your cash flow slowing down, you'll also discover that you're losing your momentum.

But here's a fact: we all need brief periods of time to rest and recuperate, and longer periods occasionally for reassessment, so that we can end up refreshed and rejuvenated enough to once again face the challenges that freelancing brings.

When it comes to taking periodical breaks, keep the following in mind:

(1.) Allow for more frequent yet shorter vacations. 

What could be better than scheduling a weekend visit at a relative's house, or going on a hiking or fishing trip with a group of friends? Granted, your mini-vacations should be planned ahead, so you may want to make arrangements by getting in touch with anyone who has a spare bedroom in his vacation house.

Another excellent idea would be to sign up for a group tour in places or sites within your city or town with historical or cultural significance. Group tours are usually offered at reduced or discounted rates to attract more people.

Before 2014 ends, obtain one of those inexpensive planners sold at bookstores, and start penciling in any activity you may want to try all throughout the year. 

(2.) Opt for a "stay"-cation. 

A "stay"-cation is a brief period when you abstain from anything work-related and engage in activities that could be done indoors, like inviting some friends over for card or board games, having a movie marathon with your family, or catching up on your reading.

Stay-cations are ideal if reducing costs is your current priority, or you're saving up for something (e.g. computer software, tuition fee for a certificate course, a post-paid mobile phone plan, etc.) that will boost your income in the future.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

10 Ways to Stand Out As A Freelancer (Part 7)

This is now the last part of this article series. You may have started using some or most of the suggestions I have presented here. I'm saving the last two for the conclusion of this article because they require the most amount of effort for the freelancer.

Here they are:

(9.) Offer to teach your expertise to others.

Why not do another thing that will beef up your resume and add "Trainer" among your skills? You can do this by facilitating seminars or workshops where you can train aspiring freelancers, or talk about an aspect in your career in greater depth, and then charge appropriate fees to the participants.

Since you have the credentials and experience needed to offer such classes, you have the right to award certificates at the end of the seminar as proof that every participant did what was required from them.

You can come up with a variety of activities where participants will be divided equally and work as a team. But make sure to provide exercises where each one can hone their individual skills, regardless of the level of their aptitude.

The ideal size for each seminar is between 15 to a maximum of 20 students. The prerequisite to conducting a class is to do some research and see if your topic would stir up enough interest with the public so you can gain the ideal number of participants during enrollment.

(10.) Write ebooks.

More and more people these days are trading their business suits for the laid-back look they can sport anytime at home while still concentrating on their careers.

They value alternative learning more than anything else as the best way towards advancement. "Alternative learning" is merely a broad term that I will use to refer to any form of education that doesn't require the student to be confined within the four corners of a classroom. 

These people are the type that you would like to entice whenever you write and sell an ebook. If you have given authorship a serious thought, take time now and do an online search for courses that will teach you to write about a subject and present it to your audience in the form of ebooks.

Regardless of your topic or area of interest, there are specific techniques that you would need to master to make your ebook a success. In general, ebook readers are savvy with technology and have short attention spans, therefore preferring to learn through short yet frequent bursts of time.

Online courses also deal with other aspects like how to format an ebook-ready manuscript and the types of software that can be used. It's crucial to know all these things to increase your chances for success as an author. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

10 Ways to Stand Out As A Freelancer (Part 6)

(8.) Think network, not competition.

Some freelancing professionals have reached fever pitch when it comes to scoping for clients. They think it's necessary to make a lot of cold calls on most days of the week or write a ton of pitches through email, hoping to generate a few responses that would turn into clients.

Although I, for one, is an advocate of marketing one's self in order to shorten dry spells and quickly establish regular cash flow, there are several less aggressive and less subtle ways to promote your freelancing services. (Read related article for more details.)

You may think that advising you to team up with your fellow freelancers and forming a network counteracts all my other suggestions on standing out in your field. After all, if you want to land lucrative projects, why should you join and help your competitors?

The thing is, freelancing professionals differ from their salaried peers in the workplace in a sense that their salaried peers have no choice but to strive to get along with their colleagues and superiors. 

There is a positive side to this situation because they can easily get support should they be fortunate enough to have the kind of work environment that's conducive to their career growth.

But peer support is not easily made available to freelancing professionals. While we may enjoy the privileges of setting our own schedules and working at our own pace, and avoid coming across The Boss From Hell, we need to go out on our own and find freelancers like us from whom we can get tips and garner valuable lessons.

So instead of thinking about your fellow freelancers as your competitors, think about them as partners in building your business.

Friday, August 1, 2014

10 Ways to Stand Out As A Freelancer (Part 5)

The next item in this article series may require shelling out a little bit of money and setting aside a considerable amount of time. But many a freelancing professional's earning capacity has been improved just by doing this:

(7.) Be an eternal student.

Make yourself indispensable to potential clients by never running out of skills to offer. You can do this by signing up for short-term courses that award certificates, or attending one- or two-day seminars about anything that is relevant to your work as a freelancer.

You may have prepared yourself for the long haul by identifying your core competencies and turning them into marketable skills. You may have paid for training in order to be fully equipped to take on work from clients.

But our modern times have been introducing innovations here and there at break-neck speed, to the point that what you have learned just a year or two ago may no longer be relevant to potential clients today.

For example, working at home as a virtual assistant can pay up to USD900 monthly. But nowadays assisting entrepreneurs with administrative tasks go beyond filing and encoding. All virtual assistants are expected to have their own computers and Internet connection, and would need to be proficient with the use of software.

I strongly recommend updating your skills every six months, and there has to be at least a couple of hours in your working week (or the weekends, when you have more free time) when you read about news in order to keep tab about what's hot and what's not in the world of freelancing today.

Since we're not "cookie-cutter freelancers" that fit into the same mold, what may have worked for a few freelancing professionals may not have the same positive effect on you. That's why it's always good to keep your mind open to new ways or systems of doing things, yet remain discerning to tell the difference between what may or may not work for you. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

10 Ways to Stand Out As A Freelancer (Part 4)

My last article installment was about customizing your letterhead and invoice. Now I'll encourage you to take one more step, go the extra mile, and make your interactions with clients as personal as possible.

Take a look at the following:

(5.) Show your clients how much you appreciate them by making phone calls or writing a letter of appreciation.

Let's say a client has paid your fees in full and he sent you a message that money was already sent through your PayPal account or deposited in your bank account. Take time to call up your client, thank him, and tell him that you appreciate his promptness.

If your client lives or is based abroad, a short email will do. Also, several freelancing professionals are making an extra effort by keeping a stock of blank envelopes and notecards, so they could quickly pen a short message and mail it at the post office.

Mailing your clients a greeting card on their birthday or Christmas is one of the best ways for you to remind them, in a pleasant and unobtrusive manner, that you're keeping them within your radar, and you're welcoming the possibility of working for them again. 

(6.) Upload a video of yourself in your blog or website.

Nothing could win the favor of potential clients more than going out of your way and putting a personal touch in your blog or website.

Be informed that including videos in your blog or website has existed for several years as a technique in online marketing. And it has been so effective because you don't look like you're doing hardcore selling, but merely making your readers comfortable with the feel of your blog or site.

Your video can serve as your welcoming message to your readers. Keep it short -- just around 90 seconds to two minutes -- but make sure everything you say is relevant to who you are and your work as a freelancer. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

10 Ways to Stand Out As A Freelancer (Part 3)

In this next installment of this article series, I'll talk about customizing two important documents for freelancers. Here they are:

3. Pay attention to your letterhead.

At an age when email is the preferred method of correspondence, a good number of freelancing professionals still keep a supply of stationery and stamps to send LOIs (letters of introduction) as well as replies to promissory notes.

Collection letters to prevent delinquent accounts may also be sent through snail mail. Freelancers make several copies of such letters and file them for quick reference.

It's not necessary to go to a commercial printer to have your letterhead custom-made. All you have to do is create a template in your home computer, either by using built-in publishing software or Microsoft Word. 

Keep a supply of letter-size paper (white or cream is preferable) and legal-size envelopes handy. Paper and envelopes can be bought in bulk at reduced prices.

4. Take a good look at your invoice.

Your invoice will serve as your document for collecting payment. It's the one you present to your clients after they have expressed approval over the finished project.

You must lend uniqueness to your invoice as a way to stand out among the numerous freelancers out there. While I believe in keeping it simple and fuss-free, you can spell out your name in enlarged, bold fonts for emphasis. 

Provide your snail mail address, or, if you're renting office space, use that instead. Make sure that your contact information (e.g. Skype ID, telephone and mobile phone numbers, and email address) are spelled out accurately.

Friday, July 25, 2014

10 Ways to Stand Out As A Freelancer (Part 2)

In the first part of this article series, I talked about the importance of polishing your elevator pitch. Here's the next way to stand out as a freelancer:

(2.) Take a good look at your business cards.

Your business card is a handy piece of marketing material and should be a part of every freelancer's marketing strategy.

I strongly recommend that you have your business cards printed on white or cream card stock. If you're a man, light blue or gray would be suitable, too.

If your skills and competence lie in the arts, it's perfectly all right to be as creative as possible in coming up with your card's design. You may want to include a small logo of your initials, or even a caricature or illustration.

Make sure that the fonts or text are readable. Since you'll include your contact information, potential clients need to know right away how to get in touch with you.

Don't just spell out your title after your name. I once made my own business cards using Microsoft Publisher, and instead of stating --

Freelance Writer/Proofreader

Here's what I did:

Article Writing/Rewriting * Proofreading
Web Content * SEO* Resumes

By citing the services that I offer, I have made my business card a dead give-away about the type of freelancing professional that I am, and potential clients will have an idea of whether or not I can meet their needs. 

Also, it would be a good idea to give your clients terrific bargains in the form of "teasers." If you bait your clients with the promise of a free 30-minute consultation or discounted rates, you may want to include them in your business card. Simply state --

Avail of first 30 minutes
of consultation -- FREE!

Or --

10% to 20% Discount 
for An Article Set!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

10 Ways to Stand Out as A Freelancer (Part 1)

If you don't want to find yourself stuck in a "dry spell" due to a lack of clients assigning projects that pay competitively, you need to work continuously on your marketing strategies.

By consistently tweaking the ways you present yourself, your skills, and your services to your target clientele, you will learn the value of branding and identity.

Immerse yourself in your career with the mindset that you are unique. Although we can learn from each other's example and work ethics, the fact remains that no two freelancers are alike.

If you want freelancing to be fulfilling, be as imaginative as possible in coming up with several ways to give you an edge in this business. Take a cue from any of the following:

(1.) Polish your "elevator pitch," and practice saying it until you're comfortable with it.

Your elevator pitch is your stock reply whenever people ask, "So, what do you do?" Whenever you attend events for the sole purpose of networking, the elevator pitch alone could make or break who you are as a freelancer. 

Elizabeth Ong, a Filipina freelance writer, advises, "[Your pitch] should be short enough to last an elevator ride but long enough for people to get the complete picture."

To illustrate, try this exercise. Listen to yourself as you say the following words out loud:

"I'm a freelance writer."

"I'm an illustrator for children's books."

"I blog for a living."

These statements hardly pack a punch when you offer them to a new acquaintance that may turn into a potential client. Why? Because they sound generic and stale, and they hardly leave a clue about your competence and skills.

Consider the first statement. Everyone knows that plenty of people already make a living from writing. But the question is, do you write novels, screenplays, or poetry?

And what about entrepreneurs who hire copywriters to help them with their print ads? And SEO is now incorporated in blogging for blogs to get more traffic and build readership.

Illustration is a very broad aspect in freelancing, too. Marketable skills in the arts include graphic and multi-media design, painting, and pen and ink drawing, among others.

Now, compare the previous statements to the following:

"I mostly cater to entrepreneurs who put up an online store. I engage potential customers by writing valuable content and encourage interaction through Facebook and Instagram."

"I team up with authors of children's books by providing illustrations rendered in Microsoft Paint." 

"I blog about being a stay-at-home mom, and I often accept guest blogging stints where I get to write about scrapbooking and DIY projects."

Have you noticed the difference in impact? If you're a writer or blogger and you introduce yourself in this brief yet pertinent manner, no one will just assume that you're a novelist or newspaper columnist. And as an artist who utilizes Microsoft Paint, potential clients get to know immediately that Microsoft Paint is your preferred medium in rendering artworks.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Savings, Investments, and Growing Old Wealthy

While I'm all for establishing regular cash flow as soon as possible in your freelancing career, I would also recommend the habits of saving and investing, even when you're just starting out in your career.

A good number of freelancers eventually make six-figure incomes, but more often than not, it doesn't depend on how much money you earn, but how much money is left after paying for your overhead expenses and drawing up a budget for the basic necessities of rent (if you don't own a house), meals, clothing, water, electricity, telephone bills, etc., that will spell out the difference between poverty and financial wellness in the long run.

Employees are advised to set aside 10 percent of their salaries for tithes, 10 percent for savings, and another 10 percent for investments while living on 70 percent of what's left.

While freelancing may offer us the flexibility and privilege of working at our own pace and charging more for a specialized service, we do not have the security derived from a regular paycheck.

And it's a fact in a freelancer's life that he may earn different amounts every week, every two weeks, or monthly, depending on how often he lands lucrative projects, and how often his pay-out is.

This is the main reason freelancing professionals need to learn to manage their money well. While freelancing is retirement-proof, the desire to work less and less as we age and, eventually, depend on our pension and passive income, plus savings, exists among freelancers, not just employees. 

Having said all of the above, it's wise to set aside around 15 to 20 percent, regardless of the amount you've been paid for each project.

This may leave you wondering, "Why that much money?" 

Simple answer: the faster we grow our cash stash, the quicker we can give investing a serious consideration. Also, you have to deal with "dry spells," at least during the first few years of your career, when jobs and projects won't always be available. Extra cash will ensure us of comfort until work comes rolling by again.

And saving is just the first step towards achieving financial wellness in freelancing. I strongly advice you to start doing research now about how much it would take for you to be able to invest.

You can seek the help of a financial adviser, who has all the credentials and is therefore qualified to orient you towards the right mindset in making investments, and possibly present you with a range of options.

Also, Google "frugal living," and decide to give up a few luxuries, or cut back on habits or expensive recreational activities that, in the long run, will surely put a hole in your pocket.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

After A Mid-Year Assessment...What Now?

You are now ready to take on the rest of 2014 with more confidence due to a better understanding of what worked and didn't work for you as a freelancer during the first six months of 2014.

Here are several suggestions for further tapping into your skills and potential:

Get personal --

  • with potential clients. Building a business is all about fostering relationships, and freelancing is no different. You're in the business of selling your services and making people see that you're worth their while.
  • by listening intently to your client's most pressing needs. Or even better, if he's representing a company, take time to understand their mission/vision statement.
  • by customizing your invoice, letterhead, business cards, and even right down to the labels that you use for CDs. This applies to your marketing materials, too. 
  • by making yourself stand out. Emphasize what makes you unique from other freelancers.
  • by establishing a platform. Aside from maintaining your own website, publish a blog, or offer to be a guest blogger. You can also write and sell ebooks or get yourself a number of subscribers and periodically send them newsletters.

Get rid --

  • of habits that keep you from being productive, like allowing yourself to be distracted by the TV or social media.
  • of the mindset that you should keep your rates somewhere at the low end of the payment spectrum in order to get more clients. In the long run, you will only feel undervalued, or worse, burnt out. It's very much possible to justify charging competitive rates by beefing up your credentials and gaining as much experience as possible.
  • of clients who don't value your time and worth as a freelancing professional. If they're habitually tardy in returning your follow-up calls or paying you on or before the deadline, it may be time to drop them and seek better clients.

Get inspired --

  • by reading books and articles related to your craft.
  • by keeping tab on blogs maintained by other freelancing professionals.
  • by joining or forming your own network, where each member can contribute in drafting guidelines that will benefit everyone in the group.
  • and be an inspiration to others. Give a talk, or team up with other freelancers in your network and facilitate a series of workshops or seminars.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Conducting A Mid-Year Assessment (Part 3)

Here's the final question when doing an evaluation on how you fared during your first six months in 2014 as a freelancing professional:

Did you set up a payment plan that made it convenient for your clients to fork out your freelancer's rates?

For a good number of freelancers, convenience means offering their clients several options (e.g. PayPal, making cash or check deposits through their preferred bank, money transfer, etc.)

For other freelancing professionals, it means adopting an installment plan, where clients pay them their required flat fee and a down payment (50 percent of the roughly estimated amount, or price quote, is the standard operating procedure in freelancing, but lowering it to 30 to 40 percent is reasonable if you're just starting out) before getting started with work. Afterwards, clients make succeeding payments, either within a 10- or 15-day interval, or according to his agreement with the freelancer.

Now, regardless of how you choose to get paid, an even more important financial aspect is establishing a regular cash flow as soon as possible, either through some or all of the following:

  • Planning your career, setting both short-term and long-term goals, and then breaking them down into daily routines. This may include deciding how many queries you'll send within a week, how many cold calls you'll make in a month, looking for conventions that would be good for networking, or saving up for that seminar or class that would beef up your credentials.
  • Teaming up with a fellow freelancer, or forming a network where several other freelancers are involved, and then setting up an earning-through-referral system. Whenever you get swamped with work and a potential client inquires about your services, you can simply refer him to another freelancer in your network and collect a commission once the project is done.
  • Deciding how and when you'll pay your bills, so that you can aim for a comfortable amount that you need to earn monthly to cover all your expenses.
  • Formulating strategies so that no client will have any amount left unpaid.
  • Having several repeat clients, like entrepreneurs owning small businesses that need an extra hand during tax season, or any company that outsource jobs each time the holidays roll around in order to cut costs and keep their workforce small.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Conducting A Mid-Year Assessment (Part 2)

I mentioned the importance of conducting a mid-year assessment so you can evaluate your performance, habits, and cash flow. And once you pinpoint anything that holds you back, whether from being the best that you can be in your craft or getting the maximum remuneration given your skills and years of experience, you can resolve to take steps to get better. 

The good news is you have the rest of 2014 to acquire more positive habits, get rid of the roadblocks, or simply maintain the ones that have been particularly helpful in keeping you efficient.

Having said all of the above, let's continue to prune your habits and routine. Carefully consider the next question: 

Were you able to handle "sticky" situations well?

Success in freelancing lies partly in being competent and skilled, while the rest lies in how well you communicate your terms to potential clients, listen and understand their needs, and being flexible enough to strike a compromise whenever necessary.

But just like any other career, freelancing has its share of problems, and, at one point or another, you'll find yourself caught in a tight spot, sometimes unintentionally; in other times, due to your lack of better judgment or miscalculations of the risks involved in a project.

To illustrate, let's say you promised a client to turn in six keyword-rich, 400-word articles on Wednesday for his website. You were aware that you were assigned a highly specialized topic (selling previously owned vehicles) that targets a niche market.

Now, you never anticipated the level of difficulty and amount of research you needed to undertake to meet your clients' desired result, which is to get the majority of potential buyers to choose a second-hand car over a brand-new one for economical reasons. It's Tuesday afternoon and you're still busy pounding on your keyboard. There's no way you can submit six finished drafts the following day.

Or how about this: your client still hasn't paid you the remaining 30 percent of your freelancer's fee and, after a few days past the deadline, you got a call from him, asking if you'd be willing to make further revisions because insiders in the company he was representing were dissatisfied with the results of your project.

Now, you've made it clear, as stated in your contract, that you'll allow free revisions only if your client got in touch with you within 48 hours after turning in the finished project. So if you'll agree to go ahead and revise your work, you would need to charge an additional fee. How do you explain this to your client without coming across as greedy?

By now you may have realized that any of these "sticky" situations can be turned into an opportunity to further improve the way you negotiate with clients. Regarding the first case, you can ask for an extension, like asking if you could submit the finished articles on Friday instead of Wednesday.

With the second case, see if your client's request for further revisions is reasonable, and write him an email, stating that you're charging him additional fees because this would mean an extension in your contract.

Stay tuned as I round up this series in my next few articles.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Conducting A Mid-Year Assessment (Part 1)

Part of your job as a freelancing professional is to make sure you're always seeking for new or better ways to improve or hone your craft.

Since the first half of 2014 is over, it's time to evaluate your work habits and accurately pinpoint the areas where you need the most improvement as opposed to the ones where you've proven to be the most effective.

Gather any records you may have, like spreadsheets, receipts, or any proof of payment. You may have also kept promissory notes from clients who have requested to extend the deadline you've given them to pay the remaining balance.

Now, set aside an entire day or two for your mid-year assessment, and then do the following:

Take note of the habits that have proven to be the most beneficial to your career.

A very good example of this is reducing the time you spend composing emails by having several email templates ready, or creating a business card that makes you stand out, to the point that potential clients can't help but sit up and take notice of you.

Attending conventions and networking is also an excellent way to meet fellow freelancers and professionals in other fields that may need your services. Keep a record of the clients that you've met in conventions, and see to it that they'd want to be among your stable of repeat clients.

Continually strive to streamline your weekly routine.

One of the keys to being effective is to plan ahead. Freelancing professionals need to schedule large blocks of time throughout their week if they want to make sure that they'll turn in exemplary work on time.

And time management is even more important for freelancers who have a nine-to-five job and treat this career as a sideline to augment their monthly paychecks.

If you've been successful in reducing the time you spend in front of the TV in order to concentrate more on your tasks, congratulations! If you've harnessed social media as a marketing tool rather than a distraction, then give yourself a pat on the back for learning how to build your own platform.

Assess your cash flow.

Did your clients find it easy or convenient to fork over your required flat fee and down payment? Have you provided your clients with a variety of options and payment schemes, like check deposits, bank or wire transfers, PayPal, Xoom, and, locally, Globe Gcash?

And how did you fare when it came to collecting the maintaining balance after a client has expressed that he was satisfied with your job? Usually, your invoice should be enough to do the talking.

Do come back next week for the second part of this post.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Power of A Testimonial (Part 4)

I'm now going to round up this article series with this last piece of advice:

You don't need to reveal your client's name nor the company he's representing after the testimonials, especially if you agreed to grant him his Right to Confidentiality.

There are a few things regarding business transactions that need to be kept confidential, and freelancing is not exempted from this. Whatever intentions your clients may have for wanting to keep things private, you should respect that as his preference.

I have mentioned in one of my earliest posts that you should provide your clients with the Right to Confidentiality, where you write down in a separate portion of your Freelancer's Contract that you will keep the details of your transactions under discretion.

While you will come across clients who will find it perfectly fine that you cite their names along with the work you've done for them for your portfolio, there will always be a few others who prefer not to have the details of their projects disclosed to a third party.

And the Right to Confidentiality is something that you, a freelancing professional, must not break no matter what the circumstances are. It's easy to prove your competence, much like acquiring and honing your skills. But gaining the trust of your clients and building a solid reputation will be much harder than you think.

So once you have collected a sizable number of testimonials (say, four to six, or even more), simply exclude all of your clients' names. Potential clients will never assume that you merely made up all those glowing testimonials proving your worth as a freelancing professional. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Power of A Testimonial (Part 3)

By now you may have realized how beneficial a glowing testimonial from a satisfied client can be. Here are the next few guidelines you would need to consider in order to achieve your goal of presenting yourself to potential clients:

Remember to proofread what your clients said for clarity and cohesiveness.

Usually, clients seek freelancers, especially writers, because they themselves aren't blessed with the ability to put words together to achieve their desired results, or they find it time-consuming to handle the operations of their business and still take care of marketing their products or services.

If you're not a writer or copy editor, get in touch with a fellow freelancer whose expertise includes proofreading, and ask him to streamline your clients' testimonials until they're lucid and concise.

In order to cut costs, you can negotiate with your fellow freelancer that you'll return the favor by offering one of your services that's not included among his set of skills, should the need come up in the future.

Be selective with the testimonials that you'll include in your marketing materials.

To illustrate, you should have a separate web page in your freelancer's website for at least three testimonials. Place them beside or underneath your portfolio, or the page where your contact information is provided.

If you have a couple of specialties, like corporate resumes, websites' landing pages, blogging, or shooting webinars, provide at least two testimonials for each specialty. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Power of A Testimonial (Part 2)

In the first part of this article series, I cited how a glowing testimonial from a satisfied client can boost your marketing strategy and get more potential clients to notice you.

In my 11-year stint as a freelancing professional, I have grown more and more convinced that a testimonial not only reduces a freelancer's marketing budget, it also works better in convincing potential clients to give you a try.

That's because testimonials, when written in a way that calls attention to you as a peak performer, only means that you've done the necessary work to build a solid reputation. 

Given the numerous benefits that a testimonial can give, it only makes sense to learn how to use it for maximum results.

The following is not an exhaustive list, but just a few general guidelines on soliciting testimonials:

Get in touch with three to five of your most recent clients and ask them to put in a good word for you.

You can do this by emailing or calling former clients or any repeat client of whose whereabouts you may be keeping tab. Since a testimonial would only need to highlight your competence and skills, it need not turn into a rambling of "how great you are," and surely the client need not rave over you.

Notice any recurring compliments or key phrases.

It's too generic when a client says that "Sally Kimbell is professional, resourceful, and easy to work with." If you possess a specific set of skills that you've utilized in a variety of projects, you want to make sure that these skills are highlighted in the best way possible.

Now, your "hard skills" are not more important than your "soft skills" (e.g. negotiating, being prompt when it comes to deadlines, etc.). Rather, your soft skills are what enable you to utilize your hard skills to the fullest, and this is what needs to be emphasized most to make a testimonial glowing.

Notice the impact when a testimonial is phrased this way:

"We were about to attempt an ambitious project that required a near overhaul of our company's website. We knew that in order to stand out, we needed a seasoned article writer who's also knowledgeable in SEO and is in tune with the interests and preferences of young adult, cosmopolitan women who frequent upscale places all over the metro. That's why, upon recommendation by one of her former clients, we decided that Sally Kimbell is the one most suited to do the job."

Here's another one:

"What made James Smith such a joy to work with is him being very systematic with the tasks we outsourced to him. All throughout the duration of his contract, he would make follow-up calls to our office to ensure that he was on the right track. Although it was apparent that he can work with minimum supervision, his desire to be accountable until the project was done was his most winning attitude."

See the difference? 

Come back next week for more on this article series.