Monday, March 31, 2014

Increase Your Chances of Success by Making Smarter Attempts (Part 2)

Your first few years as a freelancing professional involves working hard and a series of trial-and-error. But once you get the hang of it, you will realize that getting rejected is quite different from not making it due to other reasons.

Here's the second one: 

Case Number Two: "We'll keep your resume/portfolio in case we need your services in the future."

Let's say that you're a website developer and you also write content for companies in the process of growth and expansion. You have freelanced for a list of clients whose companies would like to increase their sales by pitching through their sites. 

One day, you were surfing the net when a link led you to a website that really caught your eye. As a freelancer that's not on any company's payroll, you're aware that workers like you are not entitled to health insurance and other medical benefits.

This led you to write articles of your own, calling attention to the possible health hazards that freelancers face as a result of working for long hours while being in a sedentary position and not getting enough exercise.

Now, the website had a "Fitness for Less" advocacy. The past few decades have witnessed a fitness boom, as more and more adults are getting into the habit of eating better and exercising more to reap maximum health benefits and enjoy a life of quality with their loved ones. 

What intrigued you was you didn't see any recipes of exotic meals that sound too hard to prepare, or with ingredients that aren't usually found in your nearby grocery.

And even better, there were no photos of attractive, youthful men and women with toned bodies sneering or smiling at you. Instead, the site is focused on giving reliable and accurate information on how individuals, regardless of age, body type, or lifestyle, can get into the fitness habit.

But when you tried to navigate the site, you realized that it needs a few tweaks here and there. Because of your background in content writing, you know that more people would be interested if you'd present case studies of Average Joes or Plain Janes who work regular jobs, pay bills, raise their families, but still manage to stay fit without expensive gym memberships, tailor-made diets, or personal trainers.

So you proceed to write an email to the site's webmasters, briefly introduced yourself, and cited specific steps on how you can help increase their site's page views. You also attached a one-page resume, plus links to your portfolio of past works. 

Now, what happens when you get a reply that says, "We're happy to appeal to another fitness enthusiast who believes in our advocacy. But our website is still relatively new, and we rely on a limited start-up fund and donations to support our pool of content writers. But even if we cannot take your offer now, we'd like to keep your resume and contact you because we would soon be in need of research assistants and even contributors to our site"?

I'll talk about possible things that you can do in my next article.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Increase Your Chances of Success by Making Smarter Attempts

When you've been freelancing for a while, you become more adept at pacing yourself, meeting deadlines, and negotiating with clients. You tend to make mistakes less and less frequently over time.

And one of the best ways of increasing your success as a freelancing professional is not to try harder, but try to market yourself better

There will be times when, in your attempt to make yourself and your services known to your target clients, you'll make several phone calls, send out emails, polish your cover letters and organize your credentials, or even make a few tweaks here and there in your website and other marketing materials.

And yet, some potential clients will turn you down. But what about those instances when you weren't exactly turned down, but for some reason, your prospective client sees no need for your services yet?

It could also be because you didn't do enough research to slant your sales pitch to your target clients. I'll give you several examples and what could possibly be done.

Case Number One: The not-quite rejection letter

If you're trying to make it as a contributing writer to magazines and other periodicals, you may have started submitting manuscripts online first, or to publications with a limited circulation. Since you will need clips to prove your writing ability, getting an article or two published in your community or church newsletter is definitely an advantage.

One time, I gathered enough guts and emailed a query to a monthly magazine that specializes on health, raising awareness about preventable diseases, as well as deciding to switch to more healthful lifestyle practices.

My query had something to do with an article proposal about a psychiatric disorder that has plagued a considerable number of children, teens, and adults in the United States, and is also given a good amount of medical attention by health practitioners here in the Philippines.

After a couple of days, the magazine's editor-in-chief sent a reply, telling me that "without an M.D. affixed to your name, you're not in a position of authority to write about medical topics. And you would need to cite facts given by two to three medical or health practitioners in order to prove your claims."

And yet, having said this, the editor told me that I may be interested in writing about a non-medical or non-health-related issue, and provided me with the procedures that first-time contributors must go through when attempting to break into their magazine. 

So, simply put, the editor rejected my idea for the article, but he was welcoming the possibility of me being a future contributor to his magazine.

For my part, making a smarter attempt would mean immediately proceeding to brainstorm possible topics that are non-medical-related and can be developed into an article, and query the editor again.

There are other instances, so stay tuned as I talk about them in my next posts.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Five Ways Freelancers Can Benefit From Networking (Part 5)

By now you may have gotten a good grasp why getting into freelancing is much like starting your own business. Even if you're working steadily to make a name for yourself, you need other people's help and input as well.

So I would like to start this week by rounding off this five-part article series. Here's the fifth benefit networking can bring you:

(5.) Your network can serve as a source of free advice and opportunities for mentoring.

You can have every detail of your transaction with your client written out in your Contract, you may be charging a reasonable flat fee and require a down payment first before getting started on a project, and you may be turning in exemplary work and meeting deadlines.

Let me just warn you, though, freelancing, just like any careers, is not free from pitfalls, in a sense that something could still go wrong along the way. Sometimes, even the most experienced freelancers have yet to grow accustomed to these "emergencies."

This is where your network can serve as a "cushion" to the harsh realities of your career, and give you much-needed moral support as well as practical advice.

To illustrate, let's say a client attempts to rip you off by refusing to cough up the balance you're asking for the finished project. If there's a fellow freelancer within your network that has dealt with "problem clients" before, well, guess what? He should be your first "go-to guy."

And you must not limit yourselves to the aspect of interacting and negotiating effectively with clients. You may have a better way of collecting freelancer's fees, or your system of keeping books may be less complicated, therefore less tedious to handle. Other freelancers would be dying to hear from you.

Also, mentoring each other is like hitting two birds with one stone. Teaching or training someone to acquire a skill you may already have improves the way you communicate, instills patience and discipline, and allows camaraderie to develop within your network. A fellow freelancer who receives training from you will get better and better, too.

In conclusion, networking creates plenty of win-win situations. So go out there and team up with a network and discover the many benefits it will give you.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five Ways Freelancers Can Benefit From Networking (Part 4)

A willingness to improve in your craft, persistence, resourcefulness, and dedication will, in the long run, make you a success as a freelancing professional.

And spending time with people who sail in the same boat as yours must not be an option, but a given. So here's the next benefit that networking can give you:

(4.) You can alert each other about up-and-coming conventions, workshops, lectures, or seminars.

Participating in these events will bring you numerous advantages. You can study a subject or topic with greater depth, or learn new innovations in your field, which can lead you to approach your job with added confidence.

And since facilitators and organizers grant a certificate to participants, these certificates will serve as a big boost to your resume. 

As a bonus, you and a few others in your network can avail of possible discounts offered by organizers to participants who will sign up as a group.

Let me just mention that signing up for a workshop or seminar isn't the only way to take a class and learn from an expert. You and your network can rent a room in a multi-purpose hall (or try converting a living or dining room) and invite a seasoned facilitator or speaker to educate you about topics that concern everyone in your network. 

You can also chip in and order audio CDs or DVDs and listen or watch them together.

Stay tuned as I attempt to round up this five-part article series in my next post. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Five Ways Freelancers Can Benefit From Networking (Part 3)

By now you may have figured out that no freelancer must conduct his business as "a lone wolf," and there are several good reasons for a partnership with other freelancing professionals.

Here's the next good reason:

(3.) Your fellow freelancer can be a potential client.

Imagine teaming up with a group of six to eight, or even more freelancing professionals. That would also mean having at least a couple of leads, or opportunities, to land several gigs or projects, resulting to a rosier annual bottom line.

Because whether you're an article writer or copyeditor, or offer SEO copywriting services, or design websites or logos for companies, another freelancer whose expertise and skills fall into a category different from yours will surely need your services at one time or another.

And if you attempt to "bait" potential clients with discount rates as part of your marketing strategy, a fellow freelancer would prefer to outsource tasks to you. It would save him the time (and trouble) of looking for a suitable professional to do the job, and if you offer discount rates, you're also helping your fellow freelancer to save money. Both time and money are precious commodities in the field of freelancing.

Once a fellow freelancer gives you a task-based project and he ends up satisfied with your work, you can get a bonus: your fellow freelancer would be more than glad to have some of their clients referred to you once they get swamped with projects. That would be a terrific and cost-effective way to shorten any dry spells you may still be experiencing from time to time.

Of course, your fellow freelancer has to collect a commission from you because of client referrals, but it actually creates a win-win situation for both of you because you're helping him increase his cash flow, too.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Five Ways Freelancers Can Benefit From Networking (Part 2)

In my previous article, I have introduced you to the concept of networking among freelancers as a tool to garner benefits that may be unheard-of to salaried professionals. 

Here's the next benefit of networking:

(2.) Freelancers can earn additional income through other freelancers on a commission basis.

Picture this scenario: you find yourself working on a huge project, and the deadline is looming. In addition to that, you've landed several gigs that don't really pay much, but when you add up the fees you charged for each gig, the money would total to a pretty handsome amount.

And then it happens. An interested client emails you or calls you up in the middle of all those tasks. The client talks on and on about wanting to outsource a project to you, and asks for a price quote.

You're tempted to accept the client's offer, but you know you have to turn it down if you don't want to sacrifice the quality of the project you're currently working on.

Now, what if I tell you that teaming up with other freelancers and forming a solid network will still enable you to make money even if you have to turn down a potential client?

Sounds incredulous? It's not, if you do the following:

Politely explain to the client that you could no longer accommodate another project at the moment, but you'd be happy to refer him to another competent freelancer within your network.

To illustrate, if you were being tasked to incorporate SEO copywriting in the company's website to improve their sales, hopefully, you can point to another SEO copywriter in your network who would be willing to do the job.

Of course, in spite of the advantages, networking can fall prey to pitfalls. You have to keep in mind that freelancing is a business, and businesses can only thrive if workers are genuinely responsible and look after each other and place utmost priority in the group's well being.

Here are several guidelines you may want to consider:
  • Set parameters with each other's rates or fees. Make it a general rule that you will only ask for a commission when the minimum rough estimate is, say, Php10,000-Php12,000, or USD500-USD1,000. And then, require a rate that is no more than the equivalent of 20 to 25 percent of that amount.
  • Make sure that the freelancing professional to whom you have referred your client states in a portion of his Contract that he is accepting projects through referrals, and you will be collecting a commission for every referral you make.
  • Also, state that you will not be entitled to additional cash, or any benefits for that matter, should the client offer your fellow freelancer a bonus, whether in cash or kind.
  • Create a separate record to keep track of income made through referrals. If you can recommend an average of two to three clients a month, that would mean a commission of at least Php4,000-Php6,000 monthly. Save your records in your computer's hard drive.
  • Include money made through referrals when declaring your annual income or reviewing possible tax deductibles.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Five Ways Freelancers Can Benefit From Networking

Sometimes, when you tell people that you freelance for a living, they almost nearly assume that you're a virtual hermit, since the majority of freelancing professionals work from their home office.

While we as freelancers may have limited time or opportunities for face-to-face interactions, networking, or taking part in a group with other freelancing professionals whose expertise complement or are similar to our skills, is deemed as a valuable tool in our field.

Working and trying to make it on your own is lonely enough, and can sometimes cause a certain level of anxiety to freelancers. So there's really no reason you should avoid networking. 

Once you start squirming at the thought of exposing yourself to more people, pump up your confidence and keep these five benefits in mind:

(1.) Freelancers get plenty of support when teaming up with other freelancers.

If you query the associate and managing editors of magazines, you may need the services of a photographer every now and then. Photographs can enhance the layout of a published article among a magazine's pages. If you want to make it as a travel writer, or wish to write about events that have historical or cultural value or otherwise, having a reliable photographer under your wing is a must.

However, photographs aren't the only way to enhance text with visuals. If you blog and you're serious about making money with your blog, you may include graphics or webinars among your posts. You can contact an experienced graphic artist, videographer, or video editor to help you do the job.

Or consider this: if you're landing huge projects that stretch for several weeks or even months, you may need to outsource part of the transcription, filing, and billing tasks to a virtual assistant.

These are just a few of the ways networking can prove to be beneficial to freelancers. It's like a division of labor. Why burden yourself with tasks that aren't within the scope of your expertise if you can assign them to someone who can do them well?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Say "No" to the Good and "Yes" to Projects That Are Better or Best

Once you've spent two to three years or more as a freelancing professional and you've nailed down your specialties, you can now be more discerning about the type of projects you will accept.

Gradually, as you gain progress in your career, you would want to be more efficient than ever, turning in quality work in far less time than when you once started out.

Having said this, here's a good rule of thumb to follow:

Assess every potential project with its value in mind.

To illustrate my point, take a look at the following: 

  • Writing one 800- to 1,200-word magazine article versus four 250-word blog articles
  • Landing a project involving website development that pays USD500-USD1,000 versus working on three copywriting projects
  • Writing or editing an average of three to five resumes a week versus proofreading documents  
  • Receiving USD30-USD40 as an hourly rate versus getting paid on a per-project or per-page basis 
  • Writing a set of articles (say, a minimum of four to six) and selling them to companies utilizing content marketing versus reviewing products or services where you are entitled to freebies
  • Writing or editing grants versus writing or editing business plans
  • Volunteering your time and skills, or offering your services pro-bono in order to beef up your resume or portfolio and gain valuable experience versus paying for a seminar

You may have figured out that just because one freelancing gig pays USD500 or more, doesn't mean you can't make the same amount by working on a series of smaller gigs.

You may also compare which project has more value in terms of time. If you chose to get paid on an hourly rate and you're charging competitive (although still reasonable) fees, you may think that working on a project that may last for only several weeks or a few months at the most may not be worth it, no matter how large it pays.

And if your specialty is based on the experience you've had before turning freelance (e.g. you've worked in human resource), you may have attracted a sizable clientele because people had you in mind when it comes to creating or polishing resumes that are guaranteed to land them that much-coveted job interview. 

You may also evaluate a project's value in terms of how much money it will save you annually on seminar or workshop fees by volunteering your skills. Freelancers of all stripes should be steadfast in their pursuit of growth.

Since a one- or two-day seminar deals with a topic with greater depth, facilitators may price their fees at Php4,000-Php5,000 at the lowest, inclusive of meals and materials. Compare that to setting aside an hour or two a day, twice or thrice a week, helping a non-profit organization or any group that may need extra hands for their causes. You get to apply your skills on an actual setting, and learn to deal with people and manage yourself accordingly.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Five Ways to Turn Your "Professional Liability" Into A Marketable Credential (Part 6)

I'll cap off this six-part article series by discussing a dilemma usually encountered by newbie freelancers. If not resolved, this can affect cash flow and may even leave the aspiring freelancer feeling cheated and undervalued. Here it is:

Professional Liability Number Five: Not knowing how much to charge for your services

I understand the uncertainties that most newbies go through because I had been there myself. I was 21 when I launched my career, and I was aware that I was competing with other young professionals who were in a company's payroll.

It wasn't until I seized every opportunity to hone my skills that my self-doubts soon wore out. I created my own website, accepted requests to proofread resumes, submitted articles, and landed several ghostwriting gigs.

I'd like to help you make your transition to freelancing as smooth and easy as possible, so consider the following:

  • Conduct an online research. Look for information about how much freelancers are compensated within the global community.
  • If you know any freelancing professionals in your area, get in touch with them and ask if they could spare an hour or two giving you advice on pricing your services.
  • If you're just starting out and you only have a few clips or items in your portfolio, consider charging at the lower end of the payment scale until you build a hefty resume. However, there can be possible exceptions to this rule. One of the advantages of being a freelancing professional is not needing tenure in previous jobs. If you can prove that you can get the project done and deliver on your promise, you can price your rates at a range that is higher for which most newbies would charge.
  • Be professional at all times. Once a client has inquired through email, prepare your price quote immediately, and reply within 24 to 48 hours. If you entertain phone calls, make sure to specify in your website, business cards, and other marketing materials the best time to call you.
  • If you're based anywhere here in the Philippines and you want to thrive as a professional freelancer, you may need to adjust your rates due to demographics, cost of living, and the needs of local clients. To illustrate, resume writers in the United States charge USD249 for a resume package, which, when converted to our currency, would roughly amount to more than Php10,000. If you want to attract local clients, you would need to subtract a few thousand pesos from that amount. To give you a general guideline, you can charge no less than Php3,000-Php5,000 for proofreading resumes, and no more than Php8,000 for writing a resume from scratch.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Five Ways to Turn Your "Professional Liability" Into A Marketable Credential (Part 5)

The first two professional liabilities I have cited have more to do with the freelancer learning to manage his time better, and acquiring excellent work ethics. The next one can be tricky, as this has proven to be a bad habit that plagues not just aspiring freelancers, but a lot of professionals as well.

Professional Liability Number Four: Being disorganized

Disorganization can be traced to a mismanagement of time, which ranks as the top commodity for an aspiring freelance worker. And while there are many advantages to having a flexible schedule and getting to call nearly all the shots by yourself, too often being disorganized stretch to keeping records and handling payments. This could kill what could potentially be a thriving career.


Time management
  • Have a weekly schedule ready. Set aside an hour or two on Sunday afternoon, and in your calendar, fill in the tasks that would need to be done over the course of the week.
  • If you email queries to managing editors, send your queries on a Monday morning, and the next batch on Tuesday. Some editors reply within 24 to 48 hours if he finds that it's worth giving your article proposal a try.
  • If you bid for projects in popular websites for freelancers, get your samples together and email your cover letter no later than Tuesday. You can expect a good number of freelancers turn up to compete for the project, and it takes around three to five days before the company can pick the best candidate. If you're fortunate and negotiations have been made, you can start working before the weekend.
  • If you're comfortable with cold calling to get new clients,  have a list of the people you're targeting, and spread out your calls over the course of the week. You can have two to three calls scheduled each day, or even more, if you want to increase the chances of having a project outsourced to you. 
Keeping records
  • Have several templates of your Freelancer's Contract written down in a Word document, and save them in your hard drive. And then, as soon as you land a project, all you have to do is fill in the details accordingly.
  • Create a template of your invoice.
Handling payments
  • Always ask for a flat fee and a down payment before you begin to work on anything. This isn't about being greedy or ruthless. Keep in mind that you're running a business and you deserve to be compensated for your effort and hard work.
  • Give your clients a variety of payment options. A popular payment plan is getting paid in two installments after the flat fee and down payment have been made, so if you charge 40 percent of the rough estimate as a down payment, you can opt for 40-30-30. Of course, this could be adjusted, because a good number of freelancers now charge a 50-percent down payment, so the payment plan could be broken down to 50-25-25, or 50-30-20.
  • If you're working on a huge project and you're charging huge rates, say, over Php30,000, you can ask to be paid on an installment basis, stretched out to up to a maximum of 90 days.
  • Have several templates ready for your collection letters, to be emailed as a reminder should a client be unable to pay on the date upon which you've agreed. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Five Ways to Turn Your "Professional Liability" Into A Marketable Credential (Part 4)

In my past several posts, I have talked about liabilities that are confined within an aspiring freelancer's habits and work ethics. As I discuss further, the next one is related to the people who comprises the greater part of what could be a thriving career. Here it is:

Professional Liability Number Three: Ineffective skills in negotiating with clients

When you have not assessed yourself and your capabilities accurately, or you don't have enough confidence in your abilities, chances are you're charging less for your services than you truly deserve.

Or, you're landing projects and assignments that have proven to be quite lucrative because your clients are willing to pay, but you only have a vague idea how to keep your rates within reasonable parameters.

Lastly, the worst type of clients are those who will not hesitate to haggle, which is very different from feeling entitled to get a good bargain for their money. You can guard yourself against being taken advantage of by pumping up your negotiation skills. 

  • If your problem lies in clients saying that you're charging too much, sometimes it could be due to the fact that working with a freelancing professional is still a relatively new concept to some people. Some clients may even argue that if you're really good, you should be in a company's payroll. This can be solved by making your website, blog, or other marketing materials like business cards, brochures, or flyers look as professional as possible. In general, choose a simple, clean layout with minimal frills. 
  • Provide samples of your past assignments and projects, but use them sparingly. Group them into categories if you have two or more expertise.
  • Ask for testimonials from satisfied clients, and include them in a web page or a different portion of your brochure. This has proven to be one of the best ways to promote yourself, and it's also one of the most cost-effective.
  • Be prepared to itemize in a written document or email how your clients can get more value out of outsourcing their projects to you. Usually, a freelancer can boast of a faster turn-over rate, a more personalized service, and better attention to details. Free rewrites or modifications are also a unique privilege when a client hires a freelancer.
  • Never start a project until your flat fee and a down payment has been settled.
  • Get everything written down in your Freelancer's Contract, and save a copy for yourself and furnish a copy to your client as well. 
  • Provide your clients the option of paying on an installment basis. After your flat fee and a down payment has been settled, succeeding payments could be spread out on a four-part or even up to a six-part installment basis. To illustrate, if you're charging USD800 (which is roughly equivalent to Php35,000) for your services in website development, the first installment could be made 15 days after you started the project, and each succeeding payment could be made on each 15-day interval. If you spread out the payments into a four- to six-part installment, that would give you two to three months -- enough time to finish the website.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Five Ways to Turn Your "Professional Liability" Into A Marketable Credential (Part 3)

I have discussed the disadvantages of an aspiring freelancer being a "one-stop shop," or a generalist. Now I'll cite several feasible ways to turn a few of your skills into a specialty.

The following is not an exhaustive list, as all of us are unique and may have had different experiences with clients, so feel free to include anything that may be helpful to you.

  • After a year or two of working as a freelancer, take a good look at the variety of projects or assignments that you've accepted and submitted. Ask yourself, "Which of these did I enjoy doing the most? Which gave me enough challenge to stretch me, but were within my capabilities?" After a thorough evaluation, pick no more than three skills that you'd like to cultivate.
  • Look online for free tutorials or webinars that are centered specifically on teaching participants to hone their skills.
  • Attend seminars and workshops that are related to improving your skills. Seasoned facilitators are usually trained to instruct students with greater depth and breadth.
  • Read books about writing effective emails, as the ability to communicate and negotiate with your clients has been proven to be priceless in freelancing.
  • Improve your manner of speaking over the telephone, especially if you will allow clients to inquire by calling you up. Prepare a list of questions that are intended for clarity of your clients' desired results for the project. Keep your list inserted in your phone book.
  • Get in touch with a non-profit organization or groups who rally behind a cause and volunteer your time and skills. Don't worry about not getting paid. The experience that you'll get and the ties that you'll form with people will be far worth than any amount of money in the long run. 
  • Create a website by looking into one of those free web hosting sites, like Wix (click here) and Weebly (click here). Make sure to spell out your complete name and provide adequate information about your services. Double check your contact information for accuracy.
  • Start your own blog, where you can share tips with online readers or discuss any interesting innovations in your field. Having your own blog can also qualify as a credential when you bid for projects in freelancers' websites.
  • Get in touch with other bloggers who write about topics that are similar to yours, and ask if they're interested in a guest blogging gig. They can submit one or several blog articles, and you can return the favor by writing a review of their blogs. This is a cost-effective way to gain wider exposure in the blogosphere.