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Are you  Ready to Freelance?

Freelancing was growing in popularity but more and more people are turning to this method of working with the ongoing COVID-19 scenario.  Businesses that are looking to save on office space and other employee-related expenses find hiring freelancers more attractive.  If you are technologically adept and you can develop multiple skillsets, then this is a good time to follow new passions and achieve personal growth.  If the idea of a gig economy is appealing read on and learn how to get freelance ready. 


MINDSET:


We may all dream of being our own boss and working flexible hours but there are bills that must be paid.  Choosing to become a freelancer comes with great responsibility.  Before you get started you need to have savings that will cover at least six months’ worth of living expenses.  Then must come an understanding of what you hope to get out of freelancing, and have realistic expectations of what it will take to achieve those goals.


Freelancing is initially a rollercoaster and you need to have enough backup so you don’t stress out during lean periods.  Assuming you have marketable technical skills, in order to succeed you need to have a strong work ethic.  Ask yourself if you have the ability to focus, the confidence, and the tenacity to see a project to completion, regardless of the circumstances going on in your personal life.

Another necessary skill is the ability to strategically network.  Remember every contact counts.  Make friends with others in your industry so that you have someone to brainstorm with. If you don’t know other freelancers in your area, you can join a group online. Not only can other freelancers recommend great tools of the trade, but they might even be able to send some work your way.

Build and develop relationships with advisers and mentors.  This trusted network can provide valuable guidance and feedback.  You need someone who will provide useful insights and perspectives on what is in demand and how to best apply skill sets.  


With all that in place, you will learn it takes a lot of hard work to launch a freelance business. There will have to be sacrifices made so that you can continue delivering high-quality results for clients and bringing in new contracts at the same time.  But when you’re running your own freelance business full-time and reaping the lifestyle benefits you won’t regret the extra hours you put in.


CLIENTS:

Choose an area that genuinely interests you, and focus on becoming the best in that narrow space.  That becomes your niche. Once you’ve built your skills to a level that you can confidently charge a premium for your services, you’re ready to start your freelance business and look for your ideal clients.  There are freelance job sites like Upwork, Fiverr, or Toptal but for a higher income you should seek out an industry and type of client that values quality. You should be competing on value, not price.


We all dream of having a huge client base. It doesn’t happen overnight but when possible do take on multiple clients.  This way you can protect your income, in the event that one revenue source dries up. The internet has made it possible to connect with clients around the world but freelancers still need to put effort into marketing their services.  Get a superb website and improve your site’s search engine optimization.  Optimize your social media presence to make contacts and build rapport with current and potential clients.

TOOLS:

When you get started you will find there is no shortage of tools available to help you manage projects and these apps offer benefits beyond time-saving.

When you’re putting yourself out there you need to prepare each document you send out carefully, and it should be visually attractive.  Applications such as Qwilr or Proposify are stunning and make a great impression on the client.  These applications provide a range of customizable design templates to ensure your proposals look as good as possible. 

There are tools that let you track projects, assign tasks, and see that all client communications are in one place. The most well known ones are Basecamp, Podio and Trello. For paper based materials there is Evernote.

Timely is a great a cross-device app that integrates with your productivity apps, your calendar, your GPS, specific files on your computer, and track all your time in one place.


PROPOSALS:


You will need to get a basic working contract together to protect yourself.  Never work for free as it devalues your services right from the start, giving clients the feeling that your work is worthless.  Proposals are a challenge for freelancers, and you should make them as easy and beautiful as possible.  Proposify has simple design tools and templates that make for an impressive document.  


Communicate your specialty and display examples of your work. Highlight your relevant skills, education, and accomplishments.  Testimonials are important.  When you’re new, don’t pretend to be a big company or have skills you don’t possess.  Be honest about your strengths and experience. Focus on communicating how much value you’re going to deliver for the client, and show work you’ve already generated for other clients. When you’re bidding on a freelance project, always start higher than you think you should. 


REPORTING:


When you start working on projects, it’s difficult to understand how much time and effort a project might take.  The client may pressure you with regard to timeline or budget. Some clients do expect that you’ll do whatever they ask, but the best clients listen and adapt.  A very good habit is to mutually agree on deadlines and stick to them. 


Proactive communication about what you’re doing for the client is a way to establish a good relationship.  Start by sending an email after the basics have been decided and email after every development in the way forward. The client should be in agreeance at every stage during reviews. Some clients aren’t great at giving feedback and you may have to straight out ask, just to make sure you are on the same page. 

Some developments can be easily tracked in terms of performance when sales are tracked or marketing metrics such as responses, likes or clicks. But for projects that are not easy to measure, think about your actions and how they meet or exceed expectations. 


If you follow instructions, procedures or rules and deliver on time your client will clearly see the value you have added. In fact, the more often the client contacts you and asks for advice, the clearer it is that you are important to his business. Learn about the client’s business and share your insights. The client’s employees too will figure that you’re doing a great job.  You prove how reliable you are when you turn up when asked, do what is expected.  This trust will grow when you take your own initiative to get things done. Subtly let the client notice you are self-motivated and proactive. His team members will see you are helping out on tasks that might not have been in your direct area of responsibility.

Bottom line is, let your clients have a clear picture of the project and process, an understanding of its current status, and easy access to any deliverables. 

ACCOUNTING:

Finances can be a huge barrier for many considering going freelance. Things can get out of control with unexpected tax bills and unpaid invoices.  With the use of tools on the market you could avoid these problems. 

Tools such FreeAgent Xero and Freshbook will put you in control of your finances. You can forecast your profitability and identify future cash flow problems.  There is software to help you invoice clients, receive payments, and chase late payers, all automatically 

Sighted is another invoice and expense tracking software designed especially for freelancers. With one tool you can integrate payment options, get profit and loss reports. 


Busy is an accounting software very popular in India as it has features like accounting, inventory management, sales, purchases, VAT, CST and currency management.


FreeAgent is great for freelancers who need a place to create, store, and track estimates. Zoho Books is helpful when you need more than a bookkeeping tool.  Expensify is for freelancers who only want a way to keep track of receipts.  There is even one called Shoeboxed for freelancers who need simple receipt digitization


Always be transparent, communicate with your clients often and watch how you both leap forward to success.


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