Is it time your freelance business had a ‘real’ office?

Posted on: July 19th, 2010

Guest writer and editor, Alison Harmer, helps you strike a balance between home and office.

As freelancers, working from home has its benefits – it’s flexible, convenient, fits in with lifestyles and, most of all, is a lot cheaper than an office. But achieving two ‘must-haves’ in business – a professional image and a secure place to hold a meeting – can be tricky.

Home-based freelancers will probably be familiar with at least one of the following nightmares:

  • Your children have a slanging match during an interview it’s taken you months to set up, leaving your interviewee annoyed and unimpressed.
  • You forget to update the answer-phone or forward calls on the day that a major customer phones with a massive, urgent job. Frustrated, they give the project to someone else and you lose out on repeat work.

With freelance work comes the feast or famine syndrome

Posted on: July 16th, 2010

Managing workloads and keeping a regular flow of projects is hard when you’re freelance. No matter how much you try and organise your time, there’s always a project that gets cancelled or postponed.

So, when you thought you were going to be mega busy, it turns out you have nothing to do. When you have a famine, the main problem is cashflow. So try to build up a buffer of money that you can draw on when work is thin on the ground.

Conversely, when you have a number of consecutive projects nicely lined up, they all end up happening at once due to circumstances completely beyond your control. If you are swamped with work (and that’s a nice problem to have), talk to your clients. It could be that an ‘urgent’ project could actually wait until next month. Don’t feel panicked by deadlines – in most cases they can be moved.

How do you avoid letting clients down when you can’t work?

Posted on: June 16th, 2010

Freelancers don’t take much time off sick – for the simple reason that, for every day you are ill, you don’t earn any money. (Unless you’re lucky enough to be on a retainer.)

Of course, everyone is going to succumb to the flu or some other illness at some point. Being off sick for a couple of days isn’t too much of a problem – you can make up the time you’ve lost pretty easily by working over the weekend once you’ve recovered or by working over a few evenings.

But it’s when you have to be off for several weeks that things can get a bit hairy. If you’ve got an important project coming up and you’re not there to play your part and you haven’t arranged any support to back you up, you may find your client soon becomes an ex-client. Because they may hire another freelancer in the interim and decide to stop using you once you’re back on your feet.

How to market your freelance services: part 2

Posted on: June 14th, 2010

Get a website

If you read my earlier post about setting SMART goals you should by now have worked out where you want to get to and by what means (strategy) you are going to get there.

This next post in the series is about promoting your freelance services with a website. If you’ve been freelance for a while now, you probably have a web presence already. If so, does your site do you justice? Whether you’re working on a brand new site or about to revamp your existing one, here are some tips on how to maximise your presence online.

  • If budgets are tight, why not go for a WordPress site? They’re free and there are lots of design templates to choose from. If you’re not familiar with how WordPress works, you might want to employ the services of someone techie who can set the site up for you. (I did.) The great thing about WordPress is you can easily update the content of the site yourself without needing to hire a web designer to do it every time. (This blog is based on WordPress.)

How much do you need to earn?

Posted on: June 9th, 2010

Whether you charge a project rate or a day/hourly rate, here are the factors you need to take into consideration to ensure you earn sufficient levels of income:

  • Unless you’re a contractor on a full-time contract, it’s unlikely you will be earning money every day of the week.  And you don’t get paid for undertaking tasks such as marketing yourself, new business meetings, admin etc. You also don’t earn anything when you’re sick or go on holiday (unless you’re on a retainer).
  • You will incur business expenses. I work from home so I have low overheads but I still had to kit out my home office and pay for my website to be designed and built. My ongoing expenses include my marketing and networking activity, training courses and instructional books, my accountant, phone and internet connection, stationery, travel expenses, professional subscriptions, insurance….the list goes on.

How to market your freelance services: part 1

Posted on: June 7th, 2010

Create a marketing plan

This is the first in a series of posts about how to market your freelance services.

Before you embark on any kind of marketing, you will need to devise a marketing plan. Otherwise, you’ll be undertaking a series of ad hoc activities without any purpose or focus.

Be SMART

The first part of any marketing plan is to set your goals. This helps you map out what it is you want to achieve with your freelance business. The goals you set will need to be SMART. This stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

So SMART goals would be:

“I want to have five new business-to-business clients by the end of the year.”