How To Go Freelance

Freelance Job Advice and Work Tips for Freelance Writers, Designers and Consultants

Find freelance work quickly as a new freelance consultant

find freelance work quickly

Last week, I posted a shout out for National Freelancers Day, inviting anyone to get in touch with any questions they had about the business of freelancing.

The idea came from the emails I sometimes get from readers who are looking for advice on how to go freelance or improve their current freelancing business. Like the email from Laura, who was looking for advice on negotiating freelance rates with clients.

Following my call for questions, I got an email from Andy who was looking to find freelance work quickly as a new freelance consultant.

Here is Andy’s situation as he explained it to me:

“Until this week, I was running social media for a big brand retailer.

Unfortunately, things didn’t end well and I’ve found myself without a job and nothing in the pipeline. Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared for this outcome.

I’ve been seriously considering starting out as a freelance social media consultant for a while now, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to do so.

However, I’m concerned that I don’t have anything lined up, and I can’t approach my previous employer for freelance work.

I wondered if you had any advice for how to get up and running quickly and how to generate some business without relying on a former employer?”

How I find freelance work quickly

Here’s my advice to Andy:

Update your online profiles: Before you start looking for work, take the time to get your CV in order, update your LinkedIn, Twitter bio, etc, to reflect your new situation. Make sure to add details on what you achieved at the role you just left, emphasising the results you achieved, not just what you did.

Approach similar companies and agencies: Google around for PR / Digital / Marketing / Social agencies that represent the big  brand retailers and send them your CV, making sure to add a highly personalised cover note targeted at them. Say you’re freelance and can offer social media support, for retail brands and other consumer brands (don’t want to pigeon-hole yourself too much). They might have some opportunities for you there and then, but more likely they’ll keep in touch with you. Some of them may even have permanent roles going.

Contact freelance recruiters in your area: Recruiters will have jobs readily available for you, whether short-term or long-term contracts. I’ve had a great experience with the guys at VMA Group (tell them I sent you), but also check out Cloud Nine Recruitment. There are also plenty of freelance jobs going on sites like The Guardian and Indeed.

Reach out to freelancer communities: I’d also post a message to the following Facebook groups, saying you’re looking for work if anyone has any roles going:

There’s a lot of people who are members of more than one of these groups, so make sure to make your post to each group personalised.

Try freelancing remotely: Sites like Freelancer.com, People Per Hour and Elance are full of people looking to hire social media freelancers. Although the pay might be lower than what you’re used to, they can help plug a gap in your income and you can quickly build up a reputation for yourself on these sites and start to command higher fees. Take a look at these tips for how to make the most of these freelance job sites.

So, a brief exchange but hopefully a valuable one to Andy– and to other freelancers who find themselves in this situation.

How others find freelance work quickly

Although Andy may be looking to find freelance work quickly, there can be a downside to this approach, as Carol Tice points out:

Here’s the basic problem with the “quickly” mentality: In freelancing, as with any startup business, when you take the quick fast buck, it robs you of the time you need to find the big-money assignments and to do those better gigs.

So where do you find those better gigs? Natalie Brandweiner recommends digging up those old but existing relationships:

Take a look back through your inbox and spot any potential clients that you may not have thought of before – perhaps you did some freelance work for a company two years ago, or there was that job you never got but built a good relationship with the person that interviewed you. Be imaginative with your client ‘hit list’ and don’t leave any avenue unexplored.

What would you do in this situation? How do you find freelance work quickly?  What other sites out there are good for finding freelance work?

And don’t forget – I’m here if you want advice on any of your freelance challenges. Just get in touch and I’ll see if I can help.

National Freelancers Day 2014: Ask me anything! #NFD2014

national-freelancers-day

Wednesday 19 November 2014 marks the sixth National Freelancers Day (here in the UK anyway).

Over the last six years National Freelancers Day has been celebrating the rise of freelancing and cultivating a nurturing environment for freelancers.  According to IPSE, the organisers behind the day, there are now almost five million self-employed people working in the UK which means 15% of the workforce are now choosing to earn their living as freelancers.

This year their headline event takes place in London, right in the heart of Tech City. Manchester and Edinburgh will also play host to celebrations of their own, while on the website they will be hosting live streams and interactive discussions throughout the day.

You can also follow along with National Freelancers Day by  using the hashtag #NFD2014, so there’s plenty of ways to get involved.

To join in with  National Freelancers Day, I thought I’d take inspiration from Reddit’s famous Ask Me Anything feature, where everyone from Barack Obama to Bill Murray has invited people to ask them anything.

I really love getting question from readers, so would enjoy helping out even more by answering questions that any of you might have.

For example, Laura and I got into a discussion on negotiating freelance rates with clients and tips to get your best fee.

What challenges are you experiencing this National Freelancers Day?

Let me know. I’d love to lend a hand!

If you’d like, you can leave a comment on this post and your questions will go straight to me.

Or you can email me directly using the contact details here.

It’d be great to hear your unique experience and questions on freelancing. I’ll do my best to put together some ideas for you, via a blog post here or through email.

I’m excited to help out the best I can this National Freelancers Day!

 

Negotiating freelance rates with clients: tips to get your best fee

Negotiating freelance rates with clients

Negotiating freelance rates with clients can be notoriously difficult. There have been several times recently where I’ve had to discuss my day rate against the project the client is offering, trying to find ground where we’re both happy with the rate.

So when I received this email from Laura, we got into a great discussion about how best to negotiate your rates as a freelancer.

Here’s Laura’s story:

“I am writing to you with a specific question. I have been working on a relatively long term freelance innovation strategy project. During the first phase, which was 12 days, I had negotiated a day rate of 320 – down from 350 a day. The next phase was comprised of about 20 days at the same rate.

After the first phase of 12 days completed, my client requested that I work for 60 days at a reduced rate. We ended up at a figure out 280 per day, approximately 17,000 for 60 days, which has meant 3 months full time.

On one level, I’m quite pleased that I could count on this bulk of work to financially plan. On the other hand, I resent the lower rate. I also think that I could have negotiated fewer days for the same fee, more or less. However, that is done.

My client now seems to want me to work extra days on this project. My question to you is: do I charge him my normal day rate of 350, the initial reduced rate of 320, or the last rate of 280?

I can argue for each rate: this is a new phase, and it will be fewer days, and thus, a higher rate; or it should be at the same last rate because its extra work in this last phase.

I’ve been feeling kind of annoyed at myself for negotiating down so much.  Do you really think that is ok, 280 per day?”

How I negotiate freelance rates with clients

Here’s my reply to Laura:

“It sounds like you’ve had a great project, and looking at the fee over 60 days that’s pretty good.

Yes, it is annoying when you are negotiated down, but I think it balances out in the long run. Giving some leeway to your client means they’ll come back for repeat business – and that is extremely valuable compared to the amount of time and expense it takes in finding new freelance work yourself.

However, I’d argue that you should go back to the top rate. This is a “new” project  outside of the and you’re working over and above the original project.

You could easily explain to your client that the 350 rate is a 50% discount compared to your top rate, so they are getting fantastic value already.

Plus, you’re REALLY BUSY and have other SO MUCH work on, so you need to charge the appropriate amount ;)

I find this really hard too – charging my top rate where possible is ideal, but the actual negotiating towards that is difficult.

The other consideration is how hard will these extra days be? If they’ll be straightforward, then that may be less stress on being negotiated down and you won’t have to go around looking for new business – which costs time and money.

In the future, it can be best to switch across to value-based pricing in these situations – if the value of the project to the client is £xx, then you should be charging that rather than sticking to a time-based billing model. More on pricing your freelance consultant rates here.

Be confident, charge what you’re worth and ask for your top rate – they can always come back with another offer.”

So, a brief exchange but hopefully a valuable one to Laura – and to other freelancers who find themselves in this situation.

How others handle negotiating freelance rates with their clients

Looking at around at what others have said about negotiating freelance rates, the always brilliant Brennan Dunn has the following advice:

“Never negotiate on rate. Negotiate on scope (i.e., what you’re going to do.) If the math doesn’t work out with what they want to do and the budget they have to do it, do less. Never let your client dictate the scope and the cost of an engagement.”

Simon Horton from Freelance Advice has this, err, advice:

“You should be the first person to mention a figure and you should start as high as you can justify, and have your reasoning to back it up. Why should you be the first? Because it means you set the reference points. You will get a better end result if you negotiate down from £100 per hour than if you go from £50 upwards.”

What would you do in this situation? How do you best negotiate freelance rates with clients?

 
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The wrong time to go freelance

wrong time to go freelance

You might feel that you’re ready right now, but there is definitely a wrong time to go freelance and a right time to go freelance. Make the move at the wrong time and you could find yourself regretting your decision and wishing you’d thought through your decision more.

Here are the reasons I think make it the wrong time for you to quit your job and go freelance. They aren’t intended to put you off from ever going freelance, but I hope they’ll give you food for thought and a surer footing before making the leap into freelance life.

And don’t worry, I’ll follow up with my run down of the right time to quit your job and go freelance.

When you don’t have a plan

Yes, even the best laid plans go to waste, but having an idea of what service you’ll offer, how to find clients, where you’ll work from and what you’ll do if things go wrong are the bare minimum of a plan you need to have in place before you go freelance. Take a look at my freelance checklist to help you get ready to make the jump.

When you’re angry

If you don’t get on well with your boss or you’re fed up with your job, freelancing can feel like an attractive option. But building a successful freelance career is difficult and not for everyone. Are there ways that you can improve your current job or work at building a better relationship with your boss? That may be a better option.

When you’re in debt

If you’re looking for a way to make some quick money, freelancing is not it. Finding clients, finishing projects and getting paid takes time. Freelancing isn’t your best option here. Get professional advice from a financial or debt advisor.

When you read a single book on freelancing

You might suddenly get inspired to go freelance when reading around about how others have gone freelance. But much if what is written out there just skims the surface of what it takes – my writing included. While it is a great idea to read more about the day to day of freelance life, try to read between the lines and sort the signal from the noise.

When you get your first client “on the side”

Congratulations! You me won your first client while still in your job and are earning extra money on the side. This may make you feel like a big shot, but the reality is that this is just one client. That first project will unlikely bring in the same amount of income as your current job, the project will inevitably come to an end and you’ll have to find more clients. Make a plan first.

When you’re fresh out of school

You may think you know it all, but you certainly don’t. I’m many, many years out of school and have been freelancing for several years now, but am learning every day. It may be better to get a job at a company or agency in a relevant industry to learn the ropes of the job first, build your network and get a name for yourself. You’ll be in a better position to go freelance in a few years time. And once you are freelance, never stop developing your skills.

You have too much else going on in your life

Freelancing is a full time job – and mostly even more so. Not only do you have to deliver on client work and projects, but you have to find those clients, market yourself, do the finances and bookkeeping and deal with the other myriad tasks and challenges that come with being a freelancer. If you have too much going on in your life – a house move, a new arrival in the family, a long holiday – then it would be wise to wait until a better time comes along.

You see being a freelancer as an easy way to live

It’s not. There are lots of challenges, many of them unexpected. You have to work hard to keep your clients happy, to finish your work to a high standard and to run your business well. It takes time, dedication and hard graft.

You don’t know your market

Do you know what your clients are looking for? Not just in services you can offer, but the value they take away from that work? Do you know where they look for freelancers, or if they even work with freelancers at all? Do you know what the going freelance rate is in your industry? Do you have a strong industry network, that can give you advice and refer you work? Make sure you can answer these questions confidently before you go freelance.

You fear failure

Even if you do go freelance and get off to a strong start, things can go wrong. In fact, many freelancers fail after just 18 months of being in business according to The Freelancer Club. If freelancing doesn’t work out for you and you fail, would that be ok for you? would you know what to do next or have other income and opportunities to fall back on?
 
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Freelance Briefs: how to write a brief, what to include

Freelance Brief

Writing a thorough brief for a freelancer is one of the best things you can do during a project to make sure that you get the results you need.

Freelancers appreciate being given a detailed brief as it lets them understand exactly what is required from the project and what they need to deliver.

Having a detailed freelance brief is also great for the company making the hire, as briefs help make sure that the freelancer has the skills and experience to deliver on the job and that they are clear about delivering the project on time, on budget and to spec.

But what should you include in a freelance brief?

The specifics may change but the concepts are the same whether you’re briefing a freelance designer, freelance developer, freelance copywriter or other.

Use the guide below to create your own freelance brief and adapt for your project as necessary.

Project overview

Every project needs to start at the beginning and this is your chance to set the scene. Why are you starting this project? What’s the context for the project?

You may want to include some background on your organisation: the who, what, where and why of your business and whatever else might influence the freelancer’s approach to the project.

Business objectives

I’m a strong believer in tying any project to the success of the business. If a project isn’t furthering the business or organisational aims, then it will more likely be a lost project that doesn’t add value.

Define how the project helps your business from the start and the freelancer you hire will understand how they will make a bigger difference to your business.

Project objectives

Flowing under the business objectives are the aims of the project itself. The project overview and business objectives will have painted the bigger picture. This is the place to define exactly what you want the project to achieve.

You may want to include deliverables here that have to be achieved in order for the project to be completed. For example:

  • Achieve 5 sales leads per month
  • Gain $5,000 in product sales per week
  • Generate 10,000 unique visitors per month

The more specific you can make each objective, tied to a particular length of time, the easier it will be to measure the success of the project.

Audience

There are a few basic questions you can put in place that will help narrow down who the project is for. Who is the project aimed at? What economic group do they belong in (ABC1, etc)? How old are they? Male or female? Profession?

You can even go a step further and create user personas for each audience section, which defines things such as what their individual needs from the project are, what they go online for, what device they’ll use to go online, what magazine they read, films they like, food they eat, area of the country they live in, car they drive – the list could go on!

The more specific you get, the better the freelancer will be able to tailor the project towards that audience.

Examples

Is there any existing work that you can point people towards?

For example, there may be a website or two that you really like and would want the freelancer to achieve a similar site for your company.

Or there might be some company logos and branding that you think would suit your organisation.

Even if you only have one or two examples, giving your freelancer an indication of the kind of work you like will help them complete the project with what you had in mind.

Deliverables

What does the freelancers absolutely have to deliver as part of the project? These are the minimum requirements that will be completed as part of the project, but whatever else comes on top of this will be dependent on time and budget left after this work is finished.

For example:

  • A Wordpress website with customised theme and e-commerce solution
  • A complete social media strategy for Facebook, Twitter and Youtube
  • An 8-page A4 colour brochure with full copy and pictures

Measurement

You may have project objectives but how will you know if they’ve been achieved? In the measurement section of the freelance brief, make sure you give specific, achievable goals.

For example, for a web site project, this may be the increased number of visitors to a website, the increased value of purchases per user or the number of sales leads generated.

Timelines

You’ll want to put a timeframe on the project, even if it’s a general guide as a minimum.

Do you need the project delivered by a certain time? Put that don as a starter.

Breaking down the project further into milestones will help you and the freelancer agree on what is achievable in what time.

Agreeing a set of milestones also means that you can get work delivered in stage, which helps avoid any big surprises coming at the end of a project.

Needless to say, the more time you give to a project, the more it will likely be delivered to a higher quality or to budget.

Budget

An indication of budget is essential. Even if you’re unsure of what budget to give to a project, putting down a ball park figure will allow the freelance to respond appropriately and discuss how the project could work – or push back if you’re estimates are way out.

Even if helps put your mind at ease, ask the freelancer to break down their budgets line by line – accounting for each part of the project. This gives you more detail to work with and makes it easier to ask questions about what they’re charging you for each part of the project.

These are the main headlines I like to see when receiving a brief and I’ve advised others to do the same. Is there anything you like to add when writing a freelance brief?

 
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When freelance projects go wrong, keep calm and communicate

Freelance projects: Keep calm and communicate

When you win a new client and start working on a fresh freelance project, it can be one of the most exciting times for any freelancer.

You spent time and effort putting together a project plan and strategy that you know the client should go for. When they do and you get that call to give you the go ahead, that’s when all the hard work pays off.

But then again, the hard work is only just beginning. Especially if the project starts to go off course.

It can be easy to bury your head as someone new freelancing when something goes wrong with a project. You’re inexperience may show when you’ve overestimated on what you can deliver and you don’t want to lose any clients.

If anything happens with your freelance projects when you’re just starting out as a freelancer, keep calm and don’t panic.

Follow the steps in this post and you’ll be back on your feet before you know it.

How do I spot when my freelance project is going off course?

Estimating how long a project will take is incredibly difficult, not just for new freelancers. There are always hidden obstacles, unexpected problems and tasks that were completely unaccounted for.

  • If you wait until there is a problem, you’ve waited too long. Risk often show up way before it they turn into real problems. Be aware of risks and raise them early on with your client.
  • Checking in on yourself on a daily basis is an easy way to notice problems. Ask yourself “how is the project I planned for aligning with the actual work left?” Once you know there is something awry, the most valuable way to discuss is focusing on work left.
  • Take it easy on yourself. You don’t make it as a successful freelancer because you’re solving easy problems. Estimating when the project complicated is most often hard and can often be inaccurate.

Freelance projects may often go off course. The key is getting them back on track again.

What should I do if I’m not going to make a deadline?

How you bring up the fact that you underestimated part of your project isn’t as important as communicating straight away. Be honest with everyone about where you stand and follow these guidelines:

  • Communicate immediately with your client. Never delay facing up to the fact that you’re going to have to talk to them. Most people will be less upset about the project timelines changing than the fact that they weren’t told. If you’re honest with the client and communicate when there is good news, as well as bad news, most of them will understand.
  • Explain exactly what’s going on. This means you need to be completely honest with everyone on your team and speak up early. If you wait until the last minute to say something, after you tried working long hours to make up time, there isn’t much that can be done. They may not like it, but once they make a decision, they feel more a part of it and you will have bought some goodwill for a while.
  • Be aware of any knock on effects on projects elsewhere. You may need to communicate any necessary changes to keep those projects on schedule. Your client will appreciate that you think beyond your own project and this will offset some of the potentially bad feelings about the project going off course.

Why should I be communicative and honest about freelance projects that are going wrong?

Even when you know that a deadline has been missed, you may find it difficult to communicate with a client. But no matter what freelance area you come from, you need to learn how to just say it as soon as possible.

Here’s why:

  • Your client may have others within their organisation to update. It doesn’t reflect well on your client when the higher ups find out last minute something won’t be on time. This can play havoc their internal plans about the project.
  • Delays pile up. Two days here, four days there, a week on that other problem. Before you know it you’re a month behind schedule. It’s much easier to discuss obstacles as they arrive rather than save them all up towards the end of the project.
  • Most clients are willing to negotiate. Though we’d all like to think otherwise, clients often make some changes during projects. When those changes occur and you’re already on the same page, it’s much easier to discuss how the changes that you’ve flagged are going to affect the delivery date.

How should I communicate when a freelance project is going wrong?

How you bring up the fact that you underestimated part of your project isn’t as important as doing it right away. Always open the communication lines as soon as you know you are behind.

If you are behind on a milestone, speak up now. Here’s how:

  • When you speak up early, this is also good for everyone else involved in the project. Work with your client to make adjustments to the project timeline to keep things on track. Othwerise they can delay other parts of the project if the project involves more than just your part of the work.
  • Don’t assume you can just make up the time during the rest of the project. The worst thing you can do when your project is running behind is make it a surprise to everyone on the day of the deadline.
  • The ultimate goal is to be part of successful project, not looking like a hero. You look a lot better if you give everyone a chance to come up with a plan to get the project back on track.

How can I make sure I don’t miss a project deadline again?

This advice is all well and good, but how can you make you don’t underestimate how long your projects are going to take?

Here are a few ways to make sure you estimate your projects accurately:

  • Thinking about work in how complex it is, rather than time allocations. More difficult and complex work increases time it takes to complete.  Any work that is relatively is best broken down into smaller pieces of work.
  • Firm up the project definition of “complete.” Having a well known definition of when a project is complete –  that everyone agrees on – will help when deciding that the project is done.
  • Use your instincts. Complicated projects are often too complicated and deep to really have any idea how long they are going to take.You went freelance because you are an expert in your field and have confidence in your own abilities. Trust your gut instinct.

How do I ensure the freelance project will be completed while I’m working on it?

It’s hard for people to actually know they’re going to miss a deadline and they might feel that they can correct their course. But if you have a clear definition of what a completed project looks like and work broken down into pieces that fit in a week and you plan each week’s work, then you will know as soon as you get behind that you are behind.

Here’s a simple guide to make that process easier:

  • Break your freelance project down into logical pieces of work, each one small enough for you to understand how to roughly complete it
  • Order the pieces of work such that you are doing the most important tasks first.
  • At the start of each week declare what you will finish that week, always starting the most important things you could
  • At the end of the week, see whether you finished everything you said you would. If you haven’t, you are behind and it this will impact next week’s work. This is where you communicate openly and honestly with your client

The key is to divide your milestones into small tasks and communicate this detailed plan within the context of your overall project. Update your client about your progress as frequently as possible to help keep you on track.

Frequent communication is the key

During a freelance project, if you realise that your original plan was wrong, communicate immediately with your client so you can fix any problems as soon as possible.

If you follow the above advice, you’ll be back on track to running a successful freelance project before you know it!

What tips do you have to make amend when freelance projects go wrong? Do you have any personal anecdotes where this advice cam in handy? What other things should you look out for when projects go off course? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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Find freelance work online with these freelancer job sites

Find Freelance Jobs Online

Finding freelance jobs and projects can be a mammoth task, but with the proliferation of online jobs sites you’ll never be stuck for options for finding freelance work online.

I’ve compiled this list of 21 freelance job sites, covering everything from web design and IT contracts to photography projects, graphic design to copywriting jobs.

While you will want to build up your own network, referrals and repeat business, these freelance job sites can help you build up your experience and get you used to the ins and outs of working as a freelancer.

Each entry has a link to the job site and a brief description. I plan to return to the list and update it with further details, like how much the typical project pays and which areas / countries the freelance jobs tend to come from for each job site, but I hope this is a good start and is useful for those looking to find freelance jobs online.

These lists include sites where you bid for projects, as well as  job sites and forums. For sites where you bid for projects, the sites often take a commission – usually a percentage of the project fee. In case of forums, you get the ability to contact the client directly and work out a project fee from there.

Don’t forget to check out my post on 28 tips from freelance job sites that you can use to be a successful freelancer to make the most out of these freelance job sites.

Also read this comment on the Freelance subreddit if you want to escape low paying gigs on sites like these.

There’s a lot freelance job sites out there and I’m sure I’ve missed some, so leave me a comment or get in touch if you want me to add another freelance job site.

To make it easier, you can click on these links to skip to the section most relevant to you:

The Main Freelance Job Sites

Elance – One of the biggies, with over 25,000 jobs posted weekly. Free registration. No cost to apply to jobs. 100% payment protection on all your jobs.

Odesk – Similar to Elance, with 100,000+ jobs are posted every month, with a variety of job opportunities that can be long-term or short, paid hourly or per project, expert to entry level.

Freelancer.com – While not as big as Odesk or Elance, Freelancer.com posts impressive numbers, with 13,548,918 members, £1,163,903,727 worth of fees from 6,635,751 projects.

Craiglist – While you might think of Craiglist of being the place to buy and sell furniture or find a new flat, there are actually lots of jobs posted to their site that are perfect for freelancers – especially if you’re looking for freelance gigs from a particular location.

Gumtree – Similar to Craigslist, but may be even more useable, Gumtree lists local jobs for people and businesses looking for freelancers in their area.

Freelance Writing Job Sites

Textbroker – Founded in 2005, Textbroker has thousands of registered authors and customers from around the globe execute more than 100,000 content orders through their site every month. Their clients include publicly traded corporations, small business owners, ecommerce websites, social media communities and publishers.

Writer Access – Earn 2 cents to $2 or more per word depending on your rating, on their site – a ranking that improves with certifications, solid performance and customer reviews. Their fully transparent pay policy means 70% of every dollar a customer is paid to you.

The Content Authority – While looking less professional than other freelance job sites, this site has the potential to earn you more per word as the amount a writer is paid for an article is determined by the number of words requested by the client, article type, and level of quality listed for the article.

Zerys – Offers no monthly fees, unlimited access to writing jobs and no need to submit bid proposals. You simply get notified when new jobs are posted that match your profile and you can even develop long-term relationships with clients and build a steady source of work.

Scripted - You’ll find higher quality writing jobs here as becoming a Scripted writer requires a high proficiency in the English language. Their English proficiency test consists of a combination of word scrambles, idioms, and multiple choice questions that have been carefully reviewed by their data scientists.  This level of difficulty means that 80% their writers are from the US.

Media Bistro – Their freelance marketplace is a great place to publicise yourself to mediabistro.com’s 3 million unique visitors a month, including 100,000+ editors and managers in their member database.

Duotrope – An established, award-winning writers’ resource,  they currently list 5,000 fiction, poetry, and non-fiction markets that you can applications and bids to.

Journalism Jobs – Founded in August 1998 by Dan Rohn, a former copy editor and business writer with The Washington Post, JournalismJobs.com receives between 2.5 to 3 million page views a month.

Contently – A tech startup based in NYC with the mission of building a better media world, and empowering the three groups that have a stake in that: publishers, creative people (journalists!), and readers. Contently have talent scouts who look at portfolios from time to time to recruit freelancers, then they broker your work with their clients.

Freelance IT and Web Design Job Sites

Smashing Jobs -Smashing Magazine has more than 4 million monthly users and is known to be one of the most successful magazines for creative professionals. Smashing Jobs Smashing Magazine’s job board for freelancers.

Computer Assistant – Very much geared at IT freelance consultants, Computer Assistant offers on-site technical support for companies across the US.

GetACoder – AS well as offering the usual bidding system for freelance projects, GetACoder has a Milestone payment system, which allows you to request a buyer to place funds in advance as milestone payments, giving you the added security of knowing you will get regular payments across larger projects.

Freelance Digital Marketing Job Sites

Digital Point – While predominantly a discussion forum, Digital Point also has plenty of job opportunities posted to its messaging board.

Warrior Forum – Another forum like Digital Point, but geared heavily towards Internet Marketing. Take a look at their Warriors For Hire thread for an idea of the kind of jobs available and how other freelancers are selling their services.

Freelance Graphic Designer Job Sites

Dribbble – Dribbble is a community of web designers, graphic designers, illustrators, icon artists, typographers, logo designers, and other creative types who share small screenshots that show their work, process, and current projects.  Their jobs board is an easy way to show off your freelance work and other “shots” to potential clients.

Behance – Less comprehensive than Dribbble and with lots of full-time offers among the freelance work, but still contains loads of freelance job opportunities – mainly US-based.

 

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Less freelancing, more consulting: how adding value leads to added income

Less freelancing, more consulting

I’ve been thinking recently that a lot of the success that I’ve had as a freelancer to date is that I’ve position myself as more of a consultant and less of a freelancer.

Freelance work tends to be transactional, where you’re delivering directly on a service that a client had asked you to provide – whether that’s online copywriting, web design, graphic design or social media work. The client asks you to complete a project, you deliver on that project.

The difference that comes with being a consultant is that you are looking to deliver value to a client, not just delivering on what they ask of you.

Yes, a client might have asked you produce the design for a new section of their website, but if there are fundamental issues with their website that would bring demonstrably more value to the client and their business, then as a consultant you should be confident enough to offer that opinion and back it up with sound reasoning.

A freelancer may simply do what the client says, even if they know it’s wrong.

It’s a subtle difference, but I hope you can already see that this approach can mean a large difference in the amount of value a client sees in your work and, ultimately, the value you bring to their business.

Consultants are indispensable, freelancers are a commodity

Positioning yourself as a consultant gives the impression that you are in the profession for the long run. As a consultant, you have dedicated yourself to specialising in your field and excelling at delivering value to your clients. This added value that you deliver as a consultant makes you indispensable them.

Positioning yourself as a freelancer means that you may be viewed as disposable, as there are many other freelancers out there that can replace you. You work will be seen as a commodity.

Think about the glut of freelancers on bidding sites like Elance or Odesk, all fighting for the same projects, driving down value across the board. These are buyers markets and even if you manage to win a bid for a particular project, you’re likely to be earning less for that product than you would be if you earned that client relationship away from that site.

As a freelancer, you might be seen as someone who hasn’t specialised in a field and so won’t deliver truly exceptional work in that area – especially if you offer multiple services, from web design to graphic design to copywriting.

Even if you are good at all of those things, you are effectively positioning yourself as a jack of all trades freelancer, not a specialist in one particular area. Your clients will likely value you less as a result.

Become a premium consultant, charge a premium fee

If you can demonstrate the value you bring to a client by being a premium consultant, beyond the transactional value of the services you provide, you can start charge a premium fee for your consultancy. And charging based on the value of the project rather than on the amount of time it takes is one of the simplest ways you can increase your income as a freelancer.

Increasing your freelance rates is easier said than done though, so take a look at my post on how to set your freelance rates for more advice on value-based pricing strategies or take a look at professional development for freelancers.

Of course, being seen as a consultant is more than just adding the job title to your business card. It means being professional in all aspects of running your freelance business.

That means:

  • being prompt to reply to client communications, whether that’s by phone, email or otherwise.
  • setting freelance contracts and client agreements at the beginning of a project, and invoicing promptly throughout.
  • consistently appearing to be a professional, from turning up to meetings punctually, to being well groomed and dressed, to having a well designed and regularly updated website.

It can help to register as a company and set up a consultancy business under a different name than just using your own.

I previously ran my freelance work under my own name – and not even that, it was actually my Twitter name – Benrmatthews Ltd. I also ran that company as a sole trader, which may have saved a small amount of taxes, but I was earning enough to have justified registering as a fully-fledged business.

Having a consultancy name, registers business and tax registration number helps to give potential clients that impression that you are a company professional consultants, not a group of freelancers for hire.

That’s what we’ve done with Montfort, the digital consultancy I run, which has allowed us to bid for bigger projects for bigger clients – both of which come with bigger fees.

This approach has also made it easier when it comes to finding new client leads and turning proposals into concrete projects. The bottom line seems easier to sign for clients when they have the confidence that they’ll be working with professional consultants who will look after their business interests.

I’m sure there are lots more ways to position yourself as a premium consultant, so let me know of yours in the comments below.

In the meantime, isn’t it time you spent less time freelancing and more time consulting?

 

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Finish freelance projects on a high with these 8 client pleasers

freelance projects

The inevitable happened this week. A fantastic client that we’d been working with for 6-months on a great campaign let us know that they would be winding down the freelance project we’d been working on.

We have a great working relationship with the client. We were consistently adding value, respected each others’ work and were productive in achieving the aims of the project. But now it was clear that it was time to move on from the project and our work as freelancers was coming to an end.

This was fine for us. The project had expanded from a smaller project brief, so we had earned more and learned more over that time than we thought we would have at the beginning.

All great freelance jobs can’t last forever, but there are ways to develop long-term client relationships – even as a project comes to an end.

I’d love to give more details about the client and project, but for now I’m going to concentrate on the main part of this story: how we are finishing this freelance project on a high.

This means more than sending the final invoice, handing over any last work and then shaking the client’s hand as you say goodbye.

This means making sure that the project is wrapped up tightly with no loose ends, that the client is very satisfied with the project work right to the end, and added value is delivered to the client so that they have no hesitation recommending you for more work or thinking of you for new projects when the time comes.

We’ve already received an email from someone on the project team saying they’d happily refer us business from elsewhere and give us recommendations, but here are a few more ideas about how to finish freelance projects on a high.

1. Provide a project summary

It might be more obvious to create a case study or get a client testimonial, but the first thing you should be thinking about when wrapping up a project is thinking of the client and how you can make their work better and life easier – all the way to the end of the project and beyond.

When you deliver a final invoice for the project, think about including a project summary to go with the rest of the work completed.

Not only will this remind your client of the work you have done, but you can use it to highlight the value you have delivered during the course of the project, making it easy for them to see the importance of your work to the success of the project.

If the project is being handed over to someone else or might get picked up again at a later date, make sure to include any lessons learned or final recommendations so others can learn from the work you’ve completed.

If your work is visual, make sure you create a nicely formatted presentation or a hardback book for them to keep around, as you never know who the client will show it to.

2. Update your portfolio with a  case study

Once you’re sure that the project has been wrapped up well, it’s time to update your website, portfolio and whatever other marketing materials you use with a case study.

If you do ask your client to feature the project on your site and elsewhere, make sure it makes their company look good so the company will promote the project and you in the process.

Here’s a basic structure that works well to highlight the project from beginning to end and what value the project delivered, rather than just what work was completed:

  • The Objective / Brief: What did the client originally want you to achieve from the project? Were any benchmarks put in place at the beginning of the project?
  • The Approach: What work was actually completed? Did you take a particularly unique or insightful stance?
  • The Results: What was the outcome of the project? What value was added to the company’s bottom line or elsewhere? Did the project outperform the original objectives and by how much? Did the project outperform industry benchmarks? Did the project win any awards?

Always ask permission from the client to feature their name, logo or case study on your marketing materials.

Some clients will be more sensitive than others as to what exactly you disclose about the project – anything from not being able to use their name or logo at all through to featuring an in-depth case study and entering for awards is possible.

3. Get a client testimonial

Going hand in hand with a case study is the need to get some personal client testimonial.

Asking the client to provide a quote can be difficult, especially if they’re busy or can’t think of anything to say.

The approach I always take is to write the quote for them, then send it across in an email to ask for their permission to use it or invite them to edit the testimonial if they’re not happy with it.

My client’s have normally been happy for me to use the quote as is, meaning I can craft the messages in the quote how I like them.

Once you have the testimonial, make sure to use it on your website or marketing materials sensibly. This means including the client’s name, company and a profile photo of the client if possible. This adds social proof to the testimonial and makes it look less like something you’ve just made up.

4. Offer related services

Just because you’ve finished one project with a client, it doesn’t mean you have to stop there.

You probably offer lots of related services that compliment each other, so make sure to pitch those services to the client once the project is finished.

  • Designed a logo for a client? Offer to create a set of brand guidelines that put the logo into practise.
  • Designed a website for a client? Offer to design a brochure, business cards, letterheads or other marketing materials to compliment the website.
  • Designed a brochure for a client? Offer to expand their marketing materials into flyers, postcards and more. Think of every single thing that they have that’s branded and offer a redesign.

Just make sure that the related service you offer is actually related. Offering a random service without justification and seemingly out of thin air might not go down so well.

5. Offer a free consultation

If a client won’t bite at a related service or there isn’t a complimentary service immediately available, offer to give that client a free follow-up consultation on their next project. As you’ve just finished working with them on a project, they’ll be more likely to take you up the offer.

It’s also much easier to go to you first for any new projects that come up, rather than go through a wider tender process, and you’ll be able to give your opinion and bid before anyone else even gets a look in.

After all, why would they go anywhere else after you’ve built up a great relationship with them and have delivered excellent value on previous projects?

Alternatively, you could offer a percentage off their next project to encourage the client to use you for repeat business. Rather than thinking of the project as on a reduced budget, think of the repeat business as cutting down on the amount of time and money you have to spend looking for that new bit of business.

6. Say thank you

It’s amazing how far those two little words, “thank you”, go in finishing a freelance project on a high.

The simplest way to say thank you is to send a gift to the people who hired you or those you worked with with a handwritten thank you note. Simple and thoughtful.

If you want to be a bit more clever, why not think of something you can give the client related to the project you’ve done for them?

For example, if you’ve design a new logo, why not order some pens or other promo materials with the new logo on them for the client to use?

One of my favourite examples of this approach is from Nixon McInnes, who designed a set of business cards for every new website they built for clients, with the website adress on them. Their clients would receive the business cards with a thank you note, appreciate the gesture and use the business cards to hand out and promote the new website.

A win for the client to get some visitors to the new website and a win for the agency to promote their lovely new work.

7. Offer minor ongoing support

If you’ve done good work for a client, you should be looking to discover how you can keep helping them once the project is finished.

You can also tell your clients that you will provide minor support – such as keeping a website updated, touching up some artwork or similar minor fixes – in return for a small fee.

This way, you and your client will stay connected long after the initial work is finished and the project will continue to perform as it should have once the initial project was completed.

As you’ll be doing the minor things, they will be more likely to ask you for a quote on any new projects that come up.

8. Follow up at a later date

This is all about keeping the channels of communication open with that client. It will make them feel like they’re receiving more value and make them more likely to return to you for more work.

Mark your calendar to follow up in 2 or 3 months after the project has finished to see how it’s going. You can check to see if there are any issues you could help with, any refinements they need done, or other projects they may have coming up.

Ultimately, although this specific project is wrapping up, your relationship with a client is just starting. Try to think of this as the beginning of your long and fruitful client relationship, rather than just the end of a project.

 

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The 2014 Freelance Checklist: 25 questions to answer before you start your freelance career

freelance checklist

Every time someone gets in touch about what they need to prepare to go freelance, I typically find myself telling them the same things over and over, in order to lay the foundation for a solid freelance consulting career. So, I’ve created a freelance checklist.

This list covers the top 25 things you should consider when it comes to going freelance. It uses a simple script to tally everything you check off. Once you’ve completed it, it will give you a score out of 25 possible points at the bottom of the page.

I’ve put together the questions based on what people normally ask me, but it is an un-ordered list. I’ll put it into a more logical order later, grouped by areas of running a freelance business.

There’s one thing I want to reiterate before you embark on your freelance checklist journey: you don’t have to have all of these in place before you begin and these points are best thought about as incrementally beneficial. The big mistake people tend to make is that they find a checklist, they go through every thing on it, they read each one line-by-line and say “Oh no! I’m missing one thing – now I can’t go freelance and everything is ruined!”. That’s not really the way to think about it.

If you can get everything on this list, that’s great! If you can only get most, that’s okay too. You want to make you’re as ready to go freelance as possible. But in general, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to do all these things. That said, try your best!

Oh, and don’t forget to read my series of interviews on how others went freelance to get more of an idea about what it feels like, the risks and rewards of becoming a freelance consultant.

The 2014 Freelance Checklist

Check off items as you go along.
Feel free to keep this page open so that you can refer back to it.
These all might not apply to your situation.

 

That last item is particularly important – if you’re not passionate, hard-working or excited about the work you do, then you’ll find freelancing very hard.

Here’s some more advice from other freelancers on Twitter on what should be added to the freelance checklist:

As I said at the beginning of this checklist, you don’t have to have absolutely everything in place before you go freelance, but this freelance checklist will help you have most of your things in order before you do make the switch to go freelance.

What else would you add to the freelance checklist? If you’ve gone freelance, did you have a checklist? How ready were you?

 

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