I’ve only been freelancing a few weeks now, but already I’ve learnt some pretty valuable things. In this post I’ll discuss some of them and lastly show you an easy way to improve your business.
Get your price right
Deciding on an hourly rate was something I found quite tricky. I’d had some previous experience freelancing, so I knew roughly what the going rate was, and what the agencies I had worked at in the past were charging too. Armed with that information and keeping in mind the state of the economic climate, I was able to calculate what I should be charging for my work.
“Charge too much and loose out. Charge too little and strap yourself in for some serious work!”
The trouble with setting rates is that you can charge too much and consequently loose work, or charge too little and get so much work that you can’t handle it. So based on that I think its highly important for all freelancers to continually asses their rates and modify them accordingly. If you’re taking part in work for companies overseas, you’ll have the pleasure of dealing with conversion rates. This is definitely an area I need to improve on myself as if you’re not careful you can find yourself loosing out slightly here. To prevent this make sure you outline to your client that your hourly rate is subject to change based on the conversion rate at the time of invoicing and specify that the price you quoted initially was an estimate.
Stay on top of every project
When you’ve got loads of projects on the go it can be tough to know exactly where you are with each one when you’re constantly switching between them. I found that a combination of writing to-do lists and using BaseCamp ensures that I know where I am with everything thats going on. My clients also like the fact that they can login to BaseCamp and see an overview of all the communication we’ve had about their project, grab all the files, and see the milestones we’ve set together.
Manage your time
When you go freelance you’ll be suprised how much of your time is spent being a project manager. Personally I don’t mind this too much as it breaks up the day, and I really love the fact that I get to manage my own time, speak with clients, and book in work. Paper work is always a bit of a pain, but when you know that its necessary and all beneficial for you and your business it becomes a lot easier. When I started booking in work I chose iCal as my weapon of choice. But, after a few days I found it really tricky to use. I wanted to book out blocks of time, say 3 days at a time, and I couldn’t see a way of doing this (I’m sure you probably can, its just that I couldn’t figure it out!). Based on that and also that I was using Gmail for my emails, I moved over to Google Calendar and absolutely love using it. I can easily move projects about, block book, colour code confimed work and provisional work and so much more.
One golden rule for you that I’ve learnt the hard way already is – always allow time for unforeseen circumstances to crop up, and also the time it takes clients to feedback to you on projects.
Basically don’t cram work in so tight that you’ve got no breathing space to deal with paperwork, more amends than you may have expected, and extra little jobs that might get thrown your way from your current clients.
Another thing I’ve learnt is the art of the up sell. When you’re selling a product or service, its a great opportunity to drop into conversation other ways in which you can help their business. You don’t have to do this in a pushy fashion, in fact you should totally avoid doing so. For example, simply mentioning that you’re able to optimise a website and ensure that it receives targeted traffic after you launch it might just be enough to get a client interested in your optimisation services. Once you’ve done this you can then explain in layman’s terms some of the ways in which this can be done and ask whether this is something they might be interested in. Before you know it you might be able to gain some extra work and help your new client out.
Find out how your perceived
With some clients its easy to tell whether you’re doing a good job. With others its tougher as they might be harder to read. Something I’ve been trying to do with my clients is getting them to take 10 minutes to fill out a short survey that I have created. At the moment I’m doing this at the end of each stage of a project, and so far it’s given me a really good idea of the areas I need to improve on and the areas that I’m excelling in. If you’ve got 15 minutes free right now, why not head over to Survey Monkey (there’s a free option), set up a survey and start finding out the areas in which you can improve the operations of your company.
To sum up
I hope you’ve found this post useful. I think its clear to see that freelancing and running your own business is a huge step and there is a massive learning curve involved. Thats one of the reasons I decided to do it and one of the reasons why I’m absolutely loving it so far. As long as you put the effort in, you can reap the rewards. I’m in no position to preach on the subject, but I thought a post like this might help others when weighing up whether to stay in an agency or make a leap for freedom!
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