There’s no doubt that freelancing can be a very rewarding way to work for yourself. On the one hand, you can often set your own hours and rates of pay. However, do bear in mind that depending on the nature of your freelance work, in some situations you may be working to deadlines and your client may offer a specific, fixed rate for the work, in return for a promise of more work to come. Unless you are working for an agency that provides pro forma paperwork, such as electronic invoices or receipts, you will need to think about the admin requirements of venturing into freelance territory if this is your first time.
Let’s assume you’ve already dealt with all the basic tasks such as checking out your freelancing skills and resources, setting goals and creating a business plan. Always look around at what your competitors are doing to make sure you stay ahead of the field. If you can turn past positive employment references into support for your freelancing skills in the future, do so. Make sure your online presence is upbeat and up to the minute and be willing to explore new ways of finding new clients.
Setting rates early on is a good idea, although you may have to decide to vary these depending on the resources at the disposal of your clients. Don’t forget how useful social media can be when you’re organizing online material – sometimes you’ll even pick up clients that way.
Delivering the work
The Freelancers’ Union tells us that almost 54,000 Americans are now doing freelance work and also that 60 percent chose to do so. This is an important market share in terms of the workforce in the US, and it seems set to grow in the future. Ways of working are changing, and we all need to be aware of this.
Many freelancers agree that if you take a professional attitude to your work across the board, you are more likely to gain the respect and positive response that follows. Your website, including text and images, your administrative paperwork, and your record of project delivery should be impeccable and on target.
In case you run into trouble with a specific client, there are a number of laws that can help you out. The Department of Labor and the IRS have several measures in place for your protection as a freelancer, regardless of any independent contractor contract you may have signed. The IRS website has lots of useful information to guide you if you encounter a problem.
Unfortunately, quite a few people find that they struggle with cash flow (or getting paid on time) in the early period of their freelance work. If you submit invoices late or your clients procrastinate about settling your account, the consequences can be difficult to say the least. Clients who squabble about charges you make can be a real headache because, after all, you’re now living in a world of fixed expenses (your ongoing financial commitments) and variable income (subject to the whims of your clients).
Besides the legal options open to you, another way to protect yourself is to follow up on that professionalism connected to delivering your work. For example, your invoices should be carefully formatted and laid out – check out invoicehome.com if you need more details. Also, it can make a big difference if you use a professionally taken photograph for your business card or online image rather than a casual one. Get an experienced and knowledgeable colleague to pick holes in your website so that you know what works well and what needs to be improved.
Finally, if you do hit a particularly sticky patch as a freelancer with a difficult client, you generally have two options – to hang on in there and do your best to resolve it using reasoned arguments or legal options, or to walk. Sometimes dealing with certain clients just isn’t worth the trouble, whether that’s an agency that hasn’t offered a work rate increase in five years or a business that argues over every single item you (justifiably) charge to their account. If you ask yourself why you opted to be an entrepreneur in the first place, you’ll usually find the answer. Most freelancers want to let go of hassle and being at the beck and call of unscrupulous employers. Follow your instincts, as your freelance career is likely built on them.