What happens when things don’t go to plan? Why set up your computer with two or more displays? Easy Steps for Making a Small Home Business and developing your personal brand.
Every week or so I post stories about freelancing that I find interesting. Let’s start by looking at a couple of articles from Freelance Folder and Flying Solo about something few freelancers talk, or even think about in my experience. What happens when things don’t go to plan?
Freelancing Problems–What Can Go Wrong? http://freelancefolder.com/freelancing-problems-what-can-go-wrong/
The Soloist’s Sick Day http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/live-smarter/health-and-wellbeing/the-soloists-sick-day
I’m a big fan of setting up your computer with two or more displays. Microsoft’s article Work and play better with multiple monitors talks about the productivity benefits. I’m currently using three screens with the one computer. It’s incredibly convenient when I’m working on a story where I have several browser windows and sets of interview notes to review. In the old days we’d just spread the sheets of paper across the desk. But expanding your desktop achieves the same thing electronically.
Finally, Homepreneurs shares some Easy Steps for Making a Small Home Business and Threshold Consulting discusses Developing your personal brand. This is something all sole traders, freelancers and small businesses need to think about.
One of the things I promised myself when I started freelancing was that I’d never work for a client that wanted me to keep detailed timesheets. As it turned out, one of my early clients wanted me to keep a record of the work I completed each day. It wasn’t a strict regime, as is often used in law firms where time is billed in six minute increments. But it was a record of what I did and when I did it.
Today, I use timesheets for all my major clients whether they ask for them or not. I’ve found that they are a useful tool to help me manage my time better.
Timesheets and Self Discipline
I try to be very organised about how I allocate my time. Each week I look ahead at my diary and work list and block out the time I’ll need for each job over the coming two weeks or so. As I work, I keep a record of start and end times and what I get done.
The task if recording my work makes me more aware of the time I spend on various tasks and less prone to wasting time. It provides a way for me to reconcile how long a task took with how long I thought it would take.
Timesheets and Planning
Whenever I am asked to quote on a job, I use my timesheets to look back at previous work and see how long a similar job took. This helps me quote more accurately and means that if a client queries the amount of time I say a task will take I can show them that I have a data to support my assumptions.
It’s pretty easy to set up a timesheet system. In my view, you need to capture a few critical details.
The client you’re working for
- Date of the work
- Start time
- End time
- Summary of activity
I also like to record the billable time unit. I bill several of my clients on either half or full days so I record whether I’ll be billing a full or half day. While I could do that with some maths on the hours worked I prefer to manually manage it.
As far as applications go, I created a simple system using an application called Bento although you cold just use a spreadsheet created in Excel. There are also lots of cloud-based systems but I like Bento as I can enter information on my iPad and have it sync to my computer.
Setting a rate – it’s one of the first things all freelancers need to do. If you don’t know how much you want to be paid, there’s no way of knowing whether the work you do will help pay the bills.
Although I’ve written about setting a rate before, I’ve put together a couple of additional resources.
The first is a video that runs through a short presentation. The slides are also available on Slideshare or you can download them as a PDF from Setting an Hourly Rate [1.7MB PDF].
This week, I’ve been thinking about a number of things. At the top of that list is what to charge clients. Although I have a well defined system for setting rates it’s still something that I’m concerned about, particularly as the economy is so uncertain. I’ve also been playing with a new computer, the $50 Raspberry Pi and looking at how to get the most out of social media.
The one topic that gets the most airplay on freelancing blogs, advice sites and discussion lists is rates. How do we set rates? What’s a reasonable rate? What if I quote too high? What if the client rejects the quote?
Pricing for wimps: Be the boss of your price You may be the boss of your business, but are you the boss of your price? For some soloists, clients are the ones that set the rate. So how can you regain control over what you charge? [Flying Solo]
Social media can be quite daunting for freelancers – particular if techie stuff is not your forte. Freelance Switch has a basic guide for getting started with Twitter.
How To Set Up Your Twitter Profile You’ve decided Twitter might be a good fit for your business, and you want to give it a whirl. Here’s a step-by-step overview to setting up your profile and freelance brand on Twitter [Freelance Switch]
Everyone wants to tell the future. Even if you’re not after the lottery numbers, having some insight into what is coming next can be useful in your business planning.
13 Freelancing Predictions It would be great if we could know for sure what the future holds for us, but the truth is that no one knows for sure what changes 2013 will bring. But what we can do is look at recent trends and make some intelligent guesses about what the near future holds for freelancers. [Freelance Folder]
The Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer that might just find a place in your office. Although it’s a little nerdy, the ability to create a basic office computer for about $50 (plus a screen, mouse and keyboard) might be handy for freelancers on a tight budget.
A Beginner’s Guide for the Raspberry Pi The Raspberry Pi is a wonderful little computer that fits in the palm of your hand, yet packs enough power to run your home media center, a VPN, and a lot more. Before you can do anything awesome, however, you need to configure it and install an operating system. Here’s how. [Lifehacker]
Inspirational quote alert! But it’s true. Successful entrepreneurs don’t just stumble into success. They see an opportunity, grab it and believe that they’ll achieve.
You Can Make a Difference Before you can be successful, you must believe you can be successful. [Becoming Minimalist]
Success as an entrepreneur doesn’t come from messing around and hoping for the best. It comes from finding a niche or market need and serving it. Not by wondering what the world is going to give you.
A recent article at My Small Business tells us that success can come from not wasting time and get on with it. When you’re self-employed or run your own business you can’t rely on other people to deliver success to you on a silver platter. Sure, it might be possible to sub-contract or outsource work (like this clever fellow who outsourced his own job to China) or even delegate it to your staff. But you still need to actually get the work done.
Some of the tips in the article at My Small Business are what I’d called “Captain Obvious”. Things like, don’t mess around with social media and look for places you can add, rather than take, value aren’t exactly rocket science.
When it comes to being a success as a freelancer I’d suggest the following things.
Find niches that add value and offer commercial opportunities. Remember, it’s all about targeting niches that offer benefits for both you and potential clients. If your definition of success doesn’t include making some money then you’re not a business.
Be purposeful in your actions. Don’t randomly flit around from one task to the next. Make a list of jobs to do, prioritise them, do them and revise the list and re-prioritise regularly. If you like to manage your to do list electronically, there are lots of tips here. But remember that success comes from setting goals, setting targets and adjusting your trajectory so that you keep heading towards you goals.
Communicate but don’t ramble. Social media has, in my view, made us into a race of babblers (me included!). We post status updates about just about everything and anything. While that might be OK in your personal life, it doesn’t pay to do the same professionally. By all means, have Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn and other social media for your business. But only post things of value for that channel.
Be generous – give more than you take. Whether it’s through social media, talking with colleagues and even frenemies - be generous in your advice. That doesn’t mean working for free but building professional networks will lead to business growth over time. I’d suggest that maintaining good working relationships with other freelancers has delivered many thousands of dollars to my business.