Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Freelance Tools: Project Management

Just like in any other job where you have to collaborate, freelancing requires you to be organized and efficient. One way to do that is to have some sort of a Project Management program where you can track the development of you project. Make no mistake, project management does not only apply to online or software projects. It is used in just almost everything. We just don't notice it but we do project management in one way or another. We may put it in a piece of paper or we do it on our personal computer or we have it in our cellphones.

What is Project Management
Wikipedia define Project Management as the discipline of defining and achieving targets while optimizing the use of resources (time, money, people, materials, energy, space, etc) over the course of a project (a set of activities of finite duration).

Project Management Activities
Also from Wikipedia, Project Management is composed of the following activities:
  1. Planning the work
  2. Assessing risk
  3. Estimating resources
  4. Organizing the work
  5. Acquiring human and material resources
  6. Assigning tasks
  7. Directing activities
  8. Controlling project execution
  9. Reporting progress
  10. Analyzing the results based on the facts achieved
Don't be fooled by the length of the list. It can be applied to even the smallest project. Project management being used in freelancing helps us to be methodical in our approach. It gives us a clear view on where our project stands amid the complexity of the project itself. Most importantly, project management helps us manage more than one project at a time which we do most of the time.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Make Your Clients Happy

When selling anything, may it be products or services, our aim other than to earn is to make our clients happy. When going solo, we tend to all everything our selves - we do the dirty work, we do the support, we do the marketing, we do the selling... With so much work, we sometimes become sloppy. For lack of time, the quality of our work drop. And in time we start to lose our clients.

Quality Product and Services
So how do we keep our clients happy? As mentioned above, we maintain or better yet improve the quality of our work. But most of the time, improvements are hard to come by so maintaining the quality is the best that we can offer and we must never fail in that area.

Sense of Importance
Clients are demanding. They expect to be treated with utmost importance even on simplest task. It's not that they wanted us to spend all our time with them, what they want is that we give them our all when they need them. One good example of this is when doing a telecommute job, clients expect their freelancers to give them regular updates on the status of the project. They would like to think that we are doing something about the task/work given to us.

Deliver on Time
Time is gold. Almost every task has a need to deliver in a timely manner. Deadlines is part of the job. Clients welcomes it if we deliver before the deadline. This gives them a chance to test/check the product/output/result and returns before the deadline.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

How to Spot Work at Home Scams

Working at home holds a great deal of promise to most of us who wants more freedom. There tons and tons of work at home ideas and schemes both offline and online. We have these tendency to jump into those who offers almost everything and makes our lives easier. So how do you spot these schemes or scams? have a short list.

There are a few rules of thumb that I go by to determine if a work opportunity is legitimate.

1. Does it seem to good to be true? If someone is promising a lot of money, for little work - or it seems flavored to be a 'get rich quick' scheme, count me out.

2. Do they require money for more 'information' about the opportunity. Or do they require a down payment for materials (such as the envelope stuffing schemes, and other build crafts at home schemes.)

3. Do thorough research on any business opportunity you consider joining. There are some legitimate ones. Avon and Tupperware for example.
But it takes a certain type of person to make these types of biz ops work.

See, based on the list above, it's very easy to determine which one is a scam and which one is the real deal. However, there are still a number of us freelancers, especially the new ones, falls into these traps. These scammers are hedging on the fact that there are suckers born every minute.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Work at Home

A lot of people wants to be with their family. They want their work to be close to home. If possible they want to work at home. Home-based business by individuals are one the rise and most are earning well from it.

Work-at-Home and Freelancing Distinctions
Freelancing and Work-at-Home are most of the time one and the same. Sometimes they are not. Freelancing vaguely refers to those things you are paid to do. It is not necessarily a business but it sure can. Work at Home, on the other hand, refers to those things you do at home which are more likely a home business.

Work at Home is closely related to Home-based business than to freelancing. But since it falls into the category in which you are not employed, it can be considered as freelancing.

Work-at-Home People
The people who are likely to work at home are those who love staying home, those who needs to look after the children. Most of these people are mothers who needs to supplement the household income or wanted to earn some money to buy something for herself but at the same time needs to look after the children and take care of the house.

As mentioned, work at home is closely related to home business. And because it's a business, moms have the time on their hands flexible enough to take care of domestic matters. Unlike freelancing where time should be spent finishing a project, work at home allows a fraction of time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Taking on a project

When deciding on your freelance gigs, you mostly come to a point when you ponder on if to take the project or not. There are many criteria for you to decide whether to do it. The list below will help you choose if the project is worth taking.

Do you want the job?
More and more freelance gigs are dropped not due to it being difficult or anything but due to freelancers not enjoying what they are doing. If you like what you are working on, no pesky clients can put you down.

Does it pays good?
Of course you should ask yourself this. Pro-Bono is good but you should not be overdoing it. You are making a living here. Professional projects needs professional person and should pay well.

Do you like your client?
Working on a freelance gig with somebody who are not helping to get it done is never good. You must have a good working relationship with your client. You must be able to approach them and notify them about the projects and what other things you need for it to get done. And them to communicate to you about their concerns in the development of the project.

Will the project expand your client base?
You should look at your freelance gigs as a snowball that gets bigger the farther it rolls. What I mean is that your freelance gig must pave ways for you to get other gigs either by client rehiring or referring you to others. Will that project look good on your portfolio is another question to ask yourself.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Freelance Networking: Pseudo Company

You can't do everything. You need somebody to do something that you have limited or no knowledge at. Yes, you can be the "jack of all trades" but the quality of your work will suffer in one way or another.

Pseudo Company
What you need is to pool your resources and skills with other freelancers whose skills are related to yours but not totally the same. Simply put, you are a web developer who are good at codes. However web developing is not all codes. You need graphics, and html layouts. You certainly need a graphic artist and a web designer. It is only natural that you find other freelancers that compliments you and you with to them. What you and your "partners" have is a pseudo company. Not really a full company in the sense that you are all bosses and each of you have your own clients.

What's great about Pseudo Companies is that you are not limited to one. You can have multiple networks if you want depending on you resources and time. The downside to it, however, is that partners can easily leave the company whenever they want leaving the rest dysfunctional especially if you are in a middle of the project.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Freelancing: Finding Clients

The awful truth about freelancing is that you search for your own clients. The task is pretty easy if you have background in sales and marketing. If not, looking for clients is a steep hill to climb. Here are some of the ways you can get new clients.

Join Communities
You can join communities that are related to you. If you are an aspiring photographer, join photography groups in your community where you can share and learn at the same time the tricks of the trade. This is also a great way to get new clients by letting others know that you are in search of them. They might have more projects that they can handle they would happily refer to you.

Setup Website
The cheapest way to market yourself is through a website. Your website is your office in the web. People search in search engines for stuff they need. And if you have a website, these search engines can send these people to your site. Your website also serves as a repository of your works. If you're a freelance photographer, your website is your bestfriend next to your camera. Put up a gallery to show your work.

Pro Bono Work
Offering free services have gained popularity as the starting point to accumulate prospective clients. By giving free services, you are giving them a sample of the quality of your work or service. More often than not, if they like how you do business with them, they are likely to contact you in the future.

Business Cards and Fliers
As I've previously written, have a business card with you always - you never know who you'll meet today. In parties, do not be afraid or be ashamed to give away business cards. Give them out, give them out freely.

Parking lots is also you friend when marketing. Give out fliers in the parking lot. If you don't feel like it, attached them to the cars' windshield. They will surely notice especially when your fliers have good design and color.

Freelancing Contract

Sometimes, a none-paying client is all you need to be discouraged from pursuing a freelancing career and opt instead to receive a flat salary every month being employed. Freelancing pays good if you know how to make your clients pay. You don't even need force, just a piece of paper will do. What you need is a Freelancing Contract.

Freelancing Contract How-To, one of the best resource site in the internet has this guide on how to create a simple contract you can have your client signed. From that article I give you the steps here.

  1. You can create any sort of document that appears as an invoice. Many word processing programs contain a document wizard and several invoice templates. Open up one of these templates or create a new one.
  2. Your contract needs to be as specific as possible. In the upper right hand corner of the document you can type the words SERVICE TERMS, CONTRACT or any other variation in a bold, 12 or 14 point font size (larger than the rest of your contract type).
  3. On the left side, type your name, title, address, telephone, fax, Email, etc. Make sure all of your contact information appears here.
  4. On the right, type the date and complete contact information for your client.
  5. Assign the project a job number and write it down for your records. Also include this information on your contract, usually above the client's contact information for easy reference.
  6. Make a few lines to detail the job description. If you're giving a price quote for a TV commercial, write as much detail as you can. For example: Job Description: Joe's Used Cars (:30 TV Commercial)
  7. Are you charging by the hour or offering a flat rate? If charging by the hour, be sure to put your hourly rate on the contract and an estimate of how long it will take you to complete the project. If you're charging a flat rate, be sure to put on your contract that this is the bottom line price.
  8. Your contract can resemble an invoice (lines for a description, price, etc.) to be more professional. Of course, you don't want the word INVOICE to appear on your contract. But you can easily save a copy of this document as an invoice so when you complete your work, you can send an invoice that mirrors your contract. Less confusion and less room for debate over paying up.
  9. Now you're ready for the heart of your contract. Be very specific on what the client is getting. Just because you have your policies on your Web site doesn't mean you can be skimpy in your wording here. Example:
    Commercial Copy
    • Copy Due DATE
    • Revisions and rewrites included as defined in policy
    • Payment for services due within XX days of final revision
  10. Type in your price for the project (or estimated hours if you are working on an hourly rate). If you are working on an hourly rate, be sure to include terms on how you handle going over the hourly estimate. If you estimate 3 hours at $100 an hour and you come back with a job time of 8 hours, you're going to have a hard time convincing the client to honor their end of the deal.
  11. Write a line that acknowledges the client is accepting the terms by signing the contract. If you are doing your business via fax, as most freelancers hardly meet their clients these days, you'll want to tell the client they need to sign the contract and fax it back to you. You will sign the contract before you send it to them for their signature so they will have your signature on their copy.
  12. Make two lines at the bottom of the contract. One for you with your name typed below the line and one for your contact person at the ad agency or individual business with their name typed underneath the line. This will be your signature lines when you and a client accept each other's terms.
  13. Save your contract so you can plug in the details for your next project without having to start all over again.
  14. That's it! To see a sample of your finished contract, click on the link under the "Related Resources" section at the bottom of this page.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Freelancing Rates

Do you ever wonder how much to charge for your work or services? Yeah, it's tough decision to make. Charge too much and clients scampers away. Charge too low and you are working for nothing. If you are experiencing this anxiety, it is time to create a price matrix for your work/service. Sure, there will be times that you need to compromise and charge a bit higher or a bit lower. It all depends.

Also depending on you expertise, the rates vary. As a HTML Coder, you cannot expect to charge the same rate as your EJB programmer friend. And also, it adjusts to the level of mastery you have over your skills.

Webmonkey have a matrix that details freelancing rates depending on their skillset:

Writer (Technical)US$35 to $100
Writer (Non-Tech)$300 to $1,000 per piece
(or $.30 to $1 per word)
Editor$35 to $75
Copy editor$25 to $50
Producer$50 to $125
Information Designer$50 to $100
Interface Designer$30 to $75
Graphic Designer$50 to $150
Animator$50 to $150
Straight HTML Coder$10 to $30
Advanced HTML Coder (CSS, dHTML, etc.)$20 to $50
Programming (everything from Javascript to backend)$100 to $300

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Freelancing: Home Office

Being a freelancer gives you the freedom to conduct your business anywhere. You can be the on-the-go type who lugs around with a laptop, you can put up an office somewhere with lots of foot traffic, or you can have your office in the comfort of your home.

Home Office
The benefit of having your office at home is that you save money on office space lease, not to mention the additional cost of travelling to and from your office. It is very important to consider this especially if you are starting on your venture.

One of the pitfalls of having your office at home is you becoming lazy. Discipline is key to becoming a successful freelancer. You can't wake up at noon and work a few hours and expect to rake in loads of cash at the end of the day. Not unless you are selling you're a part of some money laundering syndicate. Even them works hard.

Ideal Home Office Space
Home office ideally are not big. They should be spacious enough to allow you to move around for that thinking/creative phase of you projects but no too spacious that you can't reach your tools at arm's length. That office space must be located far from the bedroom to discourage you to take that nap during your supposed work hours. And it must be out of your kids way.

Basic Equipment
So what, then, your small home office must have? For one a telephone line, you absolutely need this for clients to contact you and most importantly, you to contact them. Telephone line can be shared with the household but it's best if you can have a separate line. For online freelancing or work-at-home business type, an internet connection is required - you just can't do anything without it. A decent printer for that brochure presentation and contracts. An answering machine to take your calls when you're away, remember, you don't have secretary to answer them for you. A fax machine is also suggested.

Freelance Pro - Be the boss, Be free

Monday, April 03, 2006

Freelancing, Part-Time, Full-Time

Do you really have be unemployed to freelance? This is one of the question some of the freelancers who are the same time doing their own stuff ask themselves. Their reasons differ but most will agree that freelancing gives them the satisfaction they don't get from their job. In fact, it's great doing your own stuff. Another reason is that, they will have something to fall back into in case they decide to leave the corporate world or they are laying out the groundwork for their own business.

Part-time or Full-time
So is doing your own stuff while employed be considered freelancing? I think so. In that part of your world, you are free. You are your boss. And unless your company clearly prohibits you from doing so, which they usually doesn't care unless you're trying to undermine their clients, you can do all you can in your own time.

So let's say you work in a technology company, Search Engine Optimization to be specific. Of course it will be a conflict of interest if you are doing the same thing for money in your free time. But you can always go into web design where you can integrate your SEO expertise anyhow or go into affiliate marketing for yourself which also leverages your SEO mastery. This is called part-time freelancing.

So when do you go full-time freelancing? Full-time freelancing is in essence you are already building your own business. The time for one to become a full-time freelancer is ripe when his/her earnings from freelancing is more than double than what he/she is earning from his day job. It only mean one thing. If you will just exert a little more effort on that freelancing thing, you are better off doing it all the way. But then there are other things to consider, like securities of offered by an employed person or the discipline one has to sustain his/her work habit. Mileage varies. In the end, it's case to case basis.