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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Understanding the Business Aspect of Freelancing

Being a freelance designer is more than just fun and games. It’s not just playing around with Photoshop and other gadgets. You need to master the harder aspect of freelancing too: the business aspect of things. Once you know the ins and outs of the business of freelance, you’re sure to be a successful freelancer. Freelance is a business, first and foremost. You have to sell yourself to your clients to make a living.

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The Business Aspect of Freelancing

There are several business management errors a freelancer can make: finance mismanagement, no business plan, client mismanagement, etc., avoid these pitfalls, as they can be a very hard and expensive mistakes. You don’t need to be a business guru or hire a financial adviser. You will only need plain common sense and understanding of some basic business concepts. Here are the basic things you need to know about the business aspect of Freelancing.

Business Plan

A business requires lots of planning. So from the start, it’s important to have a solid business plan in place. The use of the business plan will provide you all the necessary strategies and information so that you can succeed in your endeavors, move forward stably and avoid any unexpected pitfalls and problems.

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Most freelance jobs are creative-based: photography, graphic design and creative writing. Thus the idea of actually writing a formal business plan can seem daunting. Don’t worry, you don’t need a very in-depth business plan with a freelance business. The business plan needs to define the most necessary parts:

  • Executive Summary – The whole summary of the business plan, on what it is in a nutshell.
  • Competitive Analysis – How can you define the freelance situation in your area? It pays to do your research on the competition, but remember that fellow freelancers create healthy competition, cooperation, learning, and more.
  • Business Overview and Description – What is your business about? What areas do you specialize in? What are your expertise? Are there any types of projects you want to work on? Be as concise and precise on what your freelance business is all about.
  • Operating Procedure – Freelance businesses are usually a one man show, which makes operating procedures easier. Just outline how you are going to operate your business, as well as when and where you plan to work.
  • Financial Review – Check your expenses and income coming in. This will give you an idea of how much you’re going to charge. You will also know your financial status and what direction you’re heading in the future.
  • Action Plan – What marketing techniques are you planning to employ? You need a detailed plan on how you’re going to get your name out there, to get more clients and projects.
Some people start ventures and businesses without a business plan, and that’s fine. However, remember that it is never too late for you to create a business plan.

Understanding the Basic Laws




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Copyright Laws

Copyright laws have become a bit more complicated with the dawn of the World Wide Web. It is now too easy to steal work online.

First things first, you must know which things you can copyright, and which ones you can’t. There are certain things that you can not copyright: ideas, concepts, methods,  procedures, slogans, discoveries and anything owned by the government cannot be copyrighted. Once you’ve owned a copyright, you now have exclusive right to give permission for the reproduction and distribution of copies. Anyone who wants to use your copyrighted property must get your consent first.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement can be costly and can put your reputation at stake. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects copyrighted material. Through copyright protection systems, signal scramblers and encryption technology is now considered a criminal offense.

The simplest way to avoid a copyright is by obtaining the copyright owner’s permission before using it in any of your work. If you can’t get their permission, try to restate their idea in your own words. But don’t use large segments of someone’s article, as that is blatant copyright infringement.

Plagiarism

Your reputation will be at stake if you are accused of copyright infringement and plagiarism. There are instances where writers and designers have been accused of plagiarism but have done so unintentionally. To avoid plagiarism, use plagiarism checker sites like Copyscape. All you need to do is copy-paste the article into the box and then it automatically searches the World Wide Web for any content that matches the article.

Taxes

No one can escape the clutches of taxes. Thus, every freelancer must be prepared with the necessary paperwork and documents–income, expenses, and whatnot. Do you know that you can also get tax deductions for certain expenses: equipment, travel expenses, transportation expenses, etc.? Just be sure to keep track of all your receipts so you can write them off.

If you want to get a Social Security System number, you’ll need to pay the self employment tax. You may see the need to hire a tax professional to help you sort through your documents.

Your Workspace

You should choose a prime location that will maximize your productivity. Some freelancers choose to work at home. Working at home has plenty of perks. For one, you don’t have to spend on rent and other costs. However many freelance designers cannot work well at home, they find it too restraining, too boring or too comfortable.

You can opt to work at alternative working places such as cafes and parks. Some designers thrive in places with a lot of noise and interaction, but some don’t.

For more creative offices: 40 Creative Offices for Your Inspiration

Shared working spaces are now the latest trend in working, as they provide the necessary business essentials: wi-fi, fax machine, photocopiers, a conference room and some healthy human interaction.

If you do have the money, you can always rent office space to add professionalism to your business. You will have to wait for your business and client list to grow substantially.

Artist Rate

Your artist rate is the single most important factor to decide when starting your freelance design business. Some freelancers prefer to charge hourly, while others charge on a per project basis.

I recommend you to charge your smaller projects and revisions by the hour; but charge your large projects on a per project basis.

Client Management

Finding Clients

Of course, to keep the income coming in you have to create a solid client base. The best freelance designers are great businessmen and salespeople. You are selling yourself after all, and projects help you put food on your plate.

To find your clients, you have to advertise your work. You’ll have to create a strong web site and portfolio so that your work will be shown to prospective clients. Behance is a good web site, but you will need an invite to create a portfolio. There are plenty of free portfolio web sites there to check out, such as Flickr and DeviantArt. If you want full freedom and customization for your portfolio, invest in your own professional web site.

Social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter are very powerful. Be sure to include all your contact information, web site, Twitter and links to your other social networking site. Upload photos and constantly update statuses, news and events to have a constant presence online. You don’t have to be very formal about things, but maintain professionalism. Always check grammar and typos before you click ‘Post’.

After completing a project, it helps to get testimonials, commendations and referrals. Online marketing is a strong tool, you can now promote yourself and spend a lot less than investing in the expensive tri-media vehicle of print, TV and radio. Social media is still booming, and best of all, it generates great buzz for free.

Traditional techniques are just as important in snagging clients. Networking is a powerful tool, so be sure to be well-connected with fellow artists, designers and freelancers. Be sure to have a business card with you wherever you go. Contact every design studio, animation studio or advertising agency in your area. They might need you for outsourcing. You can also go to local publishing houses, print shops, newspapers, magazines and book houses.

Personal networking may even be more powerful. The more people you know, your name would more likely come up. So network, attend as many events, introduce yourself. Patronize local services, and they will surely do the same for you.

Satisfying Clients

So you’ve started building up a solid client base. The next most important step is to keep them happy so they bring you more work.

A successful business knows how to satisfy their clients. You should be able to effectively meet their objectives and expectations. Of course, you can say that it’s impossible to please everyone. But by listening well you will know what your clients sincerely wants. Be modest, and don’t oversell their expectations. Be honest and open to communication. Give them any idea on any challenges and roadblocks you may encounter along the way.

Dealing with Agreements and Payments

To make an agreement formal, you must draw up a contract. This legally binding document is necessary for drawing out the parameters of the business relationship, deadline, payment, number of revisions, just to name a few things that should be covered. A contract is important for defining the project and scope, as well as for protecting the rights of both the freelancer and the client.

Get everything on paper to protect yourself especially during the time of collection of payments. Have a payment deadline and lay out when you expect to be paid: up front, upon completion of the project, or during a set time period. Most designers need a deposit of around 50% before starting a project.

As your business and client base grows, you can then write proposals or bid for larger projects. This is known as RFP (request for proposal) or RFQ (request for quotation).

Financial Statement

There are plenty of financial terms that every entrepreneur has to be familiar with. One is balance sheet, which lists the business’ assets, liabilities and equity.

Assets include investments that put money into your pocket. These includes cash, buildings, fixtures, land, capital, equipment, patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc. Liabilities are accounts payable, credit issued by banks, loans and mortgages. Equity means investments in your business plus the fiscal profits. Through your balance sheet, you can determine how ‘financially healthy’ your business status is.

Just as important is knowing the cash flow of your business, so then you will know your liquidity. By defining your current financial state you can then establish goals to challenge yourself and increase sales and profit over time. Set deadlines for your goals monthly, quarterly or yearly. You can be as aggressive with your goals as you can, and review them everyday to give yourself motivation.

Freelance Discipline

Freelancers need to be disciplined. Methodology must be professional and projects must be delivered on time. If you are planning a meeting with your client, be sure to arrive there at least 15 minutes before. Be prepared with your portfolio and appear presentable (but, please, still be yourself).

It always pays to be prepared, so be sure to insure your business. You need to protect yourself in case of unexpected emergencies. Basic insurance to get include: health insurance, business insurance, gain loss insurance, accident insurance and life insurance.

Every freelance designer must have a good back up strategy. Have plenty of external hard drives for back ups, as well as an online back up such as DropBox and the Cloud. This is to ensure that all your documents are safe.

Being a freelance designer is no excuse for you to be lazy. Just because you are in control of your time, or you don’t have a boss, doesn’t mean you can be idle. In fact, being your boss and handling your own business is harder than any day job you can think of. You should be your own strict boss, follow your own guidelines and be serious about your discipline.

Source:http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/design/understanding-business-aspect-of-freelancing/

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Friday, May 11, 2012

10 Commandments for Freelance Web Designers to Live By

Do you ever compare your work to the work of other designers? Are you afraid to ask clients for money?

If you are a freelance web designer, you know how difficult this lifestyle can be. From scheduling, to dealing with crazy clients, to managing your own work/life balance—there is a lot to juggle!

So to simplify your life a little, I am letting you in on my 10 Commandments of Freelancing that have helped me through many tough times. I hope they help you too!

10 Commandments for Freelance Web Designers to Live By

Freelance Web Designers Commandments

1. Thou Shalt Start Small, but Dream Big

Whether you are just starting out or have been freelancing for a while, remember, everyone starts small. If you keep working diligently at building your freelance career and believe you can succeed, you will notice positive growth over time. Don’t ever give up!

2. Thou Shalt Not Beat Yourself Up and Compare Yourself to Others

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Image by Nighthawk

Low self confidence will impede your progress as a freelancer. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that what you do is easier than working a 9 to 5 job. Yes, you create your own schedule and there are many perks, but the mental battle can be fierce! You must constantly put yourself out there and you become vulnerable every time you submit work to a client.

Have you ever had these thoughts?

Will they like my work?
Will they reject it and think I am not qualified?
What if they don’t like it? Will I ever make a living doing this?

First, remember that your work is not a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Separating your personal worth from your work is half the battle. It’s OK to make mistakes and work through them. Mistakes do not define you; they make you stronger.

3. Thou Shalt Not Forget How Much You Know

You do not have to be the award-winning, perfect, millionaire-making designer to provide your clients valuable services. This doesn’t mean you should stop learning and growing in your craft. But, most web designers fail to realize how MUCH they actually know because they are so busy comparing their knowledge to other successful designers instead of serving their clients.

And if you have been working as a freelancer for a long time, it is easy to forget how much knowledge you have because your skills have become so commonplace to you. It is NOT common knowledge to your clients, if it was, they would not be coming to you for help! You have something to offer!

4. Thou Shalt Not Feel Guilty About Asking for Money

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Image by johnridley

This commandment ties into the last one. If you know the value you offer, you will not feel guilty about invoicing a client. Your clients are paying you for your service and time and if you gave the project your all, you deserve every penny owed to you.

5. Thou Shalt Keep a Schedule or Face Procrastination

Procrastination is like our evil sidekick that vies for our attention. For me, it attacks when I hit an obstacle with a project. It’s much easier to check Facebook or respond to a friend’s email then to tackle an obstacle head on.

To avoid procrastination, create a weekly/daily schedule and assign hourly tasks. When I create a schedule the night or week before, I know exactly what needs to be accomplished and how much time it should take. If you do not create a schedule, you will be tempted to push a project back another day and convince yourself you will have time to finish it tomorrow.

6. Thou Shalt Not Work Yourself to the Bone

Some freelancers have the opposite problem of procrastination. If you stay up late at night and take on more projects than you know you can handle, you may need a reality check. The extra stress is not healthy, even if you need the money. Your health is not worth it!

If you feel like you are working too much, it may be time to raise your rates. Never underestimate what you are worth.

Don’t think that no one will pay you what you are worth. When you have this mindset, you take the low-paying projects and work harder than you have to. There are plenty of clients who pay for quality work.You just have to know how to brand yourself to look like the expert that you are and market your services accordingly. If you are confident in your services, your clients will be as well.

7. Thou Shalt Change Out of Your Pajamas

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I know I am not the only one who, from time to time, stays in my PJ’s all day! Raise your hand or leave a comment if you are equally guilty! It’s way too easy for freelancers to roll out of bed and go straight to your desk.

On days when I am not leaving my office, I find it productive to get ready as if I am leaving for a meeting. When you remain in your pajamas, you will stay in “sleep mode.” When you get dressed for the day, you become energized and more ready to face the day.

8. Thou Shalt Get Up and Move Every Hour

Have you ever sat at your computer in a comatose state for more than 10 hours at a time?

For health reasons it’s good to get up and walk around every hour, even if for just a few minutes.

It gets your blood circulating. It’s not good to stay in a sedentary state for longer than an hour at a time.

9. Thou Shalt Say No!

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Image by Oddball27

Remember that it is OK to say “no” to a project if it doesn’t line up with your skillset or your desired budget. You are hiring your clients just as much as they are hiring you. If you are not comfortable with a task or the nature of the work, pass on it. You will be happy you did.

10. Thou Shalt Not Work for Free

If you are just starting on your first few projects, you can offer free work in exchange for exposure, but most of the time it is not worth it. Clients will give you every reason to work with them for next to nothing and promise you grand exposure even though their website doesn’t even have enough traffic to track. Do your research and just say no!

Do you have other commandments you live by? I would love to hear more!

http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/design/ten-freelance-web-designers-commandments/

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