Danny Margulies is a copywriter and six-figure Elancer on a mission to help freelancers earn more money. Get his top 5 Elance hacks for earning on Elance free of charge here.
I don’t know about you, but as someone who writes for a living, math has never been my favorite subject.
Yet in order to earn a healthy freelancing income, I have no choice but to pull out my trusty old calculator every once in a while and crunch some numbers.
I’m not talking about advanced calculus here -- just some basic math goes a long way when you’re planning your freelance career.
For starters, let’s say you wanted to earn $50,000 per year.
Let’s work backwards.
Okay, so all we need to do now is divide that ($50,000) by the number of working hours in a year, and that’s how much we should charge, right?
Not so fast.
Not all of those hours are going to be billable. In other words, we won’t get paid for every hour we work (more on this in a second).
So how many billable hours per week should we plan for?
A good rule of thumb for most full time freelancers is to aim for 20 hours of billable work per week.
In reality, full time freelancers will likely work more than that, but you need to account for time spent doing things like bookkeeping, proposals, interviewing potential clients, and of course the occasional dry spell.
You’ll also need to take at least a couple of weeks off each year, to rest and recharge your batteries.
So this leaves us with [20 billable hours per week] x [50 weeks] = 1,000 billable hours to work with.
As you can see, even though we might well work a “full” 40 hour work week, it’s better to plan conservatively, and estimate 20 hours in which we’ll actually be earning our income.
Being overly optimistic can come back to haunt you if things don’t go exactly according to plan, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.
The next step is to calculate your hourly rate: $50,000 / [1,000 billable hours] = $50 per hour.
Here’s another article from Lee Bob Black of SkilledUp. Also check out SkilledUp on LinkedIn.
#1: Look inward first
This year’s PayScale Compensation Best Practices Report hits home how difficult it is to keep top talent. It found that between 50 percent and 70 percent of employers in the following industries have concerns with staff retention:
· Information, media and telecommunications
· Professional, scientific and technical services
· Finance and insurance
Since 2009, the number of companies that consider retention a “main concern” has grown steadily.
A key ingredient to retaining top talent is simple: don’t overlook them. When a new position opens up, successful human resource managers make a habit of first looking to existing employees. Only after confirming a position can’t be filled internally do they focus on external candidate recruitment.
Preferring to promote from within helps create companies that people don’t want to quit. It also links with how successful HR managers realize that retaining top talent isn’t just about writing bigger checks.
Not every HR problem must to be solved quick-smart. Sometimes it’s helpful to just lend an ear. Open yourself up to your staff. Give them space to talk about what irks them.
Keep in mind some of the benefits of giving someone your full attention:
· Listening to people precedes understanding them
· Listening is the best way to learn about people’s problems
Here’s another article from Lee Bob Black of SkilledUp. In this one, he links profitability with being a finisher and a specialist, and with valuing being on time. Be sure to check out his previous “Fearless Freelancing” articles about digital skills and justifying charging higher rates. Also check out SkilledUp on LinkedIn.
Have you read Elance’s guide to earning more money? It’s chock full of practical tips to help you score work (have a sterling profile, complete skills tests, read your client’s feedback, etc.). That said, after you’ve found your freelancing feet, it’s time to really boost your income. Here are some time-tested behaviors of freelancers who have turned their businesses into wealth generating machines.
1. They finish 100% of the job.
Highly profitable freelancers are finishers. They don’t do most of the work. They acknowledge that often the last 5% of a project is the hardest — and then finish every last task.
On the other hand, sub-par freelancers do nearly all of the work, and then wonder why their job history is filled with “Jobs without Payment.”
Bottom line: Start strong and end strong. Don’t be one of those freelancers who is enthusiastic in the beginning and then disappears in the final stages when the going gets tough.
A joke to put this habit into perspective: What’s the hardest part about running a marathon? The last mile.
Tip: Consider experimenting with over-delivering. If a client asks you to research ten prospective clients, maybe find her fifteen.
One more tip: Read Ben Matthews’s post about great habits you should do to finish a freelance job on a high, some of which include providing a project summary, getting a client testimonial, and saying thank you.
2. They know thier niche.
Highly profitable freelancers are specialized. A solvent writer might be able to write about anything under the sun, but will most likely list specific competencies on her profile, such as legal writing. A financially well-off user experience (UX) designer might be able to rejigger the layout of any website, but will most likely list specific UX skills on his profile, such as wireframing and prototyping skills.
Many forecasters have predicted 2015 as the year of the freelancer, with a recent study estimating that 53 million Americans are currently working freelance. The same study has tipped that 50% of the American workforce will be made up of freelancers by 2020. A large portion of that workforce will be digital nomads and those figures only refer to American trends. Looking back ten years, this is a huge contrast, considering that in 1995 it was an employee powered workforce with full and part time in-house staff making up 93% of the labour provision.
Globally the life of a digital nomadhas become not only a more attractive lifestyle choice, but for many a more practical one. Digital nomads allow themselves choice of work location by leveraging technology to facilitate their activities. This lifestyle for many is more productive and cost effective, and at the same time provides a greater work/life balance.
The Internet of course was the precursor for this shift in work behaviors. Although there was a slow build up to Wi-Fi through the late 1980’s and most of the 1990’s, by 1999 it had been standardized and brought to market by Apple, who released the first laptop with a Wi-Fi slo. Suddenly the ability to be connected made the need to be in a traditional office environment less vital. Global Internet access along with more efficient and inexpensive equipment has opened up the possibilities for freelancers who have been able to redesign their lives without the restrictions of a place they need to be from 9 to 5.
Of course the ability to do the work is only half the equation, the digital revolution has meant that the way we work has also changed. The online world requires a different skillset than we were previously equipped with and progress is moving faster than our ability to meet its need. Education reform is shifting towards STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - as core subjects to meet the growing demand for skills that match the future needs of the workplace. However there is a skills gap in the current workforce that employers are scrambling to deal with. A 2014 study found jobs in computing, mathematics and engineering made up 70% of the roles employers found difficult to fill. In addition, new graduates are leaving college to find they are missing specific required skills that the workforce is demanding. Online tech boot camps such as Codecademy, CareerFoundry and General Assembly have provided a comprehensive solution in these cases by offering intensive online training in areas where skills are most required. You’ll also find great courses at Elance University. Programming jobs are the most in demand and learning to code is becoming as important as learning to read and write.
If you haven’t checked out Upwork’s Hiring Hub yet, now is a good time to visit.
The Hiring Hub is the ultimate resource for entrepreneurs, executives and freelancers -- with new articles added every week.
Learn about everything from web development and design, to marketing strategies and advice for making your app idea a reality. You’ll also find tips on how to create the perfect profile and ways to shape your success. Check it out.
Millennials (the term used to refer to those born between 1980 and the year 2000 — give or take a few years) make up more than a quarter of the global population, and are estimated to be a demographic with $200 billion in annual buying power by 2017.
However, to lure this influential group, marketers and merchants must understand that although millennials were born and raised by baby boomers, Gen X and silent generation parents, what they value, where they find information, and how they purchase differs greatly from their parents.
Here’s a look at why millennials love e-commerce:
They don’t believe advertising. Most millennials don’t recall a time when advertisers controlled messages, perception or public opinion. Having come of age in an era of the Internet and social media, traditional advertising’s influence is nearly extinct in the eyes of this demographic. Just 1 percent are swayed by it, according to an Elite Daily study.
E-commerce provides the transparency and public exchange millennials crave. With features like online customer product reviews, social media sharing, and customer forums, e-commerce gives millennials the power to research and make purchase decisions on their own terms. The Elite Daily study also revealed that 43 percent of millennials value authenticity over content when determining what they ultimately believe.
Elance makes it pretty darn easy for us freelancers to connect with potential clients. Like, ridiculously easy.
Still, in order to win business, there’s no escaping the fact that we need to reach out and make a connection with the people we hope will hire us.
Yes, we need to sell ourselves. But that doesn’t mean you “put on your selling hat” and convince the client to sign on the dotted line the way it’s done in movies like Glengarry Glen Ross.
Here are some more subtle (and effective) ways to go about it.
1. Put the client's needs first
Clients are human; telling them “all about me” isn’t likely to get them very excited.
Nor is breaking out a complicated list of working and payment terms a good way to endear yourself to a client with 20 other proposals in front of her.
What is likely to make clients want to work with you is showing them you care about helping them succeed.
You do that by talking mostly about them, their project, and their needs. Of course, you also need to talk about you, but mainly in the context of how you’ll be in the corner, helping them win.
In a crowded marketplace, it’s that personal connection that helps you cut through the clutter and earn a client’s trust quickly.
2. Balance professionalism with friendliness
Clients don’t really hire “freelancers” -- they hire people.
Unfortunately, text-based communication doesn’t do a whole lot to bring out your humanity. You need to do some extra work to come across as a “real person.”
The way I do it is by making my proposals (and post-proposal messages to clients) light and friendly, rather than being too formal. I’ll try to make a joke, pay a genuine compliment, or even put a smiley face right into a proposal if it feels right.
Yes you do want to be professional, but there’s no rule that says you can’t show clients your personality, too.
3. Don't try too hard
It’s ironic, but the harder you try to sell yourself to potential clients, the less effective your pitch is going to be. There are a few reasons for that:
● With plenty of freelancers for each client to choose from, “hard sell” tactics are totally ineffective
● Sounding too eager makes you appear desperate, a surefire recipe for making clients run from you in all directions
● Clients want to make decisions at their own pace, not ours
How do you sell yourself?
What approaches have you had success with when selling your freelance services on Elance? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
Here are some thoughts on freelancer productivity, from Julie Ellis. She's a blogger with a love for writing and travelling.
You’re an infopreneur, and you plan to be successful in this business. You gather information; you organize information; you package information; and you market that information to others. Your product is information, and there is little difference between your responsibilities and those of someone who is manufacturing and selling chairs.
One of the biggest mistakes that all entrepreneurs make, including solopreneurs like yourself, is equating being busy with being productive. Being busy means that you spend lots of time on your business endeavors; being productive means that you don’t just spend time – you manage it. So, give yourself a little test. Here are 7 things that productive entrepreneurs do to manage their time. How well have you implemented these things into your days and weeks?
1. Productive People Make Lists: Busy people make “to-do” lists every day. But productive people make them differently, and here’s how:
- They prioritize their lists, so that the most important and critical tasks are always at the top.
- They do not move to #2 on that list until #1 has been accomplished.
- They revise their lists, narrowing them to focus on those things that will actually generate income.
- They make their lists on paper or print them out, rather than keep them “hidden” in a document file or calendar on their computers. The lists are beside them every day, in their work space. And they leave spaces between each item and the next, so if an idea pops up, they can make note of it by the related task on the list.
- They make their lists for the next day at the end of the current workday.
- This may be a matter of personal choice, but many productive people have two lists – one for daily tasks, and one for longer-term tasks. These longer term tasks can be posted on a wall as reminders, so that when there is some downtime from daily “to-do’s,” they can be addressed incrementally.
- Productive people tend to set blocks of time for their tasks and try to maintain that schedule.
2. Productive People Have Dedicated Work Spaces: This is especially important if you work out of your home. The kitchen table is not a work space; your bedroom is not a work space, unless you have set aside a specific area solely for that purpose; and your living room couch is not a work space. Productive people go to their work spaces only when it is time to work, and that space does not “double” as anything else.
Here's a note on the future of work, from Upwork CEO Stepane Kasriel.
Yesterday, avid followers of internet-driven disruption dove into the annual insights feast that is Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report. 2015 marks the report’s 20th anniversary. When the report first launched in 1995, Internet usage was minimal -- only 0.6% of the global population (vs. 39% in 2014) and 9% of the U.S. population (vs. 84% in 2014) had access. E-commerce was in its infancy. Airbnb wouldn’t exist for another 12 years.
Since then, everything from software and media to lodging and crafts has moved online. What market is next? How about work... So many of us continue to slog through daily commutes. We sit for hours in offices. We feel as if we’re waiting for the school bell to ring at the end of the day to escape. Why are we behaving this way? Our habits are born of the Industrial Age, when people had to be in one place to work factory lines. But there is almost no need for that today. Meeker’s report proclaims that the “big 20-year change” is people have become connected to the Internet through their devices 24/7. We can all log on to “go to work” rather than drive to an office. Furthermore, manufacturing jobs are going away and innovation-driven jobs are on the rise. This innovation-driven work is much more easily performed online.
Today we’re excited to introduce another regular contributor to the Elance blog, Bruce Lilly. He spearheads Editorial Services by Bruce and is a regular contributor of prose to our online work platform.
You write proposals until your wrists ache, your coffee’s cold and the sun’s dying, and still no bites. How can you find a job if nobody will give you a chance?
Hi, my name’s Bruce. My business Editorial Services by Bruce recently became one of the top 50 of over 12,500 Writing & Translation businesses on Elance. A lot of work went into this milestone, but 2 key questions are perpetually in my head before applying for any job.
· What do I as a freelancer value in this job in particular?
· What does my client value in a freelancer?
In that context, I’m going to share 2 simple ideas with you that will net you more jobs. It’s not rocket science, and they’re not Rockefeller tips. But they might just be enough to get your Elance car rumbling to life—or, if it’s already started, to help you find the accelerator.
Maximize your profile value before anything else.
Some people might tell you to “fake it ‘til you make it’” right out of the gate when it comes to Elance. Sign up and then shoot for ridiculously high rates. Sure, you won’t get every job, they might add, and your client might bargain you down, but at least you’ll land among the well-paid stars.
You’ll soon come to realize—like we all do—that unless you’re Blake from Glengary Glen Ross most clients will just ignore you if you charge too much and have no experience. You usually need a few healthy-star ratings with testimonials to snatch any truly high-income gig. Job History Feedback is often cited as the most valuable variable that clients use when deciding to hire a freelancer.