Corporations thrive when key factors—efficient operations, low costs, positive returns on investment, and new opportunities—align. To maximize your efforts and profits as a freelancer, you want to run your operation with the same business savvy as a corporate leader.
In this white paper, STI Knowledge VP of Operations Tim Dewey explains that all roadmaps have a starting point, and identifying and monitoring a few key metrics in your freelance business can work the same way. Not only will you have the tools needed to objectively assess your current business, you can establish long-term goals, and identify what steps will help you reach them—just as a corporation does.
Here’s how to (and why you should) run your operation like a corporation:
1. Analyze your process. You may track the billable hours you spend on client projects, but do you consider where you spend time throughout an entire workday? What do your additional activities earn—or cost—your freelance business?
Corporate process-improvement teams are tasked with streamlining operations to eliminate waste, maximize resources, and ultimately produce more cost-effective outcomes. You can apply the same principles to improve your own productivity and profitability as a freelancer: For one week, keep a thorough record of all the tasks, including the seemingly meaningless ones (from snack breaks to reading Twitter updates), that you perform in a workday.
An honest observation will likely show that much of your time is devoted to producing work, communicating with clients, and prospecting. But you’ll also be able to spot unproductive patterns of behavior, such as “hidden” time-wasters like habitually checking and reacting to nonessential emails and chat messages, or social-media distractions that aren’t business-related. You may even find ways to improve your efficiency around essential tasks such as banking, invoicing, and running errands by taking advantage of mobile applications and automated solutions.
Remember: Time is money when you’re a freelancer, and the more waste you can eliminate from your business, the better your bottom line looks.
This is a story of a delicious combination of hi-tech and health food that grew on the fertile grounds of Elance.
While working long hi-tech hours in a fast growing online advertising network, I made a decision to live a healthier lifestyle and part of that resolve included making healthier food choices in my daily diet. I searched for food that would allow me to maintain a healthy weight, gain all the nutrition I need and still enjoy what I eat. And so I found sesame butter—a yummy peanut-free spread, bursting with yummy nutty flavor and numerous nutritional benefits.
After a quest for finding the perfect sesame butter, I've finally begun to make it myself. With a single ingredient and absolutely no additives, I started making my very own organic sesame butter. When my coworkers fell in love with it, I understood that other people may want to enjoy sesame butter as well.
Few professional opportunities are as liberating, exhilarating, and altogether terrifying as working for yourself. For the typical full-time freelancer, the ability to “make it” hinges upon having the skills, time-management savvy, and perpetual motivation to ward off the always looming threat of failure. But the pressures associated with going solo can also hinder your success and hasten your return to a “traditional” job.
Without question, the personal and professional rewards that can result from self-employment are immense. Let’s take a look at the five most common pitfalls of freelancing—and how to avoid them.
1. Failing to Follow a Daily Routine
It is perhaps the greatest irony of the self-employment experience: Time and again, freelancers decide to work for themselves to escape the drudgery of their office routines and tedious hours. But unless the self-employed set—and abide by—a similar daily routine, success won’t come easily, if at all. Staying on track with a robust but healthy weekday routine, from waking up at a consistent time to keeping clearly defined work hours, is the most effective way to meet your deadlines, accomplish more, and maintain your sanity.
What do you do if you have been out of work for 99 weeks, your unemployment is running out and you have no prospects? What do you do if you are 30-something, have two kids at home, and the thought of not having a flexible schedule bums you out? What do you do if you don’t like working for The Man and long to do be your own boss?
You join the ranks of the self-employed, that’s what.
In the past generation there has been a transformation of work that has enabled more people than ever to become freelancers and join the self-employed revolution. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, websites, apps, hardware, software, and great sites like this one (and a cool new one, below) have made it so that any small business can look big and make money.
And it turns out that more and more people are in fact joining the self-employed work revolution. Consider that Time Magazine recently said that 2012 just may be “The Year of the Entrepreneur”:
Jobs are in scarce supply, and underemployment is at an all-time high. Things look bleak. But, truth be told, there has never been a better time for individuals to start new businesses. Taking up entrepreneurship is now an extremely doable means to overcome unemployment and underemployment, and perhaps even get rich.
Whereas a traditional office or retail space was a necessity less than a decade ago, today, thanks to the rise of virtual office services and co-working spaces, working from home or Starbucks is the new norm.
When I first signed up on Elance as a writer/editor, I really had no idea what to expect. My first projects were small ones—a few press releases, a couple of sales letters, some content editing. Little did I know then that I would be doing projects on a huge variety of subjects, from the ordinary to the intriguing to the bizarre, and that I would be working with people from all over the world and learning more about the global economy and the global education system than I ever would have thought possible.
When I look back on my projects over the three years I’ve worked on Elance—and I’m sure it would be similar not just for other writers and editors but also for web developers, graphic designers, etc.—my client list is extremely varied: lawyer, airline pilot, software developer, pastor, photographer, musician, and the list goes on. To date, they come from 35 countries—Brazil, Italy, Israel, Egypt, South Africa, Russia, India, Singapore…What it means is that, as an Elance contractor, you’re always learning—about so many subjects and so many countries.
The Global Economy
In the global economy, English is the international language of business and also of advanced schooling in the top US, UK and international schools.
As a freelancer, you've taken control of your career. You can scale your workload up and down as you see fit, but how do you effectively manage yourself without losing a step? Kevin Casey, a Null Media author, and Jerome Iveson, who founded project management site Solo, discuss how a freelancer can best manage their most valuable resource—time.
One of the great allures of the freelance life is the opportunity to gain more control over how you spend your time. But making that dream a reality while building a successful, sustainable business can prove to be a challenge.
For starters, there’s the nagging anxiety that if you’re not working you’re not making money, which is, unfortunately, largely true. There’s no such thing as paid time off in the freelance world. Working for yourself revives the old cliché that “Time is money.” Mismanaging your time can become exceedingly expensive and sidetrack an otherwise promising career. This fact becomes even more apparent when you factor in all the mundane but necessary non-paying tasks of running your business, such as invoicing, courting new clients, and paying taxes.
So what are the best ways to maximize your time as a freelancer? We asked Jerome Iveson, founder of Solo, an online project-management suite designed specifically for freelancers, to share his thoughts. He offered some straightforward advice for how to manage your most valuable commodity and to avoid common time sinks.
1. Overestimate your time. Freelance pros who don’t take steps to adequately understand how much time a project or assignment will require set themselves up for major management headaches. If you ever take on work thinking “piece of cake,” take a moment to be sure it’s not a schedule drain in disguise. “Underestimating how long something will take is a killer. Always overestimate,” Iveson says. “This is especially the case if you are attempting something new that may be just outside your comfort zone. Learning on the job is all well and good, but it will take longer.”
Back in the day, when you needed help you hired people to work in your office. Employing someone on the other side of the country—or the world— to do a job remotely was unheard of. Today, it’s a different story. In this economy, “virtual hires” make sense, because they can save you money on office space and employee benefits. Of course, some short- and long-term tasks are easier to handle from afar than others.
According to technology research firm Gartner Inc., the number of worldwide remote workers will pass 46 million this year. Here are five types of positions that lend themselves well to remote contract workers, as well as some tips for hiring and managing the people who’ll fill them.
1) Web Programmers and Designers
Tasks: You want to revamp your company’s website or set up a new one, but you don't have the time or the knowledge to design it or write the underlying code. A web programmer (for the code) or web designer (for the layout) can handle all project-development responsibilities remotely, sending you samples and layouts for review.
Hiring considerations: Review candidates’ portfolios to see what types of sites they’ve developed and ask what role they played in building or designing each one. Not all web programmers or designers excel in the same areas, so look for the ones who specialize in the skills that your project requires. For example, if you’re designing an e-commerce website, your virtual hires should have strong experience with creating online product catalogs, shopping carts and payment methods. When working on projects, make sure that at the outset you and your virtual hire agree to a timeline that is reasonable for everyone. Setting deadlines, from the date a programmer delivers the first beta version for your review to the period of time you’ll take to approve a designer’s layout, is important to avoid misunderstandings and problems.
For freelancers, the time-honored tradition of making New Year’s resolutions should involve thoughtfully reflecting upon the events of the past year—both successes and shortfalls—and then using the resulting insights to chart a bold new course for the future. Although statistics show that many personal resolutions are broken by Valentine’s Day (mostly due to a lack of willpower), framing your professional goals in the context of a small-business strategy may help you stick with things.
“Many institutions do an end-of-the-year strategic analysis, where they take stock before going forward into the new year,” Temple University psychologist Frank Farley tells USA Today. What works for large organizations can work for your small operations, too. Here are six tips, or freelance resolutions, for staying as committed to your 2012 freelancing goals as you are to those of your clients.
1. Treat yourself the way you treat clients. Think of this resolution as an inverse Golden Rule: Do unto yourself as you would have them do unto you. If you’re constantly working to meet client needs (not to mention your family’s time), “me time” can become a mythical concept. That needs to change in 2012. Taking care of everyone else while totally neglecting yourself is a recipe for failure. Give exceptional consideration to your physical, mental, and emotional needs next year—and your focus, energy, and quality of work will increase noticeably as a natural consequence. When you’re relaxed and content, your work, relationships, and even the relentless pursuit of elusive goals become easier and surprisingly more enjoyable to manage.
Are you just getting started on Elance and feel nervous about freelancing? Online work is growing faster than ever, and has become a viable career choice for countless independent workers around the world—but you may have some concerns still. Contributing author Stephanie Taylor Christensen is here to debunk six common freelance fears.
If you dream of a flexible work schedule and a workload that can be filled with projects that nurture your skills and interests, freelancing as a full-time career might provide the career fulfillment you seek. Nevertheless, feelings of trepidation can be a common roadblock when you forgo the security of traditional employment for the life of a freelancer. But, as fans of the television series Mad Men have heard, “Our worst fears lie in anticipation.”
Here are six common freelance fears—and how to overcome them.
1. How I will stay connected to others?
Many freelancers fear losing the social support an office gig. But when you become a full-time freelancer, you enter a new professional realm and should seek out groups that complement your redefined role. Being active in your field not only will help you to build a reputation and uncover new projects, but also will let you swap trade secrets with other freelancers and learn from their mistakes (before you make them). LinkedIn groups, such as LinkEds & Writers and Flash Freelancers let you tap into an active online community of independent contractors. Elance’s Water Cooler also presents opportunities to connect with other freelancers and build client relationships.