4 Tips for the First-time Freelancer

As the world changes, so does the way we work. Professionals can now work from a palm-fringed beach in Sri Lanka or a skyscraper in Tokyo; you can run your business out of a Paris bistro and jet across the world, all while generating an income.

Freelancing is a growing industry for millennials (with 38% freelancing in the U.S.) and young professionals, both full-time and as a means of earning some extra money on the side (aka side hustle).

While freelancing often seems like the dream, and your friend on Instagram who travels the world by the seat of his or her laptop looks as though she is having the time of her life, there are a few things you need to consider before jumping in.

It’s not as easy as it may seem, but if you take good care of your finances, have a good business head and stick to some self-made rules, you have the potential to go far in the freelance world.

Taxes

As a freelancer, you are responsible for your own taxes. Your clients will not hold back a percentage of your payment to cover what you owe at the end of the year, so it will be up to you to set aside around 25–30% of your income yourself.

It is recommended that you put your taxes in a separate bank account which you cannot access so that when the time comes around to pay, you won’t need to worry. Make sure that you are on top of this and that you file your tax return on time.

Although you won’t get the likes of Antonio Horta Osorio (he’s a banker in the U.K.) knocking on your door, you could wind up with a hefty fine if you don’t meet the deadline.

Holiday pay? What holiday pay?

Holiday and statutory sick pay don’t really apply to freelancers, and it’s important to budget carefully so that if you do fall ill or want to take a couple of weeks away from your emails, you won’t be out of pocket or in trouble.

It is good practice to put away a portion of your monthly income for a rainy day (10 – 15% minimum), so that you and your family are covered in the event of sickness.

Time management

With no boss keeping tabs on you, it will be down to you to manage your time well and efficiently. Focus your working hours on when you are the most productive.

For example, if you are an early riser then start your day by cracking on when you wake up and finish early; if you like to lay in in the mornings, start later to allow for snoozing, but work later in the day.

Ultimately, as a freelancer, you have the flexibility to work as much or as little as you want but be sure to honour all contracts and meet deadlines.

Keep updated

As a freelancer, you won’t have anybody sending you on training courses or emailing industry news to your inbox every Thursday morning. It will be up to you to stay up-to-date with best practices and news within your industry! If you’re in graphic or web design, you can follow platforms like Fast Company, Virgin, Millo, The Futur, and others.

What Are Some of the Biggest Fears Every New Graphic Designer Encounters?

Two graphic designers sit down to discuss the initial struggles of pricing logo design in this interview via The Futur (link to YouTube Channel).

Half-way through the interview and everything already resonated with me. I’ve done this for the majority of my entire freelance graphic design career.

The hardest part is usually figuring out what to charge and for whatever reason there’s usually a fear that you’ll turn prospective clients away.

But, as I’ve come to learn for myself (first-hand experiences are invaluable), to get the kinds of clients you want, your prices have to be at a price point that demonstrates the value you’ll bring to each project.

At the end of the day, it’s all about believing in yourself (your creative ideas and abilities).

Enjoy the interview. It’s filled with insight and personal experiences that I’m certain you’ll find clearly relatable.

Common Reasons Why Your Freelance Business Will Fail

Freelancing can be a great gig. You get to set out your own rules, and your destiny is in your own hands.

However, let’s not beat around the bush – being a successful freelancer is also tough. There is a lot of competition out there, and you will have to step up to the plate and get yourself out there if you want success. And, there are many pitfalls – large and small – that stand in your way.

In today’s guide, I’m going to reveal some of the common reasons why freelance businesses fail. Take a look, make some notes, and ensure you cover the basics if you want to achieve success.

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Image Credit: Pexels
Organization

First up, let’s take a look at a subject that is the downfall of many a freelancer: organization. Without the structure you get from working in a larger organization, it’s easy to slip into bad habits.

Invoices, contracts, admin duties – you can put them aside and deal with them later, at will. The trouble is, it doesn’t take long for everything to get incredibly messy. First-class organisation is nothing short of critical – so, keep your house in order.

Use organisational apps to help keep your admin and files together in one place. Also, look at time management apps like Pomodoro Time to give you extra focus.

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Image Credit: Pexels
Marketing

If you aren’t prepared to get out there and sell yourself, you will find it tough as a freelancer. You need to dedicate time and energy to contact both warm and cold clients.

There will be networking events and local business meets to attend. You will have to spend some money on a great website to attract online business, and investing in SEO is critical, too.

In fact, with all this going on, where are you going to find the time to actually do any work? Again, making sure your organisation is up to scratch is vital to your success. And, knowing where to turn for the right help is also crucial. There just aren’t enough hours in the day available to do everything yourself, so don’t be afraid to outsource particular duties.

Use free website audit services to ensure your online presence is up to scratch. Strike up relationships with local SEOs or marketers. And get out there and meet people whenever you have the opportunity – it’s the best way to drum up business.

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Image Credit: Pexels
Money

Ah, the age old problem of money. It’s a big one for freelancers. Set your rates too high and you will find yourself struggling to land paying clients. But charge too little, and you will end up working for peanuts.

Unfortunately, there are far too many businesses out there who happily exploit young freelancers. Don’t forget, as a freelancer, you aren’t just charging your clients for your labour and skills. You also have costs attached to each piece of work you do.

There are the raw materials you use, such as your electricity, mortgage or rent, and travel. You also need to remember to add on money for holidays and sickness. And don’t forget that you also have to pay tax and national insurance on everything you earn, too.

There are many other issues with becoming a freelancer, of course. But these three fundamental factors will have the most effect on your ability to succeed. Take a look around my blog for more great insights on how to achieve freelance and small business success!

Freelancer, Listen Up! Be Your Own Boss With These Valuable Tools

It can be tough freelancing. Sure, you get to take time off whenever you want and have complete control over all your projects. But there are other limitations that you will experience that you might not struggle with if you had a full-time job. For instance, you might experience periods of not much work, and you aren’t entitled to any sick benefits. Thankfully, being your own boss usually outweighs all the disadvantages.

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Image Credit: Pexels

Are you trying to improve your life as a freelancer? Or maybe you are tempted to start a new life as a freelancer? Regardless how new you are to freelancing, here are some valuable tools that can help you be your own boss.

Website

You should create a website for yourself. This should detail your skills and contact details. It’s also a good idea to have some examples of your previous work on there, if possible. Your website has to showcase everything you can do. This will be what potential clients use in place of your resume. So make sure it looks professional and shows everything that you can do! It is also a good idea to get it SEO ready so that lots of people find you through Google searches. You can speak to a website design agency, such as CandidSky, who can help you with SEO.

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Image Credit: Pexels
Business Cards

When you are working as a freelancer, you will be working in an extremely competitive market. So you need to be on the lookout for potential new clients whenever and wherever you can. If you get speaking to someone, you may find that they are looking for something that you can offer. This is where business cards come in. Make sure you have some business cards in your wallet so that you always have one you to give to potential clients.

Workplace

As you will be working from home, it is important to create a home office for yourself. A spare room is perfect for this. If you don’t have a spare room, you can turn a corner of your living room into a comfortable office space. Worried that you won’t be able to concentrate on your work at home? Then why not look into a co-working space. These are offices in which you can hire a hot desk for a set period. Some even offer permanent office space for freelancers and small startups.

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Image Credit: Pexels
An Accountant

As a freelancer, you are responsible for your own taxes. If you have no experience of the tax system, then you might be better off hiring an accountant. This may seem like an expensive option, but it can actually save you money in the long run. Your accountant will know how to save you money on your tax return. So you could end up paying a lot less tax than if you had filed your tax return on your own.  

Once you have all these tools under our belt, you will start to ace life as a freelancer! And your sales will start to soar!

Invoice2Go Presents ‘Freelancing Insights for the New Workforce’ [Infographic]

Recently, I collaborated with Invoice2Go (a leading invoice app and resource) to share some tips with new freelancers that examined time management, self-motivation, and social media. The goal was to give some insight that would be used for their next upcoming infographic (see below). You can read my entire blog post below for more details.

Today, I have the opportunity to share Invoice2Go’s completed infographic that looks at “Freelancing Insights for the New Workforce”. My name’s in the “Contributors” section (pretty exciting!) and my tip falls under the “Time Management” section (in the middle).

Read: My Three Phresh Tips for New Freelancers

Since I started my graphic design business almost six years ago, I’ve created a few different invoice templates.

Invoice2Go has just launched a brand new (and free!) invoice template (website link) generator on their website and I liked it so much I’ve decided to share it here.  It makes a great resource for anyone looking to try their hand at invoicing! Take it for a spin. You can thank me later. Also, this is NOT a paid endorsement (though I wish it was).

Here’s the Invoice2Go infographic for those thinking about taking the leap into the world of freelancing.

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If you liked the infographic, leave a comment or a thumbs up. Also, be sure to follow my blog and share across your social media channels too.

My Three Phresh Tips for New Freelancers

Following the 2009 global recession, there’s been an upsurge in not only entrepreneurship, but freelancing as well with progressively more individuals (probably including you) venturing out on their own to chase their dreams in the business world. While this step towards self-employment can often be a daunting adventure, when done correctly, the rewards are worth the hard work and sacrifice.

In collaboration with Invoice2Go (a leading invoice app and resource), I will be sharing three tips focused on time management, self-motivation, and social media that are guaranteed to help make you a better freelancer for the voyage ahead.

1. Create and maintain a timesheet to track all your work.
It is important that your time and your customers’ time are never wasted, since “time is money”. You want to ensure that all your deadlines are always met within the mutually agreed time frame. A timesheet or personal time log is one of the best tools to help with your productivity. There is a lot of software out there, but Microsoft Excel is just as effective. Try to make it as detail as possible, capturing minutes, hours, and days spent per task/project, in addition to project categorisation. You will know what projects you can take on and when. With recorded data on your previous projects, it will give you a good idea of how long it takes you on average to complete a specific project. So let’s say it takes you 8 hours to complete a project and three prospective customers offered you separate projects today with the same deadline. Under a 24-hour turnaround policy, for instance, you would know realistically that one project would have to be declined.

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It’s an incredible autobiography that displays both life and business lessons

2. Stay motivated by reading books and blog posts by established founders and CEOs.
Freelancing can be challenging and some days you will feel like giving up on your pursuits. Reading is not only the gateway to tapping into knowledge, but it is a reliable source to discover inspiration. Find personalities in business and entrepreneurship that you look up to and then get your hands on their biographies, autobiographies, and blog posts and learn as much as possible. I can almost guarantee you will absorb a lot from their personal and professional experiences. Personally, I look to Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Group Founder and CEO) who always has a lot of insight and inspiration to share with readers. In Branson’s autobiography Losing My Virginity, I took away a myriad of lessons such as taking risks; going against the status quo; negotiating good deals; reinvention; always keeping a notebook handy; and trusting your instincts. It is definitely worth leafing through.

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Figure out what platforms your target audience and clients are already using and go to them

3. Maintain steady social media presence across platforms used by your target audience and customers.
Take the time to develop your own social media strategy with clear goals and objectives. Be consistent with how you post, present yourself, your products and services, and the content you share across social media platforms. Branding is paramount to your success. It is important that you spend the time to figure out who your target audience and intended customers are and use the social media platforms that they will mostly likely be on for the most reach. If your target audience are young people, they will most likely be using Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. The professional crowd will be using platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. In my case, I use around six platforms, including Pinterest, which is such an underrated channel for exposure. I also found it’s important to get into blogging and creating video content.

A Bunch of Random Insight, Advice, and Inspiration For Budding Entrepreneurs

This past October, I gave myself the challenge to write and publish an eBook in just two to three weeks. I’ve always wanted to take my writing further and publish a book and I’m happy to report that I pulled it off. It’s now available via Amazon.com and Lulu.com as we speak for a “whopping”… $4.99!

In all honesty, the real purpose was to share some of the lessons and experiences I’ve had since I started my own graphic design business. I’ve pretty much been a one-man band since October 2010, but I’ve managed to generate some substantial revenue as a freelancer.

I’ve met some remarkable people who were initially my clients, who have now evolved into really good friends. As a freelance graphic designer, I’ve also met some bad clients and in those experiences you learn some of the best lessons the hard way.

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Dedicated to the budding entrepreneurs

However, this eBook explores the journey involved in starting a business from scratch and highlights successful entrepreneurs (Richard Branson and James Dyson) with their own individual stories. It also shares a little bit of inspiration that’s needed to keep our spirits and our dreams alive.

I wanted you all to have the opportunity to read it this Christmas, so consider this my gift to you for supporting my blog this entire year. I’ve been overwhelmed by just how many visitors stopped by and read my posts. They were all written to share knowledge and I’m glad they were so well received.

Also, leave me a comment below or send me an email and let me know what you thought of the eBook. If you feel like purchasing it for your Kindle or iPad, here’s the link:

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017HXEBK2

Lulu Bookstore

http://www.lulu.com/shop/phil-rodriques/a-bunch-of-random-insight-advice-and-inspiration-for-budding-entrepreneurs/ebook/product-22510625.html

Thanks again.

 

Editor’s Note: Updated on January 3, 2016

How Not to Work for Cheap

With each design project I’ve done, I’ve learned something new; whether it’s about the warmth of sheepskin, tennis terminologies or direct ad marketing. The most important lesson I learned recently was revising my rates as a graphic designer. Who knew all this time my rates were actually way below the minimum. As you would imagine, this discovery was extremely disheartening and it made me instantly want to increase my prices.

When you start out freelancing, you fall into the trap of making your price so low that you get stuck in that trap if you fail to adjust your rates as your skill sets sharpen. The more in demand you are, the more you should focus on increasing your rates. I’ve spent a lot of days determining my value as a graphic designer who has been at this for the last 10 years or so.

If you’re feeling a little afraid or unsure or both about changing your rates, you have absolutely no reason to feel that way. In every other field that you can think of, professionals charge what they know they are worth. Consider this, if you get an email or call from a prospective client who wants you to develop his or her visual branding from scratch, you seriously need to factor into your rate how much money they stand to make. Don’t end up the biggest loser.

The worse thing that can happen is that you lose a prospective after you submit your quotation. It’s not the end of the world. The people who understand the value your work will bring will pay what you’re asking. After all, creativity takes tremendous mental capacity, especially if you’re constantly doing custom work versus production work (templates).

Your ideas and time are valuable.

Adventures “InDesign”: Creating a Promotional Booklet

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“A limitation is a limitation only because you’ve done nothing to move beyond it.” — S. Drowym

It’s been a while since my last blog and this time I want to write about my latest design adventure.

Last week, I was offered the opportunity to design a promotional booklet and gladly I accepted the job not realising that the best software to create said booklet would be Adobe InDesign. There was a rush on the project and the client would need to have it within three days. Now usually I’m always apprehensive about taking on these rushed jobs, but I jumped at the chance.

So back to Adobe InDesign, it’s stellar software and what it can create in terms of materials for print is beyond amazing. I knew that little fact, but I didn’t know the software. In the past I had attempted to use it, especially because I used Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop so often to create flyers, posters, programs, invitations, and such for clients.

What do you do when you’ve just accepted a job to design an 18-page promotional booklet, but you don’t know the software to execute that project? You tell yourself you can learn the software in 24 hours of course!! That’s the attitude I took, but half of the time I knew I was lying to myself to keep a steady head. Thankfully there are innumerous readings and tutorials online to get pointers and lessons from. I think my favourite might have said something about “InDesign 101” and “11 steps to learning InDesign”; not quoting them verbatim, but you get the idea.

To make a long story short, I decided my best approach would be to learn basic tips, study the commands of the software and make as many mistakes as I could. Ye olde “trial and error” (mostly the latter) never fails. I was able to teach myself how to use InDesign and successfully so, thus creating a really class act design for the promotional booklet. The design only took a mere 28 hours of my life. With so many moving parts, it’s no wonder the software is such a great tool to have. The best part is I just expanded my skill sets and can now take on design projects like creating ebooks, booklets, magazines, and newsletters.

Here’s one tutorial I’ll leave with you if you’ve been thinking about learning the basics of Adobe InDesign. It’s only 11 minutes long, but will impart a lot of good directions: Creating and Applying Master Pages in Adobe InDesign

Until we meet again! Keep designing!

7 or 8 Tips to Help You Arrive at Rates That Define Your Value

As a freelance graphic designer, you spent your time giving and gaining new design experiences, whilst creating a client list and a reputation for putting out quality work. You acquire client testimonials, because tooting your own horn just isn’t going to cut it.

Every year you question whether or not you’re charging clients the right amount for design work completed; you look at the prices and you think you have. But have you really?

In business, knowing or even discovering your own monetary worth is one of those instances that requires a sometimes really long and hard look at all that you have done and accomplished as a freelancer or entrepreneur.

Take time to do the following:

  1. Examine your present and past clientele
  2. Evaluate your portfolio of work
  3. Find someone established and positioned as an industry leader and ask for advice
  4. Look at the prices of your competition locally and globally
  5. Join forums for freelance designers
  6. Make the tough decisions on pricing your value
  7. Lose a few prospective customers who aren’t ready to pay you what you’re worth

To get your business to the next level requires a lot of effort in heavy-lifting. It’s a lot like moving your friends furniture to their new apartment that’s on the fifth floor and the place has no elevators only stairs. You know its going to be back-breaking work and sweat pouring down your face, but it’ll all be worth it knowing you’ll be rewarded (not with pizza and cold beer).

Don’t be afraid to raise your prices. Only you can do what you do and if people are lining up around the block just to work with you then that’s a good sign you’re worth more than you first thought.

How did you discover your true value as a designer? Share your story below. We could all learn from it.