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The Business of Being your Own Boss as a Freelance Contractor

Freelancing 'can be an exhilarating experience' | IPSEAccording to IPSE, an increasing number of professionals are opting to ditch their traditional nine-to-five office jobs in favour of becoming a freelancer.

Tthe primary reason many people decide to use their specialist skills and expertise in this field is the opportunity to act as their own boss, as this gives them much greater levels of freedom and flexibility than a traditional office-based, Monday-Friday job.

Being your own boss and getting away from working nine-to-five for somebody else can be one of the most profound and exhilarating aspects of freelancing.

For many freelancers, taking on the responsibility of their own success is a powerful motivator and it is this drive which pushes them to improve their business and build their client base.

Carol Wilson, managing director of Performance Coach Training, said the thrill of control is one of the biggest benefits of becoming a freelancer, as while individuals may be working all hours of the day to meet the demands of clients, they know that it is their own choice to do so.

“The most frustrating thing I found about working for someone else was the expectation of putting in eight hours, five days a week. On top of that, you would be expected to rise to the occasion if overtime was called for, but never to work less hours during slack times,” she commented.

“Having a passion for your work is ultimately what makes the difference between freelancing success and failure, as individuals who are committed to their clients and who enjoy their work will put in all the effort required to make their venture a success.”

As a result, she argued that freelancers will face numerous challenges, but being in a position to take on these issues with a smile is a must.

Finally, Ms Wilson argued that for every freelance success story there is the flipside of the coin and therefore individuals embarking on a freelance career should be sure that this is the role for them.

As a result, she urged anyone contemplating quitting the nine-to-five to take on their own freelancing venture to do so on a part-time basis at first, as this way they can build up their new freelancing business safe in the knowledge they will still have a wage coming in from their day job. However, once a project takes off, the sky is literally the limit.

More and more people are becoming freelancers at the moment as difficult working conditions have dictated people starting looking to work for themselves.

With the freelance talent on offer in the UK increasing all the time, it is important to make sure you have the tools and skills to adapt and evolve with your environment, but what is needed to succeed as a freelancer.

Lara Spencer, trusted expert on all things freelancing, has revealed the things she believes those taking advantage of flexible working need to have in their armoury to succeed.

Education is one key element that can help when starting a new business. Improving your knowledge within IT, communications and any other subject that you will be working in is vital, as clients are more likely to work with someone that knows exactly what they’re doing.

This will set you apart from the competition and ensure that you are one step closer to succeeding and thriving in your new venture.

Experience is of course key, according to Ms Spencer. “In fact, many freelancers strike out on their own only after working in their area of expertise for someone else for several years.

“Freelancers who already have experience are highly sought after since their skills have been proven in an actual work environment,” she added.

A good online presence is also key, as things are moving further and further towards the internet in recent years, both in terms of the way freelancers work and the way clients look for professionals to complete temporary contracts.

A blog, informative and entertaining website and activity on social media will all help you succeed in the industry, as a failure to embrace the new ways of working will result in your being left behind by competitors.

Ultimately though, the one thing that will determine whether or not your new venture takes off is your own willpower and desire to succeed, so it is important to make sure you are completely ready for the challenge before you leave your position and set out on the freelancing

One facet of becoming a freelancer that is worrying  is the absence of a monthly wage, that makes them feel somewhat financially insecure.

However, on the other hand, the benefits of setting up are plentiful and cannot be underestimated, such as the freedom and flexibility offered by acting as your own boss.

No doubt, each case of potentially switching to a career in the freelancing industry should be analysed on its individual merits, but Carole Stewart, Founder of Freelance Factfile, has offered some general advice to anyone considering this option.

Ms Stewart explained that while it is important to remember that wages can be an issue as a freelancer, as “you might have to chase clients that don’t pay you”, while “if you’re sick, you don’t get paid” and “you don’t get paid while you’re on holiday”.

This represents a huge change from the security of receiving a monthly pay cheque and it may take some time for professionals to adapt this difference.

She added that professionals must recognise the fact that “as well as doing the work of a freelancer … you’re also the sales person, marketing person, you have to go out and buy office supplies – you’re everything”.

It goes without saying, that there are some parts of being self-employed that are frustrating.
Even when work is going well and the money is rolling in, things aren’t always smooth sailing. After all, lots of work inevitably means lots of paperwork to go with it.
Try to set aside a period of time each week to go through everything that isn’t actual client-facing work.

There are many common issues that freelancers are likely to face during their career and those who say these things could not possibly happen to them need to think again.

According to respected blogger and freelance professional Laura Spencer in her latest post for Freelance Folder, there are just some things that every freelancer will have to deal with from time to time that can impact on their work.

Individuals therefore need to be as prepared as possible to face these hardships, with careful planning and having provisions in place to deal with times when they cannot work being prudent.

The problems most freelancers will face include illness, family emergencies and lulls in work, as while no-one really wants these things to happen to them, becoming a freelancer does not mean these issues will be raised from time to time.

What it does mean however is that at some point freelancers will have to take time out from working to deal with these issues. Therefore, having some form of health insurance in place to cover medical bills and knowing a trustworthy colleague to hand the reins to in times of emergency are sound advice.

Another issue that most freelancers will have to deal with is unhappy or tricky clients, and while it can be tiresome having to work with people who we do not get along with, just like in any other business, freelancers have to get on with the job in hand and be professional at all times.

In this way, they can ensure that tricky clients do not simply look elsewhere. One of the best ways to deal with awkward associates however is to go that extra mile to prove to these people that they are better sticking with you than looking for somebody else.

Furthermore, Ms Spencer noted in a recent post on her blog that the festive season can pose some issues for freelancers, which they are unlikely to face at other times of the year.

These include a drop-off in business as clients close down over Christmas and new year or conversely, a significant upturn in demand as firms look to outsource tasks in order to give their workers more time off.

Both problems can be tricky to deal with, but freelancers have to weigh up the pros and cons of taking time off at this time of year, as in many cases their services can be at a premium.

Like any business, a successful freelancer should always be evolving, developing new skillsets and exploring new market, that can sometimes be a source of frustration for many freelancers.

This may involve unchartered territory, and there is no shame in acknowledging this and seeking expert help.

According to freelance professional Laura Spencer, becoming an attractive proposition for customers is  having the right mindset and demonstrating good value for money and excellent work.

She wrote in her latest post for Freelance Folder that the difference between success and failure in the freelancing industry often boils down to the understanding of the individual in regard to their ambition to deliver the best results for their clients and meeting the expectations of their customers.

Attracting new clients and keeping hold of existing ones is something freelancers should always be looking to do.

As a result, Ms Spencer advised freelancers to focus on a number of key areas that will help them boost their client lists, including sticking to some simple tenets.
  • Realising that clients are real people with real needs and therefore taking the time to understand what it is the client actually requires from a freelancer will reap dividends.
  • Furthermore, freelancers should always deliver on their promises, and as Ms Spencer noted, being the reliable choice for clients will keep them coming back again and again.

With this in mind, freelancers should not be afraid to ask questions in order to better understand the exact details of any new project, as this will ultimately lead them to being able to deliver their responsibilities more easily, on time and to fully meet the expectations of the customer.

Finally, Ms Spencer urged freelancers to keep up with the latest developments in their field, as this will help to set them apart from other individuals who have not. By demonstrating an in-depth knowledge of the areas in which their clients operate, freelancers who have done their homework can gain that edge over the rest that could result in them taking on more projects in the future and developing an expert reputation.

Make a note: Most clients will be emotionally attached to their business and may wish to get involved in the work you are doing to the extent where it becomes a problem. Try to be accomodating. Once the client begins to trust that you are updating them, (using a mutually agreed template for reporting progress)  the whole process would become easier.

Arguably the most difficult facet newcomers to the freelancing industry have to master is the art of attracting clients.

It is fair to say that the first project is often the most difficult to obtain, as, in a marketplace that has become even more competitive in the aftermath of the global economic downturn, companies have such a wide range of options open to them when looking to hire a consultant.

Therefore, it is a big challenge for professionals to convince clients that their specialist skills are exactly what they require for a particular task and, understandably, managers will sometimes opt for a freelancer with more experience than a relative novice in the field.

But hard work is the secret of success in the world of consultancy and, sooner rather than later, any committed individual with the requisite level of expertise will land their first contract.

Due to the difficulty of the process of securing an inaugural client at the outset of their career, some freelancers can slip into the mindset that they simply have to accept any job that comes their way, even when they are unsatisfied or uncomfortable with the terms being offered to them.

However, in an article written for online resource Freelance Folder, experienced web development consultant Amber Weinberg dispels this notion as a myth.

Ms Weinberg explained to freelancers it is almost inevitable that they will, at some point, “end up with a client you feel that you can no longer work with” due to issues such as the being “unreasonable, demanding … [or] downright crookish”.

“Hopefully, you’ve protected yourself so that these occurrences are rare, but no matter how rare, they’re never easy nor pretty,” she added.

The expert insisted that when differences in working styles are so clear between an individual and their client, the best thing is for the former to be proactive and take the “unavoidable” step of firing the latter.

For instance, Ms Weinberg stated that all freelancers “should never stand for anyone who treats you with anything less than respect”, as, regardless of age and experience, all consultants are professional business managers meaning they deserve this.

And, in terms of how they should go about this awkward process, the freelancer advised fellow consultants that “the easiest way to fire a client is to not accept new projects from them”.

One skill that is particularly important for every freelancer is that of time management.

A freelance contractor, must have a high level of self-discipline in order to make sure they continue to work hard.

In addition, freelancers must be strong in is the ability to communicate effectively with prospective clients, as explaining what you can offer a company succinctly – as well as being able to negotiate the terms of a contract.

Dawn Foster, an author and expert in the area of online development, has offered freelancers some advice on how they can maximise the time they have available to them.

In an article for online resource Gigaom, Ms Foster noted that simple measures such as sticking to a strict schedule in terms of work can make it feel like there are more hours in the day.

“We all have certain tasks that require uninterrupted time where we can focus. For those activities, I try to free up big blocks of time on my calendar,” she stated.

Not being entitled to paid annual leave is one of the hardest aspects of being self-employed and as a consequence, you need to take time out to relax and resume your work afresh.

Furthermore, Ms Foster highlighted the importance of taking regular breaks as doing so can “help you get a new perspective on a difficult problem” as well as taking advantage of off-peak times during the day, such as avoiding heading to the bank at lunchtimes.

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Freelancers across the UK might think they know who the most important person to the future of their business is, but they could be shocked to realise that it is in fact an individual who they often neglect.

Indeed, content marketing professional and co-founder of outstandingSETUP Sean Platt wrote in his latest post for Copy Blogger that while many freelancers believe the customer who pays them the most or the one who gives them regular business is their most important client, in actual fact they could be confusing their best client with their most important.

He argued that there is only one person who should be seen by every freelancer as the most important person who will drive forward their business and ensure their ongoing achievement, and that is themselves.

Many freelancers often neglect the fact that they should take time for themselves each day, as they become too focused on improving their business and maximising their revenues.

As a result, Mr Platt argued this can lead to individuals burning out, as unless they take care of themselves they run the risk of losing that drive and enthusiasm that is integral to the creation of any lasting business venture.

In order for freelancers to maintain the drive, Mr Platt noted they should set aside at least an hour of every working day to set aside client issues and work to focus on their own needs, such as writing for pleasure or blogging.

This can be a great way for freelancers to keep their enthusiasm for their craft, as while bringing in the most money possible can be rewarding, ultimately it can lead to freelancers becoming jaded, as they have less creative freedom than when they are carrying out projects of their own design.

One way that freelancers might like to incorporate some extra free time into their day is to consider outsourcing a proportion of projects to other people. This can be a positive move in more ways than one, as it helps freelancers to build lasting contacts within the industry, as well as providing them with the opportunity to get out from their office for a while, safe in the knowledge their clients’ needs are still being met.

….Of course, freelancers don’t have set working hours – and it is the flexibility of being able to kiss goodbye to the routine of a nine-to-five office job from Monday to Friday every week that makes consultancy such an attractive option for many professionals.

However, the truth is that even though freelancers may not start work at 9am or even work for eight hours every single day, the majority still complete more hours of work across a whole week than most people fulfilling so-called regular positions.

Indeed, an issue that faces many freelancers often is that feeling of 24 hours not being enough time each day to complete their tasks and maintain some semblance of a personal life.

To put it in general terms, the more a consultant works, the more they earn and this fact usually drives professionals to push themselves to the limit.

However, despite this, there are several quick and easy alterations a freelancer can make to their daily routine that could end up having significant long-term benefits for their business.

In fact, according to experienced writer Laura Spencer, many of these things take no more than five minutes each but can make a real difference in helping a firm develop moving forward.

In an article for Freelance Folder, Ms Spencer insisted that every minute in a consultant’s working day can be productive, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time.

For instance, taking the time to sift through an overflowing email inbox or voicemail function on a regular basis means that freelancers can stop themselves from eventually becoming overwhelmed by thousands of unread or unheard messages.

Meanwhile, another positive way to use a bit of spare time is to send a thank-you note to a client as this will, Ms Spencer explained, help a consultant stand out from the competition.

In addition, having a quick sort out in a home office that has become cluttered over time is also a good idea, she added.

Freelance consultants and contractors should always be seeking to expand their list of active clients, but they must also be aware of the dangers of overexerting themselves, an expert has said.

According to Amber Weinberg – writing for Freelance Folder who specialises in web development and WordPress customisation – the goal of anyone with the specialist skills to make a career from freelancing is to continually gain more potential revenue streams.

However, taking on too much work can lead to issues in the future, meaning that professionals may struggle to sustain their projects properly in the long-term.

“Being a busy freelancer is much better than being a bored freelancer, but like with everything, it comes with its own set of problems,” stated Ms Weinberg.

The expert recommends taking time out to learn how to schedule “your daily, weekly and monthly time slots” in order to avoid any such situation, describing this measure as “probably one of the most important business tasks you’ll ever do”.

 

Gemma Church investigating how to manage your time as a new freelancer, for IPSE Magazin: From Where I Stand – Time as my currency, contests that the shift from permanent employee to freelancer dictates change – a change of hours, office location, working relationships and responsibilities. But the biggest adjustment is finding an effective way to manage your time.

And more to the point: Time did not equal money. And time began to feel like an expendable commodity where I could get lost in a low priority problem or even surf the internet for cat pictures without much impact on my work (although research from Hiroshima University suggests that this may boost productivity:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0046362).

 “My time is my money – so I must manage it effectively to succeed,” says Gemma Church and delivers 5 tips to manage your time as a freelancer:

  1. Create a schedule – flexibility is a benefit of freelancing but you need a schedule to be efficient. Try to compartmentalise your time on a day-to-day basis or map out the week ahead, blocking off time for specific projects.

 

  1. Minimise distractions – if you work from home then it can be difficult to dodge distractions. You have a couple of options. Either barricade yourself in a room away from distractions or grab your laptop and head to the nearest library or coffee bar.

 

  1. Stay focused – multitasking is a key skill for any freelancer but juggling too many tasks at once results in a loss of productivity. Try writing down ideas and tasks in a notebook, use a clever tool such as Wunderlist (www.wunderlist.com/) or use the Pomodoro Technique (http://pomodorotechnique.com/), where you focus on one task for a 25-minute block before taking a 5-minute break. Which leads me to my next point…

 

  1. Take a break – productivity improves when you take a break. If you work primarily on a computer, for example, get up and go for a walk, read a book or just step away from the screen. Just surfing Facebook or writing a few social emails doesn’t count. The perfect break length is much disputed but recent research suggested working for 52 minutes and then taking a 17-minute break (www.fastcompany.com/3035605/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/the-exact-…).

 

  1. Raise your rates – this may sound like strange advice, but raising your rates can help you to be more productive. By charging more, you have the freedom to pursue the work you enjoy and flexibility to refuse time-zapping projects. I’m not suggesting you double your rates across the board but consider slightly increasing your rates with each new client. Over time, you will notice a difference.

 

read full article: http://www.ipsemagazine.co.uk/article/where-i-stand-–-time-my-currency/1456747823

One of the main struggles individuals who are new to self-employment often experience is how to ensure their productivity levels remain high – even during those down periods between projects that are common at the beginning of any career.

Very often, workers who want to start their own business wrongly believe doing so will allow them to enjoy all the free time they could ask for, while having no one in a higher position or managerial role to answer to.

And while this may being the case, those people whose attitude to their new working life is too relaxed will find they do not have a useful client list in place and little in the way of inspiration when it comes to starting new projects.

An article published by the Harvard Business Review suggests that the key to staying busy is to create a to-do list featuring all of the tasks you are aiming to complete and a date or time you would like to have these finished by.

On top of this, freelancers should remember that attempting to get too much done at one time could actually be counterproductive and see them complicating jobs that should be easy, while also putting the quality of projects at risk.

Prioritising the biggest projects or those that will require the most attention can help through stressful periods, but it can also be beneficial to take breaks and gather your thoughts while your mind ponders particular issues.

Unfortunately for many freelancers, the immediate changes to their career may leave them feeling anxious and stressed initially, as the process to becoming a full-time freelancer is a major transition in anyone’s life.

However, the key is to channel the stress into something productive before it gets out of control. This can be achieved through recognising the type of worry that you are feeling and taking time out to focus on factors of the job that you can control.

Those employees working in traditional jobs may dream about enjoying the freedom and control that being a freelancer can provide, but only those daring enough to take the bold leap will understand the hard work establishing a successful career in this sector can be.

When searching for available projects suited to their individual specialist skills, freelance consultants and contractors should adopt several methods in order to maximise their chances of getting work.

That is according to Ritika Puri, writing for online resource Just Means, who has said that being efficient when looking for opportunities is the most important aspect of a freelancer’s routine.

“The most important job hunting tip is to think of yourself as a client-service business,” she commented.

Full-time workers in this field obviously need a consistent stream of funds coming in from their work in order to survive financially, but Ms Puri stated that it is easy for people to miss out on chances unless they are savvy in their search.

“You’re a one-person professional service firm that needs to work as efficiently as possible,” she added.

An example of a tip given by the expert for freelancers is to make sure that they have an established network of fellow writers around them.

Meanwhile, Gary Cousins of Cousins Business Law noted recently for Freelance UK that professionals are often able to request payment from a client for their downtime as they await further instruction on a project.

Switching from an everyday full-time employment role to a freelance position is a big step for any individual, particularly those who have little knowledge about the industry or what being self-employed entails.

There is usually so much to consider when switching career path that the smallest common sense details are forgotten about in favour of more complicated worries about the behind-the-scenes operations of a self-employed worker.

However, it is important for those people setting up their own business to realise that the smaller factors are just as important as the major ones, as they all contribute to the end product.

For example, making sure files and folders – virtual or not – are in order is a must for the modern freelancer, as it makes day-to-day life much easier and will therefore help to ensure client relations and other aspects of work are organised.

JJ Schoch, vice president at innovative computer optimisation solution company iolo technologies, said: “Whether using computers at home or in a work environment, everyone has at some point experienced frustration with slow PCs.

“It can be a challenge to remember to routinely clean out your computer – that’s why we feel having a day dedicated to maintaining your computer is so important.”

Better organisation for freelancers can be achieved in several simple ways, including by deleting unused, old or duplicate files, email addresses, bookmarks and favourites that will effectively make computers run faster and make life easier.

In addition, adopting a logical file naming system is a good idea for self-employed workers who deal with a high number of clients at any given time, as it means they can quickly access information on a given project quickly and efficiently.

Backing up files and programmes on a regular basis is another must for ensuring work is not lost if anything goes wrong with IT systems, with the most reliable copies placed on an external hard drive or an automatic online back-up service.

It is recommended that freelancers who are new to the industry adopt these effective practices as early in their self-employed career as possible, as it means they will enjoy a simpler life in the long term.

 

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