When we started FreelanceSwitch back in April 2007, the site consisted of just a couple of blog posts and an about page. Over time we upgraded the design to v2, added forums, a job board, podcasts, resources like an hourly rates calculator, spun up a Twitter account and of course boosted the number of blog posts!
Today I’m very happy to unveil the latest iteration of FreelanceSwitch which introduces a bucketload of new features including a directory of freelancers complete with search facilities, profile pages for users, unified logins for the forums and the rest of the site, a resource directory and of course a fresh design for the whole site.
Accounts, Profiles and the Freelance Directory
The biggest change in version 3 is that we’re introducing a much more robust user account system. Previously we used to have forum accounts and job board accounts. We’ve now merged the two into a single FreelanceSwitch account system.
There are two types of accounts:
Free Accounts …
If you sign up to a free FreelanceSwitch account you’ll be able to:
- Chat on the forums
- Create a basic Profile page with contact details, description, external URL and a couple of skills tags
- Appear in the Freelancer Directory
Paid Accounts …
For $7 a month you get to:
- Apply for jobs on the job board
- Additional Profile features including extra URLs, extra tags, testimonials and work samples
- Appear at the top of any searches of the Freelancer Directory and have more details shown with a larger profile image
What the Profile Pages look like
You can see a sample profile page that I’ve made for myself:
The New Design
The new design is an evolution of the previous look and retains many of the same elements, just repackaged with a bit of freshness.
Some things you might be interested to note are:
- The whole site from forums to job board to blog has the same unified design now
- We’re pulling in fresh jobs into the sidebar
- We’ve got a fairly unorthodox comment layout which emphasizes big text for readability
- We’re using sIFR to render out the FreelanceSwitch font in our headings. It means a slight lag in page loads, but it just looks so damn neat!
- We’ve added a welcome panel to the homepage to help clients use the site
- The site is designed so it looks like the old site … but newer!
Here’s a little look at how FreelanceSwitch has evolved over the years:
You’ve probably heard that sad song, the one that goes, “Been down so long, it looks like up to me.” It seems to be the theme for our current economic news.
This theme has a close friend called “The Worst Economic Downturn Since the Great Depression.” I’m skeptical about that line, because I’ve seen worse.
Back in 1980, I was just a year out of college, and I found myself unemployed. The grant that funded my job had run out, and I was living in the state of Michigan. Even then, Michigan was developing a reputation as the Unemployment State. Which meant that if you wanted to find work, you’d best go elsewhere.
Since I had some savings in the bank, I decided to indulge my passion for bicycling before settling back into the job world. I spent a good bit of the following two years exploring the United States by bike.
By June 1982, I’d had my fill of life on the road. Or so I thought. I’d decided to move back to the city where I was born, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From the old hometown, I’d launch my professional career.
As a freelancer I sometimes lay awake at night tossing and turning over thoughts about secondary revenue streams. That tells me two things:
- In this current economy it’s always a good idea to be looking ahead for new revenue opportunities.
- I must be pretty dull at parties.
Lately I’ve been putting together a new travel and information site called I Heart Japan. And while it has been coming together I’ve been looking at good ways to add advertising revenue streams to the site.
It happens to the best of us. Sometimes it’s because of budget cutbacks or communication issues or some other reason. But eventually, most of us experience the loss of a steady client. Fortunately, losing one client isn’t usually as devastating as getting laid off from a full time job. Sure, it’s a blow to your ego (and your bank account), but often it’s also an opportunity to grow your business and take on new challenges. Here’s how to handle the transition.
Photo by benis979.
It’s easy to think about what your ideal client would be like, but actually finding them is much more difficult. Identifying the type of client you want to work with and their characteristics, however, is pivotal when approaching your marketing efforts. By answering this simple series of questions, you just may find that your dream client isn’t so hard to catch after all.
Question 1: What type of projects would your ideal client purchase?
If you’re looking for clients who are interested in website development, be sure your portfolio and printed samples contain web-related pieces. It’s wise to show one or two brochure or logo samples to show your versatility, but be sure web work is your main portfolio focus, if such is the case. Also, gear your marketing efforts towards a demographic that may be in need of site development.
Photo by h9k.
I signed a contract with a new client last week. I read the contract closely and in general, I’m very comfortable with it. There’s only one clause I’m uncomfortable with — and, honestly, I worry about in most of the contracts I sign.
It’s the clause related to the governing law under which the contract can be disputed. These clauses can also be referred to as ‘choice of law’ or even be incorporated into dispute resolution.
There have been some interesting discussions on the FreelanceSwitch forums over the last few days: one of them is Client won’t approve designs. Can’t move forward. ADVICE?. Our forum members chimed in with some excellent advice.
Are you trapped in the wrong freelance profession? If you’re not comfortable in your work, it might be something to think about, and our friends at FreelanceFreedom have written about this here.
Here’s an interesting Web 2.0-style take on doing referrals: Refural.
TUAW published an interesting article called “The Freelancer’s iPhone: Productivity solutions for independent professionals,” a very interesting read for all iPhone-owning freelancers (thanks for the tip, Alex!).
We were featured in this article titled 100 Awesome Social Sites for Every Aspect of Your Life — thanks OnlineColleges.net!
The oDesk Blog’s Work from Home Tuesday post discusses freelance etiquette — this post could save your reputation!
Reader Michael wrote in to ask, “I am wondering if you might review and respond to this article. It paints a sad picture.” The New York Times recently published an article on the self-employed depression. In my experience as a freelancer who is friends with many freelancers, and the editor of this site, the picture painted is a skewed one, and it seems that there was no attempt made at all to see how many freelancers are still doing well or even doing better. Many freelancers have found that their businesses have only received more work and grown further since the start of the recession. While there are still the same old sad stories of failure, I’m hearing from people every day who’ve been laid off recently and found their new freelance venture to be successful.
I won’t deny that times are tough. There’s a recession, the economy is in bad shape, whatever: freelancers are still doing it.
Photo by miyazakihiroshi.
Creative freelancers are, by nature, a rebellious lot. Just look at this FreelanceSwitch blog. The descriptions of our former jobs read like jail sentences. Now, far be it from me to say that we shouldn’t be happy in our work. After all, I’m writing this from the United States of America, where we have certain unalienable rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Note the wording of the third right – it’s the pursuit of happiness. You have to chase after it. And there’s nothing that says that happiness won’t be wearing its lucky socks. Which means that happiness breaks the finish line tape well ahead of you.
And there you are, gasping for breath while happiness basks in all the glory. I’m going to offer a tip that could improve the odds in the next You vs. Freelancing Happiness footrace. It’s a two-word tip:
There is no question that social networking sites are a hot topic in business these days. Whatever size company you run, you’re probably seeing notices for seminars and workshops on how to use Twitter or Facebook as part of your marketing strategy. Articles abound pointing to social media as the new “silver bullet” that gives you quick and easy access to a flood of new customers.
Unfortunately, many freelancers, particularly, have seized upon the concept of “social media networking for business” without taking the time to find the appropriate boundaries between “social” and “business.” This is in part because people who do, say, copywriting or website design tend to be “early adopters” of new tools and technology.
Sad to say, however, “early adopter” often means “someone who adopts or applies a new method without thinking about it very much.” Explore what some business people are leaving on their social networking sites, and you will quickly come to the conclusion that some of them are doing themselves more harm than good.
Photo by graphiteBP.
Before most companies will sign a contract, they complete their ‘due diligence’: they look into the company they’ll be working with, check out references and generally do everything they can to minimize risks that a project won’t be completed or they won’t get paid. Most companies will take a close look at freelancers they’re handing projects off to. So why don’t freelancers return the favor?
I know that I’ve been guilty of wanting to get right to work and accept projects as quickly as they came my way, and I’m not alone. But I’ve also gotten burned by a client who, if I had simply typed his name into a search engine, I never would have taken on. Even the simplest levels of due diligence can make a freelancer’s life go much smoother. The process doesn’t need to be particularly time-consuming, either. It can be a ten-minute process, especially when you’ve made it a part of your routine for taking on any new client.