Ask FreelanceSwitch: Milestones and Getting Started
In this issue of Ask FreelanceSwitch, we look at milestones and getting started. Ask FreelanceSwitch is a regular column here that allows us to help beginners get a grip on freelancing. If you have a question about freelancing that you want answered, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a graphic designer, and I just started my freelance career.
I have trouble setting up milestones with my clients. I am always forced to make them as simple as possible, but in the end of the day they add extra tweaks which take more time and don’t fit into the deadlines.
Is there any milestones managing tool or FAQ with good tips to solve my problems?
It sounds like you may be looking for two separate answers here: how to get your clients to stick to the milestones you lay out and whether there are any tools that are particularly good for managing milestones. As far as tools go, I personally use Basecamp — which eliminated milestones in the new version. I’ve been making do with Google Calendar for setting out specific dates and I’ve found that, personally, that’s all I need. But if anyone else would like to make a recommendation as far as tools that can help with milestones, please add your comment below! Most project management software has some sort of milestone tool, but they aren’t all the same.
As far as managing clients’ expectations, you have to be prepared to tell a client who adds a new element to a project that each change lengthens the schedule and increases the cost. In any initial paperwork you do, such as an estimate or a proposal, you need to make it very clear that if any changes are made to the project’s scope, that you will notify them of new milestones and the higher price they can expect to pay. Then, if someone tweaks the project specs, you need to immediately inform them how that change will affect the project schedule and budget.
If you make these steps a process that you follow each time a similar situation comes up, it becomes a lot less nerve-wracking to try to tell clients that their changes are going to make it impossible to meet the established milestones or deadlines.
I want to begin freelancing, but have no idea where to start. How do I find/build a clientele and how long does it take to develop freelance into something that can be a full time career?
You’re in the right spot! Start by reading A Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Freelance Career. It’s walks you through the basics of landing clients and the mechanics of working with them. You’ve got to go beyond these basics, of course, but the guide is a good start.
You’ll need to decide exactly what clientele you want to work with. Some types of clients are harder to find than others, which can affect how long it will take you to build up enough work to keep you busy full-time. Personally, I went from a cold start and it took me almost six months to build up to an income that did more than just cover my regular bills. It’s possible to do it faster and for some people the process will be slower. The key is working at it.