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A friend dropped me an email about a new site he was launching, StudentFreelance.com, and it got me thinking about my own freelancing experiences in college…
For my money, students comprise one of the most overlooked and underutilized freelance communities. Even though tons and tons of students are learning extremely valuable (and marketable skills) on a daily basis, we seldom think about college students as potential freelancers, particularly when it’s time to fill the next freelance gig.
Back in my own college days, when I wasn’t hitting the books or drinking eggplant juice (my older brother somehow convinced me it would help with hangovers – it turned out he was just messing with me), I was fortunate enough to freelance on a fairly consistent basis. While my java pressing compatriots earned their beer money concocting frappacinos at Starbuck’s, I was discovering amazing synergies between my studies and my work. Like the time I was able to use a class on VRML to impress a client who only wanted a “3D-looking” kiosk menu programmed in Director, with a real immerse/interactive 3-D world! (For those not fluent in “tech,” allow me to translate: I did something pretty awesome.) Not only was it rewarding for me to apply skills from the classroom to the real world, but I feel pretty confident that I was providing my clients with high-quality services.
Certainly, some old and grumpy types might stereotype college kids as too young to understand the responsibilities that come hand-in-hand with freelancing. (These are probably the same types that don’t appreciate re-runs of Seinfeld or a good “yo mamma” joke.) But for those of us with even a little bit of open-mindedness, college kids represent an incredibly useful, and underutilized, talent pool. Continue Reading
The start of a new year is traditionally the time to think about change. If a jump to freelancing is on your agenda, then read on for seven things you can do today to get your freelance career started.
Note that unless you’re superhuman, you probably can’t do all seven of these in one day, but you can certainly get started on them!
1. Create a Name and Logo
One of the most fun things about going freelance is coming up with a business name for yourself. I chose my business name and designed myself a logo when I still had a fulltime job, and wanted to daydream about working for myself.
There are a few important things to keep in mind when choosing a name: Continue Reading
With the start of the New Year upon us, the likelihood of you deciding to head off into Freelancing full-time may be tickling your senses. We understand your passion to make it on your own, and present our Top 10 Freelance Resolutions for this coming year. Already freelancing? Hopefully some of these concepts will help you recommit to your endeavor, and subsequently bring you success in the years to come. Continue Reading
Process schmocess. Who needs them eh? Well actually every business needs them, no matter how big or small you are; but if you’re a one-man freelancing business you might still be wondering why you need to bother with them?
Having effective processes in place can help you…
- Spend less time on the boring, time-consuming aspects of your business
- Build a client-generating machine
- Let go of some of the reins and work out what tasks you can hand over to someone else (also known as outsourcing)
- Set your business up to grow beyond the confines and limitations of a small, one-man band business without the additional hassle and growing pains
If you’re just starting out or you have no idea how to implement smarter processes in your business, then here’s a brief guide to implement some of the basics…
Kristen’s post about putting the holiday slump to work for your business was a timely reminder that 2008 is fast approaching and before we know it, we’ll be into a new freelancing year and wondering just what happened to 2007!
If you want to make the most of 2008 from your freelance business perspective, now might be a great time to dust off the business plan and see what needs adjusting. If you’re one of the many freelancers who is thinking “why do I need a business plan? It’s just little old me”, then let me ask you this…
Do you still want to be freelancing this time next year? If so, then how sensible would it be to make a plan right now for this to be so?
Unless you’re just starting out, you now have one more year’s worth of experience under your belt to add to the plan for 2008; reflecting on the past year is a great way to revise your plans for the future.
The following 5 questions (with further prompting questions to guide you) might be ones you want to consider when thinking about your goals and business plans for 2008… Continue Reading
How much time do you spend worrying about your competition? How often do you do things because you think your competitors are doing them and you need to keep up? Do the words “they stole my client” ever creep into your mind?
As a solo freelancer, bigger competitors in particular can seem rough and scary. Recently however a couple somethings happened to me that changed my viewpoint. I worry a lot less now about what my writer/designer neighbors are doing and pay a little more attention to monetizing the situation. Here’s what I’ve realised about those bigger competitors:
- The hiring process takes time and money
- There may be new-employee benefits and insurance to worry about
- They need physical space and raw equipment resources
- If they hit a slump they’ll have another person to fire (yes, HR personnel worry a great deal about this)
Regardless of how big or small your competition is though, here are five good reasons not to break into a cold sweat think about them.
1. Your Competition Isn’t As Good As You Are
Think about it.
Someone somewhere is the worst graphic designer in the universe.
Somewhere else is the worst writer ever.
Somewhere there’s an accountant who’s probably worse at math than me.
We all the know the old parable where two buddies are out hiking and they come across a bear. One of the guys takes off his backpack and gets ready to run. His buddy says, “It’s no use. You can’t outrun a bear.” The other guy responds, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you.”
Fortunately it’s the same for freelancers. We don’t have to be the best in the world. We just can’t suck worse than everyone else. If you simply show your potential customers that you’re not that guy, you’re bound to get work.
A year ago, I wrote exclusively for print publications. I suspect that many freelance writers (and photographers and designers) are in the same boat — print is where the money is, and it’s what we’re used to doing.
However, today, I write exclusively for online publications. I’ve completely transitioned from print, and I couldn’t be happier.
Why did I make the transition? A number of reasons, actually:
- Writing for blogs and websites is less work per article. Doing research for a magazine article can take a week or two. Even a freelance newspaper feature takes a day or two of tracking down sources, getting interviews, etc. But writing a blog post? I mainly write from my own experiences — you can say that’s 17 years of freelancing research, but all of that’s already done. And if I do additional research, it’s online or through email — not a difficult proposition.
- It’s much more flexible. With print publications, you’ve got a set number of words (or inches). If you go over that amount, there’ll most likely be some cutting. In print, if you’re out of room, you’re out of room. There are also much stricter publishing deadlines in print. But on the web, if you go a few paragraphs over or under, no one cares. You generally have to stay within a certain range of course — they’re not going to pay you for one paragraph, and no one wants to read a novel-length article. But if you don’t hit extremes, you’re fine. And while blogs generally like to stick to certain publishing schedules, they don’t fold if they miss a post. So although I don’t recommend that you bust deadlines, if you have a good working relationship with an editor, there’s more wiggle room.
Freelancing is a good career choice for a student. While letting us study, it also gives us both money to pay the bills and experience that we need in the future. I’ve seen a lot of student come out of college with only theory and no experience. I’m not talking about expertise in a given field (for example, in my case that would be sociology), but of real world experience. You know what, sometimes you do have to wear a suit. You do have to know how to write a proposal, a brief, etc. My friend Glenn Wolsey points out: “The good in favor of freelancing – extra cash in your pocket. The bad, added stress to hit deadlines and hours disappearing before you know it.”
Next month I’ll be doing a presentation and roundtable at a Microsoft event about web technology and business. I have to be honest, I’ve never done a presentation for such a large and experienced audience. The good that will come out of it is that I’ll learn. From that day on, I’ll know how to improve my presentations and public speaking. Don’t wait to finish college to get some experience. People notice young people that work hard and know their field well.
So you wanted to become a Freelancer. That’s great! You’re one step closer to more personal freedom and a job you actually enjoy. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind – things I found important to consider when I began freelancing. Of course there are many more, so feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.
Your finances are the most important issue to consider when starting out. You’re probably used to getting a pay-check by the end of the week/month/year. Not having that is what many people are afraid of when embarking on their freelancing career. Luckily, you will get used to this pretty quickly. You just have to approach your finances differently. The most important thing is to always have enough money in your bank account to allow you to live for the next couple of months, even when it seems the work is rolling in.
Taxes are an important part of accounting that many overlook in the early days. It’s tempting to spend all the money you get, but it’s important to keep in mind that someday the tax office will want its part of your income.
In order to avoid being trapped in the pitfalls of your tax system, I highly recommend getting an accountant. It’s generally not too expensive and allows you to focus on what you’re good at. At the beginning of every month I collect my bills, drop them off at my accountant’s and wait for her to tell me how much I have to transfer to the tax office.
However, it is possible to take care of your finances without the help of an accountant. If you have the time to spend on your accounts (and a mind that bends well to these things) you can have a far greater control and insight into your financial situation. The most important thing is to be realistic – if you know you’re not the accounting type, get an accountant straight away. Hiring an accountant at the beginning of your freelancing career will be far less expensive in the long run than fines from the tax department and hiring someone to sort out your abysmal records.
Freelancing on the side while working a regular 9-5 job is both a handy way to get your freelancing business started as well as a useful trick for earning extra cash without the stress of giving up your day job. For myself, doing the odd job here and there was how I started even thinking about freelancing. As it became obvious that there was enough work to keep me afloat I gave my old employer a ‘thank you very much and see ya later’ and off I went to full time freelancing freedom. Here are some of the pros and cons of moonlighting on the side that I found during my time:
What’s Great About Freelancing on the Side
- You Get to Test the Waters
Giving up the security of your day job can be a bit frightening. When you work for someone else it’s their responsibility to bring in the clients, get you the jobs and pay you when not much is afoot. As a full time freelancer you’ll be inheriting all that and more. But the great thing about freelancing on the side is that you get to test the waters before you completely give up the security of your job. A little like wearing floaties on your first trip in the pool. If it doesn’t pan out and you turn out to be an awful swimmer well those little balloons of air will make sure you don’t get into too much trouble, and if you’re the next Ian Thorpe then you can quickly slip out of them and splash away.
You Get to Take Holidays
I don’t know if all freelancers are like me, but I have a hard time taking holidays. There hardly ever seems to be a good time to do it, someone’s project is always due and if you don’t have any jobs on then you’re probably freaking out about your impending poverty. This is not the case for part-time freelancers, for they can always free up some time by turning away jobs with the luxury of knowing that they still have an employer who will actually pay them to relax… Did I mention that I miss paid holidays?
Selling the written word is precarious business these days. We regularly hear about declining circulations, layoffs in newsrooms and magazines folding.
So what’s a freelance writer to do?
Consider science fiction writer Tobias Buckell.
Last year, Buckell found out his job at a university was on the chopping block. Finding a new job would have required moving, plus it would mean his wife would also have to search for a new employer. Having spent nearly a decade writing in his personal blog, he decided to become a freelance blogger.
He scoured job boards, Google and anywhere else he might possibly find openings, mostly catching ones that paid very little. But persistence paid off and after a few months, he landed a few paid-posting gigs and was able to make a livable income.
This is the age of Media 2.0 and there are plenty of opportunities as a professional blogger.