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…
I know there’s not a single FSw reader who’s going to call up their friends after this and say, “Dude, I just read a fantastic post on paperwork!” It’s also December, twelve months too late for this tax/paperwork tip to actually do you any good.
But luckily there’s another year where this one came from, and hopefully this will make things easier next time around.
Throughout the year I do my bills, invoicing and other paperwork every week. Sometimes I forget and sometimes I have a lousy week where there’s no paperwork to do. But about 90% of the time I do my paperwork every single Friday.
When you keep your paperwork fresh and current like this it takes about two minutes a week. All your current receipts and invoices are right there on the top of the pile, fresh in your purse or wallet, or near the top of your email inbox. Enter their numbers into a spreadsheet, file them behind last week’s papers and you’re done. Continue Reading
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
This guest post is written by Glen Stansberry of LifeDev.net.
When it comes to working for yourself, the step up from freelancing to starting a larger business is often a short one. Many a freelancer has used the work at home lifestyle, the flexibility and the cash flow of contract work to fund larger enterprises.
Of course one of the biggest joys of being a freelancing entrepreneur is the chance to develop your own ideas. By working on them yourself, you shape how they look, feel and grow over time. I can’t think of a much better feeling than taking an abstract idea and turning it into something real and useful. It. is. Awesome.
Confession time: I kind of, sort of, almost miss my 9-to-5 office grind. Granted, my home office comes equipped with a bottle of scotch and I’m not stuck using Internet Explorer, but there are some things a staff position at an established magazine or company can offer freelancers that harder to come by on our own.
What I miss most about going to the office every day are the people in all those departments that are usually ignored, but are so integral to the smooth turning of the gears: Legal, Accounting, Tech Support, Reception, the list goes on. Whether there was trouble with a libel suit or just a printer problem, it was easy to find an expert with an answer somewhere down the hall. Freelancers aren’t lost though, since there’s a wealth of online resources that’ll act as your support staff and help you through the workday.
Protonic.com is run by a staff of tech-savvy volunteers that offer free answers to questions about hardware, software, operating systems, or even a kink in your CSS. An answer can often take a day or so to make its way to you, but sometimes you’ll get answers within an hour. It’s the next best thing to sending a support ticket to the IT guys on the third floor.
If you’re willing to exert just a little bit of effort, you may want to browse the forums at Tech Support Guy. Chances are, your question has already been asked and discussed at length. If you’re worried about taking the advice of a stranger who might not know what they’re talking about, forum posters are ranked from Junior up to Distinguished Member, and their posts give a little bit of info about their experience and skills.
When it comes to writing your business website, you may not be in the position financially to hire a professional. That’s okay—I’ve got some great tips to help you put your ideas into words, and to make those words effectively sell your services.
Just write. Last week, I told you that it was good to map out your concepts and jot down the messages you want to convey for each individual page. Now it’s time to formulate paragraphs. Some people may be good at starting from the top with a killer intro section—if so, write on. If you’re not, that’s okay. For instance, if you’re going to write about three things for your home page that are your main points, write the “meat” first. Some people get a better idea for their lead-in paragraph after they see the page content laid out before them. If you go that way, you can throw on the opening paragraph next. The main part of this section is just to do your best and get your concepts into words. We can work on making them sizzle later.
If you’re like most freelancers—especially those starting out—you don’t have the money to hire someone to create content for your website.
Like all the hats you’ll have to wear as a solo agent—accountant, manager, business developer—you’ll need to add writer to the list. While freelance copywriters may have it easier than other self-employed professionals when it comes to writing, anyone can learn how to create content for their business website with a few helpful tips. But before you start typing, here are some things you’ll need to do.
Map Your Work. First, come up with the pages that your website needs. Creative freelancers, for example, will probably want to have a portfolio, where they can refer people to see their work. But most websites have similar pages: a home page, information about your business, a listing of your services and testimonials bout your services. Think about the pages that you need for your particular website. A freelance event coordinator may want case studies of the events, while a freelance designer would want a gallery of his or her work.
Devise a Message. Before you write, think about the concepts you want to convey. Your home page, for example, probably gives an overview of your business. But what do you want it to focus on? My website discusses the importance of hiring a copywriter. I also let the prospective client know that they don’t have to hire a marketing agency to get dynamic copy. I end with my slogan, which emphasizes that my services are affordable.
It’s a hot topic: Should freelancers use a contract? And if so, how do you go about creating one?
By now, you have probably gotten the idea that if you want to be in serious business as a freelancer, you’ve got to get things in writing. So, where do you start? How do you face the legalese demons? Relax and read on—I promise it’s not that hard if you keep an open mind. Remember, half the things we do in our businesses (for me, accounting and marketing) aren’t things we necessarily like. This is probably one of them for you. But it’s also a vital step in ensuring a professional business that runs smoothly.
First, decide what you need out of a contract. The basic contract includes information on your pay rate, payment timeline and a deadline for the project to be submitted. If you look at my contract, I have a clause in there about being able to use work on my Web portfolio because that was important to me. Whatever else you want to stipulate, it’s good to make a list highlighting the points you need covered.
Now it’s time to create the document. This will not be enjoyable or easy in most cases, but it’s a must. My contract is a good place to start, but you may want to scour the Internet and look at other freelancers’ sites to get an idea of what common agreements say. It’s okay if the copy–paster in you wants to come out here, but don’t solely rely on that to originate a document. You want the agreement to be customized to suit the specific needs of your business.
Ask a room full of freelancers what they do and you’ll get a broad spectrum of answers. Not so apparent in those replies, though, is that every freelancer actually has two mission-critical titles.
The one on the business card is pretty obvious. Writer, designer, developer, stylist, yadda, yadda, yadda. But, what about that other title? The one that lurks in the wings, yet is the secret driving force behind your success or failure in your “business-card” field. The one that reads, “Undercover Chief Marketing Offer.”
As a rule, freelancers, me included, hate thinking about this second job-title for two reasons. One, there is this pervasive feeling that focusing on the business-side of what we do somehow degrades or de-emphasizes the “craft” of what we do. “After all,” comes the rally-cry, “we’re artists, creators, visionaries. Our work should speak for itself.” The fact that so many gifted freelancers live a wrung above hand-to-mouth, though, is testament to the blatant fallacy of this notion.
This is the fifth day of our series on The Business Of Freelancing. This is the last day of the week, but don’t worry – we have another two series coming up over the next two months!
If you missed the previous posts, check out Saving For Taxes,You Are In Business To, Creating A Business Plan – How Will You Make Money, and Picking A Legal Form Of Business. For more, check out ShaneandPeter.com.
Bookkeeping, the Difference Between Profit and Loss
How do you make profit? It may sound silly – your goal is to make more then you spend. But how do you really know? You keep track, kind of like keeping score in basketball. A good business owner is constantly finessing their game. The score in business is measured primarily by two things:
I put enormous emphasis on bookkeeping in our business. Proper tracking and reporting allows me to measure the health of the business and make sound business decisions. For years, I truly hated bookkeeping. I’m not into details and felt the same dread about bookkeeping that I felt about cleaning my room. That was until Carla Sikand, the owner of BookkeepingPlus, during a course provided by the Small Business Development Center (an amazing free resource for all US business owners), sat me down and explained that bookkeeping wasn’t about details, it was about a system that could significantly increase my income if properly applied. I decided to try it and immediately learned a few things about what was working in business and what was not. My income doubled that year. I stopped offering a few services that I could now tell were not profitable.
This is the fourth day of our series on The Business Of Freelancing. Every day this week we will have a new tip to help you make the most of your freelancing career.
If you missed the previous posts, check out Saving For Taxes,You Are In Business To, and Creating a Business Plan: How Will You Make Money? For more, check out ShaneandPeter.com.
Picking a Legal Form of Business
What legal form of business is best for you? This is important to consider carefully as it has many implications for your future. For some it is a sole proprietorship, for others it will be an S corporation or an LLC. Over the years, Peter and I have owned sole props, general partnerships, and S Corporations. Don’t think that because you picked one you are trapped, you can change (it’s just a pain), but picking one is an important step in defining exactly what your business is.
First, let’s state the two most important factors that you’ll take into account when finding your business form.
- Liability. What is my business (freelancers, this means you) responsible for? How much risk does my business place me in? Do I have personal assets that I want to protect?
- Taxes. Based on expected income, what form of business will save the most on taxes? Or rather, will one form of business offer me tax savings over another?
I picked a sole prop first because it was simple. I wasn’t too worried about liability (because I owned nothing and I wasn’t doing high risk services). The paperwork was relatively straight forward (I didn’t need a lawyer) and the cost was in my price range.
This is the third day of our series on The Business Of Freelancing. Every day this week we will have a new tip to help you make the most of your freelancing career.
Creating a Business Plan: How Will You Make Money?
When someone asks you, “what do you do?” or “what type of business is it?” can you answer in 30 seconds or less? It’s called an elevator pitch.
If you don’t have one yet, take a time out and write one down. Then learn it, drill it, live it. It will help you focus on your goals and trust me, you will get asked that question all the time. It is nice to have an answer that leaves people with a clear understanding of what you do and how you make money at it.
That’s actually the first part of a business plan. If you get audited, one of the first things the IRS will look for is a written plan on how you will generate profit. There are many templates online and some good free courses offered by SBDC and SCORE if you’re interested in learning more.
Some people spend years perfecting their plan, while others take 30 minutes and handwrite it on a napkin. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it, put it in your files, and take the time to run it through your head when things seem complicated.
NB. This information should augment, not replace advice from an accountant or lawyer. This information is mostly relevant to US citizens. While we would like to include information for more localities, because FreelanceSwitch readers hail from all over the world this cannot be accomplished.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, Picking A Legal Form Of Business.