Time to Read (using avg wpm): 14.5 mins
An approach to the First Chute of The Loot Chutes
Are You the Creative Type Who Doesn’t Like Being On A Schedule?
I’ve got just the occupation for you!
I think if I would have done some freelancing before I began this site, I would be a bit better off.
Freelancing can help you hone your craft and gain experience all while making money. Very lucrative stuff but can be risky if you are not prepared.
Here’s a short pros and cons list of what you may be up against to help you decide if you would like to know more and keep reading:
- Make your own hours
- Work in your underwear
- Make money doing what you enjoy
- No self-discipline? Dead
- Think you won’t have to work hard initially? Dead
- No savings and can’t get off the ground freelancing? Dead
Consider this article, see what you may be up against and decide if freelancing is a good First Chute for you.
- Types and How to Choose
- Building your brand
- Pricing and money
- Doug’s Take
There are many different kinds of freelancing. You can be a freelancer for just about anything.
The main categories you can be in for freelancing are as follows:
- Web, Software and IT
- Sales and Marketing
- Writing and Translation
- Design, Art and Multimedia
- Admin and Customer Support
- Engineering and Architecture
- Management and Finance
Within each of these are tons of different specializations for you to chose from. The more saturated ones will require more skill and a more unique brand, while the less popular ones will require a more intense specialization but less competition.
The three most popular kinds of freelancing are:
- Web Development
- Graphic Design
These categories are flooded with people but if you can set yourself apart from them, you will destroy them. If you decide, after reading this, that freelancing is for you, hopefully this post has given you enough to set yourself apart from the cattle.
A few other popular ones that aren’t as flooded are:
As you could imagine, you can be a freelancer for pretty much anything.
People looking for freelancers come to sites like these (the same ones you will be signing up for):
They post jobs and you apply for them, if you get the job and do it right they pay you.
Now it’s time to move on to the guts, so if nothing so far has gotten you interested in freelancing, return to the First Chute page and pick something else maybe.
Your strategy will vary depending on whether you already have a job or not. Here are a few factors to think about regarding your strategy, which will be different if you have a job or not.
Do you have a job?
- Pricing. You have a lot more wiggle room here if this isn’t going to be your only source of life income. This is good because you can charge less initially in order to (potentially) amass experience and reviews quicker. Example; you could charge $20 an hour while someone else who has to live on this money and charges $50 an hour. If you are transparent and let potential clients know that you are trying to build experience and reputation so you are charging lower prices, they will be more likely to try you out. (Side note: if you don’t tell them why you charge so little they may just think you are rubbish (British expression there, been watching alot of Top Gear recently))
- Workload. Ah but here’s the downside to already having a job. You will have half the time to work on projects, develop your business and/or network with clients and other freelancers. Don’t feel too bad though because that is a sacrifice you are making in order to maintain financial security.
No way José
- Pricing. If you have bills and you just got laid off or you quit your job or something like that, then you will need to make enough money to live. (The alternative being you live with your parents or a friend and you don’t have many bills to pay and you can afford to make less, which in that case you get the best of both worlds, faster brand building with lower pricing and all the time in the world to work on it all.) Anyway, So you can’t afford to scrimp on your price. That’s okay, even without experience, if you have the right credentials and can convince potential clients that you are worth the money, you can land solid jobs initially. It only takes a few jobs and good reviews before you are seen as a professional and not a gamble.
- Workload. You can work all day everyday! You don’t have a job! Remember you are building a brand and being your own boss (kinda), this is definitely something to work for, don’t give up!
Building your brand
I like this part the most. This is where you learn the ins and outs of getting jobs, developing a good reputation and promoting yourself.
Here are the 3 p’s of building your freelancing brand:
It all starts with your picture. Just a head shot but include a little bit of your suit and tie, or whatever your business attire is, in the picture. Looking professional is very important to being hired. Make sure to smile too and don’t look like a weirdo.
There are tests you can take that show how adept you are at your chosen specialty. You want to take these tests and display your scores in your profile somewhere to give your employers a better idea of your skill. Really study for these and get good scores as this is an important part of your profile.
If you study like a maniac and still score within the bottom 20%, I’m sorry to say but you may be as dumb as a rock.
Just kidding, this just means that this particular specialty is not for you and you should pick a different category to specialize in.
If you have any college degrees or licenses you should display them here as well.
Your rating and reviews are big parts of your profile and they will, usually, automatically be displayed. We will go over how to get the best reviews from your employers below.
Here’s another good resource I found on creating your profile:
This section is about how to treat your employers. You would usually call them clients but in this section I think it is better to think of them as employers and treat them with respect and care.
How you treat your employers is key to your success. Your employers are the ones that write the reviews. After the potential employer reads your application-loves it, reads through your profile- loves it, and then checks your reviews and sees that you are rated 2 stars overall, and that the only reason you have that many is because your mom gave you 5 stars for cleaning her toilet, you will not be chosen for this job.
Here are a few tips to help keep your employer happy and ensure the best reviews possible:
- Be prompt. Respond to questions and comments quickly and with respect and professionalism.
- Have integrity. If your employer pays you by the hour and sets a time limit, if you can, finish the job early and turn it in early. Most people finish the job early and pretend to still be working on it to run out the clock and get paid the most. If you want to stand out and show your employer you have integrity and you are someone that people want to work with, you must show character and integrity.
- Be unique. Get those creative wheels turning with every job and put your best into it (unless your employer says otherwise).
- Be respectful. This is your employer you are dealing with. If they are jerks you must still keep your cool. Every time you respond with respect you are putting another coin into your brand’s piggy bank.
An extra tip I heard from Evan Carmichael (cool dude) was to check out your employer’s website and write in your application something you liked about them or their brand or the design, anything really. You just want to seem interested in them and this will set you apart from the competition.
Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews or referrals. If you have done good work and made a good impression they will have no problem talking about their good experience with you.
Having a good personality and putting in the effort to have good relations with these people is a major investment in the future of your freelancing career. Every contact counts. If you consistently, across the board, practice these aspects when dealing with these people, you will have an advantage over most of your competition and you will get the best reviews.
You are your brand and you want to advertise yourself wherever you can.
The easiest way is through social media. Make friends with the other socialites in your industry and post content relating to your industry to build a good reputation and become an industry leader.
The more time consuming but better investment way is to build a website around your brand. Create a logo for your brand and maybe a little slogan. Post projects you’ve worked on and your good reviews you’ve gotten. The best part about having a website is that you are in charge of anything these potential employers can see.
You can use sites like these to look professional with minimal effort:
Link your website up with your social media profiles and put up a link to your website on your profile and now you are all linked up. There is no doubt from your potential employers that you are a professional now.
Pricing and Money
Now that we are in the pricing section we are going to call your clients “clients” again.
How you price your services depends on many different things.
Is this your only way of making income or are you making sustainable income elsewhere? If you don’t NEED this money then you can be a little more flexible and potentially, grow your brand quicker. If you need the money you will need to price yourself higher and with no experience, may have to work a little harder to get clients- but you will have more time to do so.
There are different ways of charging your clients for your services, here are 2 of the more popular ways:
- By Project/Assignment
Start Hourly. When you have some experience and skill you should change to be paid by the project/assignment.
Uh oh… math.
Don’t worry, this is pretty easy actually.
Here’s how you come up with your hourly rate:
(Salary+operating costs)/working hours= X , X+profit=Y
Figure out your salary (tax included). This is what you plan to make in a year. Something like $40,000 or $60,000. The better you are, the higher your salary should be.
You calculate your yearly operating costs and overhead. This is anything that you spend money on to keep your office or setup going, along with what you spend on materials and/or software. Some examples could be: rent, internet, photoshop subscription, insurance. Add up all of these (monthly) expenses and multiply by 12 to get your yearly operating costs and overhead.
Then calculate your working hours. This is amount of time you are able to spend on projects. Say you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks (a year). So you are able to work 2080 hours a year. Most people would subtract time for vacation, sick days, and holidays. You would typically end up with 1900 hours. Done!
Just kidding. Now you have to factor in what are called your non-billable hours. This is the time you spend during your 40 hours working time a week that you don’t charge for. Some examples of time spent this way could be: doing paperwork, searching through clients or studying your craft. I’ve read that typically this comprises from 10-30% of that working time. Subtract that 10-30% and now you have your working hours.
Now you add salary + operating costs and divide by working hours. We can call this number X. If you get paid X by the hour and work every working hour all year, you will have your salary, taxes, and operating costs exactly.
Most people add a profit margin to this and use the profit to grow their business or invest in better tools. A profit margin is usually between 10-30%. To figure out your profit margin, take 10-30% of X. Add that back into X and you have Y, your hourly bill which takes into account your salary, taxes, all expenses, workable hours and profit margin!
Salary $40,000 Operating Costs $10,000 Working hours (20% non-billable) 1520
X= $33 Y (20% profit)= $40
So if this were you, you would charge $40 an hour.
so you skimmed over all of that because it looked to complicated to read, no problem. Ramit Sethi (cool dude), suggests to just take your salary you want and take away 3 zeros and you have your hourly wage. Ex:
$50,000 salary? Charge $50 an hour. Easy.
Charging by Project
Here’s where things get a little less cut and dry.
There are a few ways of going about this and it depends a lot on what kind of freelancing you do.
Some different methods you could factor into your pricing model are as follows:
- Estimated time
- Package pricing
- Incentive pricing
- Degree of difficulty
- Long term relationship
- Split Payment
Estimated time. If you are going to go only by estimated time then you might as well just get paid
hourly. You may decide to somehow factor in the estimated time into your overall price to add to it though.
Package pricing. This is when you have a list of the services you offer with the prices you charge beside them. The client will select which services they require and then pay you the total.
Say you are a freelance web developer. You can charge by the project by separating different elements of the web design into packages. The client would select each applicable package you offer and you would add up the package price.
Incentive Pricing. This is where you make a deal beforehand that if you finish within a certain time period you will get a bonus. Usually a method reserved for bigger projects.
Experience. Your experience should factor into the price you come up with. If you are just starting out and you are charging the same price as your industry’s top tenured freelancers but not providing the same quality of work, you may be exiled.
Degree of Difficulty. When you are blatantly making up the price you charge, you can factor this in too. Is it a fun project? If yes, charge less. Are you already busy with many things? If yes, charge more.
Long term Relationship. Will this client be interested in hiring you again? If you know you will see work from this client in the future, charge less as an investment in reliability.
Split Payment. This is where you may get 50% of the pay up front and 50% when finished. This is a way of protecting yourself. If you and your client end up disagreeing and they were not clear and they are unhappy with the project and unwilling to pay, you may end up out of luck without this protection. You can also get paid 1/3 of payment at beginning, middle and end of project.
There are other ways to pricing and in the end it is all up to you. You can try to follow some sort of template or, as Jake Jorgovan suggests, completely make it up and hone your price as you go.
Doug’s Take On Freelancing
Alas it is not the lance that is free, but the wielder of such a lance
No longer is the unwelcome welcome, while the limit that is the sky — is below
Nonetheless — all the while
Pursuing the privilege, the hazards onlooking
A flash of misstep to detail to bummer boulevard
With great care must the wielder of this lance, fell his foes
Doug sure has a way with words.
Freelancing is something I think I should have done. If I would have started by freelance writing before deciding to start this website/blog/database/resource, I think I could have been much better off. I would have more experience writing and I would have had a chance to gather a following. Then I would start the site, write good articles and have a fan base already. If you are thinking of starting a website or blog, I would suggest doing some freelance writing (on a site like medium) first to develop your writing voice and water your fan base seed.
If you have made it this far and are still interested in freelancing, I have some links to different freelancers and their experiences with starting out, to help you to know what to prepare for and expect:
Freelance software engineer describing first year:
Freelance designer describing first three months:
Freelance web developer describing first eight months:
Want to research freelancing further? Here are some great resources:
Hope this helps you on your journey to riches!
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