The important question no one asks freelancers

It appears that successful freelancers determine our fees solely on the basis of value¸ though exactly what constitutes value isn’t explained. Believe it or not, there are self-employed experts who guarantee some well-defined value spelled out in terms of how the client benefits. Their fees are high, as well they should be when client expectations are so substantial.

But for many freelancers, value is vaguely defined and no specific achievement is promised. So my question is not how do you decide how much to charge your clients. It is: How do you, a self-employed freelancer, determine how much to pay the freelancers who provide business services to you or your clients?

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Posted in How much to charge Tagged with: , , ,

Freelancing: How are late fees working for you?

The case against freelancers charging late fees: Do they assures both payment of the original invoice and collection on the compounding fees?

 

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Posted in Getting paid Tagged with: , , ,

Let’s get real about the U.S. job market. Why freelancing may be your answer

Economists give us positive U.S. employment data, but on the ground, it’s not looking so good. If you (or a loved one) have been unable to land the kind of job you want, freelancing may be the short-term or even long-term answer.

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Posted in Freelance Tagged with: , ,

Make money by saving money, just like Benjamin Franklin.

Investing financially in your freelance or entrepreneurial practice can be a sound investment. Here are some guidelines to help you decide which investments will meet your expectations in terms of business results and which ones are a bad investment for you at this time. …

 

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Posted in Marketing Tagged with: , ,

The freelance dream

Freelancing is a happy choice when we value serving customers and helping them succeed. However, if your sole concern is your own freedom, your road ahead may be rocky.

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Posted in Freelance Tagged with: , , ,

Collaborative freelancing is the answer

So what’s the question?

The question may be, How can get paid what I am worth?

Or, How can I get more good clients?

Maybe, How can I increase the value of my work?

Or even, How can I compete with freelancers in less expensive economies without working for less than minimum wage?

The answer, I believe, is collaborative freelancing.

“Collaborative” is typically defined as two or more people working together for a special purpose.

However, I’d like to expand the definition to recognize the heart of the matter. Collaboration is about relationship.

This relationship brings to mind the Twelve Points of the Scout Law: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Well, I’m not so sure that reverent applies to freelancers. And there may even be problems with clean, especially for freelancers who work offsite. The quality of “clean” doesn’t apply if we are talking soap-and-water clean; instead we are talking about cleaning up problems with accuracy and functionality.

That leaves us with 10 or 11 Points of the Freelancer Law.

I am a freelancer myself, but I also am on the other side of the relationship since I hire freelancers to provide services I can’t provide for myself or that I detest.

Frankly, I’m finding it difficult to hire and work with freelancers. So many people are so sensitive to being disrespected that it’s challenging to negotiate a path forward. Some freelancers want to formalize and minimize communications to the extreme and are noncommittal about deadlines.

I’m not saying we freelancers should prostrate ourselves and allow ourselves to be walked all over. We have to manage our time effectively to fulfill assignments from multiple clients. We deserve time to ourselves and to live our lives. And this list is merely a starter list of what we need.

But I am saying that the client knows more about his company, its history, the direction in which it is moving, and the work to be done than the freelancer could possibly know. Working together in a timely fashion creates the best work.

This level of interaction may take more time, both in terms of the number of hours worked and the time span over which these hours extend. So be it. However the fee is determined, it should be sufficient relative to the freelancer’s time and work quality so that the freelancer enjoys the work and is not resentful.

Therefore, collaborative freelancing can be more expensive, but it can also be the more efficient way to develop an excellent product.

Sometimes the freelancer has to say NO. The freelancer must manage the relationship to benefit the project—and competing projects on her schedule—while maintaining sanity.

Collaborative freelancing benefits both the client and the freelancer. The final product is better, and the process to completion is more effective and more rewarding both intellectually and emotionally for both parties. And it simply is more fun.

This line of thinking fascinates me. I plan to explore it more deeply in the future. Your comments?

Posted in collaborative freelancing Tagged with: , ,

On freelancing and introversion

We may think that introversion is incompatible with being a freelancer.

A freelancer must be ultra outgoing, networking and phoning and social media-ing nonstop to build a high-powered customer base. The alternative is starvation.

Not true at all. It’s simply the American myth that there’s something wrong with introverts, that introversion is a mental disorder that may require treatment. The myth says that introversion must be overcome to achieve career success.

Kind of interesting considering that most freelancers work by themselves. A lot.

We are on the computer, perhaps at home or even working from bed. We may work independently at libraries or coffee shops or sitting outside under a tree or walking the sidewalks to clear our heads.

Actually, loners tend to thrive as freelancers, while people who are highly social get antsy, even depressed, as they crave ways to get out and about with other people.

Nor are we introverts unable to market our services.

Take me. I’m an introvert and I prefer to market by phone. I often call people I have not yet met and establish connection early in the call by talking about some professional trait we share, such as our industry or membership in a professional organization.

I’m quite able to converse with strangers and even enjoy it. One difference between me and an extrovert is that I enjoy getting down to serious conversation about a common problem (that I can solve for the prospect). I get bored with pointless small talk.

What about that rejection thing?

As I’ve written before, we have to expect some “no” along the way. That’s a fact of life and not personally crushing.

No one enjoys rejection, whether an extrovert or an introvert. However, everyone must learn to live with “no.”

When you communicate in a conversational tone and sound down to earth and genuine, only one in a thousand people hang up rudely. Honest.

What I hate to hear when a salesperson calls me

I live in the Chicago suburbs, and the thing I hate the most is, “What about them Bears?”

I have no idea how the Bears are doing. I don’t much follow sports.

I’m proud that I knew the Cubs’ win / lose status as they won the World Series. Once every 108 years I get it together.

Sometimes I resolve to read the sports pages and get in tune with the rest of Chicagoland. It doesn’t work. I’m interested in stories about team management, marketing, negotiations and such, but the details of game performance don’t interest me.

So when callers ask questions that are meant to build rapport, they actually distance me from the conversation.

I also detest when marketers from warm locales ask me about the weather here in December and brag about how beautiful it is in LA.

Hey, I don’t rub it in when your community is threatened by August fires so please return the favor. If I felt as strongly about weather as you apparently do, I would have moved away years ago.

Back to the introversion thing

I’m getting kind of bored with Twitter. Thousands of links to “the one secret you must know to succeed.” The secret is to narrow your niche. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

So I’ve started a new list on Twitter to track posts on introversion, my Myers-Briggs (INFJ) and my Enneagram (type 4 with a 5 wing).

And I’ve fished out my copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain for winter reading.

Are you an introvert? Dare you admit it? How’s it working out for you? Please comment.

 

More on freelancing and introversion:

Freelancing: Marketing to the introverted client

 

Should introverts phone for freelance and consulting assignments?

 

Posted in phoning for freelance and consulting work Tagged with: , , ,

Don’t overestimate your market

How do you compare to the general public in terms of your computer skills?

The answer may be: much better than you would guess.

Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., web usability consultant, has issued a report summarizing users’ computer skills as published in 2016 by the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). The study tested almost 216,000 people between the ages of 16 and 65 in 33 countries between 2011 and 2015.

What the test looks like

Here are sample test questions used to determine each participant’s computer skills:

  • “Find all emails from John Smith.” That’s level 1.
  • “Find a sustainability-related document that was sent to you by John Smith in October last year.” Level 2.
  • “Find the percentage of emails sent by John Smith last month that were about sustainability.” Level 3.

Then there are two more categories:

  • Below level 1: The very lowest skills level, which somehow is differentiated from . . .
  • “Can’t use computer.”

Yes, I can pass all three tests. Most likely, you can too.

Yikes! More than a quarter of adults can’t use a computer

Even more surprising is the percentage of the population at each of these levels:

  • Level 1: 29% of adult population
  • Level 2: 26%
  • Level 3: only 5%!
  • Below level 1: 14%
  • Can’t use computer: 26%

The achievement levels are surprisingly low, perhaps in part because some of the data date back to 2011 because it took so many years to assemble and analyze all the numbers.

Further surprising is the low percentage of Americans with the highest level of computer skills studied. It’s only 5%. (Singapore and Japan are ahead with 8% scoring at level 3.) Thirty-one percent of the U.S. population scores at levels 2 or 3.

To Nielsen, this means the need for extreme simplicity in usability. It also means that it is quite easy for professionals to remain blissfully unaware of users’ mastery of even the simpler functions.

How about reading literacy?

The data on computer skills prompted me to question the public’s ability to read English.

The Institute of Education Sciences in its most recent study (2003) found that only 15% of adult Americans could function at the highest levels in measurements of prose, document and quantitative skills. This definition of full literacy is equivalent to a university undergraduate level. The “average” American is reported to read at a first or second grade level.

It is important to consider the computer skills and literacy levels of our audiences in our communications. We cannot assume that they function at the highest levels, but we don’t want to insult their intelligence either.

Food for thought. Comments?

Posted in creating content Tagged with: , , ,

Exercising the completion muscle

Isn’t it great when we discover the name for a practice we have long-ago adopted?

My newly discovered practice is “exercising the completion muscle.”

And specifically, I practice it by completing and posting to my blog and newsletter (almost) every week.

It’s one thing to start a project, it’s another to stick to it until completion. But every time we hang in till we’re done, we reinforce a valuable habit.

Earlier this year I got out of the weekly article habit for awhile. It was sort of an existential crisis. Did anyone care? Did Google care?

The blogging experts claim that readers avidly await each installment and are concerned when a publication date is missed. Frankly, I saw no such distress.

But interestingly, several people told me they had missed my articles after I reinstated publication. To those people, I say thank you for your encouragement.

How I exercise the completion muscle

I generally draft my article over the weekend and finalize it on Monday. Sometimes scheduling conflicts require me to postpone for a day or two.

I take this obligation seriously and prioritize it above almost all other work. However, if I can’t fulfill it due to travel or illness, I skip it. Nothing is worse than letting obligations pile up over time so that they transform from a reasonable challenge to an overwhelming weight.

Sometimes this means publishing something that is pretty good but somehow doesn’t fully meet my goals. And occasionally I am so dissatisfied with what I have written that I have to set it aside.

Still, no matter what is going on with bigger projects, I have this frequent experience of completion success.

Where I heard of the completion muscle

I credit the term to the podcasts of Michael Joseph Ferguson, author of The Drummer and the Great Mountain: A Guidebook to Transforming Adult ADD/ADHD, and Bahman Sarram, which I find enlightening.

How are you building your completion muscle?

Bonus! Here are two podcasts on completion from The Drummer and the Great Mountain:

http://www.drummerandthegreatmountain.com/adult-adhd-add-tips-and-support-podcast-developing-a-creative-discipline

http://www.drummerandthegreatmountain.com/adult-adhd-add-tips-and-support-podcast-raising-hunter-type-children-with-tina-harlow

Posted in creating content, writing Tagged with: , , ,

Three types of freelance craziness

No wonder many people think freelancing is the most wonderful lifestyle anyone could ever have, considering the stuff I’ve been seeing lately:

  1. The very, very short workweek

At a social / networking event I recently attended, a fellow freelancer told me that The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, represents the lifestyle he wants to achieve. Yes, he wants to live well while working only one-half day per week.

I was dumbstruck within but kept it together during the conversation.

I don’t remember what kind of freelancing or consulting he did. I think it was something about marketing. What was interesting was that he communicated neither the steak nor the sizzle.

Obviously he is much more intrigued by a freewheeling life involving little work than he is with the services he offers.

As a freelancer myself, I frequently contract with others to provide me with services that I don’t do for myself, either because I don’t enjoy them, I don’t know how, or as a one-person business I don’t have enough time.

However, I run from someone whose top priority is to avoid work. I don’t want my project sitting in the queue of a person with so little commitment to getting the job done.

I understand that many coaches of freelancers have a USP (selling proposition) on the theme of showing us how to make more money in less time while working with clients we love. That claim works for them because it appeals to their audience—freelancers.

But we freelancers do not attract the best clients, especially B2B, with that same USP. Sure, it sounds good to freelancers but it does not sound good to their clients.

  1. I’ll do your work as soon as I get to Indonesia

Along the same line, I see coaches of freelancers who have established international travel as their primary life goal and want to teach freelancers to do the same. They boast about how many continents and how many countries they have traveled, ideally working along the way.

They may get a lot of paying work done, but I’d demand to know exactly how before I’d sign up with them and even give a deposit. What’s the point of so much travel if it takes you to Starbucks around the globe that are pretty similar to the one down the street from your home? I think it would be difficult to maintain a regular work schedule living from a backpack.

  1. Now you see him, now you don’t

The third craziness I see are freelancers flaking out on work commitments. They get deep into a project, eliciting hours of input from the client and putting in billable hours for work that has not been finalized. Then they disappear, if not permanently at least for substantial periods of time. The client’s project is up in the air and they are worse off than if they had never contracted for the work.

Sometimes these freelancers have set their price too low, perhaps because it is for a friend.

Once the rate is set, that’s it. It’s not the client’s problem. The freelancer may accept the work as fill-in because there’s no other paying work at the moment, but it’s shortsighted without considering that better paying work may be on the horizon.

Sometimes we take on the assignment but explain that higher paying work will come first. So long as the client agrees and so long as we keep the friend / client religiously apprised of changes in scheduling, that’s OK.

How can people make a living with such loose work habits? Am I too critical? What do you think?

Posted in Freelance, Running a business Tagged with: , ,