Articles And Guides On Freelancing

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Brennan Dunn
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Start A Freelancing Business

Just starting out or thinking about it? Here you'll learn how to adopt the right mindset to run your business and get your first few clients.

Branding and Positioning

The way you position and present yourself to your clients can make or break your chances with a prospect. Learn how to do position yourself the right way.

Marketing Your Business

Clients are the bedrock of any freelancing business. Learn how to reliably generate high-quality project leads.

Pricing Your Services

How you price and pitch yourself affects the quality of your clients and your income. Learn how to charge more and close more projects.

Writing Proposals That Win You Projects

Writing (and winning) proposals is critical to closing deals. There's no point in having lots of project leads if you don't know how to close them.

Project Management For Freelancers

Once you've sold a client on working with you, learn how to ensure that you consistently deliver great results.

Running Your Freelancing Business

All the advice and tools you need to run a profitable and sustainable freelancing business.

Work/Life Balance For Freelancers

You CAN freelance without sacrificing your sanity. Learn how to balance your life and your work.

Productizing Your Services

What if you could sell your services the same way you'd sell a product? Learn how to level-up your freelancing with productized consulting.

Community

Go behind-the-scenes at Double Your Freelancing and find out about upcoming conferences, meetups, and product launches.

Top Recently Published Articles & Guides

Managing Subcontractors as a Freelancer

My company became more than just me when I realized that I was losing money and future references by turning away work I couldn’t handle.

At first, I thought it would be smooth sailing and that it was the perfect arrangement. My contract with a contractor was simple: I’m landing the work, handling invoicing, and in charge of collecting. In exchange, I’d be taking a percentage of the hourly rate and giving the subcontractor the rest.

But what I didn’t realize was that I was ultimately liable. My reputation was riding on the abilities and, as more importantly, the integrity of each subcontractor I brought on.

Be upfront with your clients

Don’t make the mistake I made and try to whitelabel your subcontractors and pretend they either are employees of yours or, worse, are you. Because sooner or later, a client is going to ask you a question about their project and you aren’t going to be able to get in touch with your subcontractor. This happens.

If you’re straightforward and honestly let your clients know that you’ll be managing the deliverables of your subcontractors and trust them and their work, it’ll be a heck a lot easier to dig yourself out of a ditch if you need to.

Find reliable people

You can’t assume that you can throw keyboards at a project and guarantee a successful delivery. People are emotional, and they often times need prompting or slight nudges. As a primary contractor, it’s your job to find people who will dutifully represent your freelancing business, stick to schedules, work within budgetary constraints, and are utmost professionals.

It’s your reputation that’s at stake, not theirs. Vet your subcontractors, ideally know them before there’s a project on the table. Clearly communicate your expectations and how you expect them to work – don’t make the mistake I’ve made so often, thinking that everyone works just like you do.

Be fair

As a primary contractor, you’re balancing a relationship with your client, and a relation with your subcontractor(s). Clearly define the role of each involved party, and leave nothing to speculation.

Finally, the four points that follow should be clearly communicated with your clients when kicking off any new project:

  • That you’ll be doing daily reviews of all the work your subs produce
  • You will be involved in all major meetings
  • You’ve personally vetted the technical capacity and reliability of each of your subcontractors
  • That it’s your primary job to ensure that the project goes off without a hitch

3 Easy Steps To Finding Your First Client

So you’ve been thinking about becoming a freelancer, but you’re worried about being able to get your first client, and making sure that you have enough work to pay your bills.

Good news! Finding that first client is probably a lot easier than you ever though. Here are five steps that I’ve used to help book me solid.

Talk to your current or former boss

If you’re an awesome developer or designer, your boss was probably pretty bummed when he found out you were leaving. After all, you know their projects, how they work, and what they need. You’re a lot lower risk than hiring a new employee or outsourcing to someone else.

Beware, though. Your company might not be too happy with your decision, and even though it’s in their best interest for their business to keep you around, their emotions might be in the way. Talk about why you went out on your own and the life you want to live, and let them know you want them to succeed too and are willing to help.

Get to know your peers

The trouble with consulting is that work fluctuates. There are fat months, and there are lean months. Rather than turning away work, a lot of freelancers or consultancies would rather subcontract out work than turn away a project.

Attending conferences and user groups is a great way to meet the very people that might be overloaded with work. Don’t be shy, be upfront with what you’re looking for. After all, when subcontracting work, the primary contractor is likely making money off your time, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Run the networking circuit

Chamber of Commerce. BNI. Rotary Club. Regardless of where you are, there’s probably a bunch of monthly business networking events. Dress sharp, bring a stack of business cards, and project confidence. Again, don’t be afraid to let people know what you do and how you might be able to benefit them. Clients aren’t buying our work, they’re buying the benefits our work brings.

For example, let’s say you run into the owner of a boutique retail shop. If you know how to put together or design an online store, advertise, or think that you’re above and beyond her abilities as someone who understands technology and the Internet, offer to help.

Forget the technical jargon, ask her if she would like to give you a chance to increase her sales. Here’s a tip: Business owners really love being told that they can make more money. But being offered to put together a Shopify store with a custom design hooked into Adwords – yaaaawn.

How To Set Your Hourly Rate as a Freelancer

When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, the first question most people ask is: What do I charge?

Good news! It’s not that hard to figure out.

Don’t base your rate off your previous salary

There have been dozens of formulas that take your last job’s salary, multiply it by something, divide it by something else, and end up with a rate.

Don’t do this. While your expenses probably haven’t changed that dramatically since going solo (most of these calculators base their formulas off stabilizing your cost of living), your income potential has – if you know what you’re doing.

How good of a communicator are you?

There’s (unfortunately) a natural bias towards those who communicate more elegantly and cadenced than those who don’t. If you’re a pessimist, you might call these people smooth talkers. But our deliverables are more than just great technical execution. We need to dazzle, and that starts by making the process of working with you as smooth and worry-free as possible.

Confidence is something that I wasn’t born with but I’ve slowly leveled up, largely out of the necessity of running a small business. If you can portray confidence, and be perfectly frank with clients about what you know and what you don’t know, you’ll put a lot of skeptical clients at ease.

Is what you can provide in high demand?

If you’re a Ruby on Rails developer and know what you’re doing, you’re being robbed if you aren’t charging 3-figures per hour. Likewise, many other disciplines can justify a substantial hourly rate.

Offshoring and the “race to the bottom” attitude that Craigslist and other outlets have cultivated make a lot of people think that they need to lowball their rate. Then they can at least win the contract and make a little money, which in their mind is better than no contract and no income at all.

There’s a very good reason American developers are still hired by American clients (feel free to substitute with your country of residence). If it was all about the numbers, no one would hire me. But my rate is fairly high, and I justify that rate by letting potential clients know that the risk of failure is minimal, I communicate well and often, and it’s my goal to equate the income I receive with the value I produce.

Do a little Googling and get a sense for what someone of your skillset in New York, Boston, or San Francisco charges. Then start there.

Don’t negotiate (too much)

If a potential client has enough cash on hand to hire you, they’re probably at least decent at business (even though many of us might disagree!) And good businesspeople know how to negotiate and haggle.

My rule of thumb is that if I can get a client to book me for a large amount of time, I’ll lower my rates a bit. This saves me from downtime and the overhead of lost time spent marketing and getting that next client.

But don’t be a pushover. Trust me: You’ll be respected by your client if you can stand firm and explain why you charge what you charge.

Treat each new project as an experiment

Whenever you get a new client, push your rates up a little. You’ll be surprised at how high you can get it.

In my experience, most resistance comes when you change the first digit. $100 an hour to $200 is pretty big, and is going to lose you a lot of work. But $65 to $75 an hour isn’t going to make most clients hesitate, and after a hundred hours that’s another $1,000 in your pocket.

My winning formula:

  • Find what your peers in high cost of living areas are charging. This is your base.
  • Present yourself as a premium service. There’s a lot of risk in hiring freelancers (will they flake out?), if you can assuage any fears and stick to being a professional, you won’t get much pushback.
  • Offer a bulk rate, but only if you need to. This totally depends on what you do. (As a Rails developer, my idea of long term is greater than 6 months of full time booking.)
  • Go higher with each new proposal. Your confidence will grow, and you’ll be able to scope out your natural ceiling.

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