Operating my own freelance business has been quite the journey. It’s kept me afloat in hard financial times and enabled me to increase my repertoire of skills!
Freelance Can Be Part-Time or Full-Time
If anyone has noticed, middle management jobs have virtually disappeared over the last two decades. Most jobs offered are either upper management or college grad jobs with very little in between. After my middle-management job was made redundant in an international merger, I started my freelance content writing business.
It has been my experience clients come and go. New business usually comes in on a project basis, so in the startup stage, you must have some other means of support – whether it be a part-time or full-time job or a spouse.
What’s great about a freelance writing business is that you can work your own hours. What’s not so great is that you are working when most people are enjoying their weekends off. Yes, weekends are often required, especially if you work another job. But you can take on as much or as little work as you want. And turning down clients that you know are going to drain your time and energy with very little financial reward is a must. You will learn quickly who those are. And it’s okay to say no!
Probably the worse part of the owning your own business is when clients don’t pay or don’t pay on time. You are not going to get a regular paycheck unless of course, you do have another job to supplement your income. I’ve been relatively lucky with most of my clients paying in a timely manner and I’ve had some stellar clients. But there has been the occasional client that is slow to pay.
My advice is to be as polite as possible while being assertive about on-time payments because, in the end, you do want to get paid and getting ugly never helps. Also, get payment terms upfront and I highly recommend getting that in writing so you can refer to it when needed. But definitely determine the amount you will charge and when you expect to get paid.
Use PayPal For Invoicing!
For invoicing I use PayPal. It’s so simple and easy and you can copy previous invoices, so you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you invoice a client. And everyone accepts PayPal. Plus, it’s free. Well, they do take a small percentage of the payment received but it’s nominal. And if you don’t get paid, there is no fee. PayPal only charges when you receive payment. There are no other upfront fees.
Freelancing Can Increase Your Skill Set!
Another benefit of my freelance business is that it has forced me to increase my skill set. To stay afloat you must wear many hats and offer a multitude of services. I now offer email blasts and newsletter creation, and it’s actually fun to do. You don’t have to be a graphic designer anymore.
Constant Contact and newsletter templates are the way to go for email campaigns and electronic newsletters. Even Word has thousands of newsletter templates that are available from several providers for free. There may be a slight learning curve, especially if you have no layout experience, but it’s worth learning. I have had several years of Quark and InDesign being a magazine editor, but templates are much easier to learn then they were.
Another tip when a client asks you to do something you haven’t done before, never say no. Just learn how to do it. There are so many apps out there to help you look like a pro. From Social Media to email campaigns, there’s an app that will fit your needs.
Learn New Skills and Apps!
As you know, everything is going Social. Marketing has taken a completely different approach now. And if you are not up on how to promote a client on Social Media, you are going to lag behind those businesses who do.
I highly recommend you learn a Social Media Management System. My favorite is Hootsuite because it has so many benefits to it and it easy to learn and to use. It helps you with keyword selection, scheduling and best times to post and coordinates your posts on several Social Media platforms. And they have free training tutorials.
I also mentioned Constant Contact. Back in the day, you had to know HTML to make your emails graphically pleasing. Not anymore. Just pick a template drop the copy and photos in and Viola! You’re a pro.
Also, get to know Google Analytics and Google AdWords. You will need to know how to look at website analysis for each website in which you are going to write content. These are free if you have a Google account but there are also low-cost apps that also do this for you. But knowing the basics I believe must come first, so you know what you are looking at and how to interpret it.
Also, learning CMS is a must. I know the frontend of WordPress and some of the backend operations. Many small businesses use WordPress as their CMS as well. Working with several clients, I’ve also had experience working in other CMS applications.
And it doesn’t hurt to know some basic HTML either. Even if you aren’t going to use it, it’s a good idea to become familiar with how it works. Believe me, I’ve had to correct some things on a website and knowing the basics of HTML helped a lot.
Probably the easiest way and cheapest way to learn a new application is Udemy. They have video classes on anything you want to learn about. From SEO content writing to photography.
To run your own business, you must stay current on the latest technology and it’s ever-changing. In order to offer your clients, the best and latest services, you must learn new ways of doing things. And don’t shy away from something you have no or very little experience in. You’ll have a hard time growing your business if you only take on assignments that you know how to do. Growth is a good thing for you and your business!