Freelancing your way to freedom: Tips
Want to be your own boss? Do your homework so you can pre-empt problems
With a changing job market and technology, freelance jobs have been on the rise recently.
Freelancers have the flexibility to set their own schedule, choose clients and follow their passion.
They can typically learn new skills, not only in their chosen profession, but in other aspects of managing a business, such as marketing, customer acquisition and managing cashflow.
However, making the move from a regular job to become a freelancer can be challenging, due to its unpredictable nature.
And while the idea of being your own boss is fantastic, in reality, every client becomes your boss, so freelancers need to know how to manage multiple bosses.
Here are some steps you should take.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you take the plunge, ask yourself some critical questions. Are companies or individuals willing to pay for your skills?
Is there sufficient demand for your work, and would this occur regularly enough to provide you a steady paycheck?
What is the market rate for your expertise and is there a lot of competition?
Does your industry require service providers to have the right certification and licences, and if so, do you have these?
When you start out, business is likely to be slow, so make sure you have at least three to six months' buffer in your bank account.
In order to protect yourself, it is recommended to set up a registered business - either as a company or as a sole proprietorship.
If you wish to be taken seriously as a business, where you can command a proper price, it is recommended to establish the necessary business peripherals.
This means getting a business name, logo, website, company e-mail address, mailing address, name cards and possibly an office space.
While freelancers may already have the necessary expertise within the sector before they venture out, most do not have the skills to find, acquire and retain customers.
Start by asking friends, colleagues, previous clients and any other relevant contacts if they need, or know of anyone who needs your service.
Whenever you complete a job, ask for referrals. Join relevant industry associations and attend networking events, where you can meet and talk to potential clients.
Build up a portfolio of successful projects that illustrate your expertise, and put these on your website, where potential clients can find them.
Content marketing is a useful way to share useful topics relevant to your industry. These can be shared on blogs or through media channels to reach a wider audience. Leverage on social media platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn, to reach out and engage with prospective clients.
Other platforms can link you with customers, such as Hillgate, a global consulting platform that connects companies with strategists for micro-consulting projects, or ThunderQuote, a B2B services marketplace and e-procurement platform.
DEALING WITH LOUSY CLIENTS
Eventually you are bound to come across a lousy client. Some may delay payment, while others will increase the scope of the work or push forward the deadline.
The best way to handle this is to pre-empt such problems by clearly marking out the scope of work, including the delivery date of the completed work.
If you run into any problems during the project, let the client know immediately, so you can manage their expectations - whether it is a delay in the project or a change in the outcome.
Make sure you have a signed contract (you can find template contracts on the Internet), which should be clear on the terms of payment.
For example, the contract could state payment is required within 30 days of sending of the invoice, after which there is a late payment fee incurred.
If payment drags beyond the stipulated date, dropping an e-mail or friendly phone reminder is usually sufficient. Otherwise, you may consider filing a claim at the Small Claims Tribunals.
Like all new career opportunities, becoming a freelancer has its risks.
But by preparing yourself in advance, putting in place the right mechanics to attract customers and pre-empting most problems, you can reduce the downsides, while enjoying your new-found freedom.
This article is contributed by Tan Junming, co-founder of ThunderQuote, a company that makes it easy to hire the right B2B vendors for any project.