Freelancing: Five Steps to Help You Set Up Shop Online
By Special Guest
What is freelancing? Is it working according to your convenience, answering to your own creativity, attending fancy global seminars and going for a walk in the middle of the afternoon just because you feel like it? Or is it more of an intrusion into your private life, where the line between your home and workspace is blurred forever?
If handled incorrectly, freelancing can become the bane of your existence. Imagine answering to five different bosses living in five different time zones who want you to be available at their beck and call, no matter what time of the day!
Freelancing as a website designer is an experience that lies somewhere in between these two extremes. It is all about management of your work hours and personal time. Freelancing can become easy and quite enjoyable once you find the right balance between work and fun. So why do we hear most freelancing website designers groan and complain about their work almost all the time? What are they missing out on?
This can be a bit easier to understand if you have the basic skills required for website designing and you are looking to start freelancing soon. Here are the five steps you need to follow to get your own website designing started right now.
1. Have you estimated your startup costs?
Are you aware of the two basic things that you will need first to make your freelancing move? Every freelancer needs a personal computer with Internet connectivity and a working phone. Well, this one is quite obvious.
Next, you will need your own online profile, which means getting your own website started as soon as possible. Since website designing is your primary skill, we can assume that you will know how to get your own website done, but you will still need to pay for your own domain name. You will also need to get your own business cards printed, but in the world ruled by social media we don't deem it a prerequisite.
To start out with - you will need the latest versions of a few software programs like Coda, Adobe (News - Alert) Dreamweaver and Espresso. You can start with trial versions of these to get yourself familiarized with the latest updates etc. It is quite normal to take up to six months to find out your software of choice for all the crafting you will be doing.
Also, find a good accountant who can take care of all the moolah you are about to make. Make sure he is good with taxes and insurance, since you will have to update your health insurance payments and pay your taxes on time. Having an accountant in tow is always advisable since he can guide you towards major saving opportunities you may be missing out on right now.
2. Have you decided how much to charge for your services?
Most people usually go with 'low.' This is not a particular number. They just visit the more popular freelancing sites and bid on projects with a lower than average rate. But that is highly impractical and rather rash. Deciding your rate should be an intensive process where you need to take into account multiple factors like rent, taxes, insurance payments, installation payments and travel. You should add up all the monthly costs and divide the entire amount by four to figure out what you should make in a week. Try calculating how much you need to charge to make that amount for 20 hours a week of work, to begin with. This should give you a good idea about your hourly rate!
Sticking to your required amount while securing your first client can be difficult, but this is also a very important deciding step that will define your brand value in the long run. Not all affordable designers are good, so if you think you may be charging a bit more than the average low, you can be sure that you will be attracting a better clientele as well.
3. Why is a sales cycle imperative for a freelancer?
What is the difference between a fabulous designer who sells nothing and a successful designer who sells all he designs? A sales cycle! Web designing might be your true calling, but you will be selling website designs online and that should be your primary focus. Simply knowing website designing and not knowing anything about sales will not help a freelancing website designer at all. If you do not know how to sell your products or where to sell your products, you will be sitting on design masterpieces that will never see the light of day.
This calls for a formal sales cycle. With this, you can find prospects, inform them about your services and offer your exclusive services for their designing needs. This is a very simple three step process that helps in relationship building between clients and website designers.
- Identify your prospective clients
This is the better way of kick starting your business. First you need to find who your clients are and what they need. This can be an online or an offline process, depending on your comfort and convenience. Then you need to work on a pitch that will prove your uniqueness and ability to your client.
- Inform you clients about your services
Your pitch should perfectly convey what you will be offering through your service. You need to give verifiable number and reproducible statistics if you want to secure a client fast.
- Why should they choose you?
If you can design the pitch right, it should do most of the work for you. You need to highlight the pros of working with you/your firm.
A well-framed pitch should partly go something like this:
'Small businesses usually struggle to optimize their websites. I bridge the gap between what small businesses have at the moment and what they want from the websites on a shoestring budget. XYZ company I recently worked with saw a 35% increase in sales in the last three months after I re-designed their website for them.'
4. Find your people: communities for fellow freelancers and prospective customers online
Community is huge for freelancers. You can find tons of professional designers online on different social forums who can tell you how to go about making money. You can start following people on LinkedIn, Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter. Start interacting with them and get an idea of their work.
You will find people in the same situation as you are. Beside moral support, they can offer you practical solutions to career-related problems you may be facing right now. You can also sign up for receiving RSS feeds from BigDropInc.com and that's a great way to stay updated with freelancer trivia you can tap into.
You can also find your customers in these communities (separate forums). If you can showcase your creative talent correctly, it is quite possible to get work from social media itself. Immerse yourself in social networking in the first few months to make your presence felt. Otherwise, making a dent in the already wound up world of website designers can be a little difficult if you don't have a big name to back you up.
5. Build a routine for yourself
Being a freelancer is about taking complete control of your life since you won't have a boss to bark at you when you are late logging in. a routine will help you define you work hours and to keep your work out of your personal life.
You can try grouping your work. This is quite easy once you get a hang of it. You can begin with grouping the same kind of work together. For example - if you have 10 mails to send, keep them for one particular time of the day, preferably when you feel dull and slow.Make all the necessary phone calls during mid-day when all your clients are likely to be available in their offices. And keep all the coding work for the morning when you are feeling snappy after your first caffeine hit.
Try out different routines for the first two months and pick one that suits you the best. You aim should be to get most out of a 20-hours work week.
Becoming a freelancer is not a decision you take overnight. If you want to leave a steady job and devote all your time to building websites under your own brand name, you need to invest sufficient amount of time to think about the pros and cons of the process. It can be a world of uncertainty for those who are taking baby steps. If you can adhere to a structure and plan, freelancing can be quite blissful for you as a website designer. Freelancing requires considerable thinking and is a gradual process; it is not something you can fall into by serendipity.
About the Author
Maria Jones is an author who writes for BigDropInc.com quite frequently. Her articles are interesting, and her knowledge about the forever evolving prospects in website designing is next to none.
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