The tools of the freelance trade

Freelancers can be overwhelmed by all the different tools they can use. Here’s some information to help find a path through the confusion. Here’s a presentation I recently gave on some of my favourite tools.

I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking today with fellow freelancer Leslie Falkiner-Rose at the 2011 Freelance Conference today. Our session was called “The Set Up” and we spoke about the hardware, software and other tools we use in our businesses.

My part of the presentation was facilitated with a short slide deck that you can see below. I hope it’s of value to you.

 

A small business owner’s guide to using social media

This is the first part of a two-part series by Phoebe Netto, the Managing Director of Good Business Consulting, a marketing and public relations consultancy for small-to-medium businesses.

Phoebe has a background in public relations and marketing, and takes these skills that are often reserved for big businesses with big budgets, and uses them to help good small businesses grow and meet their objectives.

www.goodbusiness.net.au (be sure to sign up for the Good Business Consulting newsletter and check out the blog while you’re there)

@Phoebe_Netto

phoebe@goodbusiness.net.au

In marketing yourself and your business, you should aim to be at every watering hole where your ideal clients congregate. After all, if people do not know that you exist and what you can offer, how else will they become clients? For many of you, one of those waterholes will include social media.

Social media opens up a whole new audience to you, provides a means to make new connections, and gives you the tools to introduce yourself and your services in a subtle way to your ideal clients.

It allows you to extend the reach of your thought leadership and gives you the opportunity to share examples of your work and testimonials. Social media can also provide you with a constant flow of advice, ideas, and links to resources that are focused on your area of expertise or interest.

Regardless of what social media platform you decide to use, there are universal principles or golden rules that you must adhere to. You will notice that these rules are not much different to society’s rules for social engagement offline.

1.        Do things on purpose

If you are on twitter, know why you are on twitter and let your tweets reflect your purpose. The same rule applies for every social media platform. For example, I help small-to-medium businesses and sole operators grow with marketing and public relations. I need to ensure that the majority of my tweets on twitter are about small business, marketing and public relations. My twitter followers should know what to expect of my twitter content.

One of the mistakes that many small businesses and sole operators make when using social media is that they do not choose the right platform. This results in busy activity rather than productivity. Only focus on social media platforms that are a gathering place for your unique target group.

For example, young pet owners would be more inclined to interact with you on facebook than on LinkedIn. If you are a freelance journalist, twitter would be best as there are countless editors to interact with there and you can share links to examples of your work.

2.        It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason

Always remember that social media is not a foreign land speaking in another language. It is real life with real people, real relationships and real conversations.

This is why many of the same social etiquette principles that we value and operate by in business and in life, also apply to social media.

3.        It is better to give than to receive

In my business there are a couple of principles that lead to successful marketing and public relations. In media relations if you give others (journalists, editors and the publication’s readers) what they want, you will get what you want. For example, if I help a journalist by giving them a great piece of news or a well-written bylined article, I will get what I want which is great coverage for my client.

Similarly, marketing is most successful when it is focused on meeting needs and making life easier and more pleasant for others. When a small business addresses the deepest concerns and desires of both its clients and potential clients, and makes them feel special, they will attract leads and repeat business.

These principles are also golden rules of social media. Zig Ziglar summarised it by saying, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Part Two of this post will continue with the four final golden rules of social media use for you and your business. Make sure you drop by on Monday

Saasu – cloud-based accounting

A few years ago, when I first started freelancing, I needed to get some basic accounting software so that could raise invoices and track payments. My needs were modest as freelancing was a sideline to a fulltime job. But when I decided to become 100% self employed earlier this year, it was time to look at a more comprehensive solution. That’s why I went to Saasu.

Saasu is a cloud-based accounting solution that works on any platform including the iPad. Although I’m predominantly a Mac user, I need to be able access my accounts from several systems. Traditional, locally installed accounting systems rely on me having the computer with my accounts with me all the time. This just isn’t practical for me. Although I typically carry a laptop, I don’t like the idea of having my accounts on a computer than can be stolen, lost or damaged. I could keep the software on a computer in the office and remote into it but that’s a pain. While remote access software is pretty good these days it’s still not perfect.

Also, when I travel for just a couple days I travel with just my iPad. I needed a solution that was multiplatform. That meant a cloud-based solution was likely to be the best way to meet my requirements.

My shopping list of functions is fairly basic but I think typical of small businesses or sole traders.

  • creating and sending invoices
  • entering expenses
  • creating my Business Activity Statement for the tax department
  • running payroll
  • bank reconciliation
  • basic reporting

What I’ve found over the last few months is that Saasu can do all of this.

The first step in using Saasu is to go to the home page and create a user account. That gives you access to a test account so you can try things out as well as the opportunity to create your own business entity.

Once the account is set up, you are confronted with Saasu’s Dashboard. This is a snapshot of your cashflow, profit and loss, outstanding invoices and upcoming payments. You can see each of the main elements of the screen by clicking on each of the images in the gallery below.

Entering invoices and expenses is very straightforward. All of the onscreen forms are nicely laid out. When entering data, fields are automatically populated where it makes sense. For example. when entering a sale, if you need to enter the payment at the same time, simply clicking in the payment date field will result in the date being instantly populated from the invoice date. Similarly, the payment amount is automatically filled in with the invoice amount.

If you need to run payroll, Saasu is already set up with Australian tax tables. Once an employee is set up in the system, all you need to do is enter the salary amount and all the tax, superannuation, Medicare levies, Fee-Help and other deductions are automatically calculated.

Reporting is well executed. For those who need to complete a Business Activity Statement for the tax department, Saasu generates the worksheet with just a couple of clicks, making it easy to complete the monthly or quarterly statement.

Now, I’m aware that many people are skeptical of cloud services. There are concerns around security and backup. Saasu provides information on how they backup data and how you can do your own backups. Saasu has 7 backup processes across 4 locations and it’s possible, using the Saasu API to have your own bespoke solution developed.

Saasu certainly isn’t the only cloud-based accounting solution. Xero is another, popular option. However, over the last six months I’ve come to rely on Saasu as an integral part of my business.