Invest in relationships – they matter

What makes good business relationships?

A while ago, I wrote about how I came to get the job of editor for Macworld Australia. It came after many years of being a freelance contributor to the magazine. But I wasn’t the only long-term contributor. I also ensured that I maintained a good relationship with the publishers and it was the combination of relationships and experience that got me that job. But, the publisher has decided to shutter that operation and I lost a long-timer retainer client. While that hurt, the pain was short-lived.

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Time Wasting Clients

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzMaXheRVH0

Hitting deadlines can be challenging when the client doesn’t help.

Some clients expect you to be able hit short deadlines even though they delay sending you important information and are clearly out of their depth when it comes to managing time and organising a project. But time wasting clients cost you money.

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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.

 

Three steps to avoiding the freelancing trap

Freelancing? Not rich yet? Want to know why?

One of the traps of freelancing – really it’s going into small business by another name – is “the books”. No, this isn’t a lesson on book-keeping or reading balance sheets or even a master class on the dreaded BAS [Business Activity Statement], but instead a small piece on a common freelancing trap.

We know we need to make a profit. That’s what pays the rent or mortgage, buys food, takes care of insurance, rates, electricity bills etc. And of course profit is equivalent to sales minus costs. And therein lies the trap.

We all know how much we “sell”, that’s the easy bit. Costs are a different thing again. Who truly knows what their monthly costs are? Go on – be honest.

Step 1 – Catalog Your Expenses

Excerpt from one of the sheets of my spreadsheet

The only way to find out is to get a receipt for everything you buy and catalogue it. Even better, to get a more accurate average, do it for three months. And I do mean everything – as well as the obvious mortgage/rent, fuel, weekly grocery shop, include all those little things you normally wouldn’t consider such as the daily and weekend newspaper, your lunch from the sandwich bar, that Friday night beer at the pub, entry fee to the zoo with the kids.

Everything.

Don’t cheat at this either. Even throw your credit card payments in there for example and any money you set aside for holidays etc. These should also be entered in step 2 (below) that is later creating a meaningful budget from these numbers.

I use a purpose built Excel spreadsheet I made to catalogue this stuff, work out budgets, variances and summarise them all into monthly running totals. If you want a copy, let me know at david@auscamonline.com.

At the end of the first month you’ll be very surprised at how much you are spending. This is a good thing as it will allow you to create a realistic budget and find ways of cutting costs. Which means of course that the profit gets bigger! And that is the end game.

2 – Cut Unnecessary Costs

Cutting costs can be as simple as making a sandwich rather than buying one, using the bus or train on occasion rather than taking the car to appointments, making sure all unnecessary electrical appliances are off and not just on standby, making your own home brew (which is bloody good fun and a huge cost saver over packaged beer), washing the dog yourself as against a weekly hydrobath and so on.

3 – The Reading List

There a number of very good books I have read recently on these sorts of topics I can heartily recommend. I bought them through the Kindle bookshop via Amazon, but they are available in paperback too (although I do recommend the Kindle option!) [Affiliate Links]

The eagle-eyed among you will notice a common thread here (mostly). All except Alan Sugar are members of the Dragon’s Den team from the BBC TV show. They are all self-made multi-millionaires (as is Alan Sugar) and tell it as it is.

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This is a guest post by David Hague, editor of AusCam Online. You can follow David on Twitter  – he’s @vbthedog

Overcoming the loneliness of freelancing

There are some great benefits in being self-employed. A whole stack of advantages came out of a recent post on the best things about freelancing and the comments.However, it’s not all plain sailing. One of the benefits of a normal nine-to-five job is the contact with other people. In another recent post I mentioned that loneliness is one of the potential disadvantages of the freelance life.

I’m a fairly gregarious person by nature. While I’m OK with my own company, there are days when I thirst for some human contact. At the moment I’m doing a contract job that puts me in an office with other people for part of the week but I’ve also had to come up with some strategies for the days when I work at home.

One thing I do is schedule a social/work day every couple of weeks. In my home city of Melbourne, there’s a social media breakfast every Friday morning. So, I plan to get to that every couple of weeks or so. As well as breaking the week up a little, it’s an opportunity to meet and network with new people. On that day, I also make a point of setting at least one other meeting with a potential client, interview subject or other business contact.

Email lists are also a great way to expand your network and keep in touch with people. Google, Yahoo and LinkedIn are great places to look for discussions on topics of interest and for contacting new people.

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are excellent as well although you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of self-discipline so that you don’t waste time on them.

Finally, I use the phone a lot. Rather than just emailing or tweeting my contacts I get on the phone a couple of times a day so that I hear a human voice and get a chance to interact more directly.

What do you do to overcome the solitude of working alone? Have you come up with some special tricks to help you through the day? Please share your ideas through the comments.