Holidays! The perfect season to slow down a little bit and spend quality time with our families. Some of your freelance clients are enjoying their vacation as well and you feel less guilty of taking the break you deserve. For other freelancers, December is a busy month since clients are developing End of the Year campaigns and projects.
Either way, you’re probably thinking about rewarding yourself with the perfect gift. Or you want to give a hint to your loved ones about what they should give you these Holidays.
We’ve compiled a list of 20 cool presents you may like to have. There’s a gift for almost every budget. Here you go!
Note: We aren’t affiliated with these products or sellers at all. They’re just awesome products we’ve found that would make great gifts.
Cost: USD 30.00
Imagine using these pillows for your office chair. It certainly gives some personality to your home office. You could also use it to take a quick nap between work hours or to decor your couch.
An original gift for illustrators, designers and animators.
Cost: USD 100.00
Keep your desk organized with this beautiful accessory for your office. It has USB ports to connect your smartphone or tablet.
It goes well with an iMac or any other All-in-One computer.
Cost: USD 94.00
Working from home is both a blessing and a curse. We don’t have to leave the house if we don’t want to. However, we still need to take care of our health.
This wristband is perfect to track your sleep, exercise and other activities. It syncs with your smartphone and computer to give you detailed statistics about your habits and help you to improve them.
Cost: USD 13.00 Paperback, USD 10.00 Kindle Edition
Do you want to boost your energy for 2015? Start by learning some new skills and motivating yourself with a good read.
This book written by Michelle Goodman has helpful information and great reviews.
Cost: USD 99.00
A great gift for illustrators and graphic designers. This pen tablet is great since you can use it as a trackpad or draw directly to your graphic editor.
It’s a basic tool for creatives. It’s affordable and capable of delivering you hours of fun.
Cost: USD 115.00
It’s important to protect your eyes not only when you’re working, but also when you go out.
The bamboo sunglasses allow you to protect your eyes while wearing a handmade eco-friendly accessory.
They come in several designs.
Cost: USD 249.00
Travelling with a laptop may be a little impractical.
Fortunately, the Chromebook offers a light and practical way to stay tuned with your work. You have access to all Google products like Google search, Gmail, YouTube and Hangouts.
Cost: USD 20.00
Paper towels can be fun! Add style to your desk with this paper towel box. You can choose from 4 different colors. It’s useful and it can remind us simpler times.
Cost: USD 99.00
Do you hate when you’re away from your smartphone and get a new notification? This simple but handy smartwatch gives you all your notifications right in your wrist and it allows you to dismiss them.
It’s water resistant and it has one of the longest life batteries on the smartwatch market. The Pebble also has lots of apps to customize it and it works with iOS and Android.
Cost: USD 20.00
One of the best things of being a freelancer is the freedom to work from anywhere. This Scratch Map will help you to keep track of all the places you've been in. It’s a great decorative accessory!
Cost: USD 70.00
If you’re like me, you like to keep your gadgets safe, especially when you travel.
This backpack protects your computer and gadgets and it keeps everything in order with its different compartments.
Take your office with you wherever you go!
Cost: USD 30.00
Can you think of a better way to wake up every morning?
This Tetris Alarm Clock will also form each minute from water falling Tetriminos. This way you can start your day with good old memories.
Cost: USD 13.00
Do you like to add some fun to your kitchen with these Ps Magnet Kit? It’s a great gift for everyone who likes photo editing software.
Cost: USD 49.99
Relax with this water fount. It dances with your music. These speakers will look great on your desk.
Compatible with all USB devices.
Cost: USD 10.00
Don’t you hate when your coffee gets cold while you work? Well, not anymore!
Great for anyone who enjoys coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Cost: USD 649.00
Nexus 6 offers you an awesome work environment. The latest Android version, Lollipop, allows you to create different user accounts so you can have your personal info in another session.
Cost: USD 11.99
“I’ll have a coffee with 10 spoons of awesomeness please!”
Add fun to your coffee with this binary coffee mug that shows the binary for “HOT” in white as the mug heats up.
Cost: USD 50.00
Whether you want to listen to music or you want to make a call, Urbanears provides you great sound and design. You can choose between any of their 10 styles or 15 colors.
I recommend the Plattan.
Cost: USD 899.00
We've already mentioned another laptop, the Chromebook. However, Macbook Air is the perfect choice if you want to run video edition apps, design or animation software. It offers you all the advantages of Mac OS and the comfort of working offline.
It has a long battery life and an enviable design.
Cost: USD 195.00
We all know it´s not healthy to be sitting all day. When you work from home you may lose track of your time. With this innovative stand-up desk, you could develop a better posture and it can help you to reduce back pain.
Do you have a wish list for the Holidays? Do you like any of these gifts? We’d love to read your comments!
Although freelancing means you should charge your clients the time you work, it doesn't mean you can't automate most parts of your business to have a better work-life balance or to earn more money.
For that reason, I'm going to discuss a few tools you could use to automate your business and enjoy more free time.
Customer relationship management
Did you ever lose a great opportunity because you forgot to follow up? A prospective client tells you the company is not ready to buy right now, but they're interested in your services. What do you do?
You could create spreadsheets, reminders and spend a few hours setting your system up, or you could find an effective CRM and eliminate all the hassle.
Two apps you may want to try are Insightly and Zoho CRM.
This is a great CRM for your freelance business. You can schedule follow-up emails, see custom reports and it has a great integration with Google Apps.
They have a free and a paid version. The free version allows you to do almost everything with a few limitations. Up to 2,500 records, 200 MB storage, 40 custom fields and 3 users. It's perfect if you're a new freelancer. The paid version costs between $7-$9 per month, depending on the payment method you choose (annually or monthly payments).
Another awesome app to manage your customer relationships. Zoho offers more pricing options than Insightly.
You can choose between the free version, standard version ($12 per month), professional ($20 per month) and enterprise ($35 per month).
What better than an app that can help you to send automatic emails? If you manage your own blog and want to email your subscribers or if you want to contact your clients after a certain period of time or event, using an email marketing app will do wonders for your productivity.
The best part is integrating your email marketing app to your CRM. Two of the best known apps are Mailchimp and Aweber.
It's an easy-to-use application. The interface is clean and it can be free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers. However, the free version doesn't include auto-responders.
They have several billing methods: Based on amount of subscribers (starting at $10 per month) or you can buy credits and pay based on emails sent (the cheapest option is $9 and you can pay up to $150).
Aweber is a little bit more complicated but you can make more customizations and you pay $1 the first month. They don't offer a free version and the cheapest option costs $19 per month. You can pay monthly, quarterly or annually.
Social media is a great way to connect with colleagues, current clients and ideal businesses. If you want to update your social accounts effectively, it's a smart decision to use a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to save time and schedule updates.
This company is known for its transparency and approachability. You can schedule content for your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and App.net) and see your analytics.
They offer a free version and a paid version for entrepreneurs that costs around $10 per month.
Like Buffer, Hootsuite offers a free version with certain limitations. If you upgrade to the paid version you can create custom reports to understand engagement, reach or clicks on links.
Hootsuite offers more complete reports than Buffer. However, Buffer lets you schedule your updates better than Hootsuite.
Get organized and deliver a better service to your clients implementing a project management tool. You could also outsource some tasks and communicate with your team members using one of these 3 apps: Trello, Asana or Basecamp.
My favorite project management tool so far! Trello offers a board where you can add your tasks, put labels, assign to members and schedule due dates. They have a free version and the business class version that costs $5 per user per month.
Perfect to deal with projects without sending emails. You can create tasks, stages, add links and manage your whole team. The free version is perfect for freelancers. If you manage a bigger team with 15 members or more, you can start paying $50 per month.
You can control your projects, calendar, progress and create to-do lists. You can handle your team with this app and simplify your communication tools. Starting at $20 per month allowing you 10 projects and 3GB storage.
Invoicing and Time Tracking
If you want to keep your time tracking tool integrated with your invoicing, Paydirt is a terrific choice! Not only can you track time with this app, you also have the time tracker as an extension in Google Chrome so you don't forget to track what you do online.
It integrates with Trello, Asana and Basecamp. You're also able to accept payments using Paypal and Stripe.
The price starts at $8 per month for freelancers, and you can get started with with a 14 day free trial. If you'd like to try it, here's the signup page!
Are you tired of wasting time creating new proposals? With this tool you can automate the process and clients can sign proposals electronically. Their interface is beautiful and it lets you track your activity. The freelancer version costs $29 per month.
Replace checks or bank transfers with Paypal, Stripe, or Payoneer. You can understand your finances better and decrease your international bank fees.
The most popular platform for online payments. You can integrate this platform with most invoicing tools. They usually charge around 2.9% + 1% for international transactions + $0.30 per transaction.
Like Paypal, they charge 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. They accept credit cards and support recurring billings. It's available in USA, Australia, Canada, Germany and 13 other countries.
Payoneer issues you with a US or EU bank account number, which allows your clients to pay you directly by bank transfer. You can then withdraw your earnings to your local bank account. Payoneer is cheaper than both PayPal and Stripe - they only charge 1%.
These tools can boost your business because you can save time. When you use some tools, evaluate the benefits of using paid apps vs the time you would spend doing these tasks. At the end of the day, it's about having a better lifestyle.
Do you use any of these tools? What do you like about them?
As a freelancer, you're sure to have a busy schedule. You're probably dealing with the day to day work of putting out fires and helping your clients. The last thing you'd like to do is to spend an entire day working on administrative tasks.
You like the creative process behind your job. So how can you increase your time for creativity and decrease the administrative role you play in your business?
Find flaws in your current procedures
How do you spend your workday? How many times do you open your inbox or your social media accounts?
If you're constantly switching between your inbox, your accounting app and your project management tool, you're wasting several minutes with your multitasking habit.
At first this isn't a big deal. Now pretend you waste just a few minutes doing this. How many times a day do you check your accounts and write emails? Five? Six? That's about 30 minutes wasted in one day.
Imagine you repeat this process when you enter your invoicing software or your project management app website. We could be talking about more than a few hours in a week.
On top of that, have you tried writing every single email from scratch? Responding to every inquiry like it's the first time you've read the question (no matter how many times you have received similar emails).
This type of inefficiency can slow you down. Spend some time thinking about your potential flaws and find a way to fix them.
Create new procedures
How can you save some time? Well, for instance you could try accessing these accounts once or twice a day. This way you decrease the time spent focusing on each task.
It also helps to set up tools to automate your procedures. You may want to use apps to schedule updates to your social media accounts or have templates saved in your inbox.
You could write a template for prospective client inquiries, guest post pitches, proposals or follow ups. You would only need to customize them for each particular case.
What are you doing today that could be improved?
Write your to-do list
Knowing exactly what you have to do will help you to build momentum. Start a to-do list and assign a due date to every task. This could help you to classify pending tasks and work on similar assignments at the same time.
Try to keep it short and don't wait until the last minute to work on them.
Have everything you need at hand
If you were trying to fill out your taxes, you'd need your expenses, your income report and the form available on your desk.
If you start walking around to find your expenses folder or you don't know where your income report is, you're going to waste more time doing something you may not already like.
Take a minute before you start work on a particular task to ensure you have everything necessary to complete it without distractions.
Work in blocks
Imagine you receive your hosting invoice and you think you should probably get that done sooner rather than later. So you print your invoice (or you save it in a folder on your computer), go to your accounting app and register the expense. There's no harm in that.
However, you could move the email to an expenses folder and wait until you have a few more bills to register. That way you won't have to go through the same process three separate times.
Eliminate unnecessary tasks
Is it really necessary that you create a new bill on your accounting app every time you enter your monthly cellphone bill? Or could you just copy your last phone bill and change the date and invoice number? Taking savvy steps will reduce the time you need to finish your tasks.
Do you write emails from scratch when you could have templates saved on your computer which you could modify for each recipient? Little details save more time on the long run than bigger and complex changes.
Invest in useful apps
Sometimes you need to spend money to make money. It doesn't have to be a million dollar app. There are some great apps you could use without breaking the bank.
Some of these apps require an annual fee or offer a pay per month plans. They eliminate the effort in creating spreadsheets or documents and it makes you look like a true professional.
Use apps for email marketing, project management, invoicing and tracking time, customer relationship management and other tasks. There are many alternatives available online and one may be for you.
Hire a virtual assistant and/or an accountant
When you're working with a few clients it's easy to send every invoice and register every transaction yourself. However, if you want to build a profitable business while enjoying a great lifestyle there will come a point when you won't be able to handle everything yourself.
That's when a reliable virtual assistant makes good business sense. A virtual assistant can handle your email enquiries, client research, invoicing and expense registration.
The same applies for hiring an accountant. Saving a few bucks by doing your own books can cost you hundreds of dollars down the track. An experienced accountant can help you save money when you pay your taxes, and give you valuable advice on what you can do to improve your finances.
Before spending money, do the math
If you could save 30 minutes every day with an app that costs you $30 per month, is it worth it? Do the math:
Your hourly rate: $30/hr
Workdays per month: 20
App cost per month: $30
$30 hourly rate x 0.5 (half an hour saved)
x 20 (workdays a month)
In this case a $30 Application could save you $270 every month!
Do the exercise yourself:
What is your hourly rate? How much time could you save if you start using an app? (Invoicing, scheduling social media updates, project management app, email updates) What is the app's price?
This also applies for virtual assistants.
Your hourly rate: $30/hr
VA's hourly rate: $10/hr
Assume you outsource 4 hours every week:
4 hours x 4 weeks= 16 hours
$30 (Your rate) - $10 (VA's rate) = $20 x 16 hours = You save $320
It might take you a few minutes or hours to implement these changes to your business. On the long run, you'll be saving a lot more than that so it's worth taking the time to make a few improvements.
What are you currently struggling with? What are your plans to fix it? Share your thoughts below!
We constantly hear the old saying time is money. Every entrepreneur must know how to create better estimates. Otherwise your $4,000 client project could end up making you $10 per hour because it required more time than you first estimated.
With more experience, you can improve your ability to determine the project's complexity . But what if this is one of your first projects? What if you still give bad estimates after years of freelancing?
In this post, I'm going to cover the difference between billable and non-billable hours and how it can help you to improve your estimates and charge what the project is worth.
Identify stages of your project
As you work on more projects, you start to recognize repetitive tasks. A generic workflow might look like this:
1. Initial Contact
You meet each prospective client and decide if you're a good fit for the job. This stage could include emails, phone calls and meetings.
You evaluate a few things such as budget, chemistry and capability of delivering what the client needs.
2. Information Gathering & Proposal
You already discussed the goals, the target and specific needs. Now it's time to get really into it and do some research, write a quote, sign a contract and get a deposit.
Sometimes the client doesn't approve of your proposal and you won't go further than this stage. This time loss could be minimized if you offer consulting services and charge for giving your expert opinion.
You plan what you have to do next and ask your client for documents and assets they need to send you. This could be their logos, brand assets, web copy, or anything else that's required from them so that you can get the job done.
At this stage, you're usually working alone. You code, you design, you take photos or write. Depending on the project complexity, this may have several phases and it could include client revisions and feedback.
5. Delivery & Feedback
You show your results to your clients and make amendments as requested. Now that the job is finished you'd probably collect the final payment, send an invoice and deliver your work.
This is a post-sale stage. You make sure your client is satisfied. It may be time for talking about a new project, a referral or keeping the relationship alive so they keep you in mind in the future.
Identify your billable tasks
Now that you've identified your work process, the next step is to determine which activities you can bill to your clients.
1. Scheduled calls and meetings
You may want to include on your estimate the time you use to present your work and ask for feedback. Also add the time you spend in a meetings or discussing project details.
2. Research for the client
This can be tricky. Sometimes it is okay to charge for research. In other cases, it isn't appropriate. Do you want to know the difference? If your research is about your client's competition, industry or products, it's usually fair to invoice the research.
3. Your main skill
You have a skill your client needs. This is the reason the client hired you. Obviously, you have to charge for writing sales copy, designing a company logo or coding a website.
How many revisions will you include in your proposal? What would be the extra fee if your client wants more revisions than the original scope? And what will those revisions include?
Identify your non-billable tasks
1. Pitching new clients
You can't charge your clients for asking for work. If you spend a few hours every week looking for new prospective clients, there's really no one who could pay you for that.
2. Writing proposals
Unless the client accepts your proposal, you can't guarantee you'll receive any kind of compensation for your invested time.
3. Learning a new skill
Remember I said you can charge for doing research for your client? If you learn a new skill for the project and you can use that skill for future work, it's uncommon to charge your client for the time you spent learning it.
You may want to tell your client you'll be learning on the job and agree to charge a lesser rate. Find the right balance to make it a win-win situation. You learn a new skill, your client gets results and you get paid for your job.
4. Invoicing & following up payments
This is one of your administrative tasks that you're not supposed to include in your bill.
Of course you could add a fee for late payments, but as a general rule, chasing payments is not a billable task.
5. Sending emails
Including every little detail on an invoice can be seen as a bad practice. After all, your client is paying for results, not for every single task.
However, if the client is very demanding and it takes you longer to complete a project than it normally would, you could increase your project fee next time to cover your costs. Otherwise, you're just giving money away.
Create an estimate
Analyze your current data
If you're tracking your time, you probably know the number of hours you spend on every task.
With that in mind, you can filter your average time spent on billable hours and create a spreadsheet (Paydirt offers a report that shows your billable hours, so you may want to check it out!).
Look at this hypothetical case:
It's time to give a quote to your client based on the information you have.
I'm going to use the minimum amount of billable hours. That way, if you don't meet your average amount of billable hours in a particular month, you'll still be covered.
Desired annual salary: $60,000
Current amount of billable hours (Minimum): 1,080 (90 hours x 12 months)
Annual working hours: 1,920 (8 hours x 20 days x 12 months)
Vacation, sick days and emergencies: 160 hours (8 hours x 20 days off)
Total: 1,760 hours
Billable and non-billable
65% Annual billable hours (Based on minimum): 1,144 (1,760 x 0.65)
35% Annual non-billable hours (Based on maximum): 616 (1,760 x 0.35)
Using the process we discussed at the beginning, calculate the amount of time you'll spend on each stage.
How many hours will you spend gathering information? How many hours will you spend editing your work or going through revisions? Answer these questions before you calculate your project cost.
Hourly rate: $52.45 ($60,000 /1,144 hrs)
Estimated billable hours for this particular project: 35 hours
Project cost: $1,835.75($52.45 x 35 hours)
Add time for unexpected events
With the spreadsheet, you have a educated guess of your next projects. Remember not every project is the same. So always add around 5%-20% more to your initial estimate in case some minor details go wrong.
Our project cost so far is $1,835.75. Let's add a 15% more ($275.36).
$1,835.75 + $275.36 = $2,111.11
This may vary depending on every type of project.
If you're not sure about using percentages, just add extra hours to the project. Using the same example, let's say I add 3 more hours.
$1,835.75 + $157.35 ($52.45 x 3) = $1993.10
How do you create estimates? How do you classify your billable and non-billable hours? Feel free to share your thoughts on the comments section!
When you're a freelancer you own your schedule, and you have the freedom to work when you want to, and from anywhere in the world. With such great benefits comes more responsibility.
One big difference you have with 9-to-5 employees is the freedom they enjoy to disconnect from their jobs when they arrive home.
When you own a business, you know it's entirely your responsibility to keep the business running and making an income. Sometimes it comes with a price: boundaries.
Have you ever worked on weekends or answered a call from a client at 7pm? That's okay if you have a side hustle and can't answer personal phone calls at your day job, but if you're a full time freelancer why is this different from a 9-to-5 office where employees leave the company and no one answers the phone?
Everyone deserves some time off. You may not realize you need it until one day you burn out. That's why in this post I'll write about a few boundaries you should set in your business.
Avoid working on evenings & weekends
At some point, most of us have done it. We all had to start somewhere and if you started side hustling, your available time was on weekends and late nights to meet your deadlines.
As your business starts to grow, and you become a stable freelancer, you should decrease the amount of time you spend working on weekends and evenings.
It's not good for you, your family or your friendships – you'll eventually burn out.
Enjoy your vacation
I enjoy what I do. I loved writing since I was a kid and it's great now I'm able to do it for a living.
When I was going on vacation early this year, I wanted to finish all my pending projects before I left. That way I could enjoy my free time without worries. As the date was getting closer, I started to think:
What if potential clients reached out and I missed opportunities for being out of town?
What if someone comments on my blog and I don't respond promptly?
Isn't working online one of the perks of being your own boss? You should be able to work from anywhere.
In the end, I decided to go with my original plan because everyone needs a break. Even 9-to-5 employees leave work for a few weeks and the world doesn't fall apart. You deserve it. Talk to your clients and let them know you're going to take a few days or weeks off and organize your work to finish everything before you go.
Don't mix work time with personal time
You signed on this for freedom, right? You decide when to work and how to work. It's awesome going to the grocery store on a Monday at 10am when it's not crowded.
You could certainly take advantage of your flexible schedule to save some time. Nevertheless, saving an hour of grocery shopping is one thing, and procrastinating your work to pursue other activities is another. Take small breaks during the day, but avoid distractions like TV shows or playing with your pet in the middle of your tasks.
Set an office space
Granted, not everyone has the luxury of owning a home office. Your house is full. You have your bedroom, you're living with more people and you can't afford to rent an office outside your house.
However, small desks aren't that expensive. Be creative and find places where you can work, like nearby libraries, coffee shops or parks.
You don't want your client calling to your house and your roommate answering the phone with an informal tone or your kid screaming. If you don't have a different phone for clients, at least you can establish a schedule for business calls. This way you make sure you're available when a client calls you.
Have two bank accounts and credit cards
Nothing is more frustrating than mixing your personal finances with your business expenses. Things are simple at first. Until you have a huge workload and you start to forget which expense was yours and which expense was for clients or your own business.
Avoid the headache and separate them from the very beginning.
Limit the amount of personal information you share
Just as with your finances, the same goes for your branding. Keep your personal social media accounts separated from your business accounts. Your client may not need to know your kid learned how to spell your pet's name on your business Twitter account.
It's great to have a friendly relationship with your clients, but it's a good idea to keep certain things private as well.
Set a schedule for checking your emails
We tend to answer clients' emails right away. We think we might lose a job opportunity if we don't give a prompt response. This might sound right, but unless you're a doctor dealing with a medical emergency, it doesn't make a big difference if you answer the email now or in 1 hour.
If you provide a remarkable customer service, a great attitude, referrals and a reasonable price, not answering an email in the first 5 minutes isn't a deal breaker.
In fact, you might be filtering needy and pushy clients. These type of clients usually need an answer NOW and it's ALWAYS an emergency.
Let's say you're a web developer. Of course you're not going to ignore an ecommerce client whose website has been down for 5 hours. But it's important to set limits. Is it really necessary to answer every email immediately? If not, let your client know your usual response hours and stick to that schedule.
You may want to try checking your emails twice a day: Once at mid-morning and once before you leave your workday behind. You can start your day with an important task and then go through your inbox. And once you're finished with your work at the end of the day, answer the rest of your emails. You can experiment a little with the schedule to see what works best for you.
Try to not sync your work emails on your phone, so you don't have the pressure in the palm of your hand every two minutes.
Set client expectations for project deliveries
You receive a new job inquiry by email. The prospective client tells you he or she needs your copywriting services for the company's website. You'd need to write the about page, landing page, home page, services description page, you'd also have to write some copy for the Facebook and Twitter account. Oh, and by the way, it has to be done by tomorrow.
It's a good thing to please your clients, but it's another to lose your personal life. Choose wisely how you want to handle your client-freelancer relationship. Remember you can always earn more money and get more clients, but it's very hard to change your client's expectations if you started your relationship by being totally available all of the time.
Be friendly with your client, but not too friendly
It's terrific when you find a client you truly respect and enjoy working with. It's a gem hidden between your average clients. You feel a great chemistry and you start to get involved in each others life. How are the kids? How was your moving last week? And that's awesome.
The real problem begins when you start doing your "friend" favors. The client asks you to start working on a project without the usual upfront payment. After all, you're friends, right?
Your client asks for a friend's discount. Suddenly, your new friend represents a bad business relationship.
Be polite and stick to your initial agreement. If the client is worth it, he or she will understand.
What do you think? Do you have any other tip to set effective boundaries? Do you usually follow any of these ideas? Share your thoughts below!
Tracking your time has multiple benefits. You might know it's a smart method to give estimates and to bill your clients, but did you know you may be missing some huge opportunities to predict your behavior and improve your overall business if you’re not analyzing your time?
It can take a while to get used to the idea of having a time tracking app, but once you start using it you’ll feel more informed.
Want to know why successful freelancers like to track their time? Keep reading!
Learn which clients are worth keeping
There’s usually one or two clients that demand more time from you than the average client. They call you everyday and send hundreds of emails. They want to be involved in every little detail and they don’t want to pay for it. Other clients demand high quality work and offer you a lower rate for the job.
Once you realize which clients are costing you money, you have two alternatives: increase your rates or let them go.
At the beginning, it might be hard but eventually you’ll find out it’s the best decision for your business. The time spent on that client’s projects could be better spent on better paying clients.
Improve your workflow
You’re a freelancer dealing with multiple clients and making a living from your passion. Suddenly you start tracking your time and you notice you spend way too much time on every project and you could be making twice your current salary.
You may find out you spend 45 minutes searching for the perfect stock image. You could be interested in finding new ways to simplify your process.
If you don’t make tracking your hours a habit, you’ll never know where you’re spending most of your time and will never be able to develop a better workflow.
Have you ever tried to track your time when you’re doing multiple things at the same time? I have and it’s difficult. That’s why tracking your time decreases the bad multitasking habit.
When you’re focused on learning how much time you spend on an specific job, you avoid surfing the web or reading your facebook updates.
When I’m doing research for my blog posts and I find an interesting unrelated post, I bookmark it and move on. Later when I have time, I can read it. In the meantime, I continue with my work. Since I started doing that I feel more efficient.
When you’re on a deadline, it can be tempting to leave the work up until the last minute. You work hard to finish your job but sometimes it takes longer than you expected.
If you track time you can make smarter decisions. Let’s say you have 4 projects and each project needs 10 hours for completion. Which means you have 40 hours of work to complete. Considering you could work from monday to friday 8 hours, if you waste 2 hours watching TV, how are you going to recover those hours? Working on weekends?
Having this information makes you less likely to procrastinate.
Make financial decisions
People build businesses to make a profit. Most entrepreneurs are following their passion, but at the end of the day you need to cover your bills. If you compare the time spent on your business and the income you earn every month, is your business worth it? What could you improve about your business?
Here’s a practical example: If you’re working on a Wordpress website for a client, what’s a better decision? Buy a template and customize it for your client or begin coding from scratch? Determine your hourly rate and how many hours you need to code it, and compare that to the theme’s price and customization time.
We freelancers tend to think we’re superheroes. We don’t like delegating. We take care of invoicing, sending proposals, reaching out to new clients, working on projects, marketing our businesses and so many other tasks I can talk about all day.
Truth is we don’t have the time or the capability to do them all well. It makes financial sense to reduce our time spent on tasks we’re not good at.
If you’re an excellent developer but you don’t have the eye of a designer, hire someone to help you with the design.
If you charge $75 an hour and it takes you 3 hours to do some tasks, we’re talking about $225. When you hire a pro charging you the same amount, but it only takes the designer 2 hours to accomplish the same goal, you’re now saving $75. Besides that, you also have 3 more billable hours to recover that money and triplicate it.
When you have the data, making this decision is easy.
Know your most productive days and hours
This is interesting. If you’re familiar with the human body, you know you have better and worse hours to produce work. Some people feel sleepy after lunch. Some people are slower at mid-morning. Everyone’s different.
Tracking your time will confirm you when you’re productive and when you’re not. Based on that, you can determine measures to minimize the impact. Maybe talking a walk, a quick nap or a change of pace.
Make better estimates
Have you ever underquoted a project because you didn’t know how much time it would take you? Or even worse, have you ever missed a deadline?
This lack of knowledge costs your business real money. If you want to improve your lifestyle and your income, learn to make better estimates by including every single phase and stage of a project in your client’s proposals.
See how much you have progressed
I wish I had tracked every second I spent on my freelance business. It would help me to know better how I improve my skills and if my workflow runs smoothly compared to the industry standard.
It’s rewarding when you analyze your data and you find out your projects are taking you less time because you’re more experienced.
Deliver better customer service
Running your business like a swiss watch ultimately benefits your clients. If you know the ups and downs of your business and you’re able to give accurate estimates, your clients will know exactly what to expect from you and they’ll be happy to work with a trustworthy professional.
Remember you’re a business owner. It’s awesome to work on your own terms and it could be even better when you use your time wisely. It gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your loved ones and to follow other interests.
Have you ever tracked your time? Why did you start tracking it? We’d love to read more about you!
One common freelancing problem is communication with clients. How many times have you had to deal with unlimited revisions? Did you have a client underestimating your work because he or she thought it took you a few minutes?
Yeah, you'll eventually meet a client from hell. However, if you're constantly dealing with unrealistic expectations or unsatisfied clients, you may be lacking strong communication skills.
As freelancers, we're obsessed with our particular craft. You're an awesome developer or designer and you learned to manage your finances. With so many things going on we sometimes don't find out how to communicate effectively with our clients.
Luckily, in this post you'll learn a few techniques to improve your client relationships.
Get to know your client
It sounds simple, but it's essential. You might think you're delivering a good service, but do you know exactly what your clients do? What are their goals?
Understand their needs from the beginning and you'll get a grateful client. It will decrease the amount of changes to the project because every decision you make is with their goals in mind.
It's also helpful to learn the way they run their businesses. How do they handle communication? With small businesses you talk to the owner. Bigger companies usually implies a manager, an assistant and even more people.
Set together a contact person to centralize the feedback and when you're looking for approval, contact the right group of people to avoid project delays.
Establish a personal connection with your client
Imagine this scenario. You can choose between two coffee shops, one next to the other.
In the first coffee shop, the barista's name is Adam. You usually chat for a few minutes before he gives you your latte. He knows your favorite drink and makes suggestions about new beverages.
The other coffee shop is fine. They deliver your coffee to your table with a smile on their face. That's it. Nothing memorable.
Let's assume they both have similar prices, where do you prefer to buy? People don't like talking with machines. Approach your clients and ask about their day, work or family. We usually appreciate when people try to connect with us. And we're more willing to help them out when they need it.
Be careful, though. You don't want to cross the fine line between caring and being intrusive. If your client doesn't want to talk to you about their personal lives, don't do it. Adjust to that depending on the case.
Some people are tech-savvy and some people are not. Your clients usually don't want to know how you implemented a script to their website or how you changed their CSS file.
The only thing they want to know is if you fixed the bug or if you changed the arial font to an elegant cursive font.
Talk about the project process and the results in terms they understand. Explain the relevant facts about the project when necessary without trying to show off.
One way to reduce misunderstandings is to repeat what our clients say to verify if we understood what they wanted.
If you're unclear about the project scope, ask them to amplify their point. And always get it in writing. If you talked over the phone, write them an email with your conversation summary asking them to confirm the information.
Don't assume your client always knows everything. If he or she asks you for a change outside the project scope, communicate it before doing any changes and let them know about the extra fee.
Remember to include as much detail as possible to avoid surprises, which leads me to the following point.
Before starting a project make sure you both know what to expect from each other.
Imagine you have to develop an ecommerce website. Your need the product images, information about the company and the content. The website will go live January 1st, so it has to be ready by the first week of December in case you need to modify something.
You're charging a flat fee. The price includes the template customization, uploading the image files, testing and setting everything. However, you don't do copywriting or take photographs.
You include 4 revisions. This doesn't mean your client can't change your design after you started coding it. You're willing to make smaller modifications like font size or color, outside the 4 revisions. You charge an extra fee for more revisions.
You break the project into phases: Draft, design, coding, customization, images and content, testing. Every phase has its own deadline. You'll deliver the files after final payment.
See? There are many things to consider when talking about a project. It's your job to communicate them all and ask your client questions about the process.
Don't take criticism too personally
At some point you'll face unhappy clients. They don't like your design, they want you to eliminate everything you did or they don't implement your recommendations. This can be minimized with great communication .
However, when this does happen, remember you're running a business. Don't get too emotional about it.
Always respond with a positive attitude and be willing to understand what went wrong. Keep these changes in mind to make better estimates in the future.
Respond promptly, but don't be desperate
Clients appreciate a reliable freelancer. They like when you respond to their emails and provide solutions.
You want to be professional, but you still have a personal life. Don't answer emails at 3 a.m., or accept demanding clients. Explaining how you handle communication filters out bad clients. Tell them your business hours and when they can expect a response from you.
Let them know when a stage of the project will take you one week. Don't just disappear for one week until you have the tasks ready. That way they don't have to wonder if you took their money or if you're procrastinating.
Show your expertise
It's your job to guide your clients. Find out what they want and use it in your proposed solution. They appreciate when you listen. They want results and if you know the best way to get them, they'll appreciate you even more. Always explain how you got to your conclusion and answer their doubts.
Showing your expertise helps you to avoid micromanagers and low-paying clients. You'll be hired because you're the expert in the craft and you'll attract the type of client who wants results.
Learn from your mistakes
Find your patterns:
- Do you feel your clients ignore you when you make suggestions?
- Do they boss you around like you're an employee?
- Do you usually waste time doing a tenth revision?
With that in mind, which techniques could you use to improve your client relationships? A few small communication habits could make your life easier!
Do you have an awesome tip to talk to clients? Let us know how it works for you in the comments!
Getting things done can feel like an impossible task sometimes, especially when you work from home. You spend all your work day answering emails and phone calls or finishing pending tasks.
Suddenly it’s midday, you’re still wearing pajamas and you see you’ve hardly accomplished anything. Being your own boss has its perks. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be disciplined, so it’s a good idea to establish productivity habits.
If you spend your weekends working to meet your deadlines, maybe it’s time to learn new ways to increase your productivity. You’ll have more free time to be with your family, practice a new instrument or catch up on your favorite TV shows.
Here are a few tips that can help you to organize your morning to maximize the amount of work you get done.
1. Set the tone for your workspace
It’s hard to work when you have a cluttered office. It makes you feel disorganized and your mind is all over the place. Avoid cleaning your office in the morning because you will lose time. If your office isn’t organized, go to a coffeeshop. Once you’re back in the afternoon you can deal with the messy office and have a better start the next day.
Have a dedicate space for your work, it doesn’t matter if it’s a little desk in the corner of your living room. Whatever you do, avoid working in your bedroom because that’s where you sleep.
Try to make your desk as creative as possible. That way you’ll really want to work. I realized I’m more motivated when I see cool workspaces or I go to my coffee shop or garden. It might be dumb but it makes me feel more creative and productive.
2. Plan everything the day before
It’s easy to waste time with meaningless tasks when you haven’t planned the day before. I usually lost time deciding which clothes I should wear in the morning.
Also it’s easy to skip breakfast when you open the fridge and don’t find anything healthy to eat, or you have bread but you’re out of ham. You have cereal but you run out of milk. You can get tired of finding out what to eat, so you just sip your cup of coffee and start working.
That’s not a good way to start your morning because you won’t have full energy to work, you won’t be focused and you’ll lose momentum in the middle of your work when you feel your stomach empty.
Take a few minutes every night to plan your breakfast. That way when you wake up you won’t lose time doing this and you’ll be more focused on your work in the morning.
Speaking about planning, it’s the same thing with your work schedule. Don’t start working without some sort of direction because at the end of the day you’ll realize you spent an entire work day working on tasks you thought were important, but you skipped the more meaningful ones.
3. Wake up early
This is easily said. I know it can be hard to do. One way to wake up early is to program your coffee pot to wake you up with the smell of fresh coffee.
Or you could try using a smartwatch to help you rise early in the morning. Remember to have a good night sleep, otherwise you’ll be sleeping in the morning and it doesn’t matter how early you wake up, you won’t be productive.
4. Have a schedule
Just because you work from home and don’t have to commute doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shower and get dressed in the morning. Wear something different from pajamas. It doesn’t have to be a tie and a suit.
You could wear jeans and a t-shirt. Or whatever you would feel comfortable wearing if you were out of the house. Make your bed and leave your room, eat the breakfast you planned the day before to get in the mood for work.
5. Get out of the house
Take a ten minutes walk out of the house. Think about the things you want to accomplish for the day and remember your long-term goals.
Where do you see yourself in a few years? And how is what you do today going to help you get there?
6. Focus on your most enjoyable task first
Now get back to the office and start with one task. Begin working on a task you enjoy.
Once you start working on something you love, you’re more likely to feel productive afterwards and jump to a bigger job.
7. Work on one big project next
You’re probably in a good mood now because you initiated working on a project you like. Now it’s time to accomplish the bigger task of the day.
That way if something happens after, at least you finished the most important to-do point for today.
8. Eliminate distractions
I like working with music. However, I noticed I get distracted with the lyrics of my favorite songs.
I drum in the desk and I get lost in my project. Music, TV shows, your pet or even kids walking around the house can be a huge distraction. If it’s impossible to eliminate those distractions, go to a library or a coffeeshop.
In the case of the music, I started listening music without lyrics to improve my concentration.
Email is also a real source of distractions. We think we accomplish something by answering them but the truth is it’s a time sucker.
If you have a bad time avoiding email, leave your cellphone in your bedroom and create a work user on your computer to focus on your projects and have a separate account to check emails.
You could even put a filter on your web browser to stop you from watching youtube videos or checking facebook. You can do that from your personal account.
9. Finish your worst task in the afternoon
The best way to start your morning is knowing you dealt with the worst task the day before.
You’ll begin your day eager to work. After midday, work on your worst task. As you already accomplished a lot of things in the morning, you’ll feel more motivated to finish this and the fact that you will start the next morning without that task will inspire you to do it too.
What do you do to keep your morning productive? We’d like to know your work routine!
Dealing with late payers is awful. Nobody likes to chase clients, especially freelancers because we usually have more hats to wear. The time we use to collect money is time we don’t get back and we could be using to bill another client.
That’s why I compiled a list of tips to invoice clients and increase our chances of getting paid on time. Here you go!
1. Research your client
Before you start working with a client, do your job and see who your client is. See what people on social media are saying about them. Go to forums and see if past employees or freelancers are complaining about them.
Getting to know your client will help you to avoid a headache. It’s a red flag if you can’t find anything about them online. If you can’t find social media accounts, a website or references, be careful.
2. Get paid first
To minimize the risk of working in exchange of nothing, ask for an upfront deposit. Depending on the size of the project, you can ask from 30% to 100%. If you have a solid reputation your client won’t think twice in paying you.
Avoid working with a prospective client who refuses to commit to the project. If he or she’s not willing to pay you an upfront payment, you’d better pass on the job.
You could offer a warranty for upfront payments in case your client decide to cancel the project before you start doing any work.
3. Automate the process
Invest in an invoicing tool. It helps you to send invoices immediately to your client’s email and notifies you when you have a payment receipt.
You could break the project down in smaller phases to invoice your client for each stage of the project and improve your cash flow.
If you’re not ready to spend money on an invoicing app, you could use this awesome free invoice template to invoice your clients.
4. Contact the right person
Sometimes your contact person is not the person in charge of paying the bills.
Instead of waiting until your contact sends the invoice to the payment manager and making the process more complicated that it has to be, make sure to send a copy of your invoice to your contact person and their accountant.
Ask for their accountant’s email before starting the project, so you can have it way before you need to send the invoice.
5. Add your payment terms
Be clear about this with your clients. You must include the due date, your preferred payment method and finance charges for late payments.
Also, if you usually give 2 weeks to your clients to pay you an invoice, reduce that time to 1 week. Play with it until you feel comfortable with the way your clients are responding to your terms.
As freelancers, it’s rare to give a client 30 days credit. That’s why it’s smart to send smaller invoices and get paid frequently for every stage of a project.
6. Integrate your payment platform with your invoicing tool
A good way to make payments easier for your clients is to integrate your invoicing app with your payment account.
Use popular platforms like Paypal or Stripe to redirect invoices to your account and get paid immediately.
Remember that these platforms usually take a small percentage of your payments, but that’s nothing compared to a late payment and the bad payers nightmare.
7. Include business information
Always add to your invoice these details:
Your tax ID
You Skype/local phone number
Contact’s phone number
8. Detail the product or service
Avoid charging your client for "Design" or “Web Developing”. They already know that.
If you have a regular client who always needs multiple services, this isn’t helpful. Gives as much detail as you can. It’s better to detail the service as "Brochure Design For Christmas Campaign December 2014 Product X".
9. Be friendly
You catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Always be polite and friendly with your clients. Learn the payment manager’s name, involve it in the project and contact them every once in a while.
Always call your contact person and/or the accountant when you’re sending them an invoice. This way you avoid the excuse "The email got lost in the way". Wait in line until they receive the invoice and ask if they have any questions.
10. Notify your client if they’re asking for changes out of the project scope before doing any more work
If you realize your client is asking for work out of project scope, notify them immediately. Don’t send a surprise invoice with all the details without them even knowing.
This will decrease your chances of getting paid and it will probably make your client angry.
11. Make early payment discounts
When you deal with big projects, you could use this as an incentive. Make 5% or 10% discounts for early payments.
This works great with $5K-$10K projects. Don’t make discounts for smaller invoices because it won’t have that much of an impact to your client or to you.
12. Use estimates and proposals
You should always give proposals and estimates to your clients before the project begins. You may include things like deadlines, delivery items, revisions and other considerations.
This is helpful because you can refer to this when talking to your client about the invoice. Here’s a free quote template you can use, that you could convert to an invoice later.
13. Follow up
Don’t forget to follow up. Send the invoice, pick up the phone and tell your client you sent it.
Remember to tell them the invoice due date and call them a few days before is due to remind them about the payment. Better safe than sorry, right?
Do you have any other tips? How are you handling your invoicing and payments with clients? We’d love to know more! Feel free to tell us in the comments section below
We started Paydirt three years ago because we needed a tool that would help us manage, bill, and provide great service to our clients.
Today, Paydirt is used by thousands of people around the world, from freelancers to small and mid-sized creative agencies.
As a small token of thanks, we'd like to give back by showcasing a personal success story in hopes that you might be able to apply it to your business. Now let's get on with it!
One thing that's worked so well for us is giving stuff away. Yep, that's right.
To help grow our user base, we published a nifty Invoice Template and Quote Template completely for free, and below are the results.
Let's take a look at the last 30 days of organic search traffic...
Whoa! This is a good bit of traffic. This means 500 potential customers hear about Paydirt every day just because they found us on the web while searching for something they needed. The more eyeballs you get on your product, the more chances you have to sell.
At first glance it may appear our quote template isn't performing as well as the invoice creator. But a quick Incognito search with Google Chrome reveals we're actually ranking top 3 for both terms:
To explain what's going on here, we can check out the average search volume for each product, provided by Google's Keyword Planner:
Our Invoice Template generates 7.5x more traffic than the Quote Template, which lines up loosely with the average monthly search volume above. This is good news because it means we're capturing as much traffic for Quote Template searches as possible.
Now let's look at the holy grail of product marketing – conversion rates.
To make things more interesting, below is data from a few months of organic traffic to each tool:
In the far right is the conversion quality for these visitors – 8% and 7% for the Invoice and Quote templates, respectively. With the average freemium conversion at 3%, Paydirt is performing at 2x the industry standard.
It took quite a bit of tinkering since our humble beginnings three years ago to achieve these results, but these days you can leverage incredible software tools to better track your progress and enjoy similar results for your product.
If your practice relies heavily on inbound queries for new business development, we recommend Moz as the definitive SEO resource. And for a limited time, Moz customers now receive 50% off any plan for the first 3 months on subscriptions to our usability testing tool, UsabilityHub. Head over to the Moz perks page to learn more.