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VIDEO: The importance of clarifying assumptions

by Leif

When you assume something, you become an asshole. Or so the famous saying claims.

Avoid problems with your clients by talking about every detail of your contract. Are you expecting them to provide draft material, or are they expecting you to do everything unaided? Save yourself headaches by having these conversations at the start.

 

 

Freelancer’s friend: the blessed magic of noise-blocking headphones

by Leif

This is the first in a series celebrating the little things that help freelancers get things done; the people, gadgets, apps, habits and pharmaceuticals that can keep us moving along productively.

Freelancer’s friend #1: noise-cancelling headphones (or ear phones)

Sennheiser HD 650
Working from strange places is infinitely easier when you can transform the aural landscape.

Train packed with shouty kids and hormonal teens? That’s my mobile office. Coworking space overcrowded with collaborating geeks? That’s my tranquil oasis. Cafe crammed with yummy mummys and their less appetising spawn? That’s my library, where I go for peace and quiet. Well, unless I’ve forgotten my Sennheiser earbud things, in which case I’m screwed.

Some freelancers love background noise and the hubbub of daily life. For everyone else: buy some noise-cancelling headphones. These Sennheiser CX 400 II earbuds cost about £18, but considering they can make even the noisiest hellholes into your private productivity centre, they’re worth it!

[interview] Guy Anderson – digital agency owner

by Leif

Guy Anderson is a former freelance web designer and now the owner of digital agency zero G Media. After years of straight-up freelancing Guy is building a digital agencyby taking on bigger projects and working closely with a trusted team of freelancers.

I spoke to Guy to get his thoughts on freelancing. What follows are his words, followed by my interpretation.

“I went freelance because I wanted the freedom to make a difference.”

Guy went freelance after becoming frustrated by the lack of control in his day job. His employer wanted a compliant operative. Guy wanted to innovate, to see his ideas develop and bloom. His employer wasn’t interested. So Guy went freelance.

Guy’s motivation for going freelance is fairly typical, but his is a very positive reason to change. If you crave the freedom to pursue your own ideas, then go for it. Make your ideas happen. See what emerges. Wanting freedom and the room to pursue your own initiatives is a great reason to quit your job and try freelancing.

“I don’t really do selling. I just honestly believe that I can make peoples’ lives better.”

Selling is, for many, a dirty word. And for many freelancers selling is an odious task, and one we’d rather not think about. But Guy’s approach to selling is to not think about selling, and simply think about how he can help people. If he can’t help people then he doesn’t pretend that he can.

Guy knows when his services and his skills are unsuited to the job on offer, and he politely declines, or suggests an alternative freelancer. So if sales is one area of freelancing that you don’t enjoy (or don’t foresee enjoying) then remember that you don’t need to sell anything to anybody. You just need to offer something useful, and believe in your own usefulness.

“You have to keep on marketing, all the time. You have to fill tomorrow’s plate.”

After surviving a few patches of work scarcity, Guy discovered the value of persistent marketing. So even when he’s busy, Guy does marketing. He networks, updates his blog, enhances his web presence or uses social media (particularly LinkedIn and Twitter) to find clients and the freelancers he employs. Thanks to this persistent marketing effort, zero G enjoys a steady stream of work, with fewer of the unsettling lulls that normally characterise freelance careers.

But ‘persistent marketing’ is easier said than done. Because who wants to go traipsing out to another networking event when there’s important work to be done? And who wants to drop the client’s project for an hour to write a guest blog post for a peer? Sure, it’s not easy. But it’s the key to getting a steady flow of work.

[interview] Aegir Hallmundur – a freelance designer

by Leif

The Inquisitor King of Spades

Aegir Hallmundur

Aegir Hallmundur is a designer, typographer, illustrator and front-end web developer based in Brighton. He runs Ministry of Type, the popular blog for all things typographical. You can see his phenomenal design work at aegir.me

I interviewed Aegir to learn how he has carved out a successful freelance career. What follows are his words, followed by my interpretation.

“I went freelance because I was offered a temporary work opportunity that was too good to refuse.”

Sometimes, the comfort and convenience of full-time employment get in the way of progress. By being freelance we are free to grab life’s opportunities and follow enticing paths.

There’s a clue in the name, but full-time employment doesn’t leave us much time to pursue other things – and for most people full-time work precludes pet projects, learning opportunities or short-term work offers.
Indeed, by simply being freelance, by creating that little breathing space around our lives, we invite offers, opportunities and happy chances.

“Being freelance means I don’t need to clutter my working life with forms, procedures or bureaucracy.”

Aegir doesn’t adhere to a strict client engagement process, or document every interaction with a form in triplicate. Knowing that he doesn’t work well with such administrative detritus, he leaves it well alone. So don’t feel obliged to follow the systems used by your former employers.

“Charge high and never under-value your skills and experience. Start with rates that are relatively high, because if you start low you’ll find it impossible to raise them.”

New freelancers are often modest. You feel insecure about your skills or your ability to deliver a project, so you charge less than everyone else. It’s a common scenario, but one that leads to problems.

Because poor rates attract poor clients, the unwitting discount freelancer may be left with a portfolio of poverty-stricken clients – clients who don’t have the budget or the brains to value their service. A reputation as a cheapo freelancer can be tricky to shift.

It’s much easier to start with high rates and occasionally, if the mood or the work takes your fancy, you can dip your rates to get the gig.