Is there ever a time when a freelancer should work for free?

I came across a job website tonight and read their information on becoming a freelancer. I was shocked to see that they advocated taking a first job and doing the work for free. I am a firm believer that at no point should a freelancer ever work for free. Nor do I believe that they should sell their skills cheaply.

When you are just starting out, it is tempting to take any offer of work that is going, so that you can add to your portfolio and have something to show other prospective clients, but I still think that you should expect to charge for your work.

There is a process of thought that suggests that early-stage freelancers should take work in order to prove themselves. They should take low-paying or free work until they can work themselves up to a more reasonable level of compensation. There are several reasons why this is unacceptable:

Freelancers have to pay bills like everyone else

Taking low-paying work can make you feel as though it is all you are good for

You have to have a certain level of competency to even consider going freelance. Why should you sell it cheaply?

I’m a start-up, will you work for free?

Then there are the people who advertise jobs who usually suggest that as they are a start-up, they cannot currently afford to pay someone to do the work. They usually dangle the offer of more, paid work down the line. But there are some problems with that:

If they can’t afford to pay someone, then why are they starting up a business? Surely if they have no money for it, it will be doomed to fail.

The promised paid-for work rarely materialises or when it does, the pay is not worth the effort

Consider this:

The time that you spend working on something for free, is time that you can never get back.

Does that make it more valuable?

Or

The time that you have offered for free, could be used to market yourself to find a paying customer

Or

Will the product that you have created for free be used to bring this client money?

Then you deserve some compensation for it.

When you start up as a freelancer, it is advisable to work out how many billable hours you can find for your job. That is, the amount of time that you have available to work for clients. Once you have that number, you can use it to do a number of things.

You will need to set aside some time to market your business. This includes writing for your own website, creating products for your own website and running your own social media (without getting sidetracked on Facebook).

You will need some time to do the administration of your business – invoicing and chasing payments.

You will need time for clients.

If you give up some of your time for free, then you are taking some time away from your business. Even if you are a brand new freelancer, you have chosen this path because you believe that you are good at what you do and that you can bring some skills to the table. Your skills deserve a decent reward.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Have you ever worked for free? If so, then do comment below. Did more work materialise? Do you agree with me that freelancers should not work for free? Please comment below.

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3 fears you face as a business owner and how to work through them

We have all experienced fear. That uncomfortable moment when the pit of your stomach falls through the floor and a feeling of dread creeps over you. Fear is a healthy response to stepping out of our comfort zone. Sometimes, however, the emotion can take over and paralyse you, which can prevent you taking action.

 

 

 

 

 

But what if you let fear rule your actions?

Fear of starting a project

It can be possible to be afraid to start something. You take that normal piece of business advice, which is to formulate a plan – and then you plan and plan and plan. Or you research, research, research. You are so busy planning and researching, that you don’t ever start. Ever.

Answer:

While it’s good to plan and research, the time does eventually come when you need to start to do something. How will you ever learn if you simply stay safe? No one can plan for ever and sometimes you just need to get something done.

Find a small step and just take it. Make that first step to that thing you want to do and then follow it with another and another. If it helps, break down the whole process into small steps, just make sure that you then follow through and take action too!

Fear of not being able to carry out the work

There can be a real fear of taking on too much and not being able to fulfil your work demands. This especially applies if you are working in a service industry. You might be afraid that family demands could mean that you are unable to work, or if other demands on your time increase the pressure. How can you give 100% to your work when so many other things threaten to take over?

Answer:

Strangely, the answer to this one is planning! Know the hours you have to work and make sure that what you take on will fit inside them. Always allow a little extra for the unforeseen event and keep the communication with your client flowing. It is true that life has a habit of tossing little problems in your way and no one can guarantee that they will always be able to fulfil the work, but you can mitigate it as much as possible by ensuring that you keep a good grasp of what needs to be done. If this means making an old-fashioned timesheet to ensure you give enough time to different projects, then so be it.

Fear of not being good enough

No one knows all the answers when they’re just starting out, but there can be a real fear of being found out! What if the people you network with, realised just how much you are finding it hard to keep on top of everything? What if your business fails in a spectacular way? How can you say that you are an expert when you have only just started?

Answer:

Everyone can feel this way sometimes. It is one of the ways we put pressure on ourselves. However, we can choose to listen to the disparaging voice in our head, or we can tell it a few home truths. Just because you have this fear, doesn’t make it true. We need to find ways to counteract the voice with logic and calmness.

One way to help this is to have a good friend, who knows what you do, how hard you work and what it has taken to get there. A conversation with them might just be the antidote you need to a doubtful voice inside your head.

What fears have you faced while running your own business? How do you manage to face them down and still get things done? Comment below.

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Starting from the beginning as a freelance business owner

Starting a freelance business could be a dream

There is something very attractive about being a freelance worker – being your own boss, dictating your own time, tea breaks whenever you want and the joy of working in your pyjamas if you wish, however life is never that simple. When you have a job, you are given targets and work to do, but you know when and where the money is coming in that month. As a freelancer, you are responsible for finding your own work and bringing in your own money. You need to account for your money and arrange to pay any taxes or pensions. If you are in the US, you need to arrange healthcare. It can get very complicated if you just launch in without thinking things through.

Here are some tips for starting from the beginning as a freelance business owner:

  1. Set up systems – know where you are going to keep track of invoices and expenses, contacts and marketing. Keep it simple to start with – a spreadsheet for finances and one for marketing. Notify your local tax authorities that you are starting up a business and be prepared to submit accounts according to your country’s tax schedule.
  2. Decide who your clients are going to be. Know your ideal client – what they are looking for, what they will need doing, what do they look like? When you know who your ideal client will be, then find out where they hang out, as you need to be able to reach them.
  3. The easiest way to begin marketing is starting out with friends and family. Reach out to them, let them know what you are doing and ask them if anyone they know is looking for a freelancer. Any past co-workers that you are in touch with, should also be contacted. People who know you are the easiest to talk to at the beginning.
  4. Get some rough ideas of what to charge – there are lots of websites offering to help you decide what to charge but it is best to look at professional organisations for freelancers – they will often have a guide to help you decide what to charge. You can charge by the hour, per word (if writing) or per project. Per project is often the best way to charge, but you do need an idea of how long something is going to take. Allow for changes and feedback in your calculations.
  5. Have a contract. There are lots of contract examples to be found on the web. Look for something close to what you need and adapt as necessary. Never start work without written confirmation that the client is happy with your quote and an agreed deadline. You should also consider a deposit that is non-refundable should the client back out of the work.
  6. Set up a website. Every business should have a website that helps to showcase what they do. It can be as simple or complicated as you wish. Make sure that your website is clear on what you do, and make sure that people can contact you through your website.
  7. Start a portfolio. A portfolio is simply examples of your work that people who are looking for a contractor like you, can look through to help them decide to hire you. In the beginning, there may not be many samples of work, but do keep it up to date with any work that you may do. Include links and make sure that it can be reached via your website.
  8. Start marketing. Keep your Linked-In profile up-to-date. Post on your website and Linked-In and any other social media that you may use. Advertise on free business websites, reach out to local traders or other companies that you may come across.
  9. When in public, i.e. on social media, act like a professional at all times. You never know who is watching.
  10. Get some business cards printed and go to some networking events. Meet people and talk to them about what you do. Start to look for other ways to market your business, even when you’re busy. In order to keep work coming in, you need to keep marketing.

These are just some of the tips that I would give someone starting out as a freelancer. What tips would you give?

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