As a beginning business owner, one of the most important things to get over is your delicacy around money. If your business is to survive, it is important that you get paid.Some businesses start out with accounting software, and invoicing can be a part of that – set up a template, push a button and the invoice is automatically sent. However, when you do not have fancy software, but just your own laptop and a spreadsheet, what then?
Setting up as a freelance business owner can be quite exhilarating – that rush of being your own boss and working as much or as little as you like, however there are some things that you will need to get organised. There is no one else to do it, it’s just you. What kind of systems will you need to get your freelance business up and running?
Work out how many hours a week you wish to work. Fit them in-between the school run, walking the dog, unloading the dishwasher – stop! By all means get jobs done as well, but the most important thing is making sure that you have some hours that you can use to get work done. You can organise yourself as you wish. If you work best waking up very early in the morning and stopping work at midday, then do that. If you prefer to sleep late and work into the evening, that is fine too. Your work schedule is your responsibility and as long as you can get your work done, then nobody is going to worry about the hours you keep.
You will need to set aside some time for sending out queries, pitch for work, sending out your CV and all the other things that need to be done. You may wish to network at an expo or go to a business festival, but know where you can start to find clients.
Nobody can work for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Do set aside some time that is untouchable, the equivalent of a weekend. When the time is, depends on the work you are doing. Working with overseas clients may mean unsociable hours for the country where you live. Just make sure that you plan some time so that you can recharge your batteries.
Know in advance what you need to charge in order to pay your bills. It is up to you to negotiate a wage that you can live with. I will cover this in more detail in another blog post, but for now, you need to set up an invoicing system so that you can get paid.
Decide how you can accept payment. This may mean by Paypal, direct bank transfer or some other means. Invoices are legally required to have certain information on them and it is worth checking out what is needed for your country. At the very least, you should have your contact information, the client’s contact information, the work done and the price. You should also explain how you are to be paid and how long the client has to pay.
Some word processors offer an invoice template which you can customise for yourself and fill in. I would suggest saving a template for each client, so that you can quickly send the next invoice. I set up a code for each client, for example Joe Bloggs would be JB01 – the first invoice for Joe Bloggs, the second one would be JB02 and so on.
There are some great accounting packages out there and some freelance business owners might just prefer to set up some software to help them. It’s a great option, if you can afford it, but for people starting out, you can begin with a spreadsheet.
Freelance business owners need contacts. Keep a spreadsheet of all contacts made and the date made. Part of freelancing is meeting people and keeping contact with them. If you can keep a list of people and when contact was last made, it can help you make sure that no one gets lost. You can keep different lists of contacts for different subjects.
You might like to keep a separate list of marketing contacts – people who may be interested in your services or business but have not bought from you yet. Again, keep dates and a note of when you were last in contact.
Starting an email list is one of the most important things you can do as a small business owner. It enables you to keep in contact with people who have already bought from you and might again. Don’t just use it to sell, but offer interesting news items, networking events and industry news. Keep it simple but interesting and always include an opt-out. Also make sure that you understand and conform to GDPR guidelines.
Register your business for tax purposes and understand how many times a year you will need to put in your accounts. Finance software may produce your tax return for you, but if you are using a spreadsheet, you will need to put in your own return. When things start to take off, it may be wise to engage the services of an accountant to help make sure that your tax affairs are in order.
An editorial calendar helps you put together a list of subjects for your blog or for other companies. It’s good to keep a list of ideas for blog posts. You can keep website urls for reference and date when the blog post was published. It means that you should always have a steady stream of ideas for what to write next. It is also worth keeping a list of content that you publish and the urls so that you can promote them easily.
Many businesses consider having a blog an essential part of their website. Blogging offers a chance to connect with your customers and enable them to see a little of what you do. Blogging brings fresh content to your website and that is a good thing when it comes to search engines.
Deciding to have a blog is a regular commitment. How often you update it is up to you, but updating it regularly ensures that visitors to your website can see that you use your website and that you still have a valid business.
1. Adding fresh content to your blog ensures that your website stays fresh and current. Coming across a website which has not been updated since 2007 says ‘I don’t care’ or even ‘I’m no longer in business’.
2. Finding new subjects to write about helps to expand your own learning and enables you to keep up with trends and learn more about your own business. It will also help you keep your brain active and engaged in your business. You might even get some new ideas to help your business.
3. Putting up a new blog post gives you the opportunity to promote your website and your business using social media. Keeping in touch with customers through social media is becoming increasingly important. You want your business website to be well-known through social media, although spam is not a good idea.
4. You can use your blog post to promote special offers or to offer other promotions designed to increase business and encourage return customers. This can be a great way to use a blog post. Design it carefully so that links leading to products or services are visible and easily accessed.
5. Regularly updating your blog will help to reassure your customers that you are a trusted company for them to do business with. Trust is increasingly important on the Internet. A trusted company will bring more repeat customers.
Regular blogging can bring many benefits to you and your business website, so stop reading this post and go and get writing!
Sarah Charmley is a UK-based writer who offers blogging as a speciality. If you would like a carefully crafted blog post on a topic of your choice, use the contact form to get in touch or email sarahthecreativewriter (at) gmail.com.
In the first post on Apostrophes, we looked at using them with plurals and singular nouns to show possession. The second post looked at using apostrophes with contractions. This post will examine a simple little word, yet the apostrophe is often used wrongly in it.
Its or it’s?
Do you know which is which?
In this case, the answer is simple – disregard the possession rule. So if you have a sentence:
The dog lolled out its tongue.
This is correct. You do not need to put an apostrophe in because you do not need the apostrophe to show possession of ‘it’.
I love going to Spain. It’s a great place to have a holiday – lots of swimming pools and sunshine.
In the case of this sentence, ‘it’s’ is actually a shortened form of ‘it is’ – a contraction. So you will need the apostrophe.
In short when deciding whether to use ‘its’ or ‘it’s’, you need to know whether the word is showing possession or if it is a contraction. Only use the apostrophe if a letter is missing.
Try these out just for good measure. Is the apostrophe right or wrong?
The horse was lame in one of its hind hooves.
It’s OK you don’t need to explain it to me.
The house was old and ramshackle: it’s whole outward appearance was one of neglect.
Its dangerous to go water-skiing when the red flags are out.
Did you get it right?
The horse was lame in one of its hind hooves. – CORRECT
It’s OK you don’t need to explain it to me. – CORRECT
The house was old and ramshackle: it’s whole outward appearance was one of neglect. WRONG – NO MISSING LETTER.
Its dangerous to go water-skiing when the red flags are out. WRONG – ‘ITS’ IN THIS CASE IS SHORT FOR ‘IT IS’ SO IT SHOULD BE ‘IT’S’
Using apostrophes can be easy once you know how. This concludes this series of posts on apostrophes.
I read round the Internet avidly and every so often I come across some really great posts that I consider helpful. I am sharing them here today, knowing that someone else could find them useful too.
Guiletta Nardone wrote a fantastic guest post for Men with Pens about being bold and fearless in our business. In ‘Have You Discovered Your Fearless Why?‘, Guiletta explains her own thoughts process as she came to terms with marketing her design business.
If you are thinking of setting up a Facebook page, then Karen Gunton of Build a Little Biz explains what is and isn’t allowed. The rules can be quite strict regarding marketing using Facebook, so it is worth checking out before you begin. The cans and cannots of Facebook plus some dos and don’ts too is her sum up of previous articles so that the information is all in one place.
Jenn Mattern’s post on How to Make Better Decisions About Your Freelance Writing Career could actually apply to any small business owner. Jenn explains the steps you need to take to make your small business a successful small business.
Finally, the community of Enterprise Nation has been going for five years, but this year they have decided they are ripe for change. The community have been switched over to Bitsy where there will be the opportunity to sell your services (for a small fee) and join in the business conversations in both the forums and Twitter. The website has only just launched, but if it is anything like Enterprise Nation was, then it is going to be an invaluable website for small and medium businesses.
What blog articles have you found useful recently? Let me know if you like any of these.
It sounds like a lot of work. Collecting information, articles, even adverts together, formatting them together in an attractive format then, possibly the worst bit of all, printing and distributing them. Is there really any need for your business to have a newsletter?
I would suggest that it can be worth the effort for your business to have a newsletter and here’s why:
– It keeps your business in the forefront of your customers’ minds
– It can enable you to offer other companies you work with extra exposure
– It enables you to make special offers to your customers to encourage them to spend more money with you
– You can tempt your customers with new products.
– You can send an email newsletter rather than a paper one, avoiding the recycle bin and saving the planet!
– You collect details of your customers and know who they are.
There are lots of great reasons why a newsletter should be at the forefront of your mind. So how do you do it?
What Makes a Great Newsletter?
The elements of a great newsletter is great headlines, interesting and succinct articles and graphics. You can include adverts for new products, news and information that is likely to be of interest to your customers and of course information on how to contact you should any of the offers be of interest to your customers.
There are some great publishing packages out there and if you are going to do it yourself, it might be worth investing in software that will help you set it out professionally. Being able to move graphics around easily and play around with the format can help the ease of putting the newsletter together.
Your newsletter can be as short as a page. If you are planning on printing a newsletter, bear in mind that for a folded format, you will need a minimum of four pages if there is not to be a large piece of blank space on it.
Fonts and Graphics
Make the font easily readable such as Arial. Times New Roman has also been traditionally used. At least 11 point will be easily read by most.
If you are printing, graphics quality is everything. Pictures do not come out so well on coloured paper and need to be as high a quality as possible. They also look good with a border to separate them from the text on the page.
Check Your Newsletter Well
Proof read everything thoroughly and preferably get a second pair of eyes to look over them to pick up mistakes you have missed. If your spelling and grammar is not as good as it could be, then use your publishing software hints to help you out and spell check the whole. Bear in mind that this will not pick up words spelled right but in the wrong place.
Make a commitment to getting out the newsletter weekly, fortnightly or monthly and stick to it. Make a commitment, block out some time to deal with it as appropriately. Get used to squirreling bits of information away for the newsletter and collect graphics.
Finally, if you really think it’s a great idea, but just don’t have the time, then hire a writer. Give them the information and ask them to format and produce it as a pdf or a printed book. Rates will depend on how much work will be involved in producing the newsletter.
If you wish to discuss starting a newsletter with me, then please check out my contact page.
I haven’t written a ‘helpful blogs’ post for a while, and I’ve been enjoying some new heights of helpfulness since my last one. If you’re running a business, then here are some blogs you may find helpful.
I love Enterprise Nation! It has a great forum for asking questions, daily helpful articles and a twitter meet-up every day around the watercooler at 11 am.Particularly if you are a UK business, then do check it out.
I found Enterprise Nation from Startup Donut. Again it has a help forum and is particularly useful for information and help for newly formed businesses.
Karen Gunton’s blog, Build a Little Biz is a new favourite of mine. It is great reading for new business owners, or even those just beginning on the Internet. She writes well for Mum entrepreneurs but her advice would suit anyone looking for more information on running a business online.
Freelance Switch is a great site for web developers and designers, but it also includes writers in the mix. The articles are regularly added and very helpful, it has a great cartoon strip and advertises jobs. Well worth a look.
I have only recently begun following Freelance Folder. It is similar in style to Freelance Switch which is a clean professional look. The articles are just as good with lots of helpful hints and tips for business owners.
Finally, if you are looking for either a creative job or for creative workers, try CrowdSpring. It is a simple website that posts projects for a set amount, allowing simply the best proposal to stand out. There are jobs for graphic or web design or for writers. Check it out if this sounds what you are looking for.
We all have different websites that we regularly visit and enjoy. Recommend your favourites in the comments below.