I started out my career as a project manager so I was used to keeping things organized and on track for many people at once but I have to say that my favourite all-time tool is Base Camp. It keeps everyone in the loop, milestones clear and files organized rather than rifling through a gagillion email threads. Also ensuring that the scope and expectations are clear from the get-go – THIS IS A MUST. Otherwise no matter how organized you are, it’s all going to go to Shitsville, FAST.
The definitive guide to going Freelance.
Creating a Process
The key to freelance success is to create and maintain an intimate connection to your business; after all it’s just the two of you, right? The easiest way to survive is to create a solid process for yourself that ensures high quality work is being continuously pushed out the door in a timely manner.
In this chapter I’ll show you exactly how to do it. Let’s get started:
The Prospecting Process
We spent a lot of time talking about prospecting in the previous chapter. Prospecting is a fine art, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll soon not even recognize yourself doing it. At every interaction from this point forward you’ll be thinking, “is there a business transaction to be made here?”
Okay, it won’t be that bad. But with the right process in place, prospecting can be fun. Now that you have a good understanding of where to find your prospects and how to create a winning proposal, it’s time to talk about next steps.
Prospecting is more than finding clients and emailing them a proposal. It takes time and effort and perseverance. You need to dedicate as much time to prospecting as it takes to get the outcomes you want.
There are four key steps that you need to implement:
- Start with the introduction. Introduce yourself to the right people and identify why or how you can help the client with their needs.
- Send a proposal. Put pen to paper and produce a professional and unique proposal that outlines exactly how you plan to achieve success for your client and how much it will cost to do it.
- Follow up. Follow up with clients whom you’ve submitted proposals to and gauge their level of interest and make an appointment to discuss next steps.
- Friendly follow-ups. Connect with previous clients whom you’ve worked with before to explore new business opportunities.
Simply integrate this process into your daily activities, like; wake up, chug coffee, scan your news feed, read and reply to emails, etc. Now insert a couple of hours every day to prospect. Use this time to not produce, but instead to build your business.
How To Manage Your Projects
Managing client projects can be a challenge. Each project is unique in its deliverables, cost and scope. And these different projects might all happen simultaneously.
The only way to avoid drowning in a sea of your own success is to use the right mix of tools and software that will help you manage your projects. There are a wide variety of free and low-cost online solutions, such as Proposify for proposal development, and Freshbooks or Solo, to help you manage your workflow, track your hours, manage your timelines, generate invoices and do simple accounting.
It’s important to get to know these tools and use them consistently. This will help you develop true estimates based on previous and similar projects, it will help you with financial planning and sustainability and it will show your clients that you are professional, credible and serious.
Developing Effective Work-backs
Work-backs; they sound wrong but can be oh so right! This is probably the only time in your career where doing things backwards makes perfect sense. At least I hope so – for your sake!
In fact, you might be familiar with work-backs from your agency days, but I’m here to tell you – if you’re not, you need to be. A workback schedule starts from the date the project must be completed and lists all of the tasks in reverse chronological order with due dates assigned to each task.
While it might feel more natural to plan your projects with a kick-off date, work-backs actually help ensure that everything is accomplished before your presentation or project delivery. Work-backs are extremely effective no matter the size or scope of your project but most notably, to use when planning projects that have multiple moving parts.
Whether you use Google Docs or another platform, using work-backs helps you manage current projects so that you can invest your other time in creating opportunities for new ones.
How to Brainstorm Solo
When working alone, you sometimes have to brainstorm alone. It’s not easy, but there are definitely ways to get creative that go beyond the extreme of all day brainstorming sessions. Staying inspired, creative and motivated can be one of the biggest challenges of working from home or being a solo freelancer. But it turns out, there are a few options out there for staying inspired and keeping your creativity at an all time high when looking for opportunities to get creative. Here are a few quick and easy tactics:
1. Read Something Different
It’s important that you don’t become fully consumed by your work or industry. If you work in marketing, take some time to read something about fashion or industrial design. It’s the act of getting outside of your bubble that can help give some of the best ideas.
2. Chat With Peers
Just because you’re a solo freelancer doesn’t mean you don’t have peers or friends. Reach out to them and chat about the projects you’re working on and offer to buy lunch.
3. Get Out Of The Norm
Get outside and do something other than work. It doesn’t have to be Skydiving (although I recommend it if you haven’t tried) or something extreme - you just need to break the habit. Go to the gym, go for a walk or go to the store and pick up groceries. Trust me when I say, inspiration can come from the strangest and most unexpected places.
4. Crowdsource Inspiration
Don’t ignore the power of the web and the thousands of niche websites and forums that can help drive new ideas. As a marketer, I frequently visit sites like Inbound.org or Reddit.com/r/Marketing for inspiration and new insight. Look for channels that are tailored towards your profession and leverage them for inspiration, feedback and new ideas.
"There's an app for that." We leverage awesome tools like Google Docs, Asana, Dropbox, and Proposify to get shit done.
How To Deliver The Final Project
Delivery matters to clients, especially if it’s a particularly challenging project with lots of variables or a new approach that’s outside of the client’s comfort zone. Take the time to present the project to your client and walk them through the final product step by step. Then leave it with them to review and absorb. Most often, they’ll both love it and have a few suggested changes. But the key to client satisfaction and the best possible final product is to get there together and show the client that they were an integral part of the project and the outcome.
How To Take Feedback
Feedback from clients is the secret sauce to improving your freelance career. When it comes down to it, the honest feedback that clients can offer, both good and constructive, is invaluable as it provides the insights you need to fine-tune your practice.
If you’re not getting enough of it, you should start asking for it. Whether it’s communication style/frequency, project planning, content or finished product – there’s always room to improve. Ask your clients (whom you trust will give you honest and useful feedback) to tell you how you’re doing and if there are areas they think could benefit from improvement.
No matter how you generate feedback, be extremely grateful you’ve received it. Like I said, it’s a gem in terms of business development and you should be stoked that your clients care enough to give it to you. If you receive feedback that might be difficult to hear, take it with grace and view it as an opportunity to learn and do better. Then, do better. Don’t forget to use the feedback to implement changes and improve your business.
Again, it goes back to thinking about your service as a product. The most successful product companies are relentless about monitoring their customer metrics and constantly tweaking and improving their product to satisfy more of their customers. Too often service companies don’t pay enough attention to that stuff, and as a result don’t live up to their potential.
Remember, the success of a freelancer depends on the investment made. While many newbie freelancers start off thinking they no longer live under the rules, policies and structure of a company, they soon realize that to succeed in the freelance world, you need to create your own rules, policies and structure for you and your business. These tips are just what you need to get started!
Try not to spread yourself too thin. Just make sure you will have enough time to do it all. Check your email again and again and follow-up if you need to...Write things down, set reminders. You gotta keep your head straight.
- Establish structure not just for yourself but also for the sanity of your clients. It’s important that you create a process that your clients can easily understand and one they feel is still engaging enough that they’re able to contribute.
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