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How to Maximize your Return on Freelance Work

How to Maximize your Return on Freelance Work

Freelance work may be one of the more difficult ways to make a living out there. Between tax headaches, feast-and-famine cycles, and sometimes having to undertake tasks that either don’t pay well enough or are just plain uninteresting, freelancing can often seem like an unnecessarily tough way to make a living. However, there are some measures you can take to be successful and still work on the schedule that suits your lifestyle and income needs.

1. Know the value of your work.

This crucial first step is where many freelancers make a mistake that can haunt them for months or even years. Sit down and make an honest evaluation of your skills and what you bring that makes you different, better, or more capable than others. Once you have done this, look into what others are charging for comparable services. If you can do better than they can for less, this will give you a good starting point to set your rates. Your clients will want to negotiate, and if the level of work makes it worthwhile, then by all means, do so. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to stick to your guns. Remember, you’re trying to create a mutually beneficial situation. That won’t happen if the client has final control of your payout.

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2. Treat your job like a job.

Freelancing seems like a fun way to make money in the short term. The problem is, especially if you are working on the Internet, you will have to structure your time so you can best serve your clients. When your clients are largely in the same country as you, this is one thing. However, especially when you are working from a different continent, you may need to be willing to make some concessions in your schedule. This will make it more likely you will get more work, because your clients will appreciate the extra effort you put in to accommodate them.

3. Manage your time wisely.

Procrastination is the enemy when it comes to working as a freelancer. Many clients schedule tasks for the quickest possible turnaround. Do not be afraid to tell a client you need more time to complete a project if the restrictions are unreasonable or you’ve run into a snag, but it is vitally important that you don’t abuse this. Most clients are willing to be understanding if they ask for something that is simply impossible, but if you blow off work for the beach, word will get around.

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4. Be clear on the requirements.

If there are any vagaries in the client’s requirements, don’t be afraid to seek clarification. For example, a client who agrees to pay $30 per 1,500-word article and orders a 15,000-word article but keeps the price the same was either not paying attention or hoping to get the maximum work for minimum payout. If possible, have a contract in place with the client specifying your rates for different lengths or types of work. Remember to allow a little wiggle room for extra research, time, or effort on your part.

5. Don’t forget about taxes.

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13 Freelancers, Good and Bad, Which Are You?

    Tax laws and requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but one thing that’s universal: You will have to pay them. Be sure to set aside an appropriate percentage of your income monthly, quarterly, or annually. It is generally better to pay monthly and overpay, at least under the US tax code, to avoid having to pay a larger lump sum at the end of the fiscal year. Independent contractors usually start at 30% for taxes, so being able to set aside 40-50% per pay period is ideal to avoid penalties and ensure a return at the end of the year.

    6. Sell yourself.

    Think of taking on new clients as a job interview and emphasize the talents you have that make you a better fit for a client’s needs. You are trying to market yourself to the client as the solution to their problems. At the same time, you need to make sure the people you are working for are going to be a good fit for you as well. This will help avoid friction and create a more harmonious working relationship. Be confident and clear about what you can deliver, as well as what client support you will need to be as productive as possible. By setting clear expectations, you can avoid a lot of problems before they ever have the chance to become problems.

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    7. Network, network, network.

    Being a freelancer can be hard work. Bearing this in mind, networking is critical to your success. Seek out new opportunities and ask current clients for references. Sites such as LinkedIn and Google+ are good for making connections. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or to renew a contract when the work is done. This may sound gauche, but there’s nothing wrong with “overhearing” someone at a restaurant, bar, or on the street mentioning they need exactly what you do…and stepping in to offer your services! The worst they can say is no, and you’ve just gained a new opportunity to prove yourself.

    8. Be a pack rat.

    Always hold on to copies of anything you do for a client, invoices you generate, payment records, contracts, receipts, and communications. Not only are these helpful for generating a profile of your capabilities, but it also makes tax and other record-keeping simple and efficient. Having a good organizational system that allows for at-a-glance order tracking and monitoring is imperative to keeping appropriate records. It’s also great for task management! Hold onto these for no less than three years after the contract is terminated, just so you can reference them if necessary. And ALWAYS keep a hard copy, because one virus and your great organization is trashed. At a minimum, you should keep copies of your records on your hard drive, in a filing cabinet, on a detachable stick or other drive, and it’s never a bad idea to email yourself copies of everything at least monthly. This ensures you have the information in a number of areas at the same time, so a catastrophic loss here won’t affect your data there.

    By following these 8 simple steps, you can maximize your freelance work return in no time!

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    Published on May 7, 2019

    How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

    How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

    When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

    Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

    Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

    You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

    Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

    1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

    Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

    But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

    • Will you spend more time with your family?
    • What does retirement mean to you?
    • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

    Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

    Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

    2. Figure out When to Invest

    “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

    It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

    The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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    A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

    Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

    3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

    Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

    Why?

    Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

    Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

    Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

    Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

    4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

    Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

    If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

    You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

    1. Vanguard
    2. TD Ameritrade
    3. Charles Schwab

    5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

    Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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    Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

    That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

    Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

    A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

    6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

    The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

    Robo Advisors

    Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

    Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

    Bonds

    Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

    Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

    Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

    1. Treasury bonds
    2. Government bonds
    3. Corporate bonds
    4. Foreign bonds
    5. Mortgage-backed bonds
    6. Municipal bonds

    Mutual Funds

    Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

    One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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    Real Estate

    Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

    Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

    This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

    But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

    Savings Accounts

    Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

    7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

    Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

    So how can you master delayed gratification?

    By building your discipline.

    Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

    Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

    8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

    I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

    It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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    More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

    But, how can you invest yourself?

    Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

    Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

    But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

    Retire Happy with Excess Money

    The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

    It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

    I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

    Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

    One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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    Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

    Reference

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