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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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    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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    Last Updated on March 4, 2019

    How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

    How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

    Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

    I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

    Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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    Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

    Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

    Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

    I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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    I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

    If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

    Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

    The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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    Using Credit Cards with Rewards

    Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

    You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

    I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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    So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

    What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

    Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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