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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 November 8, 2018

    How to Answer the Tough Question: What are Your Salary Requirements?

    How to Answer the Tough Question: What are Your Salary Requirements?

    After a few months of hard work and dozens of phone calls later, you finally land a job opportunity.

    But then, you’re asked about your salary requirements and your mind goes blank. So, you offer a lower salary believing this will increase your odds at getting hired.

    Unfortunately, this is the wrong approach.

    Your salary requirements can make or break your odds at getting hired. But only if you’re not prepared.

    Ask for a salary too high with no room for negotiation and your potential employer will not be able to afford you. Aim too low and employers will perceive as you offering low value. The trick is to aim as high as possible while keeping both parties feel happy.

    Of course, you can’t command a high price without bringing value.

    The good news is that learning how to be a high-value employee is possible. You have to work on the right tasks to grow in the right areas. Here are a few tactics to negotiate your salary requirements with confidence.

    1. Hack time to accomplish more than most

    Do you want to get paid well for your hard work? Of course you do. I hate to break it to you, but so do most people.

    With so much competition, this won’t be an easy task to achieve. That’s why you need to become a pro at time management.

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    Do you know how much free time you have? Not the free time during your lunch break or after you’ve finished working at your day job. Rather, the free time when you’re looking at your phone or watching your favorite TV show.

    Data from 2017 shows that Americans spend roughly 3 hours watching TV. This is time poorly spent if you’re not happy with your current lifestyle. Instead, focus on working on your goals whenever you have free time.

    For example, if your commute to/from work is 1 hour, listen to an educational Podcast. If your lunch break is 30 minutes, read for 10 to 15 minutes. And if you have a busy life with only 30–60 minutes to spare after work, use this time to work on your personal goals.

    Create a morning routine that will set you up for success every day. Start waking up 1 to 2 hours earlier to have more time to work on your most important tasks. Use tools like ATracker to break down which activities you’re spending the most time in.

    It won’t be easy to analyze your entire day, so set boundaries. For example, if you have 4 hours of free time each day, spend at least 2 of these hours working on important tasks.

    2. Set your own boundaries

    Having a successful career isn’t always about the money. According to Gallup, about 70% of employees aren’t satisfied with their current jobs.[1]

    Earning more money isn’t a bad thing, but choosing a higher salary over the traits that are the most important to you is. For example, if you enjoy spending time with your family, reject job offers requiring a lot of travel.

    Here are some important traits to consider:

    • Work and life balance – The last thing you’d want is a job that forces you to work 60+ hours each week. Unless this is the type of environment you’d want. Understand how your potential employer emphasizes work/life balance.
    • Self-development opportunities – Having the option to grow within your company is important. Once you learn how to do your tasks well, you’ll start becoming less engaged. Choose a company that encourages employee growth.
    • Company culture – The stereotypical cubicle job where one feels miserable doesn’t have to be your fate. Not all companies are equal in culture. Take, for example, Google, who invests heavily in keeping their employees happy.[2]

    These are some of the most important traits to look for in a company, but there are others. Make it your mission to rank which traits are important to you. This way you’ll stop applying to the wrong companies and stay focused on what matters to you more.

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    3. Continuously invest in yourself

    Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make. Cliche I know, but true nonetheless.

    You’ll grow as a person and gain confidence with the value you’ll be able to bring to others. Investing in yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, you can read books to expand your knowledge in different fields.

    Don’t get stuck into the habit of reading without a purpose. Instead, choose books that will help you expand in a field you’re looking to grow. At the same time, don’t limit yourself to reading books in one subject–create a healthy balance.

    Podcasts are also a great medium to learn new subjects from experts in different fields. The best part is they’re free and you can consume them on your commute to/from work.

    Paid education makes sense if you have little to no debt. If you decide to go back to school, be sure to apply for scholarships and grants to have the least amount of debt. Regardless of which route you take to make it a habit to grow every day.

    It won’t be easy, but this will work to your advantage. Most people won’t spend most of their free time investing in themselves. This will allow you to grow faster than most, and stand out from your competition.

    4. Document the value you bring

    Resumes are a common way companies filter employees through the hiring process. Here’s the big secret: It’s not the only way you can showcase your skills.

    To request for a higher salary than most, you have to do what most are unwilling to do. Since you’re already investing in yourself, make it a habit to showcase your skills online.

    A great way to do this is to create your own website. Pick your first and last name as your domain name. If this domain is already taken, get creative and choose one that makes sense.

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    Here are some ideas:

    • joesmith.com
    • joeasmith.com
    • joesmithprojects.com

    Nowadays, building a website is easy. Once you have your website setup, begin producing content. For example, if you a developer you can post the applications you’re building.

    During your interviews, you’ll have an online reference to showcase your accomplishments. You can use your accomplishments to justify your salary requirements. Since most people don’t do this, you’ll have a higher chance of employers accepting your offer

    5. Hide your salary requirements

    Avoid giving you salary requirements early in the interview process.

    But if you get asked early, deflect this question in a non-defensive manner. Explain to the employer that you’d like to understand your role better first. They’ll most likely agree with you; but if they don’t, give them a range.

    The truth is great employers are more concerned about your skills and the value you bring to the company. They understand that a great employee is an investment, able to earn them more than their salary.

    Remember that a job interview isn’t only for the employer, it’s also for you. If the employer is more interested in your salary requirements, this may not be a good sign. Use this question to gauge if the company you’re interviewing is worth working for.

    6. Do just enough research

    Research average salary compensation in your industry, then wing it.

    Use tools like Glassdoor to research the average salary compensation for your industry. Then leverage LinkedIn’s company data that’s provided with its Pro membership. You can view a company’s employee growth and the total number of job openings.

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    Use this information to make informed decisions when deciding on your salary requirements. But don’t limit yourself to the average salary range. Companies will usually pay you more for the value you have.

    Big companies will often pay more than smaller ones.[3] Whatever your desired salary amount is, always ask for a higher amount. Employers will often reject your initial offer. In fact, offer a salary range that’ll give you and your employer enough room to negotiate.

    7. Get compensated by your value

    Asking for the salary you deserve is an art. On one end, you have to constantly invest in yourself to offer massive value. But this isn’t enough. You also have to become a great negotiator.

    Imagine requesting a high salary and because you bring a lot of value, employers are willing to pay you this. Wouldn’t this be amazing?

    Most settle for average because they’re not confident with what they have to offer. Most don’t invest in themselves because they’re not dedicated enough. But not you.

    You know you deserve to get paid well, and you’re willing to put in the work. Yet, you won’t sacrifice your most important values over a higher salary.

    The bottom line

    You’ve got what it takes to succeed in your career. Invest in yourself, learn how to negotiate, and do research. The next time you’re asked about your salary requirements, you won’t fumble.

    You’ll showcase your skills with confidence and get the salary you deserve. What’s holding you back now?

    Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

    Reference

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