How To Start Your Own Freelance Business

You’ve been thinking about it, dreaming about it. Well, now is the time to take that leap and start your own freelance business. There are incredible opportunities for people who have the skills and the will to do this –and remember, both skill and will are equally important.

Here’s a tried and tested guide to starting your own freelance business.

1. Define your goals
Without clearly defined, easily measurable goals, you will find it difficult to get to where you want to go.

2. Create your business plan
Plan it out before you start. It’s like drawing your own Google map. Chart the path you’d like to take to become a successful freelancer.

Ask yourself these questions:

i) What will your business name and location be?
ii) What is your speciality?
iii) How will you find your clients?
iv) What type of marketing or promotion will you undertake to get your name out there?
v) What results are you looking for?

This would make a simple business plan that will get you started. Write down answers to all these questions so there’s no ambiguity.

3. Draw up a financial plan
You haven’t thought much about this but without a financial plan, your business will be severely handicapped.
So, ask yourself these questions:

i) How much will you charge? If possible, draw up a rate card –and try to find out how it compares with that of others with similar skills and experience
ii) In order to make ends meet, how much will you need to earn each month?
iii) What are the profit margins you would like to have?
iv) Does your current experience justify this cost? What is the extra you can add to make your prices viable?
Invest time to answer these questions in detail. This will give you a better idea of the goals you should be aiming for.

4. Build your brand
You need to create a differentiator that sets you apart from others in the field. Encapsulate it in a few words—and create a simple logo or monogram that will catch the eye and help people remember your brand.

5. Build an online presence
You need to create your own website on which you can draw attention to what makes you different. Upload examples of your best work or successful case studies. Stick to the brand identity that you have created. Consistency is all important.

6. Connect, connect, connect
Connect with as many people as possible on a personal level.

7. Compile a list of potential clients
From this group, identify about 15 potential clients you would like to work with immediately. Do your research to ensure that they represent the right people you need to target. Get their latest contact information.

8. Find your first client
From your list of 15, zero in on your first potential client. Start by introducing yourself. Let him or her know what you have to offer (after first identifying what they are lacking). Inform the prospect about your services, what you can do specifically for him or her and in what precise way you can help improve profitability.

9. Repeat the process with other potential clients
Repeat this process again and again, as you go down the list of the potential clients you have shortlisted. Make every pitch specific to the client you are addressing and his or her needs. Review what has worked and what hasn’t and amend your pitch accordingly

10. Turn successful work into case studies
Every successful project you complete should be turned into a case study to help you win more clients.

Follow all these steps. Be consistent and persevere, never deviating from the task. Soon you’ll build a reputation, win more clients and see your business grow.

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Stuck In Second Gear When Funding Your Business?

You have a great idea and are energetic and enthusiastic about starting your business. But there is a problem: you just don’t have the necessary funds to get going. You are stuck in second gear as the song from the popular series Friends goes.

Here are some ideas you can cash in on to get your business going.

Basically, there are two ways you can fund your business: debt and equity. Let’s take a look at both options.

Debt
Shakespeare wisely said, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” But if borrow you must, think carefully before taking up the debt option. You can borrow from friends and family but this can be tricky. If the business fails (and statistics show that a majority of new businesses fail or take longer to become viable than originally estimated), you will risk losing friendships or breaking family ties. If this group agrees to lend you money, make sure everyone knows the risks involved. Put the agreement on a business footing with the terms clearly spelt out.

You also have the option of borrowing from yourself. This would entail using your savings or taking a personal loan against your assets (mortgaging your property, for instance, or selling a second home) to generate cash. Tread cautiously here, because you may be risking the security of your family.

Banks offer many schemes to lend money to small businesses,. Find out all the details—including what’s in the small print. Banks typically require a track record of the business in question and will often want their loans secured with assets.

Equity

In the case of the equity route, you turn over an ownership stake to an investor in return for cash. There is no obligation to repay the investor. The downside is that you have to give up part-ownership of your business—you may even end up losing control of the business. Be prepared for the risks involved.

There are several equity options you could consider. Here are some of the most popular:

Boot funding
This is when the business, by and large, funds itself so the investor’s risk is minimised. As the business grows, the cash is used to fund further growth. The sales in the pipeline could be considered sufficient for planned growth. The advice of an experienced consultant is important to determine if boot funding should be undertaken on a case-by-case basis.

Angel Investor
This is typically an individual willing to invest in the business. Angel Investors may even form a group to spread the risk and to pool research.

Venture Capitalists (VCs)
VCs typically provide early-stage funding. They are usually interested in making a larger investment in a business that looks promising. They may want a significant share in the business –even a controlling interest.

Partner
This is often a preferred funding option, specially if the potential partner has an interest in the category of business. He or she may even be an employee. Partners can bring in resources other than just cash –such as industry expertise and contacts.

Crowd funding
This is a web-based route that allows individuals with a business idea or project to reach out to potential investors through various platforms. Multiple investors can fund the same project. Be aware of any restrictions on the operations of crowd funders.

If you truly believe in your idea, don’t let lack of funds bog you down. “Find purpose, the means will follow,” Mahatma Gandhi said. Take the time to make an impressive business plan–getting professional help in this area is a good investment. Be persistent in exploring your best options and the funds are sure to come in to get your business not just going –but growing as well.

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Make Anywhere Working More Productive

Today’s technology allows people to be more flexible about where and when they work, which makes remote working increasingly popular.

How can you maintain the same level of productivity—or even a higher level — away from the office? Here are some tried-and-tested tips.

Get a headstart by starting work early
Start working an hour or two earlier than other people in your team. You’ll have more time to focus without phone calls coming in – and you’ll be able to cope with the day better if you’ve already put in a huge chunk of work.

Set a schedule
When you are working remotely, you have the freedom to work during your most productive hours—late at night, early morning or regular office hours. Determine which time slots work best for you and make up a schedule. Most projects also need collaboration and discussion with other people in the team. Your schedule should build in a time slot to confer with others at times convenient to them. This helps bonding and makes you feel part of the team.

Give yourself at least three significant tasks for the day and don’t close shop till you’ve completed them. Avoid handling personal items in your work time unless it’s something very urgent.

Keep a work diary
Maintain a work diary and keep it updated. At the end of the day, list the jobs you have completed and, ideally, how much time you spent on each. Even if it’s an on-going job that spills into the next day (or days), note how much time you’ve spent on it every day. This is also a very useful record for management to assess productivity and determine how time-consuming a job is so the client can be billed accordingly.

Have a dedicated work space
So, you don’t have an office. Your office now is wherever you work from. Demarcate an area as your work space and get to it every day. Make sure you have a place for your computer and telephone and invest in a comfortable chair. It’s good to shower and change as if you were going to the office even if you are working from home. It will help you get into the work mode and get more done.

Minimise distractions
This can be difficult if you are working from home. Don’t get embroiled in domestic situations. After all, if you had a nine-to-five job, you wouldn’t constantly be dealing with things happening at home. Unless it really is an emergency, don’t let domestic issues come in the way of your work.

Block like-minded tasks together
Don’t keep checking your emails. Resist the temptation to send out WhatsApp messages all through the day. Set aside some time for emails and messaging. Check your emails and send out brief replies as you read them. If an email calls for a more detailed reply, deal with it later. Make all outbound calls one after the other.

Book some co-working space
A co-working space helps solve the ‘lonely worker’ problem. If you work mainly from home, try and get out to a different environment for a while. Co-working spaces are vibrant and exude a lot of energy, which helps get the creative juices flowing. Don’t get distracted with other people’s projects when in a co-working space. However, it’s good to take a break now and then and get to know your co-workers. Someone might chip in with the skills you need which are outside your bandwidth. They may know someone who could help with just the problem you are wrestling with. It works like an informal networking club. However, when you really need to focus on a task, use headphones. People will get the ‘do not disturb’ message.

Digital nomads need extra discipline
If you are constantly on the move, you need extra discipline to stay productive. That to-do list is all-important. And be aware of time zones so you do not call people in different geographies at the wrong time of day. Make full use of time that is usually wasted at airports. Keep work that doesn’t need a lot of concentration and referencing to do in the flight. This may also be a good time to just reflect and jot down points for future projects.

Working from anywhere relies heavily on trust and individual capacity. You have freedom but with it comes accountability. The most successful anywhere workers make sure that their work is better than it would be if they were clocking in time in an office –in terms of both quality and quantity.

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Making The Most Of Your 24 Hours

Everyone has 24 hours in the day. Yet there are people who get much more done in the day than others. Here are ways in which you can make the most of your 24 hours.

Plan your day
Spend a few minutes every night to plan what you are going to do the next day. Prioritise your tasks into A B C D levels of importance. Tackle the A tasks –the toughest and the most important, not necessarily the most urgent—first. Don’t go on to B until you’ve finished A …and so on. Remember the 80:20 ratio. If there are 10 tasks on your to-do list and you only complete the two most important ones, you will get an 80% result.

Follow a strict daily routine
Most successful people follow a strict daily routine. This brings order to the day and enables one to work in a focussed manner during the time slotted for work. The schedule must include relaxation and recreation time. This will help unleash energy when you get down to work again.

Work in blocks
Work in blocks – for example, 90 minutes at a time – then take a break. You will feel refreshed and able to get back to work with renewed focus.

Stop multi-tasking
Devote all your energy to the task at hand. Focus on that task to the exclusion of everything else. It goes without saying that you should switch off your mobile phone and avoid distractions as far as possible when you’re working. You’ll do a better job, faster.

Get it right the first time
Your work should be flawless so you don’t waste time revising and re-revising. If facts need to be checked, do it then and there. Take a little extra time and get it right the first time. You will not only be more efficient but will also build a reputation for turning in excellent work.

Don’t have so many meetings
The number of meetings you have in the day can easily be cut down. And this goes for meetings over the phone and Skype as well. Use emails more often than one-on-one meetings to clarify points and confirm decisions. Your emailing time is under your control and most business matters can be dealt with efficiently via email.

Outsource everything you can’t be the best at
You can’t be good at everything. It makes sense to outsource things others can do better, so you can focus on what you do best.

Don’t say “Yes” to every request
It might be tough at first but saying “No” when you need to, will save you a lot of time. People will soon realise that they can’t take you for granted. You won’t lose friends if you follow this rule—if they are truly your friends, that is.

Make a stop-doing list
Yes, a to-do list is important. But also make a stop-doing list. Resolve to put those time-guzzlers that don’t do anything for you, out of your life.

Use commute time productively
If you are travelling by car (but not driving yourself), you can use the time to dash off short notes, brush up on the new language you are learning (learning something new is an excellent idea and the effort is never wasted). If you are commuting by train or bus, keep something handy to read—perhaps the daily paper you just had time to skim in the morning.

Make fitness a top priority
Make it your goal to become as fit as you can possibly be. The good news is that when you do something regularly for 21 days, it becomes a habit. So stick to the exercise regimen and you’ll soon begin to enjoy it and will look and feel all the better for it.

You can make those 24 hours power-packed to add to your productivity and also make your life rewarding and fulfilling.

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Publicity Without The Price Tag, It’s Just a Matter Of Spreading The Word

Can you get people talking about your business and your products without actually paying a fortune for publicity? Yes, you can. Here are some tried and tested ways to get the publicity you want – for free.

Word-of-mouth publicity

Word-of-mouth is an exciting possibility. This is an unpaid form of publicity in which satisfied customers tell other people about how much they like your product or service. People will spread the word about your product or service if it promises a new experience. It makes them look good for having communicated the news and it also makes them look well informed. A human interest story around your product experience can spread like wild fire.

The customer experience needs to be truly astounding, not just a matter of “satisfaction”. Word-of-mouth has a ripple effect: each happy customer can steer dozens of others to the company. It is also one of the most credible forms of advertising. The person making the recommendation has nothing to gain monetarily. And personal reputation is also at stake if the product does not live up to all it is touted to be.

Social media

This can get you loads of free publicity. You can set up a FaceBook page or a Twitter account at no cost. It’s an excellent way to build relationships and generate word-of-mouth publicity. However, be focussed on what you want to communicate and to whom.

Viral marketing

If your promotional material goes viral, it can give your public profile a big boost. It could be an unusual photograph, a video clip or a quote. What works and what doesn’t? There’s no magic formula, but if it’s different, unexpected, quirky and catches the imagination, upload it and the chances are it will catch on. It takes imagination to present your product this way, so think out of the box.

Write a great press release

A press release is an official document you send out answering key questions about your product or service—more importantly, giving some new information that would be of interest to readers. Beware of the ‘crying wolf’ syndrome. Don’t just keep sending out press releases for the sake of sending them because when you do have something newsworthy to communicate you may not be believed. Give the media something substantial to work with. It’s advisable to get a PR professional on board to write your press releases and send them out to the right people. You’ll find it pays dividends.

Get noticed

One way to get free publicity is to get your name and picture in the media. If you are involved in philanthropy, local media might pick up the story. But make sure you truly believe in the charity you are supporting and are not doing it purely for PR value. You can also participate in industry events. Here you can get a lot of coverage from trade media. Contributing to trade publications, writing about topics of interest to the industry, add to your credentials as an industry professional.

Ad promotions

You can sponsor ad promotions that link your brand with the industry as a whole. This can be in the form of ‘advertorials’ that are informative but are not overtly linked with your brand. Customers may tend to skip this form of paid editorial content, however. Think about whether the potential results are worth the cost.

Publicity triggers

There are many ways in which you can bring your product top-of-mind in everyday situations. You can link the brand name with a popular play that’s being talked about or a hit tune. You can make it catchy by actually making it part of everyday conversations. Make a list of triggers you can use to remind people of your product –even subliminally—and also give the list to your friends. Top-of-mind is tip-of-the-tongue so find interesting ways to get your product name into people’s lives and you’ll be surprised at the results.

Promoting your product doesn’t require a lot of money. It just requires people to talk about it.

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