7 Myths and Misconceptions about Freelancers

Although freelancing has become a popular and socially accepted professional path, a lot of people still have misconceptionsTrue/False Compass image about what freelancers are all about. Individual freelancers do what they do for diverse reasons, and they all operate in their own unique ways. While no two are exactly alike, there are some common myths about freelancers in general that sometimes lead to misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations when working with them.

Myths and Misconceptions about Freelancers

 

Freelancers freelance because they’re between jobs or they can’t find a job.

The freelancers I know have marketable skills and talents that companies would be thrilled to have in-house. Having been approached about positions at several companies locally, I’d certainly like to think I could get a “day job” if I really wanted one. The freelancers in my circles have made an active decision to take that career path. They’re not doing it because they don’t have other options.

Freelancing is a “side job.”

While some freelancers hold other jobs and do their freelance work on the side, many are freelancers full-time. Freelancing is their business – and they treat it that way.

Freelancers will work for peanuts. 

Indeed, if you look for them on Elance or the like, you will find freelancers who work for next to nothing. Hire them and I guarantee you’ll get what you pay for. Most freelancers are professionals and know what they’re worth; they’re not going to accept less. Sure, at times we’ll meet clients in the middle if our rates and their budgets don’t match up, but we’re not desperate and won’t be intimidated or bullied into giving our time and talent away.

Freelancers have a lot of spare time. 

While that might be true of freelancers who are starting out, established freelancers have an established clientele and will probably have a full project schedule. Don’t wait until the last minute to call a freelancer about a project and expect them to turn it around the next day.

All Freelancers are introverts. 

Some are, but not all. I personally thrive on collaboration and interaction with clients and colleagues. Yes, I need my alone time to focus on projects and get my work done, but what I love most about freelancing is my limitless freedom to build relationships with others in the business community.

Freelancers are willing to work at all hours of the day and on weekends.

While working hours for freelancers can vary depending on their professional and personal situations, many of us like to have structure so we have some separation from our work to rest and refresh. Some freelancers will answer emails on evenings and weekends, some won’t. I occasionally will, but if a client starts to invade my personal time too much, I cease and desist. The best way to know what to expect with freelancers is to ask them about their working hours up front.

 

Freelancers work in their pajamas. 

OK, we all have at one time or another, but PJs aren’t the universally accepted uniform of the freelancer. Yes to comfy clothes in the home office, but working in what I slept in the night before isn’t conducive to productivity. Other freelancers have shared the same. Freelancers are hard-working professionals, not lazy loungers!

Again, all freelancers are unique and you’ll find exceptions to every rule. When or – better yet – before you work with freelancers, ask about their working style, typical project turn-around time, work hours and anything else that might impact how you collaborate and communicate. Realistic expectations and understanding are the keys to a mutually beneficial working relationship.

What other myths and misconceptions have you encountered about freelancers?

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Show that You Mean Business in your Freelance Business

One of the biggest challenges with a freelancing career can be getting others to recognize that you’re running a business. Serious business womanFriends, family, colleagues, and, yes, even clients – because they haven’t ventured down the path themselves – often have a difficult time grasping that like any other business, you have processes, procedures and boundaries. If you don’t yet have any operating principles for managing your business – and your time – you should really work on getting some in place. The first step in convincing others to take your business seriously is for you to take it seriously.

Your business. Your way.

Though you might not need a fully-documented operating procedures manual for your business, you should have some general guidelines set for how you’ll go about your work. That’s not to say that you won’t sometimes want – or need – to bend your own rules at times. But having a plan for dealing with leads, clients, projects and administrative duties can help your productivity and keep you on track toward your goals.

Some suggestions to consider as you define your freelancing M.O.:

  • Avoid emailing or making business phone calls after hours and on weekends. Why? Because you’ll give the impression that you’re a 24/7 shop and clients and prospects might start to expect that you’ll get back to them at all hours of the day and night. I admit that I do at times email clients when I’m “off the clock,” but those clients are people who I have a strong relationship with and who I know won’t unnecessarily infringe on my personal time.

 

  • If you can take care of it with a phone call or email, don’t spend time commuting to an off-site meeting. Though it’s nice to meet face to face with clients, doing too much of that can pull you away from your work unnecessarily. Besides the actual time you spend meeting, you’ll also spend precious time dressing for the occasion, packing up your notes and electronics, driving there and driving back. Unless you’re meeting about a new project or have other important business that can truly benefit from an in-person collaborative session, push to take care of business by phone or by email.

 

  • Cluster your out-of-office meetings and appointments to save time. When you do need or want to meet with clients or prospects in person, try to schedule your meetings on the same day and at nearby locations. Though you might be forfeiting a full day of in-office work, overall you’ll save time by consolidating some of the commute and other aspects of preparing for out-of-office meetings.

 

  • You’ve got voice mail. Use it! Unless you really do have the time to talk on the phone, resist the urge to answer it every single time that it rings. If you’re in the throes of working on a project, grabbing a phone call will set your productivity back a heap. Not only will you lose time, but you’ll also lose your concentration. I have yet to find a prospect or client who seemed inconvenienced or angry about leaving a voice mail message. Just be sure to respond as promptly as possible – that’s the key!

 

  • Have a work plan every day.  Before any given day arrives, have a plan set for it. Know what work you’ll need to accomplish and block out time to do it on your calendar. When you’ve got multiple clients’ projects, marketing, plus administrative tasks that need attention, setting dedicated time aside for all of it will help you stay organized and efficient.

 

  • Don’t let unpaid work go without a reminder that it’s unpaid. Unlike larger businesses, freelancers usually don’t have the volume of customers and steady stream of revenue to give them the luxury to wait until clients’ invoices are 30 days or more overdue before sending reminders. I usually send a gentle, polite email reminder to clients after an invoice is a week overdue. I’ve never had a client take unkindly to my reminders – and I think that has a lot to do with using an approach that’s not in any way confrontational or accusatory. Usually, there was an oversight or the invoice simply got lost in the shuffle – keep in mind that you’ll probably work with some clients who simply don’t have a system in place for working with freelancers. Again, a simple and friendly reminder will keep your cash flow flowing.

 

  • Provide a way for clients to pay electronically. Some clients will want to pay you by credit card. An easy way to allow them to do that is by having a PayPal or Intuit account set up. That way you won’t have to establish your own relationship directly with credit card companies, but you will enable your clients to pay with credit or debit through those electronic payment systems. I use PayPal – and find that invoices issued through PayPal to clients get paid much more quickly than those that I email and receive checks for later. Yes, there are transaction fees attached, but to me they’re worth it. Plus, they’re tax deductible.

 

  • Don’t undervalue – and don’t let others undervalue – what you do. Business Strategist for Solopreneurs, Michele Christensen, recently shared some tips for handling situations when people are looking for you to provide your billable services for free. Sometimes it is appropriate and beneficial to give your time away for nada, but be wary of doing too much of it and setting a precedent that makes others believe you’re willing to do it for everyone all of the time. Saying “no” doesn’t mean you don’t want to help. It demonstrates that you know your services are worth something. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t be building a business around them!

Of course, the list could go on and on and on when setting up your own ground rules for how you’ll approach your freelance business to make others realize that you mean business. Stay in tune with what’s working and not working for you, build your M.O. – and get your business the respect it deserves.

Do you have any ground rules for how you do business? How have they helped you get others to take your freelancing business more seriously? 

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Thanks, But No Thanks! – When to Pull the Plug on a Prospective Opportunity

Knee-jerk reactions and doing business typically don’t a successful combination make, but sometimes you need to goPulling the plug with your gut as a solopreneur. While some opportunities justify a fair share of analysis and consideration before making a decision on pursuing them or not – others can be better left behind because they simply don’t feel right.

Heed the warning signs
Laura Spencer of Freelance Folder recently wrote a blog post to help new freelancers detect a scam when it crosses their paths. Though her key points address how to identify less than credible clients, it made me think about how we sometimes need to also ferret out legitimate prospects who might end up being a lot more trouble than they’re worth.

What makes a prospect a bad fit depends on your own expectations and tolerances, but here are a few signs that I believe most solopreneurs would agree point to a potential customer who you should run – not walk – away from:

  • They expect you to drop what you’re doing to talk with them for non-urgent matters.
  • They balk at a reasonable price for quality work.
  • Rather than efficiently sharing pertinent details by email, they insist on talking by phone so you can take notes.
  • Your time conversing with them has already exceeded the amount you normally spend with other clients before entering into an agreement.

Pulling the plug before you’ve flipped the switch
This is extremely top of mind for me right now. After numerous phone calls that took up a good deal of my time and a prospect’s apparent aversion to communicating important details and documentation via email, I gracefully withdrew my interest in moving forward. Truly a shame because the project sparked my interest and would have resulted in recurring work, but I decided it just wouldn’t be worth it. The M.O. seemed all wrong for me – and so I pulled the plug before we set anything in stone.

Though turning away business isn’t something you might feel you have the luxury to do, consider these side effects of taking on a prospect who shows signs of sucking the life out of you:

  • You’ll have less time to devote to finding quality clients who respect your time.
  • You’ll spend more time “herding cats” than doing productive work.
  • You’ll feel stressed.
  • You’ll lose focus on other clients’ projects and your business in general.

If prospects prove to be extra needy or demanding of your time, expertise and energy in the exploratory and negotiation phase of discussing opportunities, you can expect that you’ll probably be faced with more of the same – to a greater degree – if you pursue the work. Unless you can charge them enough to make that worth your while, you should consider walking away.

Remember, your time is precious. Your time is money. Be careful not to waste it on endeavors that aren’t going to be a win-win!

Please share your thoughts! What warning signs have you learned to heed when evaluating opportunities?

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