So what does it mean to be a freelancer? Definition: a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer. (Dictionary.com)
Freelancers are those who provide services on their own terms as their own employer. That’s what it means in my words. I have readers who are coming into the profit side of their creativity. Hopefully articles like this can help you better understand how to make a real profit from your gifts and talents. When I became a freelancer, I didn’t have a mentor. Coming from a business that had several staff and more, I never thought about the small things. In business, the small things matter. Here are five things that I wish someone would have told me. Now of course, they may seem very basic. However, you would be surprised how we miss the “little things”.
1. Color Within The Lines
This is the first thing I had to learn and quickly! Many freelancers work from home or operate out of a co-working space when starting off. This tempts many to work all day and all night because where you work is only a few feet away. If your co-working space has a 24-hr open door policy this can be a very open field as far as your hours of working. However, just because you are your own boss doesn’t mean you need self-control. A good number of creatives are not great at time management or honestly any management of any kind. We hire people to do these things for us or teach us how to do these things because we care about the “expression” aka our gifts to be shared. However, we must learn for ourselves how to be a manager of us. If you can’t manage yourself, don’t go into business. You must learn how to set hours. Shut down the computer at a set time and unplug. Stop answering client calls past a certain time. Staples closes near me at 9 PM. Staples does not care about me calling them at 9:30 PM asking why they aren’t open. The phones won’t be answered because no one is there. Staples desires to serve me the best they can. However, management means knowing when to open and close.
The same goes for the space you work in. Have a set place where you work. Create order and a routine in your life. For me, I’ve worked from a laptop for years. I don’t really need a set office. However, there does need to be a HQ (headquarters) where I keep all of my important paperwork, files, ect. So even though you may travel around, there should be a “office home” for yourself. You need to have lines of separation. When you blur the lines, you won’t know when to stop working. This is unhealthy. Lastly, get yourself some sunlight. Open up the windows. This goes for those of you who have the ability to work from home. I work hardcore. For a long time, I liked the blinds shut, music blasting in my headphones, and would sit in one spot for 12-15 hours (sometimes longer). That was unhealthy. I ended up having dizzy spells, dehydration, and loss of sleep. Now, I can’t blame anyone but myself. It was my unhealthy schedule, poor deadlines, and more that created this storm. Nevertheless, you fix it. You do what you have to do for the sake of your sanity and you move on.
2. Your Piggy Bank Is Your Best Friend
So this may seem like an obvious one but track your finances. As a freelancer (even if you file as an LLC), the IRS sees you as a self-employed individual. Therefore, a single employee LLC does not pay taxes as the business but as the individual. With this in mind, receipts and a trail are your best friend. Don’t trust credit card statements because it doesn’t include what was actually purchased. You need to be able to divide what was a business expense and what was a personal expense. I learned this early on as a little girl. Let’s say for example you walk into Target. You see some things in the office section that would be perfect for the business. However, you also need to pick up some milk for home. When I come to pay for these items, I should pay for them as separate purchases (so two receipts). I would take the one for business and place it inside an envelope marked for that month (so example: Biz Receipts September 2016). You can of course use apps or technology that read your receipts and turns them into digital data and sorts them automatically. However, this is a quick old school way. So take into account things like gas for meeting clients or traveling for business trips. All of these things can be written off for tax purposes. Again, I know this may seem very simple. However, many mix up their finances. Why is this important? Well because when it comes to filing your taxes, you don’t want to go through the pain of having a receipt mixed with personal transactions and business transactions. You would have to go through every receipt to first figure out which one is it (personal vs. business). Do you have time to read every line? Do you remember if you actually bought the juice and fruit for a business meeting or if that was for a business lunch/event? Remember that your taxes are filed for an entire year so you need a complete year of documentation noting these transactions. Welcome to being a business owner!
I personally recommend using Quickbooks Self-Employed (only $5 per month). You can also get it with the tax bundle for $12 a year. I also recommend another platform called Freshbooks.
Are you charging by the hour or by budget? Or are you designating flat rate pricing? Whatever you do, do not lower your pricing. There are enough $50 logo brands. Look at your business model/plan and see what your financial structure is. Have you asked yourself how much you want to make in a year? Divide that into months and then into weeks and then into days. From there, you can see what you would have to make in order to match that number. Now remember, that does not include expenses and taxes that you will have to pay. Nevertheless, look at what you are providing to the market and charge a healthy price. If you don’t believe that people will not pay for your services, then work on branding, networking, and connecting to the people who will pay that price. Of course, be realistic and see how you can make your skills and services/products desirable. Don’t overcomplicate your pricing. Have a back-end file that has pricing for your normal services. For custom products, know that providing a flat fee can be dangerous because you don’t actually know how long it will take. I used to provide flat fees and then I began noticing how a client would ask for 500 more things and being that I provided a flat fee without limitations, that was a problem. I’ve seen platforms include restrictions on their flat fee services. However, you have to remain firm if you do that kind of pricing. As I moved away from that, I went into hourly pricing. This is what the majority of professional freelancers do. However, please note that an hourly rate is not for those who want to get you for “cheap”. My rate was $100 an hour when I did hourly design services. Of course, I no longer design full time. However, these are just a few ideas of how to layout pricing. I truly recommend on not providing flat rate services and doing custom quotes for everything. This allows you to sell to the potential customer via email. Educate them on what they are receiving.
4. Brand Yourself
As a solo business owner, you have to brand yourself like none other. Show off your skills including behind-the-scenes of the process. Use your social media platforms and website to establish who you are as a service provider. People shouldn’t be confused about what you do. Make your online website a hub for readers to connect. Offer tips per week to showcase your knowledge of the services you provide. People have become DIY’ers. Who doesn’t want to save money? Teach your readers how to create DIY projects via your channel of knowledge. Show your personality on social media and engage with those who connect with you. I’m the most introverted person. I know that it does not seem like that. However, over time I’ve forced myself to enjoy social media and actually become a connector. Establish a brand kit for yourself, pick a set of colors, get a few photos in line for headshots, and start connecting with people. Travel and connect with people at different events. Be confident in your gifts and abilities. Have business cards ready in your wallet or business card holder. Be sure to build up an email list via your website!
5. Refresh & Stock Up on Creativity
This is just as important as running the business. Resting and refreshing on creativity is essential. I sleep a lot on the weekends. I watch my favorite shows on Netflix and break away from the world. When it’s after hours for your business, don’t answer the phone! Don’t answer any texts. You have to treat yourself like an actual business owner. When the business is closed, so is your files and task list. You can pick it up the next business day. Many freelancers burn out because they are broke and don’t get enough sleep. Guess how you can fix that? Charge your worth and set boundaries. Your creativity is an extension of who you are. If you’re running around drained out, you can’t provide your best to those who need your services.
So what are some things that you wish someone told you when you started your business? Are you a freelancer? What services do you provide? I would love to hear what lessons you’ve learned so far.
I spent 1.5 years working on a platform and I found myself frustrated. It all began in 2012 when my parents went off to prison and my relationship with God was crumbling. I decided during that year that I was going to write my pain away. For almost 2 years, I did the social media promotion, email blasts, blogging, and teaching all by myself. God had given me a desire to impact women.
I thought he meant a blog. However, what he meant was a platform to include teaching, prayer, and mentoring. Along this journey of almost 4 years, I’ve learned so much when it comes to leadership and I want to share with you one of the most powerful things I’ve learned. Outside of ministry, I’m a business owner of a digital company. I’m a family member that is a part of a private school business sector. I’m still learning but one thing has stuck.
IF YOU WANT TO GO FAST, GO ALONE. IF YOU WANT TO GO FAR, GO TOGETHER.
– African Proverb
My desire, as I blog for this platform, is to share with you several business lessons and leadership keys and this is the first. There is a difference between fast and far. Many businesses go into launching season with the intention of speedily building their platform. They usually die within 3-5 years. We see churches start plants all over the country that phase out and close the doors. We even see this in marriage and relationships. Humans have an obsession with speed because our nature is to lack patience. Please understand that I am not talking about seizing opportunities and jumping on the momentum of your audience. What I’m talking about is the pace of your business and the thinking of those that are behind it.
When I began to build my ministry platform, I went fast. I actually talk fast. I write fast. I even speed on the highway. However, when I jumped into ministry and business, I slowed down in how I functioned. Why? The quality of what you do actually matters. Of course timing is everything, but what good is timing if you have a crappy product?
Quality also includes the hands of others in collaboration with your efforts. There are some of you who think that you have everything under control. Little do you know that effective leadership involves purposeful delegation. There are some things that you need to export out to another person or to another company to handle. I did not know how to master social media. Due to this, I set a social media manager over our platform and we saw our platform grow exponentially. We started to draw in the audience that was meant for us.
So many times we get so caught up on something being a good idea that we forget about it needing good execution. Don’t get caught up on it going fast. Be focused on it going far. You want something that will last. As Christians, we shouldn’t be focused on instantaneous fame or people knowing our name. God is glorified when people know about His name. When we focus on just simply walking in the will of God, the growth will come.
Here are two scriptures that I have meditated on while growing my different platforms in business and in ministry.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 (Berean Study Bible)
I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
This scripture has been one of my favorites because it shows us that at the end of the day it is God that multiplies whatever he places our hands on. Many times we focus on multiplying whatever we have on our own. We try to work on our own and then we get frustrated at it not blowing up or going exactly according to our ideal plan. According to this passage, even when we do have people working with us, it’s still God that is the one who brings in the harvest. Remember that African Proverb at the beginning of this article? That “together” includes God.
Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.
Never stop doing the “right” thing. As a Christian, we have been called to do what we cannot do within ourselves. We were made to dwell with God and for Him to lead and guide us. God will bless us, not because we’re focused on the blessing. God does not bless those that pray all day for success. He blesses those who pray to Him because they love Him and want to dwell with Him.
Success and victory is already ours. However, it’s when we continue to do the will of God and do not compromise ourselves that God has His way. The harvest is coming! Don’t you worry about your provision or doors opening up because God will take care of that. Our job is just to be in His will. We don’t have to force anything. Just keep on sticking with God and allow others to aid you in the journey! Focus on going far!
However, in marketing, sometimes your picture is doing more harm than good. Maybe it is telling 1,000 words but they aren’t good ones. As someone with a background in web design and branding, photos are essential. Photos help create a landscape all by their own. Many brands have taken hold to this principal and include photos to enhance their brand story. However, sometimes attaching photos that do not match to your brand can do more harm than good.
When small businesses open up shop, depending on their budget, they may not have tons of resources and funds to shoot professional shots of their company or of the people that they serve. They may turn to free stock websites or even premium stock websites to obtain images for their promotions, social media quotes, and more.
The problem I’m starting to see is that brands are not taking into consideration that you may be telling a white lie about your brand.
Your demographic is really important. It is super important. I can’t stress this enough. Just throwing up images for the sake of having one is not going to work. Also, based upon who your brand is for should be taken into account. Now some of you may say to me…
Genesis, isn’t this obvious?
Well it obviously isn’t because this came across my Facebook feed and I had to write about it.
At first nothing looks wrong. This looks so beautiful. Of course, let’s not talk about how empty this roller skating place looks. Now there are some beautiful places in Baltimore. However, it’s the comments that took me to another level of laughter.
What we see from the comments are reactions that show that this photo was not chosen with wisdom. I had one business owner use a stock photo of clothing that she did not even sell on her site. Her customers were expecting the quality that was shown in these stock photos. Sometimes, we do more damage than we think. Marketing is to put on the good side of your business. It is to promote the “ideals” and the vision of your brand. However, we must make sure that we aren’t compromising our marketing strategies for our customer experience.
The Shake N’ Bake based in Baltimore,MD was actually started by a former NFL Colts Player. Here is an image taken from a Baltimore Sun Article here. What we see in this photo is not what is being marketed.
What can we learn from all of this? The best marketing is playing with your strengths. You should market to your audience and build a strategy around that. What would draw in more clientele that fits the demographic and the environment of your business? So many times we are focused on drawing in clients from anywhere that we aren’t focused on bringing in the right clients that fit our brand. You can actually make it without throwing up stock photos that do not fit your brand. I’m not saying that stock photos are horrible. I’m a huge fan of places like Unsplash, Death to the Stock Photo, PicJumbo, ect. However, when you’re adding these photos to your site, make sure that they fit who you’re demographic and audience is.
When I started Girls of Royalty, a Christian-based network, I wanted it to be multi-cultural. Of course, being that I’m African-American, the core group that stood with me was also of the same race. However, with our hard work and reach we now have members and writers who are of different races and cultures. We make sure that our photos and branding represent that. You will see graphics showcasing women of different colors and ages.
You brand for who is meant for you and not just for any random person that may not even latch on to your vision. I’m a 24 year old woman. I’m pretty sure the Baby Boomer Club isn’t busy wasting their marketing dollars on millennials my age. I’ll be highlighting more hilarious graphic design & marketing mistakes that I run across. I think they will all provide us with lessons to learn from. I even have mistakes of my own that I’ll be sharing.
With online payments, processing fees are automatic. It’s how they make money. PayPal and Stripe (two popular options) are businesses just like you. However, when you’re starting a business, there are website platforms that charge you on top of the processing fees for starting your e-commerce platform. Now if you don’t want that expense, here are some tips with the platforms I’ve used in the past to get around this.
Website Platform: WordPress
WooCommerce (WordPress Plugin) is my go-to for online e-commerce that is free. You will need a self-hosted site to install this plugin. However, the fact that I can do free e-commerce for unlimited products including e-downloads of any kind is a heaven send!
Easy Digital Downloads (WordPress Plugin)-this is a great plugin for those of you who are selling digital products such as music, videos, or e-books.
Use Tumblr or Blogger (free platforms) and install PayPal buttons or Ecwid on them (see information below). You can also use Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly (paid platforms) and install your Paypal or Ecwid codes.
Here are further ideas/tips for e-commerce free platforms:
If you have one physical item:
PayPal buttons: In your PayPal account, you can setup PayPal buttons and embed the code onto your site.
If you have less than 10 physical items:
Ecwid.com (10 products) or BigCartel.com (5 products)
More than 10 items physical/services (not e-downloads):
Square E-Commerce (it’s free to use and sends money straight to bank account, processing fees are included though). You can link it to your website as a tab for them to shop.
TicTail: An online platform like Square where you can start your online store on their site. There are no extra transaction fees.
Now at the end of the day, you need a website. So whatever you do, make sure you have a site. Your store section can either be embedded on your site via code that these platforms provide or an external link.
Now these are just stepping stones. This is a way to get your online sales going until you can afford those monthly fees of having your store directly integrated into your site.
According to several news sources: MuhammadAli, 74, who had advanced Parkinson’s disease, died Friday after being taken to a Phoenix-area hospital due to respiratory issues. He had been placed on life support to regulate his breathing.
Muhammad Ali shall be remembered for not just being one the best boxers that has ever touched this earth but for his philanthropy, books, and great strides as a much more than being one of the greatest athletes in the world that has ever touched this earth. He will also be remembered for being an awesome father and his mark in the world as an African-American when there was great racial strife in America. We will also remember him for his philanthropic efforts, fights for social justice, and much more.
We will take this time now to look at 10 of his most famous quotes and how they can apply to being the “greatest” in your business.
1. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
When running your business, do it with grace yet with power. Learn how to be one who has discernment in all areas of your business. Don’t be the business owner who is aggressive where you shouldn’t and soft where you shouldn’t. We should all strive to be a mix of gentle and at the same time potent. The effortless movements of a butterfly show the beauty and elegance in movement. Clean up your footwork and learn how to glide. Sometimes as business owners, we can struggle with adapting to a situation. Do we float or do we sting? Notice that float and sting are two different verbs with different meaning. Float = movement and Sting= to issue a wound. This means that when you hit you leave with a mark/feeling/sensation. Does your business do that? Do you leave an effect on people that makes them do a double take?
2. He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
Ali took a risk every time he stepped into that ring. However, he was confident of his preparation. He was convinced that He was “it”. You have to overcome every piece of doubt in your head to achieve greatness. You have to take a risk. Isn’t this the definition of entrepreneurship? However, many times when we get into business, we can still have these “choking” moments. The crazy thing is that there is always something facing us as business owners no matter what level we are on. However, that’s the type of world we operate in. Business is a risk. You’re placing you future in the hands of yourself and this burning passion to create something awesome to stand the test of time. People are a product of their choices. We have ALL been dealt different cards in life. It’s how we play them that define who we end up being. You may have gotten a worse hand than me but if you are determined to turn your risks into opportunities, you will beat me to the finish line every time. It’s time to take risks in your business. Don’t plateau. Don’t stay stagnant. Yes, maybe you’re money but because of the fear, you’ve choked and your capping your potential of greater profit. Let’s go to the next level in our business ladies.
3. The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
You grow with your business. Appreciate every step. The world is also progressing and as time goes, you go with it. If you run your business like it’s 2010, that’s an issue. I was talking to a friend during a career talk at a local school in Philadelphia. She shared with me how a relative of hers operated her business like it was still the 90’s. Even though there are some old school principles that still stand true, you have still adapt those principles to a new climate that is constantly changing in the business world. Let life grow you and operate your business the same way. Your viewpoints should mature and so should your business! Heck, life will throw experiences your way and it will help how you operate your business. Motherhood has helped so many female entrepreneurs come up with additional services/products that has helped current/future mothers. Maybe it’s a devastating loss that causes you to launch a new company geared to life coaching or helping those battle inner pain. The point is, grow with life. When I work with entrepreneurs who are in their 40’s-60’s, I often tell them to stop trying to be a millennial. We have enough millennials. We need entrepreneurs who see the world in different ways yet adapting to the times without silencing their perspective.
4. Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
Muhammad Ali understand this law. He gave to many efforts all over the world to make the world a better place. He made sure that his success wasn’t the end. Success is never meant to be the apex of who we are. It’s what we do with what we build that creates strong character. What good is it to have achieved great things but never pour out to others? When you’re building a business, understand that every success you obtain should be given back to the earth in some way. Whether it’s a free service to a brand in need, 10% back of profits to a non-profit, or seasonal giving, do something! Make somebody smile through your gifts, talents, and abilities.
5. It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
What are you being distracted by? Many times as business owners, it’s the pebbles that drive us away. What I mean by “pebbles” are the issues, confrontations, concerns, and more for your book. You must identify the pebbles in your life and remove them because you have a mountain to climb! These little pebbles begin to hurt bit by bit. Because of its size, you don’t think that it’s anything. However, your staff is growing crazy, bills are coming in, kids are running left and right. Those are just the pebbles of life. When it comes to my business and platforms that I operate over, I’ve learned that I can’t allow little things to get in the way of where I’m headed. Get the pebble out and keep it moving! Stay focused on the last lap and get it done!
6. I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.
One of the most life changing points in your business is when you decide to be true to you. I’ve seen many people who haven’t found their “truth” and they are lost in this cycle of should I pretend to be another to gain the following? Should I rock my outfits like this because these are the trends? Should I rebrand my business to fit whats popular? Should I change my business model to be like someone else’s because everyone is pouring their way? Listen to me. You will succeed by ONLY being you! The passion and the provision is FOUND in FREEDOM. Let me say it this way. You can only truly sell what you know and who you are. Many people try to sell another version of themselves and even though you may make profit, you’re limiting yourself to this coverup. Don’t be scared to open up the doors and allow yourself to walk in freedom.
7. Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.
Sometimes it’s good to just shut up. I know it can sound harsh but as a business owner, I’ve seen too many people speak instead of silencing their tongue. Also, know that not all battles are meant for you to fight in. Silence can be an amazing way to keep your peace. I’ve also seen owners ruin a business opportunity because they were not wise in silencing their words. Learn how to communicate effectively and when. You can hurt your reputation by not giving good advice. Keep that in mind.
8. I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.
How do you see yourself? Muhammad Ali was known to be one of the biggest trash talkers in the sport of boxing. However, when you see the work and the training that he put in, it made sense. The first step of training is in the mind and heart. You have to set yourself up for success. Ali believed that he was the greatest even when it didn’t look like it. He knew that one day he would be what he was saying all along. You need to give yourself a pep talk every now and then and tell yourself who you are. You are the best. You are talented and creative. You are full of life and energy and your path is filled with great things. You may not know how you’re going to get there or when you will make your life changing decision that will catapult you to the front. However, know who you are and that you’re the greatest.
9. It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.
I love how Ali said this. Each pairing (grass to grow, birds to fly, waves to pound) is linked to the prime nature of that very object. Grass is supposed to grow. The majority of birds fly. The waves pound the sand. What is he saying? This was what he was meant to do. Do you know what you were meant to do? What were you created for? Muhammad had his humble moments and this was one of them. He’s just doing what he was supposed to do. When you operate within your gifts and talents, it will be much easier to manage through success. It’s not that it will become easy. It will be less of a load because there won’t be a large amount of stress due to doing what you never meant to do. What were you meant to do?
10. The man who has no imagination has no wings.
Imagination is what takes your life to whole other level. Many of us have desires and dreams but imagination is the exploration of those inner desires and dreams. It’s what you use to figure out how your business will become your business of your dreams. Muhammad Ali used his personality, charisma, determination, and work ethic to form an amazing career. He was known for his moves in and outside the ring. His creativity was infused within his career. When you operate without creativity, you’re limited in your ability to fly to another dimension of success. Many limit their business according to what they see and do not include what can be created to defeat the impossible. It’s time to imagine and soar!
I will never forget when I first received that phone call. Actually, let’s back up a second to the “hello” that I received through social media. A potential client knew that I designed websites for WordPress and reached out through a Direct Message. She was working with a well known celebrity on a project and wanted me to create a similar site. The site that she wanted started at around $1000. We exchange information. Then the phone call came….
After providing her with the price and what it included, she said the unthinkable.
Her: Well by doing my site, you would be getting tons of exposure. You would get tons of referrals from just this one site.
I almost dropped the phone but I didn’t. Exposure. If I was a newbie and was trying to establish my portfolio, I would MAYBE reconsider. However, after you pay a few dues, know that exposure doesn’t pay the bills. You can’t make money on potential.
If there was anything I’ve learned from doing business it was that empty promises won’t keep the lights on. Some may say well it depends on the price point. That’s a fair argument. If it was a project under $100, I would consider it. However, it would still be hard for me to swallow it because I believe in paying for what you respect. Respect your own work enough to not devalue it. If you do trade exposure for your work, here are some things to think on.
1. Links to you & your website/work. I’m a web designer & so if I’ve done the site, my name is placed on the footer of the site or within my portfolio of sites. The worst thing to do is to not get credit for an exposure trade.
2. Social media shout out/promotion. If someone is trying to get work done for free, the least they can do is give you a shout out. However, consider the worth of a shout out. What’s their engagement numbers like? Someone who has 20K followers but only gets a few comments under their pictures or averages only 100 likes should raise a flag.
3. If you do not hear from someone due to the work you’ve done after an exposure trade, learn your lesson & learn it quick!
4. Remember that if you want more clients, do more networking & engagement. I’ve never had to do ad placement or in your face marketing for one client. I know that each arena in business is very different though.
Remember: If someone values your gift that much, they should pay for it. Don’t be so desperate for a dollar that you forget that there are always more clients out there who are willing to pay! Work hard to find them & connect with them!
So what are your thoughts? Has anyone ever asked you to trade your work for exposure? How did it go? Did it end with profitable results?