Working from home is the dream of many, and certainly there is money to be made! The opportunities for freelancing are growing exponentially, as technology continues to improve methods by which job tasks can be accomplished from anywhere. According to Forbes Magazine, there continue to be huge and growing opportunities in marketing (content management, SEO strategy development, improving “brand,”etc.), web development and maintenance, writing, accounting, insurance inspection, tutoring, and graphic design. New niches are being carved out every day for the aggressive entrepreneur.
Three factors will determine the success of a freelancer – small business management skills, time management, and competitive rates. Fortunately, the common saying, “there’s an app for that,” could not be more relevant for these three factors.
Small Business Management
Whatever else you are, you are certainly a small business owner. With your new-found freedom, you are now in charge of your accounting and tax tasks. Setting yourself up as a sole proprietor or small corporation in your state is relatively simple, but the IRS wants you to be very careful about your receivables and expenses! If you want a simple, straightforward method of tracking your finances, then you must have Shoebox, probably the best app I’ve seen. In addition to tracking all of your receipts, invoices, and expenses, it will automatically categorize them. Whether you do your own business taxes or use an accountant, this app has done all of the hard work in advance!
This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of freelancing. If you are dis-organized or easily distracted, you probably want to think twice about freelancing, but if you commit to some basic “rules” and to using apps that will keep you on-task and focused, you can overcome these weaknesses. First, you must set aside office space in your home – not the kitchen table and not the living room couch in front of the TV! This must be a quiet place, where your PC or laptop resides, and where, when you are working, you are away from all other “goings on” in your residence. Managing your tasks, however, is another challenge altogether, ad you need to use apps that focus on specific challenges you face. Here are a few you might consider:
- Teux Deux = “To Do.” This is a very basic app that allows you to create a “to do” list, mark tasks as they are completed, and provide the date that you checked them off, leaving the original list intact. So much more efficient than hand-written lists that you often mis-place!
- Toggl: I love this app! It tracks how much time is spent on each project as well as how much “down time” you are building into your schedule each day. You can see at a glance which times of the day you are most and least productive and make changes in your daily routines to improve productivity. Best of all, however, you will be able to determine if the work for any client is financially beneficial or not and how you may need to adjust your rates. Another solid app with the same functions is Rescue Time.
- There are additional apps that will block you from succumbing to the temptations to check you email, access social sites, and generally surf around for amusement. You can set your ‘blocks’ for specific times of the day or evening. A variation on this is an app called Dark Room (or Write Room for MAC’s), that will block out all peripherals on your screen while you work – nothing to distract you at all!
- It is important to sync all of your devices, so that, no matter where you may be, you can work on a task, jot down an idea, or take a photo/video that you may want to use. Dropbox or Evernote are both great apps for this.
- If you grow and employ others, you will want to track their project assignments and time-on-task, as well as how much you owe them for work completed. Desktime is the best app I have found for this function. And, as you pay employees or contractors, be certain to use your Dropbox app, so you can generate W-2’s and 1099’s at tax time.
Unfortunately, there are no apps for rate determination. You will obviously need to do the research and determine what your competitors are charging. If you are a newbie, obviously you will undercut the average rate, in order to get established in your niche. Do not be hesitant, however, to increase those rates as clients come to know you as professional, reliable, and good at what you do. Remember, you are a bargain, because they do not have to have a regular employee to perform the functions you perform. They are happy to pay well when they get the results they want!
Freelancing is not just for stay-at-home-moms and retirees anymore. Great paying careers are now possible for those who simply do not fit the mold of a happy, corporate team member, and you can achieve great success! Learn how to run a small business, get the important apps you need for personal management, and charge the rates you are worth!