This article has been contributed by Kristen Gramigna.
Small decisions can mean big consequences. Every product you put out there can affect your brand. So have you given thought to what your work is saying about you?
If you aren’t making the most of your business branding as a freelancer, it’s time to change something, because being successful as a freelancer is about more than your work — it’s also about the way you manage it.
With that in mind, here are a few key tips to instantly boost your freelance business.
1. Create Real Value
Start by asking yourself this question: Why should clients hire you? If you don’t know the answer, you can bet your clients won’t, either. Vital to your ability to market yourself, communicate effectively to clients and achieve business success is your ability to know what value you offer and to communicate it clearly.
So, what problem do you solve? What useful tool do you offer? Why are your satisfied customers satisfied? Use the answers to these questions to craft a clear statement of what value you offer your clients, and find a way to integrate that into all your marketing materials.
2. Brand Your Deliverables:
As a freelancer, everything you do professionally is part of your branding — all of it communicates who you are and why it matters. So to make the most of your branding, you need a clear message that you repeat everywhere.
From your invoices to your products to your emails, everything you give to the client should be clearly identifiable as from you. This means using your logo and signature style as well as holding everything you make up to the same high quality standards.
3. Draft a Contract and Policies:
All good freelancers know that clear communication is key to business success. When you outline services and expectations upfront, you save yourself a number of headaches — and it only takes one bad experience of getting stiffed to see how serious those headaches can be.
That’s why drafting a clear contract (try free Docracy) and clear policies is so crucial to your company. According to user interface and interaction designer Jen Gordon, it “doesn’t matter how small or big the project, a contract, statement of work and deliverables list is a MUST before you start any project. How else will you and the client agree on expectations and payment terms?” To make sure your contract and policies are appropriate, follow these tips:
- Require Upfront Deposits.
Don’t fall into the all-too-common freelance blunder of performing a great deal of work for payment that never ends up coming. Instead, require an upfront deposit before you do anything. This is a statement of good faith from the client to you, one that warrants your services beginning.
- Include a “Kill Fee.”
There’s nothing worse than spending hours on a project only to have the client go in another direction and not want to pay you. Protect yourself by including a “kill fee” in your contract. This specifies what happens when the client discontinues the project. It may involve a percentage of the original fee, or it may be a different flat rate. But make sure it’s clearly spelled out and that you both agree to it beforehand.
- Include Dates.
Your contract should specify when payments will be made, deadlines for aspects of the project, when your client can expect key deliverables and so on.
4. Create Proper Invoices:
As a freelancer, you’re responsible for requesting payment from your clients through proper invoices. It’s important to do this before turning in finished work (otherwise, you might not get paid). “Once you’ve turned over the finished product to the client, you don’t have a hold on them any more,” says Alexis Rodrigo at Freelance Folder.
5. Research Payment Systems:
Managing your finances and taking customer payments will be much simpler when you choose a good payment system. Do yourself a favor and take time to research options. Whichever management tool you use, look for one that is:
- Secure and reliable
- Adaptable to your changing needs
Square is one way to accept cash payments, up to $2500, without a fee. Other merchants such as Stripe or PayPal have a fee around 3%.
6. Plan for Taxes:
Nobody likes to think about taxes, but everybody has to at some point. As a freelancer, it’s especially important because your taxes aren’t automatically withdrawn from every paycheck. Rather, you have to track your income and estimate taxes accordingly on a quarterly basis.
Since this can feel complicated, it’s often a good idea to find a tax professional to help. “Many freelancers underestimate the amount of taxes they will need to pay,” says Steven Snell at Vandelay Design, “or they simply lack the discipline to not spend the money.” Don’t make that mistake. Enlist professional guidance to manage your tax paperwork.
How could following these tips make a difference in your freelance business? What other strategies have you seen to be vital to small business success?
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm that helps freelancers with accepting mobile payments in an effort to help keep track of their business viability. She brings more than 15 years of experience in marketing to the company and also serves on its Board of Directors. Photos by 123rd & Startup Photos.