This article has been contributed by Sean Tepper.
Have you ever thought about using your website design and development skills to become your own boss? Maybe venture out and become a freelancer or create your own creative firm?
Fortunately we live in a time where online marketing is growing at a substantial rate. And a major part of online marketing is website design and development. Your future is looking very bright… read on, my friend.
Here are some motivating statistics:
- Digital marketing spend is forecasted to increase 35% of total budgets by 2016.
- 28% of marketers have reduced their advertising budget to fund more digital marketing.
- SEM (Search Engine Marketing) will continue to capture the largest share of online spend at 47%.
The overall point is that you are in-demand. If you have a website design or website development talent, then your services are needed and believe me, there is no shortage. There are new and old businesses, always in need of your talent.
If wish to transition from an employee (working for someone) to a full-time freelancer or small business owner (be your own boss) then this checklist will help you do exactly that.
1) Overcome Your Fears
Some of you may be concerned with the risk of becoming a freelancers or small business owner. You currently embrace and some of you depend upon the steady bi-weekly check. This is understandable because that cash flow is a safety net. The problem is, this type of thought process limits your earning potential. In other words, you need to understand that as a freelancer or small business owner, you can earn substantially more on your own. As you implement the right referral partners and become wise with time management, you can earn substantially more on your own.
Also keep in mind that your family and friends may not support your decision. They will create fear, not remove it. They will question you with snarky quips such as “Do you think that’s a good idea?”, “Do you really think that is possible?”, “You know, other people are doing that too. They might get the work that you’re trying to get.”, “A majority of businesses fail.”
My advice, don’t even tell them your plans to become a freelancer or small business owner. Follow a mentor who will give you feedback you need such as “This is the best decision of your life”, “The only REAL way to build wealth is to become a business owner”, “You will enjoy being your own boss and you may never look back.”
2) Join Networking Groups
The fastest way to generate new leads and find new customers is to join local networking groups. Join at least one chamber of commerce. Every city and suburb of a major city, has them. There are evening networking events that make it easy to attend for someone who is a full-time employee. Try to join one or two other networking groups such as rotary, young professional group, and random happy hour events. Bring business cards and shake as many hands as you can. Create a schedule and stick to it. This means attending at least two networking events per month. If you can attend one per week, great!
3) Get a Hold on Time Management
As a full-time employee, you’ll need to set aside time to manage clients on nights and weekends. I highly recommend you create a schedule that doesn’t force you to work 24/7. Set aside three nights during the week, and one day on the weekend to focus on your business. Do not completely cut-off your personal life.If you do this right, you should be able to stack about 20 hours per week. This is more than enough time to lock in a few clients and build your portfolio before you venture out on your won’t.
If you are working a full-time 40+ hours per week and spending another 40 hours as a freelancer, you’re doing something wrong. 20% of your freelance time should be spent on attending networking events and 80% should be spent on projects. If you follow that formula, you will be in great shape.
4) Invoice Correctly
In order to build ongoing sustainable cash flow, you need to invoice correctly. As a website designer or developer, you are paid for each project. Each project will typically require about one to three months to create. If it’s a bigger project, then it may take about six months or more. I never invoice 50% down and 50% upon completion. We all know how some clients drag their feet on deliverables such as copy, photos, and other elements. This can expand a project months out, and then you wait on the final invoice.
Here is what I’ve done. I create a project timeline. Let’s say in this case, it’s two months. I will spread the payments over the duration of the project and bill the client monthly. In this case, my proposal outlines the following payment schedule.
- Week 1 = 33%
- Week 4 = 33%
- Week 8 = 33%
If your project is three months than it will look like:
- Week 1 = 25%
- Week 4 = 25%
- Week 8 = 25%
- Week 12 = 25%
This ensures that you always have checks coming in, each and every month. And if you have multiple clients, your cash flow is even more secure. With this invoicing structure, you’ll find that matching your full-time employment income, is not too difficult.
Here is a really HOT tip. Electronic invoicing is becoming more popular. I actually have about 90% of my clients payment electronically (debit or credit card). You can use a software platform like Stripe. In my case, I use Infusionsoft.
What I’ll do is outline the payment schedule with the client and then place them on automatic payments. This way the client makes the first payment (ex. 33%) on a specific day of the month (ex. December 5th) and then the remaining payments are automatically pulled on January 5th and February 5th. This is a surefire way to accept payments. Then you know you are getting paid!
5) Fill the Pipeline
We all know that not every lead you have, will turn into a client, right away. Some prospects take time. Sometimes it’s a month, three months, six months, or even a year. Also, some leads just don’t move forward at all. So, you want to make sure you have a lot of pending leads before you venture out on your own. I would recommend 15 to 20 leads.
The law of averages says that 10% will buy from you. In my history in this line of work, it’s always higher. If I get 10 leads, I’ve been known to convert 4 or 5 into paying customers. So in your case, it’ll probably be between 10% and 40%. Overall, you want to make sure you have a few projects in development and you have a few leads pending. This way, when you venture out on your own, you know you’ll have cash flow.
This is the easy part. At least for some people. At this point, you’ve taken the leap and ventured off on your own. Now, you’ll want to maximize your design / development time. I provide a lot of time management and business optimization tactics in my book: Earn More, Work Less, Live Free but one important tip I’ll leave you with now, is to not let email control you. Checking email is a major time waster. I recommend checking email twice a day. One hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. If less, fantastic. This frees up the rest of the day so you can focus on networking and design / developing websites. The more billable time you can stack per day, the more revenue you’ll generate every week, month, and year.
Sean Tepper is the author of Earn More, Work Less, Live Free and offers his advice in 5 Steps to Increase Sales.