Here’s my Ignite Orlando presentation. First, the video (recorded for practice), then my slides, and finally the basic text of my talk.
Freelance in the New Economy
As cliche as it might sound, we live in new economic times. Because of this, being a freelance web developer / designer is a bit different than it was, even 6 months ago. Gone are the days when client’s pay exorbitant amounts of cash for trivial work. Clients will evaluate you, and your work, and make decisions that benefit themselves.
Knowing this is powerful. By knowing this, you can make the conscious effort to prioritize your current clients. You do not receive the same benefits from all of your clients. They are inequal.
Evaluate Current Clients
So, evaluate them. After all, they’ll be evaluating you. As a freelance ‘web guy’, you’ll possibly be the most expendable asset of your client’s team. They’ll likely make a list of pros and cons about you. That’s very fair, and you should make the same list about each of your clients.
Figure Out Who Is Awesome
Typically awesome clients are stable, pay well, pay on time, and have potential for more work. A lot of those assets tie in to each other. By a client being stable, there is a bit of an implicit expectation that they will pay on time.
Figure Out Who Sucks
This is essentially the opposite of how a client can be obvious. Businesses who are leveraging their property as capital to make payroll are likely not going to pay you on time. However, add to that, the neediness of a client. A client who argues for hours over the hue of red in their logo, is likely going to drain your ability to satisfy other clients.
Keep One Main Client
This isn’t to say that you should put all of your eggs in one basket. However, the other side of that, is don’t spread yourself so thin, that you’re killing yourself to make a decent living. For every client you have, there is some level of non-billable overhead associated with working with them. There’s a bit of acceptability in this, since that’s exactly what allows you the freelance lifestyle that you want to begin with. Too much of this is a total drag though, and will wear you out. So, keep at least one client, who’s stable, to ensure some consistent cash flow.
Keep One Interesting Client
Nobody works all the time. Everyone has something outside of work they find interesting. Try to land a client that’s doing something you’d find interesting, even if you weren’t a freelancer.
Find New Clients
Even with all the work to keep your existing clients happy, and weed out the clients who are dragging you down, you’ll still want to get new work. No relationship lasts forever (well, work relationship). So make a conscious effort to try to predict the future.
Old Skool Networking
Facebook is cool, but the bar is better. Most people hire folks they trust. Trust can’t be built online. For someone to believe in your ability to get the job done, they need to know you. The only way to do that is to step away from the computer, and get to know people.
U Need Communication Skillz
This should be obvious, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the rudest behavior from people in conversations. Don’t interrupt people. Be polite. Be friendly. Be genuine. If you’ve taken the time to meet people to build relationships with them, then take the time to listen to them. RT(f)M, in the real world, is “shutup and listen”.
There is an awesome space available to the community to overcome some of the traditional problems associated with being a freelancer (meeting clients at Starbucks, working at home too much, getting kicked out of Panera). There’s tons of people who can provide work at CoLab. Don’t miss the amazing opportunity there.
When It’s Time To Work, Do It
Don’t even look at your Xbox. If you’ve got 50 hours a week of work lined up, get it done. Don’t put your work off until the last minute. If you’ve got distractions where you’re working, try to remove them. If you can’t remove those distractions, like crying babies, then work somewhere else.
Don’t Be Flaky
If a client is starting to suck, or the situation regarding the project your on isn’t cool, take note of it, and finish the project. There’s few instances where you’ll be able to back out of a project entirely. Keep that in mind. Plus, selling out your client is THE NUMBER ONE WAY TO GET A BAD REPUTATION. As a freelancer, you live and starve on your reputation. Once you’ve established that you’re willing to screw someone because they were a nuisance to you, 68.8234% of possible new clients will walk away.
There’s a few things that can make your working environment more productive. Silence the phone, turn off email (twitter), drink copious amounts of Monster Energy drinks and put girls in bikinis on your desktop. The world is definitely your canvas here. If you find yourself getting more code done, but doing a certain something, then do more of that.
For those of you who went to FOWA last week, you know what I’m talking about. Actually, a lot of my talk here is a bit inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk’s talk in Miami. Figure out what you want to do, and do it. Don’t be passive about it. Find what works and do it.
If you can, of course. If you’re making enough money now, where you could save money, or if you’ve got expenses you could cut (and not screw your business), do it. Find a way to save money while you can. Inevitably, there will be times where cash is no longer coming in. If you can’t weather the dry times with clients, you won’t last in freelancing.
Don’t Wait For Government
I know I’m showing some of my politics here, but there’s still a valid (bi-partisan) point to be made. Nobody is going to save you from bad clients, slow cash-flow, or your own lack of knowledge. Having a victim mindset will only ensure your failure. Being a freelancer is being an entrepreneur. You have zero job stability (so, remember to save)
Don’t Burn Out
Don’t book 70hrs of work / week.
Inspiration is what makes you come back. If you’re running low on inspiration, then your work will reflect it. Even worse, your life will reflect it. Don’t hate your job.
Get More Info
Don’t listen to anything I just told you. I’ve got 7 weeks total of freelance experience ever. I know a couple of things, but mostly I pick up stuff from Google. Freelanceswitch is a great resource for new / experienced freelancers out there. They’ve got a great podcast as well, which has been awesome reference material for me. Ask people you know about how they’re staying afloat. At least you’ll be networking