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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Best Freelancing Advice for Newbies


The great thing about freelancing is that it takes little startup costs but staying relevant is how some people fall off of the wagon.  Even worse, there are new people coming on every day and sometimes placing the lowest bid possible.  Although the path to success is different for everyone, here are three fast tips for getting ahead.

Have a solid portfolio.  Whether you write, code, or do graphic design, having real estate that's accessible is a must.  Also, make sure it is up to date.  If you create websites using clip art from the early 2000s, you might find yourself clowned and ignored for jobs.  In other words, don't just say it, be ready for showtime all of the time.

Make sure your social media presence is professional.  Also, make sure it represents your interests or knowledge of a certain industry.  Nobody likes wannabes.  Even worse, future clients don't want to see you political rants or dirty jokes about others.  If you need to create a new profile, it is best to do this and add connections carefully.  

Always have something to offer customers.  Having a loss leader like a coupon or newsletter doesn't have to cost a lot of money. MailChimp has a free email marketing program and e-Junkie starts at $5 a month for those with a small subscriber list.  Even a blog with good leads on products or services that is of interest to clients can be looked at as a form of networking that can bring rewards.

Friday, February 22, 2019

How to Handle Stingy Clients

A few years ago, I received an email from someone in Nigeria and I'm not sure why I didn't get suspicious. I guess the initial communication stood out from the typical scammers found online.  Anyway, they offered me a writing job with a pay structure and not much else listed.  Hmmmm.

If you've been at this a while then you probably see at least three red flags going up.  Well, things went rather well for the first couple of months, as rewrite requests were minimal and there were zero rejections.  Even better, I got paid as promised.

Until the winter holidays came around.

Firstly, I didn't take time to research (or outright ask the client) if their holiday celebrations were anything like the States.  My focus was noting the submitted (and most likely, accepted) articles and how the wait time was getting longer and longer.  Even worse, communication between myself and the client was becoming non-existent.

When Christmastime in the States got closer, my communication became more direct and less cordial but I also sought answers regarding the payment schedule.  I stressed that none of my other clients made me wait longer than a week and my goal is to find a happy medium.

The client paid me cricket sounds and the wait time got into two weeks.

At this point, I was hot and in my final communication, I stressed that freelancing isn't free.  I pointed this out to everyone in his office with a threat to report him to a government consumer agency.  Can't remember which name I dropped but it was enough to make him drop some cash into my PayPal account...along with a notice to terminate services immediately.

After thanking him in really bold capital letters, I realized that taking a stance early could prevent this in the future.  And it made sense...there was no rule that I couldn't make ground rules from the start.  Since a lot of my clients came from outsourcing sites (I was pretty active on oDesk back then), I'd become accustomed to their restrictions when it came to demanding payment from clients.  Sometimes they retrieved it on my behalf and sometimes they didn't.

The example given above is what separates businesspeople from just hired labor.  Being assertive early in the game gives the receptor time to process the kind of person they are dealing with.  Although I showed them in the end that I'm not to be messed with, establishing guidelines would've freed my services for someone who communicates and pays immediately.

FIVE QUICK RULES
Have a list of government resources that can assist when clients refuse to pay.  Like my account, sometimes name-dropping is all it takes. It's not a bad idea to have a letter template that can be filled out quickly instead of constructing something while frustrated (because we all know time is of the essence).

Create a collection letter template.  No one wants to begin a new task when they've already wasted their time and have other things to do.  A good idea would be to create a folder with a template, a spreadsheet log of actions and other information that will help should the matter escalate further.

Create a client questionnaire.  Instead of jumping to excitement because someone paid a few compliments and wants to pad your bank account, take time to get to know them first.  Like any quality relationship, feeling them out can prevent a lot of heartbreak (just like in personal relationships) .

Determine the pay structure immediately and get it in writing.  Sometimes, accommodating another party's schedule is par for the course and it can mean many things.  If they have a separate accounting department, find out when checks are being run. The individual I dealt with may have had a personal matter to tend to, which is why I sought resolution before going in for the real money grab.

PayPal is never "broken or wrong".  There's a client from years ago that owes me a few dollars because they had problems with PayPal.  Most likely, it may be something that the client needs to remedy but freelancers shouldn't have to pay for this in any way.  If you sign up and choose to receive payments this way, educate yourself about the many options for sending and receiving payments from anywhere in the world.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Are Those Cheap Online Classes Really Worth the Time?


In 2018, there seemed to be an abundance of web ads for online continuing education classes for a number of subjects.  The majority of these are for career training in coding, graphic design, and a number of professions like project management.  When I clicked the ad for these (I believe I first noticed on Facebook), I couldn't get over the price.

Like anything else, once I took the time to look around and see their generous offerings (I even found interior decor, photography, and some subjects pertaining to freelancers), I still couldn't believe these were offered anywhere from free to no more than $75.  Why is this so cheap?  What is the real cost?

As I look around (or better, someone is following me around), I notice that some reputable brands are offering classes of this kind or somewhat similar.  I also got answers to my questions about the third (or fourth + party).  The middleman is determining the price to move product quickly because when you visit the actual vendor site, it is much higher.  But is it worth the price?

In 2018, I bought a few communication and writing classes as well as a couple of personal development courses.  It's not that I can't stop shopping but one "deal" came in a bundle of 4-5 classes for less than $10 (even though the original price is about $25, you can get a coupon for 15-25% off for signing up plus receive purchase credits).  However, I realized there was another factor.

My copywriting bundle had presentations from about four different instructors.  While the first was boring, he did offer a nice e-book that will come in handy. The second was a little more to the point but there were no other tangibles.  No interaction or anyone to answer my questions directly.  Still working through the remainder but truthfully, it's a gamble like those General Assembly workshops.

I'm not confusing these with MOOCs (even though I had a similar experience with EDX last year), if these even fall under the category.  However, I have a little bit of advice for anyone who is curious but not sure if they should part with the $, or ¢¢.

Just visit your local library's online site.

If you live in a small town see if you can join one in the next major city.  I live near Long Beach but I belong to the city of L.A., L.A. County, and my city's library system.  All three systems offer free courses with Universal Class, Ed2Go, and Lynda.com.

What I like about Universal Class is that there's some interaction with an instructor.  Some are looking to pass the time but overall, I can stand behind this institution as a place to learn career fundamentals.  Last year, I noticed that some newer classes were not part of the free format but still has a nice curriculum for less than $55 (no certificate).

Ed2Go is okay.  Their offerings may be more or less than UC but my complaint is their testing, as some of the wording isn't always similar to what's included with the lessons.  Also, some of the curricula are dated, although some instructors do update regularly.  The great thing is that all classes offer a Certificate of Completion without an additional charge.

Lynda.com has a partnership with LinkedIn and if a person were to go directly to the site, they would be charged (free or basic account) for each online class.  If a person generates leads from LinkedIn, this would be a worthy investment.  However, depending on your personal career goals there's a big payoff from taking this route.  Lynda.com offers preparation for Google Analytics certification, AMA Digital Marketing, and a few other large employers/associations.





Monday, February 18, 2019

Is Your Relationship Hurting Your Entrepreneurial Spirit?

When I first began this more than a decade ago, I kind of scoffed at statements from my mentors about having a "strong support system of people".  I felt my drive could compensate for any negativity that was out there. And if I were more honest with myself, there was some within my peers and those I considered loved ones.

While one girlfriend at the time kind of undermined my goals and wanted to bitch and complain about the office, it was my now ex-fiance that really took the cake.  Although he claimed to be a film student in semi-retirement, the truth was that not only did he want to continue punching a clock but his career goals seemed to change by the week - from a hot dog stand owner to recycling center specialist.

Even though our career goals may change with age or a consequence of a particular event, I learned the hard way that the ex was just not a happy individual.  After many years of listening to things that happened decades ago to preparing generous calorie-laden meals to compensate for his abandonment issues, there is no amateur fix for toxicity.

How do you know that special person in your life is toxic?  Above is a short video that breaks it down in less than 10 minutes.  Even though I can't tell you to quit someone because they may be a 100% mental case, you may want to consider how much your productivity has been affected.

If the following applies to you...

  • They want to talk while you are working
  • Complain about the long hours spent on a project
  • Interfere with productivity *now wait for it...drum roll, please*
  • Want to be a part of the action even though they have no experience and never expressed serious interest prior to YOUR success
It's best to get a handle on things immediately.  You may need to take time off but be aware of the fact that the above behaviors may never change.  Once you see the video, you'll probably get a better understanding.