Don't Put the Free In Freelancing

With industries continuing cutbacks and layoffs, many folks have begun to freelance or consult on the side, or taken on freelance work in addition to their regular job, in order to make some extra dough during these tough times. According to Wikipedia, "a freelancer, freelance worker, or freelance is a self-employed person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any particular employer. " Originally used to describe a "medieval mercenary warrior" or "free-lance" in the book Ivanhoe, the word freelance has evolved from a figurative noun around the 1860s, to being recognized as a verb in 1903 by authorities in etymology such as the Oxford English Dictionary.

Modern times have also put their two cents in and further evolved the term to be considered acceptable as a noun (a freelance), as an adjective (a freelance journalist), and as a verb (a journalist who freelances) and an adverb (she worked freelance).

With so many definitions of the word freelance, it is hard to know exactly what your role is as a freelancer.


Don't Put the Free In Freelancing

As a freelancer it is so important to not put the free in freelancing. By that I mean that establishing your rate and getting a confirmed contract that outlines that rate is paramount to your job. You must first conduct thorough research for your specific field and find out what the going rate is and why. What are the credentials of the top-charging candidates in your industry? Why are they able to command such high salaries and where do you fit in? These are all questions that you need to answer BEFORE you quote someone a price for a project or job.


Remember the Extras

When coming up with an estimated rate it is always important to include the extras-mileage reimbursement, parking expenses, and food supplies. If you have to make travel arrangements ask the potential client if you are expected to book them yourself or if they will be doing it for you. Be prepared to book the travel arrangements yourself and have some travel information handy so that you get an idea of what it might cost and build that into your price quote as well. Don't assume that these extras will be small. For example, parking at a hotel for a meeting or conference could cost as much as $30 per day if you are not staying there as a guest. If your conference is 3 or 4 days, that cost that you incur adds up pretty quickly.


Project Fee Vs. Hourly

Every freelancer has a different way of calculating his or her rate for services. The question is, do you use a per project price quote or an hourly rate? There are benefits to using both methods, but at the end of the day, you need to use the method that you are most comfortable with and you need to be able to justify your quote. For example, for certain services, such as the design of three sample logos, a graphic designer may charge a flat fee, knowing exactly how much time and energy that project will take. In other instances if it is a new client who is not 100% sure of what she wants, the graphic designer may choose to charge an hourly rate to ensure that she gets paid for all her efforts, and especially if the client keeps changing her mind or the scope of the work.

When taking on a new client, you might want to consider charging an hourly rate period since you have no experience working with this person and you do not know what to expect. Perhaps the client told you one thing but really meant another, or perhaps the client has you doing multiple revisions on a tight time line, or perhaps the client keeps changing or modifying the final product that he expects you to deliver-those are all things that affect your job as a freelancer and ones that you should be paid for accordingly.

Be sure to keep accurate and organized records with notes about all your clients and projects so that you can track your work load and the amount of money that you are getting paid for specific tasks. This will help you learn if what you are charging is sufficient, or if it is too high. For example, if three of your client folders have notes in them that say: "original price quote too high, second price quote accepted," then you may have to reconsider what you are charging clients and why. Maybe your prices exceed the industry standards and need to be evaluated again. Thorough notes and accurate tracking of facts will help you learn to evaluate prices and rates more easily, and will help make you a more competitive candidate.


Stand By Your Quote

Once you have done all your research and come up with your rate sheet, stand by your quote and do not second guess yourself. Tell people what you charge and realize that not everyone you meet will think you are worth that amount of money, and know that that is okay. Sometimes you pass on potential projects or jobs because they are not worth your time and energy. Maybe the job pays too little for the amount of stress and headaches that the work will cause or perhaps the time line for the work does not fit into your schedule. Regardless of the reasons, realize that part of freelancing means being able to say "no" sometimes to certain projects and being able to say "yes" when you want to.

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