April 24, 2014

The 12 Days of Freelancing

The holidays are upon us, so I have a blog tradition of rounding up posts from across the blogosphere ala The 12 Days of Christmas. Here’s a look at some memorable posts about writing and freelancing from the past year. Happy Holidays!

santa and computerOne Simple Trick for Effective Self-Editing - Freelancedom

Legal Danger for Bloggers: Two Misconceptions, Three Resources, One Suggestion - ASJA’s The Word

Three Books Every Copywriter Must Read -Filthy Rich Writer

Four Ways to Find Your Business Voice - Words on a Page

Five Freelancing Lessons I Learned the Hard Way: Avoid These Career-Killers - Make a Living Writing

Six Ways Bloggers Can Earn More from Their Writing – The Renegade Writer

Seven Knows for Getting Started in Freelancing – Freelancers’ Union

Eight Ways to Master Cold Calls–or at Least Fear Them Less – Dollars and Deadlines

Nine Freelancing Tips for Handling Illness – Freelance Folder

Ten Ways to Use a Writer’s Conference to Market Your Work – WordCount: Freelancing in the Digital Age

Eleven Rookie Mistakes You Need to Stop Making NOW - Mridu Khullar Relph

Twelve Important Questions to Ask as a Freelance Subcontractor – FreelanceSwitch

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Guest Post: 8 Financial Tools for Freelance Writers

getting paidBy Julie Pena

For many writers, creating clear, descriptive prose comes naturally. But keeping track of money? Not so easy. For that, you can turn to the internet. There are hundreds of financial tools out there, but the following are some of the best out there for freelance writers.

  1. Freelance Switch Hourly Rate Calculator
    As a freelancer, you will need to know how much money you need to charge to survive. You simply plug in your costs, number of billable hours and amount of profit you’d like to make. The calculator then estimates how much you’d need to charge to cover all of those things.
  2. Mint.com
    Mint is a website that keeps all your financial accounts in one place (Ed. note: I didn’t tell Julie to include this one but for the sake of full disclosure, I should note that I’ve written for the Mint’s blog and several other websites owned by Intuit, which owns Mint). You sync the site up with all your banking accounts, including savings and investments. With all of that information in one place, you can see what you spend your money on, how much is in your account and generally keep close tabs on your money. It also has a feature that lets you keep track of your money on your phone, so you can stay on top of your finances, even if you’re on location working on a story.
  3. Google currency conversion tool
    At some point, you will probably write for a company in another country, and you will need to convert what you charge from one form of currency to another. If you know the abbreviation of the currency, you can use a simple Google search function to determine how much it is worth in your own currency. For example, if you live in the United States and you work for someone in Australia, you simply put “convert 150USD to AUD” to find out how much to charge your Australian employer in their own currency. In this case, it would be AUD$145.86. If you don’t know the abbreviation, you can, well, Google it.
  4. Instacalc
    Even if you use these financial tools, you may find yourself needing to do some more hardcore calculations. You can use Instacalc for those. It is an advanced online calculator that is more than just typing in numbers. You can build spread sheets and save calculations that you need to make all the time. What makes it great for writers is that you even use words. Simply type, say, “25mph in feet/min” to find out how fast that would be. It can help you calculate things for your finances, but it can also help you with some numeric research for your articles.
  5. Toggl
    Toggl is one of the top time tracking and billing sites on the internet. It allows you to track your time with a desktop widget. You name a project and put it against one of your clients’ names, then press a large red button. It then keeps track of your billing and syncs automatically with your online account. It could not be easier to keep track of how long you’ve been working on a project, ensuring you don’t work so long that it no longer becomes profitable for you.
  6. CurdBee
    You might prefer to use something like CurdBee to track your time and send out invoices. You can also draw up estimates, record your expenses, and accept online payments. It’s kind of like Toggl and PayPal, all in one site.
  7. Invoice Journal
    If you want to send as many professional-looking invoices as you want to a company anywhere in the world, Invoice Journal is perfect. It is completely free to use, and the invoices are completely customizable. You can even match it to the rest of your business design.
  8. Side Job Track
    All of these tools are useful, but they aren’t all made specifically for freelancers. Side Job Track is, however. You can track jobs, send invoices, prepare reports and manage your projects, all with a tool that is specifically designed for the unique needs of freelancers – or as they say, “part-time independent contractors”.

Writers, have you used any of these tools? Which would you recommend?

This is a guest post contributed by Julie Pena. Julie enjoys sharing her experiences of freelancing.

Interested in contributing a guest blog post of your own? Check out the guest blogger guidelines.

Top Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Guest Post: How I Began My Freelance Writing Career Online

By Carey Cruz

Before I started my freelance writing career online, I had over fifteen years of professional experience working in the media as writer and TV producer and then I got married, got pregnant and became a stay-at-home-mom. Yes, we’ve heard this story a dozen times. The reality is, it happens to a lot of women – and it happens to men, too. In today’s harsh economic climate where childcare is expensive, a lot of mothers or fathers opt to stay at home to care for their kids – I did.

Why do online freelance writing?

A lot of us want to raise our own children, be there in every milestone from their first steps to their first words and working from home allows us to do that.  The other advantage to doing online writing is that you can live anywhere in the world and still be able to find writing jobs online.

It isn’t easy though, especially if your child is a toddler like mine and your husband or partner is working full-time. Be prepared to do your work in snatches, in between your children’s naps or late at night when everyone is sleeping.

Can I be a freelance writer even if I don’t have any writing background except as a blogger?

If your blog is popular and you have a more than a thousand hits a day, then yes! It’s obvious that people are coming back and eager to read more of what you have to say. However, enrolling in writing workshops, attending writing seminars or even joining writing forums will not only boost your ego, improve your skills, but it will also help you connect with other writers as well.

How to start?

There are several ways to jumpstart your online freelance writing career. If you’re a blogger, you’ve done it already. On the other hand, for new writers, especially if you don’t really know how to market yourself as a writer yet, signing up on one of the many freelance writing platforms online is for me, the best way to do it. Make sure though that you have a good portfolio to show even if you don’t have much writing experience even if it’s just linking your blog to your profile.

Two popular writing platforms online:

  1. Elance prides itself in being the oldest online employment platform for freelancers. Today, it has about 140,000 clients or businesses and 1.4 million contractors.Pros:  Elance offers better-paying-one-off writing contracts. Plus, they have an escrow system which protects contractors from unreliable clients who sometimes refuse to pay.

    Con: To be able to bid for more writing projects, you have to pay a membership fee.

  2. oDesk is considered to be the largest among the online platforms today and is expected to grow more each year. According to a techcrunch.com article, oDesk contractors reportedly logged a record of 2.1 million hours and clients posted about 109,718 jobs in October 2011.Pro:  If you want a long-term working relationship with a client, oDesk is your best bet.

    Cons:  oDesk is notorious for low-paying clients. As long as you set your rates the way you want to be paid and stick to your guns, good paying clients will find you. However, oDesk does not have the escrow system unlike Elance.

Carey Cruz is a published freelance writer for one of the most renowned writing services available worldwide. She prides herself on being proficient and knowledgeable in essay writing. With a commitment to providing meticulous essays, she strives to demonstrate that she is a motivated and competent writer.

Interested in contributing a guest blog post of your own? Check out the guest blogger guidelines.

Top Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Guest Post: 5 Ways Freelance Writers Can Protect Themselves Against Payment Issues

By Max Cooper

You might think that simply finding clients, jobs or gigs is the hardest part of being self-employed. While it is true that this is a major hurdle, especially early in your freelance career, you may find yourself facing another one as well: dealing with clients who try to back out of agreements or avoid paying you for work after you have completed it. Unfortunately, every freelancer has to deal with this problem occasionally, but taking these precautions can help minimize how much it affects you.

  1. Do Not Deliver Work Until the Payment Has Been Set Aside
    Some clients will attempt to use your work without paying for it. It is more common, however, for a client to have second thoughts about holding up their end of their agreement with you after you have held up your end. To minimize the risk of this happening, use an escrow account or go-between service to have payment set aside before you start work. It can then be held until your client receives the work they ordered, then automatically sent to you. Of course, this might not be possible with some direct clients. However, many freelance writer associations are available that connect writers and clients and protect both parties. One service that these types of associations offer is holding payment until work is completed. (Ed. Note: This one would not fly with most of my clients so in cases where we’re using my contract, I stipulate that they do not own the copyright until I receive payment. That way, if they refuse to pay me, then they can’t use my content!) 
  2. Require an Initial Deposit
    Simply requiring a portion of your payment in advance will significantly reduce the risk that your client will attempt to avoid paying you what you are owed. Between 25 and 50 percent of the entire project amount is typical for a deposit. Make it clear in the contract that this deposit is nonrefundable; if your client tries to abandon the project, you keep the money they have already paid you. You may decide that requiring a deposit is unnecessary with small or one-time clients, but it can be very helpful for ongoing or larger projects.
  3. Be Patient and Professional
    Dealing with a client who is attempting to avoid paying you the amount they agreed on can be extremely aggravating, especially since it can feel like they are trying to prevent you from providing for your family. Losing your temper, however, will not help the situation. Be patient and give yourself time to think before you say or write anything to the client. Communication is key to resolving the issue.
  4. Offer Flexible Repayment Options
    Of course, clients that have the best of intentions to pay you for your services may run into some type of financial difficulties that interferes with their ability to do so. Being flexible and understanding about this fact can improve your relationship with this client, as well as your odds of actually receiving the money you are owed. For example, you could offer some type of payment plan or a similar arrangement. (Ed. Note: I accept PayPal because it’s easier for some clients to send money through PayPal than write a paper check. And PayPal is faster, too.) 
  5. Support Efforts like the Freelancer Payment Protection Act
    The Freelancer Payment Protection Act is a bill that was considered in the state of New York, although unfortunately the session ended without passing the bill. It would have facilitated enforcement of payment agreements between freelancers and their clients. If a client tried to get out of paying what they owed, the freelancer in question could report the issue to the New York State Department of Labor, which could then enforce the agreement. Many in the industry feel that this type of measure would help provide freelancers with the same protections other professionals already enjoy.

Guest post contributed by Max Cooper for InjurySettlementGuide.com, a site that explains your rights as an injury victim and how to deal with insurance companies. 

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Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net