December 18, 2014

Guest Post: Essential Legal Resources for Freelancers

Unless you happen to have a J.D. yourself, you may not know about the legal issues that could effect freelance writers and self-employed workers. It won’t take long for you to realize that having contracts is an essential part of contract work, at least if you want to get paid. But even then it could be like pulling teeth to get your clients to hand over a check for services rendered.

The long and short of it is that running your own business means wearing a lot of hats, and you simply can’t do everything on your own. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there that can prove handy for whatever your legal needs. Here are just a few to help you out–before you get into hot water.

Writing Resources

  1. Creative Commons. This service provides free tools that let you easily secure your creative work and assign the freedoms you want it to carry. The service and software are simple to use and an essential site for any creative professional concerned about protecting their work.
  2. Legal Guide for Bloggers. For you bloggers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a comprehensive summary of blogging and U.S. law. Issues ranging from fair use to free speech and privacy are all covered on this thorough site. With the Legal Guide for Bloggers bookmarked you can cease to wonder whether a blog post will get you into trouble and focus on producing content. They help you with content too, even provide information on utilizing the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to buried information.
  3. U.S. Copyright Office. Another website every writer should get to know. Your writing is copyrighted the minute you release it in a public form, but the U.S. Copyright Office is where you can, for a fee, register for further protection on your work. However, the FAQ is free and remains the best tutorial around on copyright law.

Freelancing Resources

  1. ContractPal. This online service is one you’ll definitely want to bookmark in your browser. While contracts for your type of job can be as simple as a work order from the company that’s contracting with you (specifying the basics like work to be done, time of delivery, and amount of payment), many contractors like to have their own legal documents in place to protect them from issues like liability and non-payment. This business process-outsourcing site allows you to go paperless and send documents quickly and securely so that you can focus on work.
  2. Docracy. Not all independent contractors have cash just coming out of their ears, so you may be on the lookout for a services that provides cheap access to legal document templates. Docracy is that resource, and in truth, all of the templates on their website are free. All you have to do is download the consulting or sale document of your choice, alter it to reflect your personal needs, and you’ve got your basic contract. It may not be as ironclad as having something drawn up by a lawyer, but for most freelancers it will be sufficient to get the job done, so to speak.
  3. SBA.gov. Many independent contractors decide to form LLCs (limited liability corporations) as a way to protect themselves and their personal assets from business-related legal issues. If you opt to go this route, you may want to pop over to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website. Most people view this site as a good resource for small business grants and loans (and it is), but it also has information on taxes, labor laws, social security, and more.
  4. Business attorney. As an independent contractor working from home you’re unlikely to need the services of an automobile, accident, or injury attorney. But you may need a lawyer at some point, and you want to make sure you hire the right kind. There are all kinds of specializations within the legal community, and you’ll need to find someone who is not only a business attorney, but who is familiar with your particular type of business. This will ensure that you have the most targeted legal services available.

Leon Harris  is a contributing writer for Hornsby Law, the premier Atlanta injury attorney.

Freelancers: 5 Ways to Generate Client Leads and Increase Web Traffic

By Mike Law

You love your freelance website. It’s visually striking and easy to navigate. The content is fresh and informative. You’ve got the latest search engine optimization techniques working for you night and day. So why isn’t the site generating the return traffic or client leads that you’d hoped for?

Assuming your site is truly as rocking as you believe it to be, it may just need a good jumpstart. For sure, it takes time to attract attention, build an audience and convert customers. But nothing says you can’t help speed the process along. In fact, it’d be foolhardy not to. Check out these five great ways to kick-start a steady flow of traffic to your site and solicit more leads for your freelance business.

  1. Offer a Free Special Report
    These days you can hardly visit a website without some pop-up appearing, urging you to download a free special report stuffed with juicy tips and information. The pop-ups may be irritating, but the concept behind them is smart. Offering visitors free, valuable information in a 5-10 page report is an effective way of attracting potential clients to your site. Why? A couple of reasons. A free report gives prospective clients a reason to visit your site. Use the special report as a lure at networking events, during cold calls, or in direct and email marketing campaigns. Even if your target isn’t in the market for your services at the time, the information the report offers could be tempting enough to persuade prospectives to come to your site to download it. While they’re there, just maybe they’ll take a closer look at your portfolio and services – and remember you the next time they need someone with your expertise.Special reports can also establish you as an expert in a particular field. Let’s say you’re a web designer specializing in building sites for personal injury lawyers. If you produce a report highly targeted to your audience (e.g., “10 Web Designs Personal Injury Lawyers Should Avoid at All Costs,”) you can come to be known as the web designer for personal injury lawyers. Prospective clients will begin to seek you out on the basis of your expertise.
  2. Add an E-Course to Your Site
    With the advent of autoresponder services such as MailChimp and KickStartCart, e-courses have become increasingly popular. An e-course is an online learning course in which you’d share tips and techniques on a particular topic with your target audience. Most courses are conducted via email. Interested persons could sign up for the course on your site by entering their email address into a form, and the autoresponder service would begin to send them a sequence of emails (your lessons) for a predetermined length of time.Like a special report, an e-course serves as an excellent reason for prospective clients to visit your site and can solidify your position as an expert in your field. But it has one major additional advantage. Because an e-course can extend over a long period of time –anywhere from several days to several months – you have a great opportunity to build a relationship with the participants of the course. Familiarity breeds business, goes the old marketing saw, and your former students may become your future clients. Moreover, if you encourage interaction and feedback from the participants, you’ll get a clearer understanding of the topics your general audience would like to learn about and discuss.
  3. Conduct a Survey
    Another way to encourage readers to visit your website is by conducting a survey or taking a poll. Surveys and polls are an outstanding way to discover the content that interests your audience, the effectiveness of your site, or gain insights into an issue that affects your audience. For example, if you’re a freelance photographer who covers weddings, you might conduct a survey of engaged couples or newlyweds on big turnoffs when it comes to a wedding photographer. You could score a few clients from conducting the survey alone. However, the real potential to pull in client leads lies in publishing the survey results. You could publish the results on your blog, sure. But you could also provide the results in a short special report, which would be available for download on your site or via email. This, of course, would allow you to reap the benefits that come with offering a free report.Moreover, if the sample size is large enough and the findings sufficiently intriguing, you could even write an press release highlighting your conclusions. Send your press release to relevant magazine editors, journalists and bloggers, and just maybe the survey results – and your site – will receive a mention in a widely-read publication. You’d be golden.Check out sites such as SurveyMonkey or PollDaddy for learning more about how to set up an online or email poll.
  4. Host a Webinar
    Not big on writing content to give away? No problem. Consider hosting a webinar to attract readers and share your knowledge. A webinar is a web-based seminar or conference. Participants from anywhere in the world can dial into the call, listen to your presentation, watch visuals you’ve prepared, and even ask questions. Think of it as a live version of a special report or e-course.The advantage of a webinar is that it provides a great opportunity to be interactive with your audience in real-time. Keep this in mind when you structure the presentation. Don’t just be a talking head: pick a web conferencing platform that includes “chat” or “show of hands” features so that you can effect a true exchange with your audience. You’ll want to start a lively conversation that participants will continue thinking about (and tweeting about) after the webinar ends. Popular webinar hosting systems include GotoWebinar, ReadyTalk and WebEx.To get a good turnout for your webinar, begin promoting it about a month in advance. Start a countdown on your blog, use social media, write a guest post, and issue a press release. After the webinar is over, use your web hosting platform to distribute a feedback form to participants. This will not only help you assess the success of the webinar, it’ll keep people thinking about you.
  5. Offer a Discount
    Dare I even suggest this? I do. Whether or not to offer a discount is a very controversial topic among freelancers. On the plus side, it’s a fail-safe way of drawing prospective clients to your site. Everyone wants a good deal. On the negative side, it can devalue the service you provide, causing prospective clients to believe that your work is worth less than actually it is. It can also transmit a vibe of desperation, which can cause low-balling types to come crawling out of the woodwork.In the end, I believe little harm can arise from extending a “limited-time only” discount to jumpstart your business and increase site traffic. But be careful: you don’t want to become the freelance version of Rugs-O-Rama. Make sure your clients understand your regular price and the unique opportunity of the discount offer. And don’t worry about losing clients when you return to your regular price. If you produce consistent, high-quality work, a good client will understand your true value.

Headshot of Mike LawMichael Law has extensive experience as a freelance journalist and online marketer, and has worked with a number of leading Sydney companies ranging from online marketing agencies to compensation lawyers. If you’d like to get in touch, you can send Mike an email.

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Guest Post: Staying Organized & Distraction Free While Working From Home

working from homeBy Kate Croston

Ahhh, working from home – it just emits a big sigh of relief when you think about it. There is no getting up at the crack of dawn, no dealing with traffic, no horrible feeling of “oh NO I forgot…” as you pull into the office, no coworkers and bosses that you don’t get along with… in short, working from home is AWESOME. Right? It sure is.

Until you factor in that the kids are home, your favorite TV show is on, you somehow have misplaced that really important letter, the dogs are barking, your spouse is home for lunch, you have no real office, you are taking work to bed with you, you haven’t interacted with people your own age in you don’t know how long, you’re waking up at 3am because you can’t stop thinking about that one little task and you might as well just get up and do it now… Working from home is AWFUL. Right?

There are always two sides to everything and the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side, no matter how annoying that cliché is. So how do you manage to stay organized and distraction-free while braving the world of working from home?

  1. Make yourself an office.
    Working from the kitchen table, the living room, or your bed sounds great in theory, but to get in the right mindset for getting things accomplished you have to carve out your own little niche. Get a real desk and make sure that you sit at it to get things done. This way you’re simulating the real-feel of working in an office and you’re not getting distracted by those big, fluffy pillows and soft, warm comforter…
  2. Set aside certain hours for certain tasks.
    One of the beauties of working from home is that you are free to work whenever you want. It’s also one of the biggest pitfalls though, because it becomes way too easy to skip “work” to watch that afternoon soap opera you’re guiltily addicted to that has a nagging way of turning into three solid hours of TV. Designate certain hours for certain work-related tasks and then schedule in time to do the things you want to do too.
  3. Say no to distractions. 
    Inevitably you will have people (even family members) who think that because you’re working from home you aren’t really working. Slowly but surely you find yourself saying yes to run more and more errands for people because you “have time.” This is when you have to put your foot down –you are working from home and you don’t have time to do everything for everyone else. Set ground rules and let everyone know that you can’t be disturbed during certain hours.
  4. Make to-do lists and make them visible.
    It seems pretty obvious, but so many people neglect making an actual list and get overwhelmed. Buy a dry erase board and write out what you need to get done – and do so in order of importance. List out the things you have to get done, the things you’d like to get done, and then the smaller tasks that are optional. This way you’ll have a clear idea of what you need to really be sure to focus on.
  5. Know when to turn it off and get out.
    One of the drawbacks of working from home is that at 11pm you can still be working. Know when is a good time to call it quits for the day and stick to it. It will be better for you and your significant other/family if you have a concrete time that you shut everything down and focus only on them and you. Get out of the house, mingle with people your age, and focus on maintaining relationships. It’s easy to get wrapped up in never leaving the house and working crazy hours – but getting out and shutting everything off will help you maintain a semblance of normalcy and a level-head.

Working from home is like everything – it can be a blessing and a curse. But with some organization and strategies for counteracting distractions, you can ensure that it falls into the former category and not the latter. Besides, no one wants to find you six months from now looking all crazy-like because you haven’t emerged from your house since you quit your office job. So stay sane and set some ground rules. It’ll make everything a little easier in the end.

Kate Croston is a freelance writer, holds a bachelors degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. She writes guest posts for different sites and loves contributing cheap internet service related topics. Questions or comments can be sent to: katecroston.croston09 AT gmail DOT com.

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