Tag: freelancing

Security for Freelancers and Consultants

Many people are reluctant to become freelancers or consultants because the risk seems too high. You have flexibility to set your work schedule and take the kinds of projects you want, but you trade that for the security of a full-time job.

I’m not convinced that working independently is necessarily much riskier than a full-time job though. In fact, sometimes it can be safer.

Security for Freelancers and Consultants

The Risks of Full-Time Employment

Having multiple clients and income streams can actually be more secure than having a single full-time income.

Think of it this way: you would never invest everything in your IRA in the stocks of a single company. That would be ridiculously risky to trust your entire future retirement income to the success of a single enterprise.

But full time employees trust their entire present income to a single company. If they lose their job, they lose 100% of their income. They usually have to ramp up from nothing to find a new one.

Reducing Risks, Increasing Security

Multiple Clients Reduce Risk

I usually have at least two active clients at all times, plus sometimes smaller side projects and more in my pipeline. If one of my two current big clients suddenly cancels their project, it will hurt my income–but not nearly as much as losing a full-time job hurts. I’ll still have income coming in from my other active client.

Nurturing Leads and Your Network Increase Security

I also have the security of having additional leads so I can ramp up quickly on other work. I have a network of colleagues. I refer work to others when I’m busy, and they return the favor. I know I can reach out to my network if I need more work.

Being Able to Find the Next Project

Yes, my income is variable, and I have had both good and bad years overall. However, I don’t see freelancing as being as being that much less secure overall than having a full-time job. The security comes from being able to find the next project, not from having a guarantee that the current project is a sure thing.

After all, if you have a full-time job and it ends suddenly, your security is really a measure of how fast you can find a new job. Freelancers and consultants are generally better prepared for finding that next thing.

I think many of us consultants and freelancers probably have more security than we realize, and many people in full-time jobs don’t realize how little security they truly have.

More Freelancing Tips

Kai Davis shared some ideas on the balance of flexibility and security in his daily email newsletter for freelancers. This is based on my response to his email. If you’re interested in learning more about other ways to improve your security (and improve your processes as a freelancer in general), I recommend his newsletter.

Podcast Interview on Freelancing and Consulting

I recently had the pleasure of recording an interview for Kristin Anthony’s Dear Instructional Designer podcast. We spoke for about 45 minutes on moving into freelancing and consulting, positioning yourself in the market, finding clients, pricing strategies, and managing my business. Our discussion ranged from the practical topics of liability insurance and accounting software to the strategic topics of specializing in a niche and finding the right clients.

Listen to the episode on her site or on iTunes.

This season on Kristin’s show will be all about freelancing, consulting, and working independently. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now is a good time so you can catch the future episodes on this topic.

Podcast interview on freelancing and consulting in instructional design

Tools That Make Consulting Easier (And a Few More I Need)

Tools for ConsultingI have now been working as an independent consultant for over 5 years. These are the tools I use to run my business and work with clients. I’m a one-person business, so I need tools that let me manage the business side of things efficiently. This list is constantly evolving, and I have a list of solutions I need as well.

Collaboration and Communication

  • Zoom: Zoom is my preferred platform for video conferencing. I have used all the other major tools (WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.), but Zoom works with the fewest technical challenges. It also includes the option for calling in on a phone rather than just VOIP, so you can get better quality audio. For $150/year, I can host unlimited high quality group video calls with up to 50 people.
  • Google Voice: I use Google Voice for my business phone number. This is a free service I can forward to my mobile and landline phones. I schedule my Google Voice number to go directly to voicemail outside of business hours .
  • Dropbox and Google Drive: I use both Dropbox and Google Drive to share files with clients, depending on the clients’ preference.

Stock Images

  • Storyblocks: Storyblocks (formerly Graphic Stock) is the source for many images for my blog posts and presentations. I use it sometimes for courses, depending on the content. It’s $99/year for unlimited downloads. I love it for backgrounds and basic images where I don’t have terribly specific needs.
  • Can Stock Photo: When I need more specific images for courses (e.g., a non-white male teacher talking to a female elementary student), I mostly use Can Stock Photo. Credits are fairly reasonably priced, and subscriptions are also an option.

Other Tools

  • Google Sheets: I use Google Spreadsheets to track my time, collect review feedback, and do light project management.
  • Remember The Milk: I manage my daily to-do list with Remember The Milk.
  • WordPress: This blog is on a free WordPress.com site; my business website and portfolio were built with  WordPress.
  • Dreamhost: My business website and portfolio are hosted by Dreamhost. (Get 40% off by using my link.)
  • Amazon: I use Amazon Affiliate links for my book reviews. I don’t make much income this way, but $250 a year is better than nothing.
  • HelloSign: I used to digitally sign contracts with Adobe Acrobat Pro (and sometimes still do if a client sends it), but mostly I use HelloSign for digital signatures. If you don’t sign documents often, you can do 3 signatures per month for free.

What I Need

I have a few needs for software currently. If you have found a great solution for these, let me know in the comments.

Update 2017: My original text is below so you can see what I was considering in 2016, but I have decided on Wave for accounting. I’m still using Google Sheets for project management, but with an add on called ProjectSheets.

  • Basic Accounting: I have been using QuickBooks Self-Employed for tracking expenses. I like how it automatically syncs with my accounts and makes it easy to categorize transactions. Unfortunately, the program repeatedly and spontaneously insists on adding my personal accounts as well. They also recently broke their mobile app so I can no longer categorize transactions on my phone. I’ve had enough glitches in the last few months that I don’t quite trust it anymore.
    Wave is the first one on my list to evaluate because it’s free. If I can do what I need with that, I don’t need to pay for something else. Several people have recommended Freshbooks, but it’s more expensive and I don’t think I’d use many of the features. Xero and FreeAgent have also been recommended. If you have experience with any of these, I’d love to hear about it.
  • Project Management: I currently manage projects in Google Sheets. It’s fast and simple to set up, and it shares perfectly with clients. This works OK for basic projects and small teams. It’s hard to visualize what’s happening though, and I’m starting to hit the limits of what I can really do. I’m starting to investigate other options now. I used Easy Projects with a past client, and that might work. I’ve heard positive reviews for MavenLink. There are some other free and low-cost options as well.

Your Tools?

What are your must-have tools? Any suggestions for accounting or project management?

As mentioned above, I use affiliate links on my blog. Several of the links above are affiliate or referral links. If you make a purchase after clicking these links, I get a small payment. Some of these links (including the Storyblocks  and Dreamhost links) also give you a discount.

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Consulting Isn’t My Backup Plan

Although I’ve been self-employed for almost 5 years, I’m still regularly contacted by recruiters about full-time positions. Most of them are polite and professional, and I often refer them to other colleagues who I know are looking for work. Once in a while though, I hear from someone who just doesn’t get it. For example, I received a message on LinkedIn from a recruiter we’ll call “B.” He said he had an opportunity for me but didn’t provide any other details. I replied that while I’m not looking for full-time work, I’d potentially be available for consulting if he had a problem I could solve.

He replied with this message. In case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t one of my fictionalized stories–every mistake you see in the message below is exactly as “B” wrote it.

This is a Direct Hire position, I am confused as if you are looking for consulting work, wouldnt you be interested in W2 contract?

Besides the lack of professionalism in his writing, “B” demonstrates an attitude I have unfortunately seen in several recruiters over the years. They assume that consulting is a “backup plan” I’m using to fill the gaps while I’m looking for a “real job.” They simply can’t fathom that anyone would choose to work for themselves.

Puppeteer controlling two businesspeople

Personally, I’d be hard pressed to go back to working in a “cubicle farm.” Working from home and setting my own schedule makes me more productive, along with giving me the flexibility to spend more time with my daughter. I cherish being able to pick which projects and clients I work with; I can turn down prospects where I’d just be an “order taker” or tweaking PowerPoints. I don’t have to accept unreasonably short timelines or woefully insufficient budgets. I can focus primarily on the scenario-based projects I find rewarding. I never have time to be bored because there’s so much variety and so much to learn.

Certainly sometimes people go out on their own because they’re forced to when a regular job ends. Some freelancers are truly working independently as a stopgap measure until they find another long-term job. It happens, but I wish recruiters wouldn’t assume that’s what everyone is doing—especially when they’ve been running their own company for multiple years like me.

Many consultants are like me. We prefer working on their own and aren’t motivated primarily by those external forces. In their article Secrets of Star Training Consultants, Saul Carliner and John Murray explain that the people they identified as “star consultants” in the field were mostly independent because they chose this path:

For the majority, however, the forces pushing the participants into private consulting were internal. Some expressed a desire to move beyond a certain work environment. One expressed an interest in earning more money. And the most experienced of the participants expressed a desire to improve the effectiveness of learning experiences.

If you’re a consultant, what would it take to get you to leave consulting and go back to full time work? Once you’ve cut the strings, is there anything that would convince you to go back?
Image credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

ID and E-Learning Links (12/6/2015)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.