Freelance Consultant

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Freelance Consultant

Postby sweetsoulmusic » Wed May 08, 2013 1:49 pm

I've developed all of these self-taught skills and natural knowledge that people want to pay me to do. I've worked a couple of jobs in marketing and now people want my help as a contractor to help them grow their businesses. Basically the goal is to have 4 income streams from marketing consulting, web/graphic design, music performances (I'm a singer and songwriter) and photography. I don't need all that much to live on every single month, as a take home pay of $1800-$2000 a month would more than pay for everything.

Do you have any advice for setting up shop or managing so many different avenues? I have no idea where to start on the consulting bit... only that people keep wanting to pay me for my abilities and skills.
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby mango » Wed May 08, 2013 2:33 pm

Hi!

When in doubt, I buy a book. There may be something out there that's just what you need.
Maybe start with a book on how to set up a consulting business?

Good luck to you! :D
'Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.'

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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby skannie » Thu May 09, 2013 3:59 pm

The way to start in consulting, or any other small enterprise, is to get your first paying customer. That's the hardest part for many people, but it looks like it'll be easy for you. So the next time someone asks you, just say yes. Or call a few of the people who already offered to pay you and say "Do you still want me to do such and such? can we meet to discuss it?" Then agree between you exactly what you are going to do for them and when, what is your pay rate, and when and how you want them to pay you. Do the work. Provide a bill or invoice. Get paid. You're in business!!

Fast cash flow is usually very important for beginning freelancers. Try not to work for anyone who wants to be a slow payer. Ask for immediate payment on completion if possible, or at least within 15 days. Divide any long jobs into sections and get paid after completing each one. I used to have translation customers with urgent jobs, who would then take two months or more to pay me. No use because I couldn't starve and postpone my bills for two months. Perhaps start with smaller, time-limited jobs, so you get a feel for how it's going to work out, and what's the right rate to charge, before you commit yourself to something big that you can't get out of.

Once you've got one or two customers I guess you'll need to check that you're complying with any business registration regulations in your jurisdiction, and start keeping some basic business records, and maybe get some business cards printed.

After the business is up and running fairly well you might want to think about things like setting up a company, hiring an accountant, buying special business software, creating or renting improved office facilities, setting up a website etc. etc. But none of those things are necessary before you start, and may not be needed at all. And ignore any books or advisers that say you have to start with a business plan.
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby Tituba » Thu May 09, 2013 4:34 pm

I've been an IT consultant now for 12 years so let me give you some hints:

Write up an agreement of services, rate and a promise to pay that the customer (every customer) signs before you do one lick of work.

You are going to feel weird at first asking for them to sign an agreement. Get over it. You are a professional and need to be treated as one. Chasing people for money is awful. When there have been occasions when a customer asked if they could pay me l/2 now and l/2 later, I've had them sign a promissory note stating the amount and date due. It makes it official and you need the paper trail.

If you are just getting started, do some work for free in exchange for testimonials you put on your website and advertising. Have them sign a release that you can use their testimonial and name on these materials.

Read Barbara Winter's book "Making a Living Without a Job" as it is about multiple income streams.

Hope this helps
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby mango » Fri May 10, 2013 9:10 am

Great ideas!

I love the testimonials idea, Tituba.
I'm collecting all of this information for my own use! :D

Is any of this helping, sweetsoulmusic?
'Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.'

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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby mango » Fri May 10, 2013 9:13 am

PS:

Good point about business plans, Skannie.
Have you ever had to use one?

How about you, Tituba?

A business plan seems like something you could get stuck constructing for months.
You know, a way to bog yourself down in the planning phase and never get to the business.

Just a question.
'Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.'

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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby Tituba » Fri May 10, 2013 9:22 am

They tell you in business school to create a business plan. Many businesses don't ever do one. You would need one if you want a business line of credit from the bank. Other than that, focus your energies on creating a website, business cards, forms for customers to sign. Create a blog, Facebook, Twitter accounts for your business. Depending on what it is you are doing - Etsy - Pinterest. It might even be something you want to film and create a YouTube channel.

You, of course, need to go down to your town hall and get a DBA form, take it to the bank and open a business account. Register for a EIN with the IRS.

Then research the local networking groups (chamber of commerce) etc. and start attending these events and meet as many people as you can. Don't try to sell them anything. Just network.
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby mango » Fri May 10, 2013 9:29 am

Cool, thanks!
'Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.'

-- Agnes de Mille
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby SquarePeg » Fri May 10, 2013 2:39 pm

My understanding is that you pay taxes only on any profits your business makes. Therefore, it's important to keep receipts for anything you buy for your business, including web hosting fees and the like, any mileage / travel expenses incurred when visiting clients, etc. These can be offset from any revenue.

Good luck!
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby Tituba » Fri May 10, 2013 4:23 pm

You need an accountant. Yes, they are expensive. However, they will help you get off on the right foot. If you use a space in your home dedicated to the business, then a portion of your rent, utilities gets written off. I pay very little in taxes.
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby skannie » Fri May 10, 2013 4:53 pm

mango wrote:Good point about business plans, Skannie.
Have you ever had to use one?
I tried a few times in connection with various start-your-own-business schemes and courses and grants for unemployed people in Ireland, in the days before the Celtic Tiger.

mango wrote:A business plan seems like something you could get stuck constructing for months.
You know, a way to bog yourself down in the planning phase and never get to the business.
Yes exactly!

In fact I had been earning a very small but sufficient income for a few years without any business plan, by a mixture of busking (playing music in the streets) and selling handcrafts at festivals. But then during some very stressful times I wasn’t able to carry on and I signed on as unemployed. So when I wanted to start something again I was eligible for various official avenues of support. But I didn’t find them very successful, except for the scheme where they paid my fees for going back to university. I got an MA out of that 

The start-your-own-business course was definitely a failure, but it taught me something very important. It started off well. I was learning new stuff, and the instructor liked my contributions to the discussions, and I was the only one to solve his thinking-outside-the-box puzzle. But disaster struck when I had my private consultation with him. I was telling him about all my ideas (I was a Scanner but I didn’t know it) and he was telling me to focus on one very narrow segment of a very narrow market. Oh no!! Help!!

Then he got exasperated and told me very sternly that I didn’t want to start a business. I just wanted to be self-employed. Moment of enlightenment!! Until then I hadn’t realised there was a difference. (He completely ignored me in class after that.)

So I think a lot of conventional business advice, that probably works very well for people who want to "Start a Business", is not very suitable for Scanners who want to be self-employed with multiple income streams.
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby mango » Fri May 10, 2013 5:39 pm

Then he got exasperated and told me very sternly that I didn’t want to start a business. I just wanted to be self-employed. Moment of enlightenment!! Until then I hadn’t realised there was a difference. (He completely ignored me in class after that.)

So I think a lot of conventional business advice, that probably works very well for people who want to "Start a Business", is not very suitable for Scanners who want to be self-employed with multiple income streams.


Well, now you've enlightened me, as well!
Thanks, Skannie!

:D
'Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.'

-- Agnes de Mille
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Re: Freelance Consultant

Postby sweetsoulmusic » Fri May 10, 2013 6:36 pm

Then he got exasperated and told me very sternly that I didn’t want to start a business. I just wanted to be self-employed. Moment of enlightenment!! Until then I hadn’t realised there was a difference. (He completely ignored me in class after that.)

So I think a lot of conventional business advice, that probably works very well for people who want to "Start a Business", is not very suitable for Scanners who want to be self-employed with multiple income streams.


Brilliant!!! Thanks for all the advice everyone!! :D


I don't want to deal with employees or bosses. I wouldn't mind having a great boss who was inspiring and pushed you to be better. I worked one job where the duties itself were dreadful, but the boss somehow got me to genuinely care about the work I was doing. After he left I stopped caring. There's something far more appealing about being entirely responsible... if you fail, it's your fault. If you succeed, no one else will take the credit... Which I say because right now I have a boss who steals my ideas and takes credit for them. I've had to play some heavy politics just to make sure everyone is aware of what I do. So I'm hoping I can get my four income streams in and fully stand on my own two feet.

Do you still need a DBA if you act as a self-employed contractor, or is it more beneficial for tax reasons to be considered a company? The music and photography are two separate entities, and the marketing/design bits tend to combine a lot. Photography might occasionally cross over into marketing if someone wants pictures of employees. However, the music will be completely separate. Is there a good system to keep track of all expenses? Are you able to expense transportation cost to clients or music gigs?
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