Going Freelance: Getting into a Stride

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This month, I feel I’m in my stride and my future as a self employed web designer is much clearer and more determined. A lot of my initial plans however, don’t seem to be coming to fruition — whether that be because things just take time or because they weren’t what I thought they’d be.

What I’ve Been Doing this Month

Getting Work

I’ve come to realise this month that life as a freelance web designer is definetly not all about designing websites and writing code, you only get to do that when you have work, and a lot of your time will be spent trying to get that work.

I’ve been very suprised to get the most work this month from networking. Not online, but just by talking to people. I met quite a few people in the business workshops that I mentioned in previous entries, of which I’ve had a suprising amount of calls from. Out of all my efforts, networking is by far the thing I’ve put the least amount of time into yet it has gotten me the most enquiries as well as setting me up with some outsource work for a couple of companies in the future. I’ve also built a good size list of web professionals that offer services that may be useful to me and my clients in the future which will definetly be handy.

To add to this, I’ve made sure what contact I’ve made is always followed up and it really makes the difference — just a quick call the day after or an email saying thanks really keeps communication going and may have opened some doors for me this month that may have closed, so to speak. With the amount of web professionals offering similar services nowadays, all it takes is that follow up to put you ahead of the competition.

Handing out business cards whilst shopping

By no means am I the greatest at networking but it’s something I aim to continue and improve. I’ve started to mention my services and hand over my business card just when out shopping. I’m yet to start telling people I offer a percentage for any work reffered which I think should help to keep the word of my services going.

Advertising

When I started my business plan, I thought I’d be able to get the majority of my work online. Whilst I have been getting work online, it’s only really been outsource work and nothing I can put in my portfolio. I think the bigger projects will come from the local area so I’ve decided to advertise with Thomson Local in the hope to get more work locally.

Last month I mentioned they offered me their online and printed book package for £300. They offered me the same this month for £250 so I went with it. I won’t get into the local directory until July but I have a promoted position on their website right now.

That said, I haven’t been particularly happy with their service so far. It seems I can’t upload images to my promoted listing just yet and having spoken to them on the phone several times they keep telling me it’s being fixed, but it’s yet to happen. Regardless, the aim is to get business from it, it will only take one client to make what they’re charging me pay off and with my company in their listings for 18 months online and 12 months in the paper directory, surely that must happen.

Advertising in theatre programme

I’ve also decided to advertise in my local town’s theatre brochure. Having been dragged to the theatre for a Christmas panto, I noticed the programme had some advertising space for a very small price. Whether that will get me any work I don’t know but it was so cheap I thought I’d give it a go. I like the idea of supporting the local community, infact, I am considering doing a free website for a local company just to try and get my name out there a little more.

Feelings Toward the Month

Now I feel more settled into the freelance life, I’m starting to form my own opinions on how best to achieve things. I put a lot of research into what I should do to succeed as well as taking a look at what others have done that are already succeeding but I am now questioning what I thought was the right approach.

I think a lot of what I have done so far isn’t paying off. As I said earlier, networking has been the best way for me to get work, yet it’s the thing I’ve put least amount of effort into. Blogging — whilst I am starting to find my feet and realise what type of posts are and are not working for me — is yet to get me a sniff of work. This isn’t a problem for me as blogging is about setting myself new projects to be able to further my knowledge as much as it is about getting work. However, there are a lot of people recommending you blog to get noticed, they also suggest giving out free content. I agree these are both good ways to get your name out there but I think I have been approaching them in the wrong way.

Writing or giving out freebies to get yourself noticed is kind of a contradiction. You need to have an audience for that writing or freebie to be noticed by anyone. I think if you are going to try to get noticed, do it on a big platform that already has an audience, ie, don’t write on your own blog that nobody knows, write as a guest for a big named blog.

This has been the thing that’s bugged me a lot this month. I am putting a lot of time into my own blog at the moment. I can definetly see in the stats that people are finding my content useful — it’s great to see people spending 30 mins on my site reading a couple of pages — but I am probably not using the time I put into it effectively. I’m still juggling ideas as how best to utilise my blog but I definetly know I need to make a change.

Pleased About

Task Management

I’m really glad to be in my stride. I’m using a very nifty app on my desktop and iPhone called Wunderlist that’s making my working life nice and productive. I tend to set up my todo list for a day the night before. It means when I hit my desk in the morning, my day is planned out for me so I can just get straight to work.

Before becoming self employed, I’d only ever worked as an employee for various companies. A cool thing about self employment is that you see payment for projects as soon as it arrives in your companies account, there’s no waiting until the end of the month to get a figure that’s the same each month. It makes work feel more like an achievement and there’s more incentive to work your socks off — if you do more work, you can pay yourself more too!

Regrets

This month I only managed to get one blog post done (aside from this diary entry). I decided last month, to write fewer posts but really make what I do write shine. I would have liked to have written 3 posts still but I haven’t quite got my plans for the blog nailed. Lots of thinking to do regarding blogging…

What I’ve Learnt

Don’t Miss a Chance to Business Card Bomb

When you send a letter, drop your business card in the envelope. When you buy milk, give your business card with the money. When somebody tells you they just got a website, hand over your business card anyway!

Offer a Referrers Percentage

If you’re business card bombing like crazy, a lot of people aren’t going to need your services and your card stops with them. If you tell them you offer x% for any referral, those 100 people that have your card will tell the 100 people they know and you have 10000 people that know about your services.

PayPal Sucks

Much like eBay, there’s not much else to use. Aside from the fees and ridiculously long processing times, PayPal can also be tricky because it lumps all of your transactions into one, making it a nightmare to explain when it comes to your accounts. I recommend if your PayPal balance consists of multiple payments, withdraw each payment separately so it makes your book keeping easier.

Plans for the Following Month

  • Search engine optimize website
  • Improve online presence and make it simpler
  • Release first WordPress theme on ThemeForrest

You get Your Say too!

Remember, you get your say too! Whilst my diary is purely about what I’ve been doing to become a successful freelance web designer, I’d like to hear your experiences too. Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation to myself but took a slightly different path or made a different decision. Let me know! I’d also like to hear your comments and questions that I may feature in future entries too.

Written by Ian Lunn

is a WordPress & Front-end Developer producing high quality responsive websites and exceptional user experience. Author of CSS3 Foundations and creator of Hover.css & Sequence.js.

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