The Freelance Primer: Your First Year as a Freelancer


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Just going Solo or need to get back to the basics. This talk will get you a solid foundation and get you the right setup so that you can kick ass.

* Why you ALWAYS get a deposit
* How to get a business license and what form of business to choose
* Don't be a cowboy, get input from the right people
* Why you should clock your time, even if your aren't paid for it
* Contracts matter - finding a template you can use
* The IRS is watching: separate bank accounts and track your finances
* Planing makes you real money: think about deductions and expenses now
* Avoid the bad projects and evil clients with a project checklist
* 6 months in the bank = freedom to define your terms
* And so much more...

Published in: Business, Technology

The Freelance Primer: Your First Year as a Freelancer

  1. 1. @justlikeairThe Freelance PrimerWith the Right Setup, Anyone Can Kick Ass
  2. 2. Hi, I’m Shane & I run a 100% Freelance driven agency.  
  3. 3. A FEW OF OUR FRIENDS (some people call them clients)
  4. 4. BEING A FREELANCER REQUIRESBEING A FREELANCER REQUIRESA UNIQUE APPROACH1.  The Right Reasons2.  The Proper Setup3.  Working for Yourself4.  Your First Customer(s)5.  Conclusion
  5. 5. There are Focused Sessions On The FollowingSo, I WILL NOT COVER1.  What to Charge (come see our panel)2.  Basics of Marketing (that is a whole talk & there are 4)3.  Service Specifics (you be the expert)4.  Subcontracting (don’t worry, you’ll get there)5.  Commoditizing By-Products (buy me a beer)
  6. 6. Freelancer / Independent Contractor A person who offers their time and skill over a limited engagement in exchange for compensation.
  8. 8. YOUR BUSINESS IS A VEHICLEThe most awesome car in the world still can’t get you to Hawaii.
  9. 9. How To Define SUCCESSFriends ° Family ° Fitness ° Finance ° Faith ° Fun
  10. 10. _________________   _________________   ________   _________________   _________________   _________________  Have, Do & Become
  11. 11. Find someone living the right life& GRAB ON (As long as its Legal, Moral & Ethical)
  12. 12. GreatThere are a TON of freelancers who can help.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 15.3 million workers in the U.S. (10.9% of the U.S. workforce) are independent contractors.
  13. 13. REVIEW: THE WHY•  Business is a vehicle•  Defining success•  Make your list•  Find a mentor•  You are not alone
  15. 15. All right, Step 1:Flight or Invisibility? While your business entity type is important, don’t over stress it. I went from Sole Proprietor, to General Partnership, to S-Corp in the last 10 years.
  16. 16. Pick Your Business Entity based upon
  17. 17. TEAM SIZE Different entities limit the number of owners.
  18. 18. Gentleman,  we  can  rebuild  him.  We  have  COST the  technology.  The  capability  to  build  the   world’s  first  bionic  man.  Better   Stronger,  Faster.    A Sole Prop is cheap. Corps can be expensive.
  19. 19. REVENUE / TAXThere are financial advantages to certain vehicles as your revenue grows.
  20. 20. RISKWhat do you have to loose? As personal wealth & business risk increases, consider incorporating.
  21. 21. Time for Step 2:Crusader’s PermitThe paperwork you need depends on where your business is located. Personally, I got the following:
  22. 22. BUSINESS LICENSERequired in many cities & counties.
  23. 23. FICTITIOUS BUSINESS NAMETotally Optional: It’s your “secret” identity.
  24. 24. EMPLOYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBERRequired (although use your SS# for sole props): Your federal ID
  25. 25. LOCAL PERMITSIn 2002 my city required a home business permit. #boo
  26. 26. Ready for Step 3?Get a Sidekick Even Aloof and Independent Batman had Alfred.
  27. 27. Delegate not abdicateNo one knows as much about your business as you.
  28. 28. SBDC & SCORE real heroes hard at work  
  29. 29. hiring an accountant earned me an instant$10,000 The right partners are worth finding. Question to ask an accountant:
  30. 30. THE ANSWER IS IN THE QUESTIONSToo many lawyers tried to “Sell” me an LLC instead of listening.
  31. 31. and finally, Step 4:Paying the Price
  32. 32. please, please, pleaseSeparate Your Accounts Fastest way to get SPANKED by the IRS: Mixing yourpersonal and business dollars in the same accounts. Get a business checking & credit card.
  33. 33. YOU MUST PAY TAXESOr everything you saved might float away
  34. 34. TRACK YOUR PENNIESIts as important as brushing your teeth
  35. 35. DeductionsThe sooner you can figure out what you can and can’t deduct, the richeryou will become. The ability to deduct LEGITIMATE business expenses is one of the most powerful tools in your utility belt.
  36. 36. REVIEW: THE SETUP•  Pick a business entity: size, taxes, risk & cost•  Paperwork: fictitious name, business license, EIN…•  Delegate NOT abdicate•  Your tax dollars at work: SBDC & SCORE•  Get an accountant & (maybe) lawyer•  Separate your business and personal accounts•  Track your expenses and income•  Save for taxes•  Track your deductions
  38. 38. “ I can predict the long-term outcome of your success if you show me your daily habits. John Maxwell
  39. 39. ACCOUNTABILITY trumps talentThe art of setting (& re-setting) expectations is the secret to a happy life. The cult of the genius is BS.
  40. 40. IT’S NOT OUT OF SIGHT if it’s in your calendar! No one likes a super hero who is consistently 30 minutes too late.
  41. 41. FLEX TIMEis contingent on availability within communication patterns.
  43. 43. CLOCKYour time is the most valuable asset your business has to offer. Track it as carefully as you do your money.
  44. 44. THE DAILY MINIMUMSet a goal for a daily billable amount
  45. 45. MEASURE PERFOMANCETrying is good. Saving the world is better.
  47. 47. WORK COMFORTABLYOne Duck to rule them all. Adium
  48. 48. You MUST have a project tracking system. Email   RSS   Web   API   Mobile  
  49. 49. BACK YOUR FILES UPWhat happens when you can’t get ahold of a file from a key person?
  50. 50. BAD GOOD Source  Team   Client   Bad Vs Good Mom  Mom   Team   Client   You   You   Team  
  51. 51. Control the SourceCONTROL THE SOURCE•  Dropbox / Google Drive•  SVN / GIT •  Shared drives•  Google Docs, Open Office•  Documentation (Wikis)
  54. 54. THE URGENT VSIMPORTANTWhat are three key things I can do today to achieve my goals?
  55. 55. PEACE OF MIND is easily achieved with6 MONTHS OF SAVINGS
  56. 56. REVIEW: THE PROCESS•  Your daily actions define your outcome•  Accountability is your competitive edge•  Use your calendar•  Flexible work hours requires communication strategies•  Set a daily minimum goal•  Clock ALL your time•  Measure performance•  Work Comfortably•  Back up consistently •  Separate the urgent from the important•  Peace of mind: 6 months of savings
  58. 58. Make a List ofEVERYONE YOU KNOW Then call them and ask if they need your services or can refer you to someone who does. You must be able to describe your offering in a sentence (this is often hard).
  59. 59. Leaving The Perfect VOICEMAIL “Hi Julie, this is Shane. I have a question for you! Can you give me a call at 555-555-5555? Then you HANG UP. 90% return call success rate. Guess what they ask you when they call? Exactly, so have the question ready!
  60. 60. Presentation MattersBE PROFESSIONAL Don’t work in your PJs or ignore basic grooming; Don’t email clients from “”; Don’t use Clip Art in your invoices; Don’t refuse to turn on video if they request a “face to face”; Don’t say stupid sh*t on Facebook / Twitter;
  61. 61. WE vs I Unless you are The Hulk, don’t use the wrong pronoun! Be transparent.
  62. 62. TRY SUBCONTRACTING [HINT]Agencies have clients and often need talent. Ping us at !
  63. 63. Sell When YouNEED IT LEASTSales takes time. If you wait until you are hungry to plant your garden, you will starve.
  64. 64. WHAT’S IN A CONTRACT?Scope ° Time ° Budget ° Terms
  65. 65. There is no such thing as aFIXED SCOPE I have yet to have a project that does not change as we work on it. This has proven true in construction projects in real estate as well as software & hardware. The act of creation is the act of exploration.
  66. 66. GET IT IN WRITING A handshake is a contract. Odds are, though, that you just shook on two different things. The effort of writing a contract encourages clarity.
  67. 67. It doesn’t matter what it says, if they don’tUNDERSTAND Legalese is for lawyers, not people. Write plain English contracts. The best way to avoid problems down the line is clarity up front.
  68. 68. GET A DOWN-PAYMENTNothing is lamer than risking your life to save the princess, only to find out she won’t pay up.
  69. 69. Contract TemplatesClient Contract: Services Agreement:
  70. 70. REVIEW: YOUR FIRST CLIENT•  Make a list of everyone you know•  Talk to them (an email is not enough)•  Act like you actually own a business•  Using WE vs I•  Subcontracting works•  Sell early and often•  What goes into a contract: scope, time, budget & terms•  Fixed scope are like unicorns•  Get it in plain english with a deposit
  71. 71. You can do thisThe life that freelancing can offer is worth the hustle. A lot of us have succeeded and laid out clean patterns for success.
  72. 72. Pay attention to patterns Identify and focus on those work habits & business models which get your closer to your goals.
  73. 73. You are going to have to work This is your baby. Prepare yourself to engage actively.
  74. 74. You are in business. Act like it! Freelancing is business. You are now more than just a technician.Finances, strategic planning, sales are fundamental to your success.
  75. 75. Set yourself up to win Find the environment, support and consistency you will need to succeed fabulously.
  76. 76. If you could achieve one thing, seek toBe On Scope, Budget & Time
  77. 77. And in the famous words of Bobby McFerrinDon’t Worry, Be Happy
  78. 78. Are you a FULL TIME freelance web or mobile designer / developer < >
  79. 79. Shane Pearlman @justlikeair