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Managing as a freelance
technical communicator
Alison Peck
TAKING
THE
PLUNGE
When it all started…
 Summer 2004 – spate of redundancies
 October 2004 – relocation not an option
BUT
 Children had le...
Did I do a business plan?
 A very basic one, yes
 No borrowing required
 Minimal capital outlay
 Free marketing (exist...
Emergency fund
 What happens if you
don‟t find work?
 The client goes bust?
 You‟re ill?
Where do you want to be…
 … next year?
 … in 5 years?
 … in 10 years?

There will be detours
along the way…
but don‟t g...
GETTING
WORK
First contact
 I‟ve had an enquiry!
 Do I have the skill-set?
 Do I have the capacity?
 Do I have the software?

 And...
What do they want?
 High-level stuff:
 Are they looking for another pair of hands?
 Some suggestions?
 A fully managed...
Legal issues…
 Legal status:
 Sole trader or limited company?

 Terms and conditions… yours or theirs?
 If you don‟t l...
Estimating/quoting
 Be precise in your quote!
 Who pays for re-work?
 Under what circumstances?
 What about expenses?
...
Big issues for me…
 What is this going to cost me…






Equipment
Training
Time with my family
Reputation
Stress

...
Big issues for the client…
 Are they ready for me?
 Are they giving me „make work‟ tasks?
 Do they know what their prio...
What are the implications?
 I have:
 Many concurrent clients
 More than one project/product per client
 Numerous deadl...
The plan…
150

125
100
Project 3
Project 2
Project 1

75
50
25
0
Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4
The reality…
150

125
100
Project 3
Project 2
Project 1

75
50
25
0
Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4
Can we minimise the risk?





Have incremental deadlines (drip-feed)
Share when something is time-critical
Don‟t assu...
Who’s in charge?
 Named point of contact
 Responsibility can be delegated
… but not too far down the chain

 If it‟s ob...
Why use freelances?
Advantages

 Fill short-term need (skillgap, capacity)

Disadvantages
 May not be aware of
history w...
BUSINESS
AS USUAL
Everyday issues
 Work–life balance
 Delegate when it makes sense

 Cash flow
 Motivation
 Learning curve can be steep
Getting bigger
 Became an employer on 9 July 2012
 This has changed a lot:





Type of projects we can undertake
Ca...
What would I do differently?
 Set a more realistic rate for my services (need to
keep working on this one!)
 Have a clea...
Any questions…?
Contact
 alison@clearly-stated.co.uk
 www.clearly-stated.co.uk
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TCUK 2013 - Managing as a freelance technical communicator

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Managing as a freelance technical communicator

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TCUK 2013 - Managing as a freelance technical communicator

  1. 1. Managing as a freelance technical communicator Alison Peck
  2. 2. TAKING THE PLUNGE
  3. 3. When it all started…  Summer 2004 – spate of redundancies  October 2004 – relocation not an option BUT  Children had left home – space in house  No mortgage – so less financial pressure  Already had basic equipment  November 2004 – Clearly Stated was born … the start of an adventure!
  4. 4. Did I do a business plan?  A very basic one, yes  No borrowing required  Minimal capital outlay  Free marketing (existing network)  Calculated:  Average earnings required to maintain standard of living  How long till first job before panicking  Was that enough?
  5. 5. Emergency fund  What happens if you don‟t find work?  The client goes bust?  You‟re ill?
  6. 6. Where do you want to be…  … next year?  … in 5 years?  … in 10 years? There will be detours along the way… but don‟t get lost!
  7. 7. GETTING WORK
  8. 8. First contact  I‟ve had an enquiry!  Do I have the skill-set?  Do I have the capacity?  Do I have the software?  And also…  Is it interesting work?  Have I worked with them before?  How did they hear of me?
  9. 9. What do they want?  High-level stuff:  Are they looking for another pair of hands?  Some suggestions?  A fully managed project (consultancy)?  And does everyone know!  Low-level stuff:  What are they going to get?  What am I going to have to do to produce it?
  10. 10. Legal issues…  Legal status:  Sole trader or limited company?  Terms and conditions… yours or theirs?  If you don‟t like something, say so  Insurance:  Professional indemnity  Public liability  Business insurance
  11. 11. Estimating/quoting  Be precise in your quote!  Who pays for re-work?  Under what circumstances?  What about expenses?  Costing options:  Daily/hourly rate  Fixed price – my „internal‟ hourly rate  Range with a cap – security for both sides
  12. 12. Big issues for me…  What is this going to cost me…      Equipment Training Time with my family Reputation Stress  Do I want this work?
  13. 13. Big issues for the client…  Are they ready for me?  Are they giving me „make work‟ tasks?  Do they know what their priorities are?  How realistic are the timescales?  Would they be better with a contractor?  More expensive – paid when not needed  Readily available – not doing anything else
  14. 14. What are the implications?  I have:  Many concurrent clients  More than one project/product per client  Numerous deadlines…  Can work flexibly, switching between projects – usually more economical  Changes and delays cause clashes not on the client‟s project plan!
  15. 15. The plan… 150 125 100 Project 3 Project 2 Project 1 75 50 25 0 Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
  16. 16. The reality… 150 125 100 Project 3 Project 2 Project 1 75 50 25 0 Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
  17. 17. Can we minimise the risk?     Have incremental deadlines (drip-feed) Share when something is time-critical Don‟t assume that people are doing nothing else Co-ordinate/collate review comments when possible  Ask what would help if deadlines are tight
  18. 18. Who’s in charge?  Named point of contact  Responsibility can be delegated … but not too far down the chain  If it‟s obviously „wrong‟, question it
  19. 19. Why use freelances? Advantages  Fill short-term need (skillgap, capacity) Disadvantages  May not be aware of history with project  Wide range of experience  Initially not aware of corporate culture  Fresh pair of eyes, new ideas  Unsure of boundaries or status within project  Enthusiastic – not jaded  Out-of-sight can equal out-of-mind
  20. 20. BUSINESS AS USUAL
  21. 21. Everyday issues  Work–life balance  Delegate when it makes sense  Cash flow  Motivation  Learning curve can be steep
  22. 22. Getting bigger  Became an employer on 9 July 2012  This has changed a lot:     Type of projects we can undertake Capacity (not doubled, but increased) Complementary business skills Future of the business
  23. 23. What would I do differently?  Set a more realistic rate for my services (need to keep working on this one!)  Have a clear direction for my business from the beginning  Always find out who has decision-making authority for my client  Say “no” more often
  24. 24. Any questions…? Contact  alison@clearly-stated.co.uk  www.clearly-stated.co.uk

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