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The first thing you need before launching yourself into the world of freelancing is a business plan; without it, you basically have no idea where you are going or likely to end up. It’s important for anyone starting up, but especially so if you are working in the creative sector. When you think you are ready to take the jump from working for someone else to being your own boss, make sure you think through the implications.
A strong plan
Your business plan doesn’t have to be highly detailed, but it does need to outline what services or products you want to provide, the research you have done to demonstrate there is a market for this and, above all, a sensible financial plan. When you are starting out, it is not always easy to determine your financial projections, so initially it pays to be cautious. That does not mean you can’t be optimistic, but if your projections are unrealistic you will have problems with cash flow and credibility with any investors that may be backing you.
Take the time to think things through, take advice where it’s offered, and develop a business structure right from the start that will help you trade effectively and efficiently. That structure, which you should revisit regularly, can help your freelance business to grow in the future.
Contracts and invoicing
It can’t be stated strongly enough that when you are freelancing as a creative you need to have a contract with your client or customer, because without one you can run into a lot of trouble. A contract specifies exactly what you are going to do in terms of services for the client or products for a customer, depending on which creative area you are working in.
It can be easier to draw up a contract for products than for services. You have a piece of hardware, for example, to sell, and through development and testing you know it will do what you say it will do. Your customer understands that and therefore in most cases the contract is relatively simple. If the customer is dissatisfied for a justifiable reason then you will have built in a refund mechanism, though you should take legal advice when drawing up any contract to protect both you and the customer.
When it comes to services, things can become trickier. If a client wants a website developed, for example, you need to be absolutely clear as to what is required. Clients often are not really sure exactly what they want and are liable to want to change things as the process evolves. This is where your contract is crucial; it outlines what you will do and how much time you expect it to take. You can allow for a certain number of revisions or a change of direction, but you need to specify how many revisions you will undertake for the contract you have drawn up, and what additional costs the client will have to meet if that is exceeded. If the brief has a major change, you need to ensure the contract covers you for the work you have already done, and then negotiate over a new contract.
Effective and timely invoicing is also crucial. When you are busy on the creative side, the administration can get overlooked. The good news is that you don’t have to spend the time designing your own invoices to send out – the online site Invoice Home will give you a printable invoice template that is simple to download, complete for your client and email, leaving you more time for your creative work.
If you never come up against a problem with a customer or client then you’ll be lucky, and that is where the contract comes in. Taking on work without one is tantamount to a client getting your work for free, whatever relationship you have. Some may be fine, but it’s not worth the risk. If you find yourself with a client problem, remain professional all the time in your discussions and negotiations. You may be seething internally, but present yourself as courteous and wanting to help solve the problem. It may not always work, but it is you that gains the moral advantage.
Always keep a close eye on your cash flow, make sure all your business records are up to date, take legal advice for contracts and you have a great opportunity to make your work as a creative freelance grow.