This is being posted a little late but I think it is best to start off with the review of my first month in business.
My first month of freelancing was a typical honeymoon period that most freelancers go though. Usually they had some change to their life and as a response they jump into freelancing. This change could be leaving a job, an opportunity offered to them from an acquaintance, or a personal change in their family. In my case it was an out of state move.
Right after moving I jumped into my first month of business by getting four contacts for some small programs my previous employer needed. At this point I didn’t have a website, business email address, or even a company name picked out. These small contracts basically gave me the seed capital to get all of legal and government paperwork done.
Some lessons I learned from this month:
Time based fees don’t feel right. I billed based on the amount of time I put into each project but it felt awkward. Your client wants fast work so they don’t have to pay as much and get the software sooner but you want to clock more time so you get paid more. I feel it’s a no win situation for either of you and could start to strain the relationship.
Get help if you lack knowledge in an area of your business. You can educate yourself or hire an expert but try to learn at least the fundamentals. That way the expert and you can communicate easier and you are able better prepared to review the experts services.
In my case I was weak in marketing so all the marketing I did was so unfocused it would have been better to not do anything at all. Since I don’t know any marketers, I used Amazon.com and my local library to read up on what the experts are writing about.
A little planning can go a long way. Try to take some time to plan out your day, week, month, and year. This can be as simple as writing down what you want to accomplish and reviewing it later.
Planning out the market I want to focus on has helped me target my writing and marketing. Taking ten minutes the night before and writing down some tasks I want to accomplish helps me focus the next day and not get distracted by being at home.
Overall, the month ended on a good note. I make a lot of little mistakes, learned a lot, and got on track to succeed.
If you’re not comfortable billing by the hour, but don’t want to get into the hassle of change management (and on small projects, change management can eat up more time than just doing the work requested), then consider giving the client a “budgetary estimate” for the work requested and then bill by the hour for the actual work performed. That way, you’ve made the client aware of the costs involved in what they’re asking and you also don’t have to then track your change requests so closely in order to keep every project profitable.
Welcome to the freelance club!
@Andy: That’s a good option, especially for the smaller projects.
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