Who wouldn’t want to be his own boss, set his own hours, and sign contract templates for work with who he wishes? Freelancing sounds like a dream come true, and – for many – it is a huge improvement over long commutes and uninspired jobs with no hope of advancement.
Before you start thinking that it’s a simple process, however, it’s important to know that most freelancers aren’t able to quit their day job for some time. Others choose to keep their 9-5 for stability or benefits, and never really transition over to freelancing.
Can it be done? Of course. Here is what you need to do to be a thriving freelancer in today’s gig economy.
It can be hard to set boundaries when you work for yourself, and this advice may not seem healthy. But even if you’re very good about not doing project work on your birthday or keeping Sundays open for family, your mind will always be a little bit focused on work. That’s because daily life is excellent inspiration for the career you’re building.
Whether you get an “a-ha” moment in the shower that solves that critical user error or you bump into someone on the train who introduces you to an amazing new client, the edges of your work life will blur, and you should welcome this. Understand that opportunities happen all the time – and not just when you’re seated at your desk with your projects in front of you. Embrace these moments. They can make you more competitive and successful.
Understand that opportunities happen all the time – and not just when you’re seated at your desk with your projects in front of you.
Most successful freelancers keep a notebook, planner, or other brainstorming tool to jot down each and every idea as they happen. Most won’t turn out to be anything, but the good ones are not something you would have wanted to forget! Set an appointment each month to go through the ideas and pick the best ones for actionable next steps.
If you’re too shy, too proud, or too content, you may not make it as a freelancer. That’s because it’s largely about the “hustle.” You are there to sell a service and no one is just going to walk up to you and beg you to take their money. While you shouldn’t sound like an annoying MLM marketer who bugs their friends to buy things they don’t need, you should be looking at the following connections for possible work:
You’ll want to be sure that you approach each group of people with some strategies unique to them. (No begging for work through DMs to everyone you know on Facebook.) A simple update every few months saying “I’ve really enjoyed doing XYZ project for ABC company this year, and I’ve had some room open up on my calendar for similar work. If you’ve been considering this project, I’d be happy to send you a proposal!” is perfect.
One other way to get more work is by continually following up with current clients. Don’t let 2 months go by with radio silence. You can send a quick note asking how they are doing, or an email asking for testimonials, and if they have a need for some help with projects. Something like “I know you are usually very busy in Q4. Let me know how I can help!” will suffice.
There are a lot of freelance gurus out there with savvy tactics to finding work and staying competitive. There are also quite a few self-proclaimed experts who don’t really know much. This makes it especially important to moderate the time spent studying, learning, and being mentored. A good freelance role-model should be able to demonstrate what they’ve done (not just talk about it), and you should be able to pick up on the basics by reading what they offer for free.
That said, if you want to spend more for a course or mastermind group, that’s OK, too. Just understand that these learning groups can be a time suck. Many of the members spend much of their day scouting out tips to help them earn more quickly, but they rarely follow through and put the wisdom into practice.
Beginning freelancers should spend an hour putting their skills into practice for every hour they spend learning. In the beginning of your career, it’s vital to get out there, make yourself known, and pitch your services. You can’t do that if you’re always on webinars or coaching calls. Keep track of what you spend your time on every hour by making a timesheet. You won't regret it.
If you’ve never worked for yourself before, there can be quite the steep learning curve when it comes to finances. You’ll have the matter of taxes, for one, and it’s more important than ever to keep note of every dollar of income, as well as expenses. Keep meticulous records for taxes, and use tax planning software to estimate how much you’ll owe to the IRS each year. If you do end up owing a fair bit, it’s best to start paying estimated quarterly taxes as soon as you can. There is a hefty penalty for tax underpayment after the first year.
You’ll also need to be tracking the money coming in. Clients’ payment terms can be all over the place; some will send you an electronic funds transfer after just 2 weeks of invoicing, while others can wait 90 days or more before mailing a check. Note that it’s best to set favorable terms in the proposal phase of your relationship, but if it’s not up to you, the best thing you can do is watch those payment dates with a careful eye. Send reminders, as needed and take full advantage of a professional invoice service, such as the one offered by Bonsai.
It’s also vital to watch expenses. It’s amazing how much service fees can add up. From your custom domain to app-building software, all those monthly charges eat into your profit. Buy only what you’ll need when starting out, and if you have to purchase something special for a client, see if you can get on a monthly service plan. Annual plans are cheaper per month, but only a good buy if you’ll be a long-time customer.
Like most businesses, freelancing usually starts with a business plan. If you don’t have one of those, a simple statement of what you want to focus on, the services you’ll offer, and your pricing model will do. Put it down on a piece of paper, keep it somewhere handy, and refer to it often when you work.
If you get approached to do something that goes outside of that plan, it may be a bad opportunity. It may also mean that you need to change your plan. As you grow, you may decide to charge more, narrow your service offerings, or serve a different niche. All are appropriate changes, provided you keep the things that makes your business special (also known as you “brand”).
You should review your business plan at least once a year; many freelancers do this as part of a New Year’s ritual or at tax time. If you want, you can also do a review when there’s a change in the market that necessitates it or an opportunity that’s too good to pass up. It’s just important that you don’t rely on the same stale plan year after year. The world will change, and so will your clients.
There is no definite strategy that will work for every freelancer, but the above tips will build consistency and common-sense into your business.
If you’ve never worked on your own before, the sudden freedom and promise of opportunity can make it hard to focus. Treat your day like every hour is worth something, and you’ll find it easier to employ the strategies that successful freelancers swear by.
**Looking for a freelancer solution designed to help you do more? Sign up for Bonsai's free 15-day trial to send winning proposals to your clients, create bulletproof contracts, and get paid on time!**
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?