By 2020 it’s expected that one in two UK and US citizens will be working on a freelance basis. The competition for work among freelancers and startups is increasing by the day.
And if trends during the last economic downturn are anything to go by and the UK’s exit from the EU does bring about an economic lull, it is likely that we’ll see an even more rapid increase in freelancers.
Now more than ever the solopreneur and independent contractor has to have an edge. Part of this will come from doing grinding administrative work as efficiently as possible.
Here are three top tips to ensure you succeed:
1. Use the cloud for contractor accounting
One essential no contractor should go without is cloud based software. It keeps everything in one place. This is especially important when it comes to a contractor’s accounts.
Keeping track of payments, bills and client information is key whether you’re working from home or a rented office.
Specialist accountants to contractors, 3 Wise Bears recommend the use of software like FreeAgent and Xero. Tools like this can allow you to update accounts on the go and thus make quick fire decisions. Having financial foresight is so important when working independently, as you always need a safety net, and thus being able to have instant access to information can help save the day regularly. Your clients will also be able to view their bills online, making it easy for you both to check payments have been made.
2. Don’t forget tried and tested marketing: mailing lists & cold calls
Online marketing can be the most efficient way to drum up new business when you’re first starting out. However, freelance contractors often overlook certain marketing opportunities that are seen as time consuming or a bit dated, like email marketing, flyering and cold calling.
Once you have a few clients, or if you are looking to start building connections, email marketing can be a good place to start. Especially if you work in B2B industries, mailing lists specialists Electric Marketing recommend that you send an email with fresh research you’ve done or new findings that would be useful to them. Avoid simply selling. Building connections by sharing information is still organic and gives you both added value.
Similarly, don’t be afraid of cold calling companies where you think your services would be useful. Always start with helpful advice and avoid telling them they are doing something wrong. Criticism should only come from someone with a strong reputation or in depth knowledge. If nothing else, get on someone’s books should they need your details in the future. If possible, follow up with an email to summarise your call. This will also help you build a mailing list for future advertorial use.
3. Use time management & task tracking tools
Discipline is everything and time management tools can help exponentially increase productivity. Even more so in the freelance world, time is money. Once the calls and clients start coming in, you need to be on top of your time and task management or they’ll quickly disappear.
There are so many good time management tools out there it’s almost a crime not to use them. This isn’t just about having your work and personal calendars synced or keeping tidy files (online or not). It’s making you day to day duties as simple as possible so you have more time to earn your income.
The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to not get bogged down in boring or difficult tasks. Using their Pomodoro timer, or your own, limit tasks to a set time. Pomodoro suggests 25 mins. Always factor in breaks too. This will help you to shift smaller tasks faster.
Keeping track of clients and projects in their stages and the tasks you need to do for them can be difficult if you’re relying on a notebook, even if it’s dated. Two tools with great free versions: Trello and Asana, allow you to list and complete tasks, grouping them how you like, even sharing certain information with your clients if you want. They also look great, with neat, clean designs and Asana comes with a “celebration” feature to lift your spirit each time you complete a task.