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Bend business networking to your will

When you’re just starting out (and even when you aren’t) you’ll probably hear a lot of generic business advice. One bromide is the suggestion that you should “network with people.”

Here’s the thing: networking can mean a lot of things, many of which aren’t all that productive or may simply not be your strength.

Personally, I don’t like to “network” in the traditional sense of going out to business events, mixers, and – if I’m being entirely forthright – coffees or lunches with strangers.

I’m an introvert. It’s nerve-wracking and exhausting for me. But I do like to connect and to find ways to be helpful and supportive to those I encounter.

I’ve had to find ways that work for me as well as are effective for my business goals and activities.

Fortunately, along the way I’ve also discovered strengths and capacity that I didn’t realize I had in me. This has come from experimenting and pushing myself outside my comfort zone.

My point is threefold:

  • Learn from others and consider their input (if it’s informed), but don’t assume following convention is a requisite
  • Ultimately do what fits into your personal strengths and your business needs
  • Don’t overlook things that seem potentially attractive – but currently lie outside your comfort zone – because things change 🙂
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Linked

FreshBooks studies impact of invoice terms on timing of client payments

Daniel Reiter for the FreshBooks blog writes:

We wanted to understand if there are any patterns to getting paid faster, so the FreshBooks Data Analytics team did some digging into what FreshBooks customers use as invoice payment terms in 2019, and what the impact of those terms have on client payments.

Turns out if you give your clients more time to pay, they’ll take it: Putting “30 Days” in your payment terms has lower time-to-paid percentages than the “All Invoices” column.

One of the most glaring takeaways is that asking for payment sooner will get you paid sooner.

Imagine that.

Also:

Your key takeaway to [getting] paid faster is to ask for payment within 7 days and start charging interest on unpaid invoices. Throw in a “Thank You” and you’ve got your bases (and your client relationships) covered!

Use Your Payment Terms to Get Paid Faster

Regardless of your billed revenue, as a solo consultant (or small firm) you are only as viable of a business as your liquidity.

Your business will die – even it bills out a billion dollars – if it doesn’t collect it fast enough to pay your own bills and your own salary.

I’ve been pestering anyone who will listen about this sort of thing for years (e.g. here).

Invoicing and collecting on your accounts receivable is generally not an exciting topic for most business owners. But cash flow is the blood flow of your business. When you think of it that way, perhaps it’s worth an afternoon or two of tweaking.

My suggestion for invoices:

“Due upon receipt. 1.5% per month financing charge applicable if not paid within 7 days. Don’t hesitate to let me know if any concerns or issues. Thank you!”

(Check your local laws; I’m told that many states regulate what the maximum annualized late payment interest percentage can be. Mine works out to 18%. If unsure, remember I’m not providing legal advice. A safe bet might be to see what your local utility companies have in their fine print and match it).

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The value of price objections

If your fees are not being objected to occasionally than you are probably under-pricing your services.

On the other hand, if you fees are being objected to frequently, you need to dig a bit deeper to troubleshoot the cause.

It could be your positioning, lead generation pipeline, sales process, proposal approach, work quality, reputation, marketplace perception, client/consultant risk assumption, or return on investment.

Whew, that’s a long list!

It could be you have ridiculous pricing, but it’s more likely to be one of the other things routinely shorthanded as “price.”

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How do you handle opportunities outside your core focus?

Never accept work that is outside your core focus without disclosing that upfront to the client.

This is different from work that is within your wheelhouse, but because of constant technology changes you may know you’ll need to refresh your knowledge of (and even expand a bit throughout the engagement).

Is the line always clear? Absolutely not.

It’s up to you to decide what is within your core focus, wheelhouse, capabilities, and present capacity. And it’s also your prerogative to accept the proposed work if, after your disclosure, the client insists they’d prefer you to proceed.

Either way, be transparent and make peace with the decision: it’s entirely up to you.

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Linked

It was time to make a change – Becoming a Freelancer

Dan Spratling writes on DEV Community about their just two week old freelancing adventure:

I’ve been struggling to thrive in corporate environments for a while. Lots of meetings, very little team-play, or having poor leadership. Some of the workplaces I’d been in had been toxic, others just couldn’t accommodate the growth I was capable of. Whether big or small, I’d been held back working for other businesses and I’d had enough.

It was time to take back control.

I started researching, as we all do when making a life-changing decision (I hope!). I gathered as much information as I could, looking for ways to make a living as a freelancer. Many of my friends had been freelance at some point so I asked them for help, either by asking for advice or through referrals.

Becoming a Freelancer – DEV

Great tips for aspiring or existing freelancers in this post from new freelancer Dan Spratling, a UX consultant and website specialist, who I came across recently on Twitter. A lot of folks starting out are afraid to commit to avoiding hourly billing, insisting on upfront payment collection, and ongoing marketing. Dan is farther along than I was when I started out. 🙂

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Linked

Prospecting: The Freelance Habit You Didn’t Know You Needed

Megan shrewdly writes on the BlackFreelance blog:

One thing I will give employment credit for…it does package up work nice and neat. That’s what keeps people hooked.

That’s what keeps people running back…work just sitting there waiting for you without you having to think about where it comes from. It’s the hardest thing to walk away from.

That little fact right there? Is why freelancers who are serious about their businesses really have to focus on making a mental shift when it comes to getting work, and that’s why today, we’re gonna talk about prospecting.

First off I want to be clear about something…anyone who wants to build a sustainable freelance business that adds actual value in their life? They’re going to have to think about prospecting. BUT…it’s something you develop over time, so if you’re bad at it, scared of it, or have no idea what it is, that’s fine and totally normal. You’ve got time to up your prospecting game.

Prospecting: The Freelance Habit You Didn’t Know You Needed – BlackFreelance –

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Self-Employed? Here’s How You Can Apply for a PPP Loan Too.

Dan Biewener writes on the Fundbox blog:

If you are self-employed — as a sole proprietor or independent contractor with no employees — you may still be able to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan until August 8, 2020. Don’t let the “paycheck” in the name fool you into thinking you wouldn’t qualify for this forgivable loan. In fact, since you don’t have staff headcount, payroll, and benefits to calculate, your application process (for the loan and later for forgiveness) should be much simpler.

In essence, even as a sole proprietor, the PPP loan can provide you with funds equivalent to 2.5 months of net earnings you would have made — if it weren’t for the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic — based on a comparative period from 2019 (or the first 2.5 months of 2020 if your business began this year).

You can also use a portion of this loan to cover some operational expenses for your business (like business-related rent, utilities, or interest payments on a mortgage or other business loans). However, if you want to qualify for loan forgiveness, these operational expenses can only account for up to 40% of your total loan amount.

Self-Employed? Here’s How You Can Apply for a PPP Loan Too. | Fundbox Blog

Going through the detailed list in the post, it actually doesn’t look terribly painful to apply for. And worst case: it’s a cheap (1%) five year or ten year term loan (if you end up not qualifying for 100% forgiveness). Well, actually worst case is that you really need it and don’t get approved, but the point remains …

I haven’t done this, so I can’t give a firsthand perspective. I suspect a few folks, however, may find this information useful. There’s no shame in applying if you need it. And if you need it you need it.

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Linked

“I’m too old for this”: valid concern, or not?

Corinne McKay writes on her blog about freelancers that are concerned they’re “too old”:

Does your brain still work?

“I’m too old for this”: valid concern, or not? – Training for Translators

I love how simply Corinne responds to this question.

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Linked

What Few Consultants Deliver That Every Client Wants

Merilee Kern interviewed David Fields for Innovation Enterprise. It’s filled with lots of nice tidbits like this:

Fields contends that most consultants—particularly boutique firms—who don’t have enough clients believe they have a visibility problem; i.e., not enough prospects know about them. In fact, most of those consultants have an impact problem. They’re in front of enough prospects, but those prospects don’t care about what the consultant is offering. In contrast, successful consultants know how to ‘fish where the fish are,’ which means they focus their firms on issues clients are aware of and urgently want to solve. Amazingly, many consultants offer solutions the consultants think are important, without ever checking the market need.

What Few Consultants Deliver That Every Client Wants | Articles | Strategy | Innovation Enterprise
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Linked

Pricing Freelance Projects is Tough (But You Have Options)

Tom Hirst writes:

Pricing freelancing projects is tough. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Everything I’ve learned. A thread.

Pricing Freelance Projects | Tom Hirst

Tom started a quality Twitter thread about his experience pricing projects as a freelancer a couple weeks back. He has since posted it in article form on his blog.