This story originally appeared on Skillcrush
The life of a freelancer is one of flexibility and freedom. You can set your own hours, choose your own clients and be your own boss. And with all of the perks of working remotely that come from a freelance tech career — benefits like not having to miss school concerts or be chained to a desk for the same block of time every day — it’s easy to see why so many people are opening their own businesses. A 2014 study by the Freelancers’ Union found that 34 percent of the workforce was comprised of freelancers. That’s 53 million people, a number that I’d wager has only grown in the past three years.
But no job is perfect, and freelancing poses its own unique set of challenges. Freelancers face pervasive stereotypes — those preconceived notions that CEOs and potential clients might hold about contract employees — that can keep you from getting treated fairly. Here are three major myths you might have to tackle in order to convince your client that hiring freelance workers is truly worth it, and how you can nip them in the bud.
Myth #1: Freelancers are less skilled than full-time employees, and therefore deserve less money.
Freelancing is not a “Plan B” — it’s a conscious choice. And deciding to freelance reflects not a bit on the quality of our work. In fact, I’ll venture that successful freelancers are among the best at what they do, precisely because they are always in competition with other people on the market and have to let their work speak for itself.
The idea that freelancers are a “cheaper” option for employers is complicated: Businesses looking to outsource to contract employees do so in part to save money on expenses like employment taxes, health care, pensions and other benefits. But the flip side of that coin is that freelancers themselves often have to make up those costs — paying for health insurance themselves, saving for retirement on their own, hiring an accountant to manage their work income and more.
How to prove you’re a badass who’s worth every penny:
- Invest time, energy and even a little capital, in an amazing portfolio website. Your portfolio is how you sell yourself and shows that you can deliver beautiful work and measurable results. Write an About Page on your site that establishes your credibility (or hire a copywriter to create the content for you), and actively participate and promote your work on professional sites like LinkedIn and Behance.
- Charge a reasonable rate that not only pays you a decent salary but covers your costs. A good rule of thumb is to research appropriate freelance rates for your field, start at the lower end, and then raise your prices at regular intervals. When you find your first potential client who balks? You’re probably right where you should be.
- If you do have someone who tries to negotiate your rate, seriously consider how much you’re willing to bend — and don’t take less than you’re worth. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “You know, as a small business owner, I understand your concerns about costs but I’m going to have to hold firm.”
Myth #2: Freelancers are lazy and unresponsive. They’re lounging in their underwear playing video games instead of returning your emails.
As a former freelancer, all I can say to this line of thinking is I WISH. Even if you’re only freelancing part time while you work at another job or go to school, they don’t call it a “side hustle” for nothing. And if it’s your only hustle, you’re hustling for sure.
Make no mistake: Freelancing is hard work, and while your billable hours might not add up to 40 hours a week, the total time you spend on your business likely goes above and beyond. There’s invoicing and estimating projects and writing contracts and responding to emails. There’s adding new projects to your portfolio and chasing late payments and finding places to post your services. It’s no joke, and these are all prime reasons to make sure your rates are set at a place that allows you to do the important work of running a business, and be compensated fairly.
That said, when freelancers work remotely and a client can’t reach them right away, it’s understandable that they’ll get skittish. There are far too many horror stories (and Judge Judy episodes) involving service providers who take a client’s money and run. Luckily, there’s a simple solution.
How to ease a client’s fear that all freelancers are flakes: Practice clear, frequent, and professional communication and get references from happy clients.
I assumed many habits to show my clients that they should have faith in me. I responded to every single email within 24 hours. I was cognizant of client deadlines and guaranteed that I’d meet them in the contract. If I was planning to be “out of the office” (away from my computer), I activated my autoresponder in my email. I gave clients some lead time when I knew I’d be out of town. This sort of communication — and accountability — was essential for clients to believe they could trust me. And the great thing about trust is that it leads to repeat business, glowing testimonials and referrals to client’s networks.
Myth #3: Freelancers have to make the client happy — at all costs.
Some clients relish the old proverb about the customer always being right… and they can use that thinking to try to manipulate — and even abuse — the client-freelancer relationship. This often stems from the fact that these clients view “freelancing” as another word for “unemployed” — and they’re willing to do everything they can to take advantage of another desperate, out-of-work loser.
Yet according to the Freelancers’ Union survey: “Three times as many freelancers expect to work more hours (38 percent) as expect to work fewer (12 percent)” in the upcoming year. And 77 percent of freelancers report that “they make the same or more money than they did before they started freelancing….In fact, more than four in ten (42 perecent) said they already make more than before they started freelancing.” This does not sound like desperation to me, and it definitely doesn’t sound like the majority of freelancers are out of work.
But lack of respect was the narrative I heard most when I asked my coworkers at Skillcrush for less-than-optimal freelancing stories. Sometimes that disrespect comes in the form of clients changing the requirements of the job (“scope creep”) after the work has already begun or even been completed. Skillcrush CEO and founder Adda Birnir shared this story about one of her early clients: “We’d redone their whole website design two or three times — a total overhaul against a fixed budget. These guys were literally changing the fundamental direction in each iteration and we were doing somersaults to try and please them. At one point my business partner looked at me and asked, ‘Do you think we can ever make them happy?’ and I just said, ‘No.’”
And sometimes that disrespect comes in other forms, like late payment or poor communication.
How to avoid being steamrolled by a pushy client: Build very firm boundaries, then shout them from the mountaintops.
In run of the mill situations like late payments, problems with clients can be prevented in the first place by putting all terms in writing, and all legit clients should be comfortable signing a contract before your work begins. A typical contract outlines payment terms, scope of work, deliverables, timing and more, and can help set clear expectations on both sides. (Not sure about writing your own contract? Try an online contract service like Bonsai.) And if problems do arise, being able to respond to silly requests with, “Well, it says in the contract…” is a fabulously non-confrontational way to wrangle clients who are trying to push the limits.
And if you just can’t agree with a client, sometimes a breakup is the only path forward. After realizing what was happening in her freelance business, Adda ended up firing the client who was taking advantage of her. “I really appreciate my business partner at the time for making us do it,” she recalls. “It was a rite of passage.”
In the end, in all client-freelancer relationships, sometimes it’s important to remember who your boss really is: yourself.
Unilever Turns Up the Heat on Facebook & Google Over Tech’s ‘Unintended Consequences’
Unilever has issued a stern warning to digital platforms including Facebook, Google, and YouTube: do more to improve transparency and clean up the “swamp” of fake news, exploitative, and socially divisive content, or be cut off from its multi-billion dollar digital advertising budget.
CMO Keith Weed recently spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting held in Palm Desert, Calif. CNBC quotes him as saying, “We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing.”
Two of the most important consequences being referred to include the threatening of safety of users, especially young children, and loss of trust by consumers and companies at large.
While it’s unlikely that Unilever will turn its back on the two largest digital platforms, Weed’s words matter because of the sheer amount of ad budget Unilever holds across its portfolio brands. MediaPost reports that in 2017, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing and advertising, a quarter of which went to digital.
Beyond the public denouncements, Unilever is also working with IBM to develop a blockchain with which the company can more effectively reduce ad fraud via a record of what media is purchased and how it is delivered.
A separate MediaPost article shares YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s response to Weeds comments on Monday. In her own statement at Recode’s Code Media conference, she assured,
“We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand.”
Recent efforts we’ve seen in support of this include significant updates to its Creator Program policy. Further, in light of the recent Logan Paul controversy involving a video in which a suicide victim was filmed inside a Japanese forest, the company has suspended running ads on his channel, per Ad Age.
While brand safety is a concern on the minds of many marketers, Unilever’s public comments this week indicate that brands are viewing the issue with a much broader lens, and seriously questioning the role these platforms play in people’s everyday lives, beyond the world of advertising. In this important cultural moment, people are looking to brands and platforms to assume responsibility and be proactive to keep their spaces safe, trustworthy, and suitable for communities.
To further explore the overarching question of how technology, including digital platform giants, can be used to bring us closer together versus further apart, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.
Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants
Facebook has made several important announcements as of late the support its mission to create more “meaningful communities.” The latest? Investment in a newly announced Community Leadership program designed to support its community-building leaders through a variety of residency and fellowship opportunities that offer training, support, and funding.
Here’s how it will work: Facebook will name five “community leaders in residence” and provide up to $1 million each to fund their proposals, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to attend a customized leadership development training session.
Moreover, Facebook will select 100 individuals to join its fellowship program and receive up to $50,000 each for a “specific community initiative.” They’ll also participate in four in-person gatherings during which they will have the chance to meet and collaborate with other fellows.
Another key initiative in the works? Expanding Facebook’s “engineering team for community safety,” which is headquartered in London. In particular, the company hopes to double the number of employees focused on such efforts including detecting and stopping fake accounts, protecting people from harm (e.g harassment and scams), and making it easier to report content, by the end of 2018.
Further, Facebook outlined new tools for group admins, including page personalization options (e.g. color and the ability to pin announcements to the top of the page), the ability to create and share group rules; and more features to monitor Group Insights.
Outside of its Communities Summit, but along the theme of ensuring time on the platform is time well spent, the company also confirmed last week it was testing a downvote button that would allow users to provide feedback on comments in particular. The downvote button is being tested within a limited group of U.S. users for the time being.
This is not to be confused with a “dislike” button, but rather a more “lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading”—this according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in TechCrunch.
Here is what the button looks like in action:
As the screenshot depicts, the user will have the ability to select whether the post was found to be “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic,” the choices aimed to help guide Facebook’s course of action with respect to the particular piece of feedback.
Forbes adds that, the downvote option in its test mode only applies to public posts as opposed to Group posts or the Pages of public figures. It also doesn’t affect the ranking of the post and the number of downvotes a post gets won’t be publicly shared.
These initiatives by Facebook to reverse some of the negative perceptions of its role in society come at a critical time as brands and citizens alike are putting more and more pressure on the world’s leading tech platforms to course-correct their products for the safety of their users. Just this week, Unilever threatened to yank ad dollars from Facebook and Google due to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with their overall impact on society.
“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” stated Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, to the BBC.
Learn about Facebook’s increasingly complex role in society by joining SMWNYC April 24-27. The conference will offer multiple sessions designed to explore where brands and platforms fit into tech’s future in our world. Register today to secure your pass.
5 Ways Cryptocurrency Can Help Entrepreneurs in 2018
Cryptocurrency has revolutionized the way we transact value, invest our savings and raise capital with its decentralised digital cash system. Blockchain technology is a once-in-a-lifetime invention; never before in history have we been presented with such a breakthrough in financial technology. In 2018, entrepreneurs are well positioned to become early adopters of blockchain technology.
1. Raising capital
Cryptocurrency has disrupted the way early stage companies raise capital. With initial coin offerings, startups around the world can raise money quickly and cheaply from a wide pool of global investors. The valuation of a company is almost immediately reflected by the market, a process that has traditionally been challenging for early stage businesses. Shares are issued as tokens and tradable almost immediately, bringing large amounts of liquidity to the company.
This new approach to raising capital has changed the world and enabled the best technical talent to build their companies at high speed. In 2014, a teenager from Canada called Vitalik Buterin raised money for his startup, Ethereum, through an initial coin offering. He wanted to improve on Bitcoin’s blockchain and create a platform for people to build unstoppable applications. With just a whitepaper and a vision, he was able to successfully raise $18 million for his new blockchain, which was valued at over $100 billion as of January 2018.
2. Transacting value
Cryptocurrency enables us to transact value between peers without a centralized authority. It provides a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative to traditional payment networks. As a company, accepting cryptocurrency payments is becoming increasingly efficient, saving on fees and bringing faster settlement. Soon, startups will no longer need to go through the long process of setting up a business bank account to receive and distribute funds. In 2014, Overstock.com became the first retailer to accept bitcoin, receiving over 800 orders worth $126,000 in bitcoin in the first 22 hours. It has since amassed a $403,000 portfolio of cryptocurrency.
3. Investing for the future
For entrepreneurs, cryptocurrency may be the investment opportunity of a lifetime. Never before in history have retail investors had investment access to high growth early stage companies. Traditionally, venture capital funds and private angel investors have held monopolies on access to investment in the world’s best technical talent. Cryptocurrency provides a gateway for anyone in the world to invest in the world’s most exciting technology, allowing retail investors to own a basket of high growth companies. For example, through the decentralized method of blockchain investment, teenager Erik Finnman was able to invest in Bitcoin in 2011, becoming a Bitcoin millionaire at age 18. These types of investment stories would not be possible with traditional private venture capital fundraising.
4. Developing on the blockchain
The blockchain offers powerful infrastructure for companies to run their technology and create entirely new business models in a trusted way without a centralized authority. Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the way startups create value. The Ethereum platform allows companies to build unstoppable blockchain applications quickly and for free. One example of a company leveraging the Ethereum blockchain is OmiseGO, a payments company that is using blockchain to provide banking services for the world’s 2 billion unbanked population. Blockchain technology is a cost-efficient way of building decentralized applications that can scale to a global population.
5. Joining the blockchain community
The blockchain community offers access to some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, who are actively investing, advising and building upon the blockchain. Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, Slack and WhatsApp groups have proved popular in building communities of decentralized blockchain investors who can communicate with each other on a daily basis. Many large investments in early stage technology companies can be coordinated within minutes, a process that would traditionally take months in traditional venture capital. For example, in 2017, Brave’s Basic Attention Token sale sold out of its $35 million offering within 30 seconds. The blockchain community offers a strong sense of purpose with all members committed to a common goal of advancing blockchain technology to global adoption.
Cryptocurrency provides a platform for entrepreneurs to raise capital quickly, cheaply and efficiently. Entrepreneurs can transact value through the blockchain at high speed with limited setup costs and invest in high growth technology companies at an early stage. Platforms like Ethereum allow entrepreneurs to build decentralized applications to a global audience for free. The blockchain community offers access to some of the top entrepreneurs, engineers and investors in the world and in 2018, cryptocurrency will continue to provide a viable means for entrepreneurs to create value in the world.
7 Ways to Get Recruiters and Job Offers to Come to You
“You are your own brand, and you need to build that brand and promote it as much as possible. It is important that you start building your brand online, because this is where employers are going to be looking for potential employees,” suggests Dima Midon, an expert from TrafficBox. Use all of the online tools at your disposal, particularly LinkedIn, which is a professional network that allows you to really promote yourself as a professional, and someone who is an expert in your field. This is a great tool for job seekers. Make sure that you keep your profile up to date, especially when it comes to contact information, so when an employer searches you, they will be able to contact you if they are interested in learning more.
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