How To Set Up A Freelancer Website

As a new freelancer you’ll probably need a website to promote yourself and your freelance services. You might be wondering how to set up a freelancer website. You can easily spend days of your life Googling things and getting confused. As a freelance web designer, I’ve got you covered with these tips.

Self Hosted or Website Platform?

You can either get your own website, or you can use a website builder like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace etc. If you want to get up and running quickly, a website builder can be a great choice. Once you’re established, making money and need something more customisable you can look at setting up your own site or having one designed for you.

Domain Name

Whatever option you choose, you will need a domain name. You can choose your name, company name or a keyword domain like freelancedesigner.com to try and get some search engine traffic. There are hundreds of domain registrars – I’d recommend sticking with a reputable one as losing access to your domain could be fatal to your business.

I’ve used Namecheap as they are, well, cheap for the first year. After ten years of using various domain registrars for myself and clients, I mostly use LCN.com as you can ring them up and speak to someone if you have an issue. I can’t stand 123reg, 1and1 and Heart.

Your emails will be something@yourdomain.com so choose wisely and avoid domains that are difficult to spell or appear unprofessional.

Domain Name System (DNS) Settings

If you want your emails in one place (like Google Apps) and your website somewhere else, you’ll have to make changes to the DNS settings on your domain. It’s fairly straightforward to do the above but you may need to read their help files, call support or get a technical mate to help.

Self Hosted

Website Hosting

Once you’ve got a domain name you’ll need some website hosting which is where your website and emails (probably) live. You can redirect your domain name to this hosting from the control panel of your domain registrar.

Alternatively, you can buy your domain and hosting from the same company and you won’t have to do this step.

Website Software

There are lots of options and I recommend using WordPress. It’s free, easy to use and has millions of themes and plugins available (also mostly free, or cheap). Old installs of WordPress can be easy to hack, but it’s also easy to keep WordPress up to date.  Crap passwords are also a security risk, so use a solid password and get a password manager app like Lastpass or 1password.

Website Theme

If you’re just starting off, get a simple free WordPress theme from the approved directory and you can upgrade to a custom theme further down the line. Getting distracted and wasting time messing around with the visuals of your site will prevent you from getting online quickly, so focus on getting a simple site with good content out there first.

Without wanting to sound harsh, hardly anyone is going to see your site to start with so don’t get hung up on details at this point.

Recommended WordPress Plugins

Here are some plugins we always install – they are regularly updated and don’t upsell too aggressively (apart from Yoast, but it’s an awesome free plugin so I’ll let them off)

  • Analytify – Adds Google Analytics tracking code to your site along with nice dashboard widget showing an overview of your traffic
  • Contact Form 7 – Allows you to add easily contact forms to your site
  • Yoast SEO – Allows you to optimise each page on your site with an easy to follow traffic light system
  • Wordfence – Security plugin that protects your login page and alerts you to any changed files or other weird stuff happening on your site.

Website Builders – Wix, Weebly, Squarespace etc

If you’re using Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or one that comes with your website hosting, these website builders allow you to login, choose a theme and create pages. You are limited in what you can achieve, but these systems are a great way to get started quickly, especially if you’re not very technically inclined.

Content Is King

Your content is absolutely vital. Having the right tone that matches how you do business, focusing on the benefits to the client rather than waffling about yourself and making sure it’s free from errors are key points. Employing a copywriter and/or proofreader can be a fantastic investment and mean the difference between people leaving your site or getting in touch.

Regular updates are vital too, if you want to get the attention of search engines. Projects you’re working on, opinion pieces about your industry and client feedback can all be great content for your site.

Search Engine Setup

A new site is unlikely to immediately appear in search results for any competitive keyword. 

You’re up against established sites that have been marketing themselves for years and might have a team of experts working on improving their rankings.

If you want instant traffic, you may need to pay for advertising and get busy on social media. We’ll cover marketing in a future article – for now make sure your site is running Google Analytics and you’ve set it up in Google Search Console so you get a heads up of any technical issues that might be preventing search engines from picking up your content.

Freelancer Interview: Events manager, Nottingham

This week’s interview is with an experienced freelance event manager – some great tips here on client management and diversifying your income.

Who are you and what do you do?

Mostly, I run events, but I also sometimes do commissions making one off things for people and organisations. I started running events around 2006, but have been in the field I do them for since around 2000.

What led you to start freelancing?

My former boss! Suffice to say he did a lot of bad things, and I handed in my notice after a particularly appalling one. When I started not many people knew him. By the time I left, he’d built himself a very bad reputation and I needed to get away from him ASAP.

I hadn’t decided between freelancing or looking for another job, but got snapped up immediately on freelance terms by several organisations I’d met through the job. It’s been seven years, and there’ve been difficult patches, but since starting out I’ve never seriously craved a full time job.

What three things do you wish you’d known before starting out?

1. To not bother with guest lecturing. It’s a shame, but universities and colleges repeatedly lose paperwork, require you go on their PAYE system, or demand that a £250 invoice be resubmitted split into ten different budget lines. It’s not worth the hassle and if I did it now, it’d only ever be a favour to a friend.

2. To go higher on corporate day rates. No, higher than that. They won’t often blink at high day rates, but will have someone assigned to ask for a slight reduction on the total, then tick a box saying they got it. It seems to be an exercise for most people in that kind of work, not a difficult negotiation. It’s way easier than haggling with, say, small business owners or university commercial departments (the latter especially will fight tooth and nail over the smallest amounts).

3. Talking to TV production companies is a waste of time because most of them want you to work for free. They’ll try to dazzle you with celebrity names and big audience figures. A few have approached me for expertise in several fields, and not just as a talking head, actually wanting me to design and physically make stuff for them. Since wasting time on an actual meeting with one, I usually respond with something like “Sounds great, I’d love to help! [insert extremely quick initial thoughts on project] My day rates are…”. That’s more than boilerplate, so opens a way for anyone serious, but sees chancers off immediately.

What three issues have you had since starting up?

1. Cashflow

My field is quite seasonal, leading to slumps in midwinter and midsummer. I have to be careful, and sometimes come up with other income streams in the months before those periods. I’ve also put my rates up for certain jobs to give myself a bit more buffer for downtime.

2. Gossip and politics

Any given industry is smaller than you think, and in most jobs there’ll be some kind of office politics and a power structure to deal with. Freelancing is similar, but you’ll be entering many different organisations as an outsider, with little history or contextual awareness. This makes orientation challenging. Often you’re in a vulnerable position, but it can also give you some immunity too.

It can take a long time to learn which clients really have your back, and you’ll mostly have to watch your own. In some ways, being freelance can really help you figure this stuff out, as you can get multiple perspectives on things and triangulate. You’re less connected within a given organisation, but much more connected between such organisations than most of their employees.

Mostly people get on with the job, but occasionally someone makes a power play to become your new boss, or a client hires someone full time who then tries to sink you for whatever reason. It’s really worth finding the people who talk straight and want to reduce drama. Build relationships with them well before anything bad happens; they’re good at being in charge and solving problems.

3. Client scaling/changes/disasters:

Sometimes, something changes or goes wrong within a client organisation, and freelancers will be first on the chopping block. This was really hard for me to accept the first time it happened to a repeating yearly project. Now I build endings into my expectations for every project, even repeating ones, and even the longest client relationships. Not exactly detailed contingency plans, but at least some idea of what could be next. Nothing lasts forever, no matter how good it is or how loyal the client.

Flipping this, sometimes no matter how good you are, there’ll be clients who just can’t get it together or be good to work with. I’ve never fired a client halfway through a job, as I’m usually stubborn enough to finish difficult ones and fight my corner. There are a couple of clients I’ve fired immediately after though, and refused to work with again. You don’t have to be mean about this, just tell them you’re too busy. Nothing you say is likely to change their problem behaviour. Also, be honest but also fair to them if other freelance friends ask you about them.

What’s the best thing about freelancing?

There are loads!

My own schedule, travel, getting to decide what projects I want to do, getting to work with and learn about lots of different organisations, lie ins, building client relationships where we really understand and respect each other, being able to head out into the hills when I need to.

If I had to pick one, it would be the lie ins.

How would you like to develop your freelance career in the future?

I’d really like to develop some more income streams. I’ve done it before with physical products, but they were quite seasonal and took a lot of work to make. Tinkering with all the products and processes until the margin got bigger was fun, but after that point the actual production work can be quite tedious. I’ve also found with that specific project, I only seem to have the time and energy lined up to do it once every two years.

I’d like to try with a digital product because that’s more open to automation. Digital goods are something I get to look in on through other bits of my work. I don’t quite buy the hype on passive income streams, as most of the people you read on that seem to be talking guff or selling something. I’ve met a lot of people in my field who make a digital thing, whack it up on a storefront then expect it to just sell. Some of them get really bitter when it doesn’t. I also know people who’ve either had massive commercial successes, or at least got their bills paid for a while through moderate success.

Marketing is work, and I hate it, but almost nothing sells itself. It’s probably what I need to learn more about next.

Anything else you’d like to tell anyone thinking of or currently freelancing?

Day rates are really hard to figure out when you first start. There’s some limited information online, but the best thing you can do is talk to friends working in the same field. What I thought was a realistic and reasonable day rate when I first started out turned out to be a low mates rate for most of my freelance friends.

I know a few people starting out who’ve quoted for jobs then had the client ask them to charge more. These kind of people within client organisations are rare; if you find one, hold onto them and do the best work you can… within your scope and budget 🙂

Contracts for freelancers, associates or subcontractors

There’s much  to be thankful for as a freelancer, with all the freedoms and flexibility your status provides, but sometimes it’s easy to get carried away by this new found autonomy and forget to ensure that your contractual back is covered. Here’s our three top tips to ensure you stay protected and keep enjoying your work, and its benefits.

Are you legally a Freelancer, contractor or employee?

Check your status – this sounds simple, right? You’re a freelancer – what’s the issue? Unfortunately its not as simple as ‘I am as defined in the contract’ – if this position is challenged by HMRC checking that tax is being properly paid, or if your fellow freelancers want to challenge their status with the company that you work with. What you are called in your contract is no longer a definitive answer to this question. A recent case in the Supreme Court tested this, and the law has been clarified.

Your label is only part of the puzzle, what actually matters is what’s  happening ‘on the ground’ and how much control or instruction you are given by the party you work for. Typically these are the sorts of indicators that show true freelancer status:

  • You chose whether you come to work, and if you don’t, you are not paid.
  • You bring all the equipment and tools that you need to undertake your tasks.
  • You are not required to wear a uniform, or branded clothing.
  • Any vehicle you use is owned and insured by you,  and not provided by your work place
  • You could send someone to deputise for you in your absence , so long as they have the requisite skills or experience.
  • You are told what jobs to do, but not necessarily how to do them.
  • You are not paid for any absences, holidays, sick leave or parental leave.
  • You insure your own operations.
  • You work under a fixed term arrangement for a specified period of time less than 12 months in duration, or on a specified project or assignment, with breaks between any rolling repeat of these arrangements.

None of these indicators is definitive – anyone seeking to challenge your status would look at the position in the round, and take a view about whether you were sufficiently controlled and instructed to  qualify you as an employee – whatever your contract says.

Make sure your contract is clear about your status, who is responsible for paying tax and insurance to cover your work and that you have a right to substitute another worker if you are not available to provide the services. Take advice and be careful, not complacent.

You can check your tax status on the UK government website here

Copyright and Ownership of Materials

Who owns the rights to what you produce as a freelancer? Do you? Does the party to whom you provide services own everything or anything that you create? And can you use anything you create during the delivery of your services elsewhere? For another project? Another competitor?

These are all questions which arise around the ownership of intellectual property rights in any work that you undertake.

If you were an employee, the basic position would be that any Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) would accrue to your employer – in broad terms – but as a freelancer the position is less straightforward.

Get it clear in the contract, and ensure that if you are creating original materials, ideas, processes, or even goods that you have a potential IPR interest in, you know what you can use elsewhere or exploit outside the confines of the freelancer contract.

Making Payment Terms Clear

Getting paid – nobody likes to be taken for granted and if you have a late payer for your services it can feel like that,  and be a real challenge. Maybe your contract terms can help that?

Are you clear about what your payment terms  are? How many days after invoice are your fees due? Can you flex that timeline and shorten the period for persistent late payers? Is it in your contract, and is the right to vary it also there?

Can you down tools if you are not paid, until you are paid? Seems like a no-brainer – you’d be surprised! Unless your terms state so, this is not a given, and in fact could create liabilities for yourself if you stop work without that explicit right to do so, and the other party suffers a loss. Be careful!

Can you ask for money in advance under your terms? Particularly if you have had your hands burned, or the other party presents a bigger risk, or has a reputation?

Think about charges for late payment – some will impose an administration fee added if you are required to chase late payments, and you have the option of addition contractual or statutory interest on any late payment. Make sure your terms deal with this in line with your legitimate entitlements – and for further info you could look here…

https://www.gov.uk/late-commercial-payments-interest-debt-recovery

If you need further advice on any of these issues,  please contact us:

Heather Stanford, Managing Director of Stanford Gould Limited

heather@stanfordgould.co.uk

www.stanfordgould.co.uk 

Being A Reliable Freelancer

I’ve met and worked with a lot of freelancers over the ten years or so I’ve been in business. There are some clear reasons why some freelancers struggle in their careers and reliability is one of them. In this article I’ll talk about reliability and how this can improve your reputation, increase your profits and reduce your stress levels.

1. How Available Are You?

Many people start freelancing while still working at least part time. Depending on your offering and how you manage clients, not being available can be an issue. If you don’t have enough time to complete jobs in a reasonable schedule or are not available to be contacted for long periods this can cause you and the client problems. As well as existing clients getting frustrated with lack of contact, new clients may not be able to speak to you and go elsewhere.

There are ways around this however, for example setting expectations of when you can be contacted, or using a call handling service.

2. Are You Freelancing Long term?

Some people are freelancing for a short period between jobs, due to having kids or simply trying out the freelance life. It’s important to finish jobs you start, and many clients will want to work with you longer term if you do a good job. If you’re only temporary, it’s easy to leave jobs unfinished and suddenly disappear from the freelance scene if taking a full time position.

Obviously we don’t know how things are going to work out, but having a solid plan for a sustainable freelance business will reduce the chances of you having to go back to the 9-5.

It also pays to be honest with clients if you know you’re only doing this temporarily. They may choose to still use your services, or work with someone who will be around longer term. Getting a new freelancer up to speed with working methods, styles and processes can be a significant investment for clients.

3. Can You Deliver Results?

This is a key question. Can you do what you say you can do? It’s tempting to take on all kinds of work to pay the bills, but you should focus on what you can do best to make the best progress.

There’s room for a little bit of a stretch with new skills but don’t take on things that are way beyond your abilities. It will be stressful, you’ll probably get caught out and the client will not be happy with a shoddy result or one that takes a long time because you need to learn too many new things. The worst case scenario is that you fail hard and have to refund the client, wasting both your time and theirs and costing yourself that time multiplied by your hourly rate.

4. Can You Manage Your Own Time?

Part of delivering results is getting tasks done at the right times. Whether you’re contracting, working with a small team or delivering direct to your own clients the work needs to be done on time. Other tasks may depend on your work and this can be critical, depending on your industry.

Not delivering on time will quickly gain you a bad reputation so make sure you manage your time and also allow enough time for each task. It’s tempting to cram things into your schedule but things often happen to disrupt your plans so factor time for that in as well!

Summary

In this article we’ve covered a few areas where you can be a reliable freelancer: Being available now and in the future, delivering results and staying on schedule. Covering these points will improve your reputation, increase your profits due to repeat business and referrals and reduce your stress levels.

Freelancer Interview: Kerry Needs – Copywriter, Marketing Strategist and Author

This week’s interview is with freelance copywriter, marketing strategist and author Kerry Needs. Kerry has worked remotely as a freelancer and wrote the book ‘Freedom Seekers’ to help others follow her path.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Kerry, a freelance copywriter and marketing strategist. I’m originally from Nottingham and am based here, but I work 100% remotely so I like to travel a lot and work on the move! I’m also a writer and have published a book on remote work and lifestyle design, Freedom Seekers, as well as writing poetry and articles on Medium.

What led you to start freelancing?

I was never a fan of the office; staring at the same four walls has never inspired me as a creative person. I love to be in control of when and how I work, so I made the decision that I wanted to work for myself, remotely. I started in 2015 by testing out Elance (now Upwork). I set up a profile and did a few jobs – I found it pretty easy to make my first $1k, and so after that it made me realise that the ‘digital nomad’ dream I’d always had was achievable.
By coincidence, a friend of mine asked if anyone would like a remote job. I jumped at the chance, and worked for a design agency as a remote based project manager for around 9 months until I went freelance, working with online job sites and getting leads through Linkedin and word of mouth.

What three things do you wish you’d known before starting out?

– It’s a financial rollercoaster – be prepared! I wasn’t, and I think I took the hard route by not having enough saved up. I wanted it so badly that I sometimes worked all hours, applying to ten jobs a day, because the work had dried up. The work comes in cycles – sometimes lots, sometimes hardly anything, and you have to be prepared for that by having a big enough financial cushion. Especially when companies think they can take six weeks to pay you! Thankfully that doesn’t happen often.
– There is a season for everything – ‘Make hay whilst the sun shines’ is really true as a freelancer. You have to make the most of the situation you’re in. It naturally waxes and wanes, as does your energy. For example, on days where I feel really energised I don’t mind working hard or doing a longer day, as there will be a time when I have a lot of appointments or feel rubbish and I naturally won’t do as much.
– It’s all a balance – I’m still learning just how much I should be working as a freelancer. Because my main goal as a remote worker was to have time for creative pursuits and travel, if I’m working a 40 hour week I don’t really feel like spending more time in front of the computer. I’ve met people who, when working abroad, spend most of their time in the office. I have really learned a lot about myself as a freelancer – that I like to work in 2-3 hour blocks, that I need time to write or produce something creative, and that I also need time for learning, planning, and growing the business in the context of how I’m designing my life. I’m always asking myself ‘What’s important to me – am I spending my time wisely?’

What three issues have you had since starting up?

– Being paid on time – This is a disappointing one, because even if you have a contract in place the client can be naughty and delay paying you. It really doesn’t feel good having to chase payments yourself. That’s why I like working on the freelancing platforms; I can see exactly how much I’ve earned that week and I know I’ll be paid within 10 days of completing the work.
– Overcommitting – This is a personal thing I am working out. When I was in Gran Canaria, I would get up early, work, go to the beach, work again, go for dinner, and then come back and work again before bed. It made for incredibly long days as I had a client in Australia at the time. It wasn’t that stressful though, as I was taking breaks and socialising inbetween.
– Loneliness – I am a big advocate of remote work and freelancing, but I do get lonely. My environment really shapes how productive I am. If I’ve been ill and am working from home, I find it hard to switch off. I am really energised when I go to coworking spots, Restation in Gran Canaria was inspiring. It’s about being around people that inspire you, and push you to be better I guess. I do miss that in Nottingham as there isn’t many people of a similar mindset. I set up a Digital Nomads group when I first went remote, it was great and I met a couple of really good people but there wasn’t enough people that were focused on the lifestyle design aspect at the time.

What’s the best thing about freelancing?

Freedom! I arrange my schedule. I choose the hours I want to work, and I plan it in my calendar. I love copywriting because you can do it any time of the day or night really.
For example, this week my sister had a baby girl, and we didn’t know when we could visit her in the hospital. I could easily arrange my diary so I could nip to the hospital and meet my niece with my sister and my nephews, which was a really special moment. I’d have missed that if I was in a regular 9-5 as it was at the drop of a hat.

How would you like to develop your freelance career in the future?

I’d like to focus more on workshops, and helping more people design their lives. I’m really passionate about helping people become self sufficient in every way – so to be in control of their work life, the food they eat, their health, their time – everything! It’s so freeing and will really change things if more people are empowered in this way.

Anything else you’d like to tell anyone thinking of or currently freelancing?

It’s not easy – but where there is a will, there is a way. The internet has everything you need to know. Do your research, test it out, and work as hard as you can!