The ethics of ‘faking it until you make it’

Many sources encourage us to ‘fake it until we make it’ in a new career path. If they’re selling coaching/ebooks or ‘growth hacking’ their social media this kind of advice is especially common. There are some ethical issues around this attitude though – both for the freelancer and their clients.

For the freelancer…

Committing to a task or project we don’t know whether we can pull off can be stressful. We’ve all got different levels of stress tolerance. What rolls off one person can cause another sleepless nights or even a breakdown. Especially with creative work, being stressed out gets in my way and reduces the quality of my work. Why add more stress to your life when it can be avoided?

For their clients…

Clients are hiring us to get a job done for them, because they don’t have the skills, time or inclination to do it themselves. They may be looking to us for our expertise and skills. If we ‘talk a good fight’ but don’t actually have the expertise or skills to carry out that task, then in my opinion that’s unethical.

Clients may see or find out that you don’t actually know what you’re doing. This can also lead to a late task or project, or in some cases outright failure. Clients are unlikely to be happy with any of those outcomes, which can result in damage to the relationship or even the reputation of your business.

You can still learn on the job

An easy way around this situation is to be honest with potential clients and tell them we’re not very experienced at this task and seek their consent to give it a go on their project. They may well say go ahead anyway and you can learn together, but some will decline. Either way, the client is aware of what’s going on and you’ll be less stressed about things.

Another solution is to do a test piece of work before committing to the client project if you have time. This shows you the effort required (which will make your quote more accurate), and the piece can possibly go on your portfolio too.

Summary

As we’ve seen, there are some issues around ‘faking it until we make it’ for both the freelancer and their clients. I’d strongly recommend you’re honest with your clients if you’re new to the game or trying out a new skill/tool for the first time so you’ve got their full consent, don’t get stressed and don’t let people down.

Daily routine and how it can help your freelance career

Read on to find out the benefits of having a daily routine, rather than winging it.

I’m not a morning person. Every day I have to coax, persuade or downright trick myself out of bed to start the day. Whether it’s good coffee, bacon or an hour of gaming before I start work I sometimes have to get creative to escape the duvet. Once I’m out of bed, it takes a couple of hours to warm up enough that I can work effectively. Trying to start too quickly results in mistakes and frustration.

A good routine is vital to my productivity, as is setting a focus for the day and working towards medium term goals like the website redesign projects I often do. We get tired and distracted as the day goes on, so working on important things first makes it more likely they get done. Getting my thoughts in order is vital before I start work so I can focus.

After some experimenting and some mentoring, I settled on the following for my freelance life:

8am – Alarm, quick walk, breakfast, shower, get dressed in proper clothes
9am – Meditate and journal, set priorities for the day
10am – Begin focused, scheduled work
11.15 – Short break, move around
1pm – Lunch
2pm – Check emails and phone messages, admin, meetings, smaller tasks
4pm – Short break, move around
5-6pm – Finish work, log time and go to gym/run/socialise
10pm – Stop using screens
11pm – Sleep

Weekends off

This routine ensures enough sleep, gets everything done and has space for exercise and socialising. Sitting down all day means I need to make sure I move around during the day and get runs or workouts in regularly to keep some kind of fitness. Working from home a lot of the time can be lonely, so planning social things in is vital. It also focuses me on paid, priority work instead of opening my emails first thing and getting waylaid with bitty tasks (more on email management here).

Some of us might tend towards being night owls. I’m curious if that could work – it’s tempting but there are definite benefits to sleeping when it’s dark and being awake when everyone else is too.

We all have fluctuating energy and focus levels during the day, so being freelance can be a great chance to work at our best times rather than when our boss says so. Being able to enjoy the sun/daylight in the UK (especially during winter) could result in a different routine that allow you to be outside during the short day and get your work done around that. If you’re an early riser, you could have a few hours racked up before us night people are even out of bed!

What does your daily routine look like? Let me know in the comments below…

Nick

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 

“Deep Work” and how it will help your freelance business

In this blog we’ll discuss the concept of ‘Deep Work’, why it’s important to your freelance work and offer some tips on how to actually do this Deep Work.

What is deep work?

Deep Work is a term coined by author Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”. It’s the opposite of being distracted by phones, emails and social media – focusing on one task for a period of time. With multitasking a myth and just meaning doing more than one thing in a less effective way, and the ‘cognitive switching penalty‘ putting us back to square one, deep work is a single focus to produce better results.

Why is deep work important for a freelancer?

As a freelancer our time is valuable. We may be getting paid by the hour or by the task, and either way we need to get on with the important paid tasks as we’re not getting a salary to turn up and sit at a desk as is the case with many jobs. It’s a rare company that accurately monitors productivity and its easy to coast if we’re not feeling like working hard when on a salary. As a freelancer, wasted time is costing you money.

If you’re doing any kind of creative pursuit, getting into the right mindset is vital to do your best work. Settling down for a few hours can mean the difference between a blank page and a great result that your clients are delighted with.

Close the browser, put down your phone, and roll up your fucking sleeves. The creative process takes time, effort, and courage—not Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
https://goodfuckingdesignadvice.com/

How can you do deep work?

Doing Deep Work is a case of focusing solely on what you’re doing. To this end, you will need to remove all other distractions. This could be your phone, email program, TV, kids or whatever else is taking your attention away from your task. This can be scary at first, with worries about people not being able to contact you and that fear of missing out. The more you put time aside to focus on work however, the more you realise that people can (usually) wait and that the world will still be there in a couple of hours.

This concept fits well with the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Getting Things Done approach – choosing the most important tasks and getting them finished before allowing distractions and other peoples agendas to dictate your actions.

If it’s too much to focus for an entire morning, start off with say 30 minutes to complete a smaller task. The Pomodoro technique can be helpful with this.

If your job is not online, turning off your internet can help focus you on the task at hand instead of checking social media or emails or browsing random fluff instead of getting on with your work.

I also keep a note taking app open while working so I can dump any stray thoughts into that and deal with them later.

Summary

In this article we’ve discussed what Deep Work is, how it will benefit your freelance work and offered some tips on how to actually achieve this Deep Work in daily life.

Freelancers: Always Use A Contract & Terms

If you meet a friendly potential client it’s really easy to start work without having a contract or terms in place. It might be fine, but you might end up working for nothing or getting in trouble. I got fleeced by an agency one time – delivering their project to a tight deadline meant making a decision to spend some extra time over a weekend and I didn’t get paid for the extra hours.

A Bit Of Paranoia Will Protect You

Potential clients may seem really friendly and interested in working together. While it might go fine some of the time, if you start a freelance project without a contract or terms in place it can quickly go wrong. Misunderstandings and wilful sharklike behaviour can leave you out of pocket and disillusioned.

If you assume that clients will wriggle a little bit and act accordingly you will protect your work and cashflow. Don’t be afraid of scaring people off with a contract – anyone worth working for will not see this as an issue. The people who moan about it are the ones likely to cause problems. A good contract and terms will show people you mean business and are not going to be pushed around.

Reddit and other forums are full of people raging about being ripped off and not paid. While it sucks that some clients will do this to people, you can design this situation out of your business with a good contract and terms. You don’t have to be a victim.

Benefits Of A Good Contract And Terms

  • You’ll get paid: Define when you get paid – ideally before you start work and before the final assets are delivered
  • You will avoid arguments: If it’s in black and white there’s less room for people to wriggle out of things
  • You will protect yourself: Having clauses for change requests, copyright transfer and other such things will protect you from issues down the line

Worth The Investment

You can use a simple email listing what you’re going to do, what you’re not going to do and when payments are due. You can use a ready made one off the internet (bit risky as it might not be legal in your country, and you might not understand it..) or you can have a lawyer draft one up for you.

If you pay for a contract and terms – it’s worth the money. It will save you getting ripped off and pay for itself over and over during the course of your freelance career.

Summary

This article has described why you need a contract and terms for your freelance business and why they are worth every penny it might cost you to have them professionally drawn up.