Freelancing and Contracts

Freelancing… What a joy, what a pain! I’ve found that the biggest drawback to doing freelance work is the lack of recourse when a client doesn’t pay. Sometimes as a freelancer you take jobs that bigger firms wouldn’t take just to pay the bills. These jobs tend to be smaller and less profitable, but you take them nonetheless. That’s where the problems begin.

There are many things I’d like to talk about in this post, but I’ll keep it on point this time. There is however one point I’d like to make first – underselling yourself. Obviously, your work must be commensurate with your rates, but if you’re not charging what you’re worth, it’s a problem. Many times designers will undersell themselves because they’re trying to get work. In the beginning you may have to every once in a while, but it shouldn’t last long. Everyone does what they have to do to get by, just make sure that you’re doing it right. I’ve read countless articles about this very topic. Here’s a good one to get you started. Price Freelance Projects

Now, back to the point. The best way to ensure better success is having a good contract or statement of work. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll collect every cent a client owes you, but your chances are much better than without one. A good rule of thumb is to include a contract at the end of every proposal or bid you put together that states your payment schedule (50% upfront, 50% on delivery – another good rule of thumb). Doing this will allow the client to sign and return the proposal if accepted. If you can get their commitment on your proposal you’re half way to a successful project. Because if they commit, they’re doing it willingly, in the beginning, with your stipulations.

Another simple thing you can do is document everything. A lot of clients prefer the phone to do business, but make sure you restate briefly your conversation in an email so you can document each conversation and interaction. Thus saving you the headache of your word vs. their word. This can be annoying and time consuming, but you’ll be glad you did it when you need to refer back.

In sum, dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Keep good records, have a solid contract (a lawyer can come in handy here), and try to be smart. Most bad clients are easy to spot. They usually dodge direct questions, have excuses about making payments, constantly change project specs, and don’t communicate their position very well. Again, it’s just a guideline and you’ll have to look out for yourself. Just be confident, demand what you’re worth even though it may be tough to walk away from money, if it’s not worth it don’t do it.

Does your website work for you?

Is your website bringing you success?

After all, what is the purpose of a website? To dominate your industry, of course. Along with that comes many great and wonderful benefits like, traffic. We all know that with traffic comes increased business. Well, if everyone thought in terms of what was possible with a website there would be a shortage of web designers and developers. To this day it is still an enigma – why people don’t want a quality website. I know I’m not the first to bring this up and most definitely won’t be the last.

I heard some very disturbing and shocking comments while meeting with a potential client. During the meeting I was told that the company was doing a revenue of over $6.1 million a year. Now, I’m no financial guru, but $6 million a year in revenue is pretty impressive for a small business with only 14 employees. Also during this meeting I was told that a website redesign wouldn’t benefit the company. I almost said what I was thinking, “Are you kidding me? You’re a successful business owner that has come out on top, but can’t see the value a website would bring to your business?”

It was alarming to say the least. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. How could someone so seemingly intelligent ignore one of the most loyal, hardworking, and tireless of employees – the website? A website, when executed properly, can do the job of several employees. It can take orders, process orders, track shipments, inform and educate customers, market and sell products, but do it 24 hours a day without complaint. Never before have business had such an incredible opportunity. A tireless employee that can do much of the dirty work, lower overhead, and increase productivity. To me it’s a brainless decision.

If you have $6 million in revenues what’s wrong with $7 million or $8 million? A website can and most likely will make a big difference in comparison to the cost. For example, one of our sales guys sold a website to a real estate agent. This real estate agent had his hand in too many pies and the man hours he had to pay for was eating into his profit. Gas to drive out and show properties, hours spent on the phone answering questions about properties, money wasted on flyers that got ruined by weather, printing costs for a lot of the paperwork, man hours for clerical work…

The list goes on and on, but you get the point. We put together a comprehensive solution for the agent to have all his properties online complete with detailed descriptions, images, virtual tours, forms, etc. Now this agent no longer has to waste gas, time on the phone, or printing. There are no more man hours for clerical work. Again, you get the point. Now, the agent tells us he’s gained an hour or two a day, saved a salary for one full-time employee, no printing costs, no more gas to meet someone at a property last minute. Overall, he figures he saves $2500/mo. in fixed costs with a new website.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the business is. You must have a presence on the web that HELPS you. You shouldn’t put a website up just to say you have one. Careful thought and planning must go into a website so it will actually benefit the owner. There’s really no benefit to having a website if it doesn’t work for you. In some drastic cases a bad web presence will actually hurt you. So, it can no longer be said that, “Any site is better than no site.” Here’s the cold, hard truth: Current and potential customers will judge your business by your website. Fair or not, it will happen. If your site has problems, you are very likely losing customers as a direct result.

It’s unfortunate, but true. Bad websites tend to repel customers and drive away potential clients. A website should never be built if it doesn’t have a purpose to drive traffic and create leads or at least benefit the owner is one way or another. Before you rush headlong into building a website for yourself make sure you have a purpose and that the purpose is one that involves a website that works for you.

Are reciprocal links bad?

What is a reciprocal link?

A reciprocal link is a mutual link between 2 web sites.
For example, a business directory may ask you to place a reciprocal link on your web site in return for a free listing.

What is the purpose of reciprocal links?

The idea is that the more incoming links to your site, the higher pagerank you will have thus your site will appear higher in the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages).
As with anything there is a right approach and an wrong approach.

The wrong approach

You may see lots of sites on the internet offering link building services. These basically utilise link farms, a group of web sites that link to each other. These are viewed by search engines as a type of spamming as the links provide little value to the visitor.

The right approach

Search engines like Google value single incoming links higher than reciprocal links but you can still use reciprocal links if you do it the right way.

Think about visitors to your site, by providing links to other relevant sites you can enhance the user experience.
When Google indexes a site it just doesn’t check the links it also checks the pages that the links comes from. If Google determines that the linking site contains content that is totally unrelated to the content on your site then it ranks that link lower than a link from a site containing similar content.

As an example, you may be a wedding cake supplier and you may decide to contact other businesses in your are offering wedding related services such as photographers, florists and suit hire and ask them to exchange links.
As these other companies are offering related services and it is of actual benfit to the visitor then this is seen as good practice.

Placing links to just any old site is not good practice.
In conclusion, reciprocal linking can be of benefit but you must be careful about the quality and content of the sites you are linking from and to.