5 things to consider for your first freelance project.
Have you ever considered doing some independent freelancing work to support your income, stay engaged or maybe even pursue your passion? Perhaps you know someone who is happy working part time in retirement, finding fulfillment in working with small businesses where their expertise is making a difference. However, if you have never been a freelancer or done project work, it looks very daunting to start. Where do you go to look for opportunities, how do you make your skills attractive, how do you get paid, and perhaps most importantly how do you figure out how to contract with your client. Sounds like a lot to learn and for many these barriers stand in the way of starting their encore careers.
But it does not have to be complicated. If you have skills and desire to work, the rest can be learned relatively easily. There are plenty of templates and advice available from trusted sources. Further, there are online platforms that provide basic and advanced tools to launch your freelance career. Remember, when your client contacts you, they have a need and think that you might be able to provide a solution.
Let’s take a closer look at what you need to agree with your client before you start your project. There are a few key elements that you need to consider and agree upfront. We at Almarelo provide templates and check lists that cover these key considerations.
1. What needs to get done.
As someone who is being asked to help on a particular project, you should take some time and plan out in some detail what services or work you will perform. Start with the end result in mind – what your finished product will look like - and work your way backward. Be as specific as you can, listing steps and how they are related to each other. Most likely you have done similar work before, so you just need to think about what it takes to get the job done.
Defining your services and steps will help you to determine how much time you will need to complete the job, how much you want to charge and most importantly will demonstrate to your client that you indeed are someone who will get the job done. As a rule of thumb, you should write down any step that will take more than 2-4 hours to complete. On larger projects you may go broader and use 1 day as a cut-off point.
Define milestones which should be discreet things that you can share with your client and get them to accept them.
2. Roles and Responsibilities
Once you have a plan, you need to clearly define roles and responsibilities. Very few projects can be delivered completely independently. You will need inputs from your client or members of their team. At some points in the project you will need your client to approve your work or help you to evaluate options.
Whatever the needs, you should list everything you will expect from others working with you on your project. Be prepared to explain to your client what would happen if they cannot do what is required from them. This will avoid problems down the road that often arise because clients simply do not know upfront what they will be required to contribute. Equally you should list all of the responsibilities that you will take upon yourself – your client will appreciate knowing that you hold yourself responsible.
3. Status and Communications
Communication and team work are key to a success of any project, especially if you are just starting your freelancing encore career. Think about how and how often you want to speak with your client. At a minimum you should have status meetings. With technology available today it makes sense to consider holding video conference calls. Think about how you will use email, phone and other communication tools. It is very helpful to ask your client what they expect to see or discuss during status reviews. Let them tell you what they want and then you can make additional suggestions.
4. Time and Cost Estimation
Perhaps the most difficult part of any planning exercise is to estimate the amount of time any project will take. We often tend to be optimistic and underestimate the effort. However, if you have done planning and considered your own and your clients roles and responsibilities, you can simply add up all time requirements. It is a general a good practice to add 20% contingency to the project timeline to avoid issues down the line. Your fees will depend on your time estimates, so it pays to spend a little time on this step. Your client will also appreciate knowing how much it will cost to get the job done.
Last, but not least, thin about all the tools or other expenses that you will need to meet your client’s expectations. Some expenses you may want to cover yourself and some you may want your client to pay for. Make sure you tell your client upfront how much expense you expect and consider putting an upper limit on the expenses.
Starting freelance encore career is not difficult. If you have marketable skills and desire to stay engaged, there are plenty of tools and advice to help you along the way. And after having done a few projects, you will be an expert freelancer, working on what you like and enjoying your active retirement.