Picking your own clients, choosing your own working hours and not worrying about the office politics are some reasons why you would want to opt for being a tech freelancer. While the idea behind kick-starting ‘work for just yourself’ sounds quite enticing, experts from the freelancing industry will always alert you about the challenges. It is not a cake walk and it is better to jump for it only with your eyes wide open to embrace the challenges and ears all open to pay heed to the advice we are discussing below.
The game plane to thrive as a woman freelancer in the technology industry is being listed in five major steps below. The rest depends on your urge and consistency in following this to the “T”.
Let passion & consistency drive you
Experts like Brad S Yang, call this passion-driven freelancing as a micro-niche based career. California-based Brad took to freelancing a decade back since she felt that her talent was not being realised to the potential at her work place. “I am a passionate coder. And the coding world is yet to see women take charge. I decided to make my passion my career in 2007, ” explains Yang.
Today she takes pride in having developed some 100 software Apps each one of which is a rage with Apple, Mi and even Google smartphones. She is also involved in various projects indirectly with the Microsoft.
Yang adds, ” One more thing, you cannot take it easy, considering that you work from home. You have to train you mind that it is time to work and set aside an “office space” as well as “work and interval hours” even if you are working from home. That routine has to be set since only consistency is the key to have a successful freelancing career, whether the technology industry or any other.”
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Embrace networking, aggressively
Freelancing is all about seeking what you want; no one is going to serve you anything on the platter. Friends, family or friendly ex-colleagues might help, but only to a certain level.
“If you ready to be the one-woman-army doing client-hunting, client-management, coding, brand-building etc. all on your won…then only attempt it. It is long before you can hire a like-minded team,” assert Misha Singh Roxana who is a web developer based in Sydney, Australia. She began freelancing after her daughter turned one. Half a decade later she has established a small team of six work from home mothers. So how did she do it?
Misha explains, “Networking is key. And if you are already in a job, but know that you will be quitting in future, start working on some side gigs. Reach out to people beyond your friends/family/peer group as well for connections to potential clients. In a digital world it is so easy these days; social media has so many networking groups. Also look for meet-up groups/ seminars/ events where your potential client might go. I created my own website for instance and that of few of my friends for free. These became as my work samples later, when I wanted to be a full-time freelancer. My former colleagues did refer me to a few clients, but then building one-to-one trust was my job. It is easier to get a client, but very difficult to retain one, since world is full of competitors.”
Effective & clear communication are key to a client’s heart
In a big team, communication with the client is either handled by the client manager or senior communication strategist. But as a freelancer you are one-person army. And ambiguity is the enemy here. One miscommunication can take away not only one client, but future ones as well, since word of mouth is the most trusted way of doing business as a freelancer.
And the best way to avoid this is to record every important conversation in writing. This may range from jotting down simple minutes-of-the-meeting to explaining the plan strategy/product.
“I ensure that I have to detail every pros and cons of an App to a client on a mail or presentation, even if that scares him off, since I know everything will fall back on me, if I miss any single point. Communication has to be very clear and upfront. It helps build trust,” opines R C Menon, 40-year-old freelance App developer from Bengaluru who is an IIM post-graduate and left his lucrative career with Yahoo 15 years back. He adds, “There are umpteen communication tools for your help available online, you don’t have to go take classes. Simply use them at appropriate places and you are done.”
Freelancing comes with a cost
Understand the costs of freelancing–it counts right from putting in your effort to sweating it out more than a regular job. So take pride in detailing it, when you deal with a client. Since you are one-person army, it is the reason enough that the cost of work may be higher than a client may be paying to an in-house employee. You are your own boss, so count the perks of health insurance, accidental insurance, taxes, travel expenses etc before you crack a deal. Otherwise soon you will find yourself underwater.
“In short, staying organised with numbers saves you a big headache in the long run,” advises Brad S Yang, the freelance woman coder who keeps aside the tax right from the first earning of any new financial year.
Be upfront, bold about remuneration
“Since you decided to work for yourself, you are here just to please yourself. So even if a friend has sourced you a client, politely yet assertively ask for a remuneration that you deserve. The client will negotiate in a million ways, but oblige going downscale only if you really can. Remember the keyword “Diligence.” Market your diligence. Good payment might take time to arrive, but it will,” advises Misha Singh Roxana. She adds that her first client gave her the biggest lesson through his arrogance: “Oh you have just begun Roxana…you need us, but we will find a million others like you.” She turned down the offer politely and it took six months to start off with a decent remuneration. But she waited, even when she one borrowed money from a friend for her child’s school fee, “Never let any single client of yours take you for granted.”
“And always ensure that a legal contract or deal is finalised on-paper. Freelance world is full of people who assure payment, but not turn up after the project is over,” adds Brad S Yang who is based in California, US but many of her clients are based outside, globally.
Be it credit card payments, sending out late-payment reminders or even integrating the business with other payment related online features, everything is now at your finger tips. All you need to do is be upfront and bold to demand and seek what your effort deserves.