Category Archives: Uncategorized

Going Solo class recap

13333_WEHt3FFL1Ji2NDzmx-H6EHPRG-Cs-iTR-WraAJIhEUgLast month I conducted my first class on how to become a better solopreneur (by which I mean someone who is a freelancer, consultant or micro-business owner). About 10 people attended and by all accounts the class was a success.

Of course, there is always room for improvement. For starters, it’s hard in the space of one three-hour session to address the different stages people are at. Some attendees were contemplating someday quitting and going solo, but were by no means committed to the path. Others knew they were going to make the leap, so they were focused on figuring out what they needed to do and how to do it. Finally, we had some folks who had already jumped and wanted to make sure they were doing everything they could do to be successful.

I also realized that three hours of lecture is difficult, even if it’s content you need and want (sorry, students!).

Despite the difference in people’s business stages, some concerns were fairly universal:

  • What should my focus be? (I am capable of many things, but what should I tell people I do?)
  • How do I describe my specialty in a way people will understand? (especially significant others and professional colleagues)
  • How do I price myself?
  • How do I write my proposals to win?

One really bright spot: after the class, one of the students launched a Google group and invited all everyone else, so they could share ideas, feedback, etc. It’s an awesome way of supporting others on the sam epath

So, with the benefit of hindsight, I am running a series of three workshops in December that are more interactive and more tailored to different stages of solopreneurship.

photo courtesy Mykl Roventine

The survey results are in! 78 freelancers weigh in on how they handle their biz

In October, I asked freelancers and consultants (primarily in the Twin Cities of MN, where my network is concentrated) to fill out an anonymous survey on how they handle the business side of their practice. The survey was conducted between Oct. 13 and Nov. 4. Below are the results in graphical form.

You can view the raw data here. Anyone good at working the data to identify strong correlations?

How many years have you been freelancing/consulting?

0 to 1 10 13%
1 to 2 14 18%
3 to 4 17 22%
4 to 5 11 14%
5 to 10 11 14%
10 to 20 12 15%
More than 20 3 4%

How do you describe yourself?

Designer – print 9 5%
Designer – Web 12 7%
Designer – animation/motion graphics 2 1%
Copywriter 7 4%
Developer – web 27 16%
Developer – mobile 14 8%
Developer – back end 23 14%
Strategist/consultant – social media 5 3%
Strategist/consultant – content 11 7%
Strategist/consultant – marketing 11 7%
Strategist/consultant – media relations 1 1%
Strategist/consultant – business/management 8 5%
Strategist/Consultant – usability 5 3%
Illustrator 1 1%
Art director 1 1%
Creative director 5 3%
Photographer 2 1%
Videographer 3 2%
Director 0 0%
Producer 1 1%
Project manager – traditional ad/marketing 1 1%
Project manager – interactive ad/marketing 3 2%
Other 17 10%

What is your hourly rate?

Less than $50 7 9%
$50 to $75 14 18%
$76 to $100 23 29%
$101 to $125 18 23%
$126 to $150 10 13%
$151 to $175 4 5%
$176 to $200 0 0%
$201 to $250 2 3%
$251 to $300 0 0%
More than $300 0 0%

How do you bill for your services?

Time & materials basis 51 37%
Fixed bid basis 23 17%
Based on scope of work 30 22%
Based on perceived value of work 16 12%
Retainer 16 12%
Other 3 2%

What are your billing terms?

Total due upon signing 1 1%
Total due upon completion 13 17%
Partial up front, remainder at specific project milestones or upon completion 25 32%
Monthly progress billing 24 31%
Weekly progress billing 7 9%
I don’t specify billing terms 5 6%
Other 3 4%

What are your payment terms?

Due upon receipt of invoice 18 23%
Due within 15 days of receipt of invoice (Net 15) 18 23%
Due within 30 days of receipt of invoice (Net 30) 27 35%
Due within 45 days of receipt of invoice (Net 45) 2 3%
Due within 60 days of receipt of invoice (Net 60) 0 0%
I don’t specify payment terms 8 10%
Other 5 6%

Have you raised your rates within the last year?

No 35 45%
Yes – by less than 10% 12 15%
Yes – 10 – 20 % 18 23%
Yes – more than 20% 13 17%

Do you plan on raising your rates within the next year?

No 30 38%
Yes – by less than 10% 8 10%
Yes – 10 – 20 % 24 31%
Yes – more than 20% 6 8%
Not sure 10 13%

How do you feel about your ability to charge for the value you deliver?

Excellent – I bill even more than what I’m worth 2 3%
Just right – I’m billing close to what I’m worth 45 58%
Needs improvement – I don’t quite bill what I’m worth 25 32%
Help! – I bill significantly less than I’m worth 5 6%
I have no idea 1 1%

Do you save for retirement?

No 22 28%
Yes – but not enough 35 45%
Yes – more than I need to 4 5%
Yes – probably the right amount 17 22%

Looking ahead, do you plan on making any changes to your business?

No 17 17%
Yes – I plan on expanding my services/capabilities 37 38%
Yes – I plan on hiring employees 12 12%
Yes – I plan on merging with another business 3 3%
Yes – I plan on creating a product 23 23%
Other 6 6%

How do you invest in yourself and your business?

I take continuing education classes 21 8%
I attend conferences in town 48 18%
I have a coworking membership 34 13%
I spend time/money marketing my services 35 13%
I spend time/money on networking 46 17%
I invest in new technology 46 17%
I lease an office space 5 2%
I travel to attend conferences 32 12%

Since you’ve been self-employed, have you taken vacations?

No – due to lack of time 9 12%
No – due to lack of money 11 14%
Yes – at least 1 week per year 19 24%
Yes – at least 2 weeks per year 27 35%
Yes – at least 1 month per year 5 6%
Yes – more than 1 month per year 7 9%

Does your spouse or significant other help support your household?

No 17 22%
Yes 40 51%
N/A 21 27%

How many dependents do you have?

None 35 45%
1 18 23%
2 13 17%
3 10 13%
4 1 1%
5 or more 1 1%

Do you have health insurance coverage?

No 9 12%
Yes – I pay for it directly 48 62%
Yes – provided by my spouse 21 27%

Do you have adequate savings for emergencies or unexpected expenses?

No 32 41%
Yes 46 59%

Do you feel supported by family & friends in your self-employment?

No 7 9%
Yes 55 71%
Depends on how well the business is doing 15 19%
Other 1 1%

How do you feel about getting a straight job?

I would never consider it 22 28%
I might consider it 39 50%
I’m thinking about it 11 14%
I’m actively hunting for a job 6 8%

What is job security?

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Is job security something that’s given to you? Or can you create it for yourself? It’s a question worth asking whenever we see large employers shuffling off employees en masse. We’re reminded once again that even with a apparently stable employers, there are no guarantees.

No question about it: big employers are able to pay big salaries and offer big benefits. The true value of, say, an $80k salary is probably twice that amount. In other words, to provide yourself with the equivalent benefits (retirement, healthcare, tuition reimbursement, etc.) after tax, you need to make twice as much as you probably think you do.

However, if you’re a freelancer or small business owner who has a diverse array of clients and customers, you have a form of job security corporate and government(!) employees will ever know. The odds of all your clients firing you at once are next to zero.