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What You Need To Know

    Start Here!, What You Need To Know

    Setting Your Freelance Rates

    Can anyone guess what the most common question is for new freelancers? If you guessed “How do I set my rates?” you are correct! Rate setting can be confusing and nerve-wracking if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you charge too much, despite your skills, you could be sending away potential clients. If you undercharge, you are hurting yourself and your business. Where do you find that happy medium where client budgets and proper compensation meet? It may be easier than you think. Today, I’m going to do a quick overview of rate setting AND provide you with some incredibly informative links to articles written by those much more knowledgeable than me. Absorb every morsel of information and apply it to your business, I promise it won’t be as painful as it sounds!

    Keep in mind that different freelance fields vary in pay. Web designs are in a different pay grade than Virtual Assistant, so you wouldn’t charge the same price for both. Basic research into competitors rates, average market rates, and what your experience level is, will give you valuable information to start with. I love this rates database from Contently, it provides a list made up from hundreds of freelancers. It gives you an excellent guideline to what similar jobs have paid. 

    There are also two different ways that freelancers charge. Some people charge by the hour, some charge by the job. Both have their pros and cons, but it gives more options to budding freelancers and clients alike. Take a look at Miranda Marquit’s article, explaining the upsides and downsides to hourly vs. per job pay.  

    Establish your Minimum Acceptance Rate (MAR) which is in layman’s terms, the lowest amount you would feel comfortable accepting a job for. This will be your guideline, and although it’s not set in stone, it will prevent you from accepting jobs that pay way under value. This Lifehacker article explains MAR perfectly! 

    Looking for more rate setting resources? Check out Jorden Roper’s article! I am a huge fan of her site Writing Revolt

     

    1 Super Effective Negotiation Tactic For Demanding High Freelance Writing Rates

    Setting your rates doesn’t need to be stressful, as long as you have the right information and guidelines! If you have already set your own rates, what criteria did you use? Share away in the comments, and as always ask any questions you may have!

    Start Here!, What You Need To Know

    The Newbie’s Guide: Starting on Upwork

    As a freelancer, Upwork is a great stepping stone into the world of finding clients and gaining experience. I started on Upwork, and a lot of freelancers that I chat with did too.  They have over 1.5 million clients in the system, and the range of jobs is quite impressive. You can find a long-term engagement or jobs that will only take a few hours. There are also jobs ranging from entry level to expert, which is cool for newbies looking to gain experience.

    There are obvious ups and downs, but before we dive headfirst into that let’s chat about setting up a profile good enough to land you those jobs! I’m here to offer the viewpoint as someone who has worked Upwork as a freelancer, and who has hired freelancers as a client. That experience has given me a unique insight that helped me, and it wouldn’t be fair if I just kept it to myself!

    Profile must-haves

    Picture: Having your photo makes you seem more, well, real. I’m not talking about that cute selfie you took at the beach this summer, but a nice professional looking picture. Think about it, when you head to a job interview you dress to impress, professional attire and well groomed. In this instance, the client won’t have that first impression, so your picture is what you have.

    You want to show that you take this as serious as you would any other job. It’s an extremely personal thing to allow another person to help you build your business, and although we always say don’t judge a book by its cover, in a virtual world that holds appearance of EVERYTHING so high, the same rules just don’t apply. Don’t risk valuable time and lose out on jobs just because of a picture or lack of.

    Overview: Your overview is your place to shine. This is where you sell yourself, and all that you can offer to a client. You don’t want to rush through this. Be careful to make sure it defines what you can do for the client clearly. Make it specific enough that there is no question as to what your niche is, or what services you offer. Make sure it is error free, and the grammar/spelling is on point. A silly grammar mix-up is a terrible first impression! I use Grammarly religiously, it’s changed my life and in turn, helped me feel more confident in my writing!

    Use Keywords! Consider it SEO for your profile. You want clients to seek you out, and not just the other way around. Anything that makes it easier for them to find you is a major win. 

    Don’t be generic. When hiring, I could tell in an instant those who did a quick write up of some template they found online, and who REALLY put themselves into their overview. Most of us are creatives. I am a writer, looking to prove I am worth paying for a writing job. I can’t expect to write a boring old overview and make an impression. Maybe not everyone will appreciate the fact that you are original, but I can promise more people will than won’t. Those are your people!

    Skills: Be hyper-specific when picking your skills and make sure you are choosing ones that relate to your niche of choice. Upwork allows you to list a maximum of 10 skills, and you should use them all. Don’t just put any skills, or skills that you have that are not relevant to the jobs you are trying to win. I know it’s tempting to show that you are capable of everything, but you don’t want your relevant qualifications getting lost in the shuffle!

    Portfolio: This is your money maker! Clients want to see examples of the work you have done so that they know what to expect from you, as far as quality, tone, expertise, etc. Previous work you have been complete should be showcased here. 

    If you don’t have any previous work,  make some! Ask family or friends if you can do a small project for them, create your own website showcasing your skills, make graphics for a potential business, or open a Medium account to show your writing. Clients on Upwork are looking for a freelancer who can show them what they can do, but it doesn’t always matter how much ACTUAL experience you have. A lot of clients are willing to give a newbie a chance. Don’t leave it blank, that’s the most detrimental thing you can do!

    Tests: Upwork offers a huge variety of tests you can take to show the client your competency. A lot of people skip over them thinking it’s not necessary, but I’ve had clients tell me that my scores on tests have been a deciding factor between me and another freelancer. They take about 20 minutes each, and if you don’t do well, it won’t be shown to the public. Is it make or break? Probably not, but it is a way to help you stand out, so why skip it?

    There is also now a video component to Upwork, where you can post a quick snippet of yourself. I haven’t utilized mine yet, but video is seemingly taking over the world, and I would suggest taking a few extra minutes to do this as well.

    Now that you have this bad ass profile, that showcases how incredibly talented you are, let’s talk proposals! 

    Nailing The Proposal

    When you find a job you want to bid for, you will need to write a proposal to the client. Each proposal costs connects, (you receive 60 connects a month on the free plan, which I have found to be enough) so you want to make sure you’re not just wasting your time. The proposal is what your cover letter would be when you submit a resume. Your overview details your experience, let your proposal be your selling point. 

    DO:

    • Make sure you really understand the job. Don’t waste your time applying for jobs that you only understand SOME of. It’s a waste of your time and the clients as well.
    • Ask questions. If something is unclear, clarify it before accepting any job. 
    • Make it personal. If their profile shows them by name, address them by it. Personalization is HUGE.
    • Introduce yourself and write naturally. Your overview details the depth of your experience, so there is no need to repeat it all in the proposal. A personal touch is part of a perfect proposal.
    • Share one or two pieces of work that relate directly to the job, if you have them.
    • Answer any questions they have in detail. Clients are allowed to put screen questions on their jobs, that need to be completed with your proposal. DO NOT skimp on these. The client went out of their way to put down these questions, so they are important to them. If you skip the questions or give lackluster responses, the client will most likely put your proposal at the bottom of the barrel.

    Don’t:

    • Copy and paste your proposal. PLEASE, read this and remember it. Trust me, clients know when you are giving them just another generic proposal.  Using a template is fine, as long as you are customizing it enough to be specific to the job you are bidding for.
    • Underbid yourself. Know what you are worth and ask for it, this will weed out the clients who are just looking for cheap work. Unless you are aching for clients, it’s not worth it.
    • Bid just to bid. If you don’t really want the job, don’t waste the clients time. It reflects badly on you and your services for the future. 
    • Blow off a message or invitation, even if you have accepted another job. You never know when that contact may come back for work and you want to be in good standing. Send an email explaining that you have started another job, but give your information or ask for theirs so that you can approach them in the future. The connection is everything.

    Finally, my friends, don’t overthink too much. You are talented, you are motivated, and even if you feel like your lack of on paper experience is spotty, there are clients out there who don’t care. A lot of them started out similar to where you are and want to give you a chance to prove yourself. You are ready to send in a proposal, and TVC is rooting for you!

    When you have completed the job, make sure you leave feedback on the client’s page. If you don’t it doesn’t allow them to leave it on yours, and you want that praise! 

    As I mentioned before, there are obviously some pros and cons to using a site like Upwork to find jobs. I wanted to note a couple things you should know before diving in head first! 

    • Upwork takes a fee out of your rate. It sucks to see happen, and it will make you rethink about using this venue for work. My suggestion, use it for the experience, or when work is really low. Take a few clients, get some great contacts and after the initial job, contact them outside of Upwork. The pro to this is that they pay through Upwork, and this ensures that you won’t be getting scammed. For that reason, I like to think of that fee as insurance, just in case. 
    • Don’t let anyone convince you to connect outside of Upwork for interviews. Guys, there are dirtbags out there and they prey on those of us who are over-eager about finding work. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. 
    • Be mindful of time zones! There are people from all over the world on Upwork, and if their time zone is the opposite of yours, it may make scheduling or deadlines difficult. 
    • Be realistic in your bidding, and don’t just accept the first thing that comes your way. Value yourself, value your craft, and make sure you are taking jobs for the right reason!

    So are you ready to dive in? Share your Upwork stories with others, or ask some questions in the comments below! I’m always here to help! Go get those jobs! Make sure you come back and share your success!

     

     

     

     

    Start Here!, What You Need To Know

    Tech Stuff for Non-Techies: Self-Hosted vs. Free Site

    I’m not a techie.  I aspire to be one someday, but in all honesty, I just spend most of my days studying tutorials, watching videos, and taking vigorous notes so that I can keep up.

    I’m a quick learner though, and a researcher by nature, so it all works out in the end.

    When I began blogging, I had no idea what I was doing.  I remember being overwhelmed from the moment I even thought about starting.  I mean really, how do you decide self-hosted vs. free blog?  How do you pick a hosting site if you choose to host, and Oh. Em. Gee how will I ever choose a domain name.

    It. Is. A. Lot. 

    A website/blog for your business is a pretty important part of marketing your services, display your portfolio, and capturing leads for possible clients.

    Each step directly affects the future success of your business and that thought is overwhelming enough.

    Let’s see if we can’t break it down in layman’s terms, to make this daunting task seem so much less intimidating!

    Free vs. Self-Hosted

    I’m just going to start with this little piece of advice.  You’re aspiring to be a successful, professional Virtual Assistant, it’s incredibly important to have a professional looking site.  Although free sites seem so much more appealing when you’re just starting out, the long-term results of a self-hosted site for your business pay for itself 50 times over.  Let’s break it down a bit.

    Free Site: 

    A free site is just that, 100% free to build and use.  That’s exciting and intriguing, right?  Free stuff is the best, which is probably why free sites are so much more popular that self-hosted.  With this option, there are a few advantages worth noting:

    • It’s completely FREE!
    • Easy to sign up for and set up
    • Tons of free themes to set up easily

    I’m sure that list looks inviting, but there are also some REAL downfalls in choosing a free site:

    • Unless you purchase your own domain, you will be set up with a subdomain. A subdomain is when your website reads blahblahblah.wordpress.com.  Although it may not seem like a big deal, since you will be using your page for your business, it doesn’t come off super professional.
    • You don’t technically own your blog/website at all. This can definitely be a source of frustration.  Unless you are blogging for fun, it’s probably important to you to be able to have control over how everything is set up, and plugins you want to use.  When building a professional site, you want to have control over what you can add/format.  Trust me!
    • Free sites often have limited advertising options. This is huge if you are planning to monetize.  Also, if you are planning to work with affiliates, partners, or sponsors, they tend to look past free sites.  Again, it has everything to do with building a professional looking and functioning page.
    • If you post something they deem to be against their violation standards, they can shut down your blog without prior notice. Is. Terrifying.
    • Significantly less traffic to free sites than self-hosted.

    Is a free site for you?

    If you are planning to start out for fun, or not planning to use it for business purposes, then hell yeah. If it’s free it’s for me!  However, if you are serious about starting an online business/ profitable blog I would whole heartily say STAY AWAY! The limitations will make it way more challenging than it has to be.

    You can switch over from free to self-hosted if you plan to just go with free to give it a try, but it can be a huge pain in the butt, and I’ve heard from many people who lost irreplaceable content in the conversion.

    If you want to try it out with a free site, here are some platforms to try

    • com (Easily the most popular)
    • Tumblr
    • Wix
    • Blogger
    • Weebly
    • com
    • Site Rubix

    I’m a Word Press girl through and through, and I have used the free site in my earlier blogging endeavors.  I enjoyed it, and I learned a lot.  Tumblr tends to be more focused on a younger audience (teens-early 20s) and looks the least professional in my opinion!

     

    Self-Hosted Sites:

    Self-Hosted sites are exactly what they sound like, a site that is completely in your control.  I cannot stress how important this is when your end game is a profitable online business.  If you need a little nudge in the right direction, check out the advantages of self-hosting:

    • You have COMPLETE control of your site/blog. This is nothing to turn away from!  From managing your own layout, being able to make any and every edit, SEO, and monetizing methods to begin able to apply any theme you want (suggestions below!).
    • It’s not crazy expensive. Compared to the cost of starting a non-online business, it’s literally pennies!  You can self-host with most sites for less than $5 a month.
    • You have complete access to the backend programs and files. Coding, building themes, etc.  You don’t have to be wicked technically savvy, but having the freedom to be able to grow into it is so helpful.
    • You get your own pretty .com domain name! The little things matter my friends!

    A few downsides:

    • It requires an initial investment. I know that this can be daunting but think about it as a small investment into what could be a very lucrative career venture.  Like I said previously, you can host a site for less than $5 a month.  I’ve been the broke girl trying to make the decision to self-host before.  They do make you pay for a year in advance, but it’s worth it.
    • You do need basic technical knowledge. Like I said in the very first sentence, I’m not a techie.  However, we live in a crazy world where you can find a tutorial for anything online.  I basically taught myself how to set up my site and use it exclusively on YouTube.
    • It can seem a little intimidating. This I feel in the depths of my soul.  Like anything in life though, you gain knowledge through experience.  It takes time, research, and long nights but you will level up your game a little more every day.

    Is self-hosting for you?

    If you are looking to build your business or brand, then YES, self-host every time.  Everyone is in it for a different reason, and ultimately that should be a huge factor.  For me, it’s about control.  I work my ass off and I want to know that I’m in charge of what happens to my content.  I’m sure after all the painstaking hours you have put in, you feel the same.

    There’s no shame in starting with a free site if you want to dip a toe, ideally and overall this should be enjoyable.  If the end game is to break away from the conventional 9-5 and do something that makes you happy, then you need to love it!

    I put together this list of hosts as well as their current rates, for some general guidance.

    • Siteground – Startup site for $3.95/mo. (I switched to them a few months ago and have had a great experience)
    • Bluehost – Complete hosting solutions starting at $3.95/mo. I started with Blue Host but I don’t want to lie, their customer service/ help desk SUCKS.  My site would go down for weeks at a time and I could never get answers.  Some people have great experiences, but this was mine.
    • Host Gator – Starting at $2.99/mo.
    • Site Builder – Starting at $4.99/mo.
    • GoDaddy – $3.49/mo.
    • Start Logic – $4.50/mo.

    I suggest really doing your research, and not just by Google but getting advice from REAL bloggers.  Go to blogger FB pages and ask around, conduct a search for recent threads.  These hosts have so many people affiliated with their sites that it may seem impossible to get a straight answer.  It’s easy as this, there are still so many of us out there who actually want to help.

    My take? Bluehost sucks.  Don’t go there.  It was a pain in the ass to move everything from host to host and I never got refunded the money they promised me.  Yikes.

    I chose Siteground because someone I trusted told me they loved it.  I haven’t had any issues, and their customer service is unmatched!

    That’s about all the info on hosting I have to offer my friends.  Y’all still awake over there? {Taps hard on screen}.

    I know that the basic stuff like this can be a little boring, but you need it, so I wrote it!

    Do you have any additional questions about web hosting?  Need help deciding what to do?  Shoot me over an email or leave a comment below!