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Predicting cash flow can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a freelancer. When there are plenty of jobs flowing in, cash flow is easy. But keeping a steady flow of work isn't always possible.
So what's another option for consistent, predictable revenue? A retainer.
A retainer basically means that a client pays in advance in exchange for ensuring your services are available to them for an extended amount of time. A client can make recurring monthly payments, or pay a lump sum up front. This can be in exchange for a long-term project or for access to services on a regular basis.
The steady cash flow from a retainer helps make sure you can cover expenses, which don't change from month to month.
Retainers can help you and your business by:
Reducing the pressure to win new projects all the time.
Allowing you to build a relationship with a client.
Giving some consistency to your work, rather than having different clients every month.
But how does a retainer work? Let's look at 9 key points for making it work for you and your clients.
?1. Build a business case for a retainer
It's not always easy to obtain work under a retainer. Freelancers may be hesitant to ask a client about a retainer, or be unable to communicate the value of a retainer to the client.
So your first step is to build your own business case for a retainer by determining what value you can provide to a client. What are the services you can provide to a client on a regular basis that will bring value to them on a regular basis?
Depending on your freelance business, ideas include:
A marketing campaign.
A monitoring service.
A package of monthly blog posts or other content management.
Building or updating websites.
Clients need to be able to understand - what is a retainer fee? And they must be able to explain such a monthly fee to those who pay the bills. In most cases it's not a fee "just in case" they need work from you; it's a fee for a regular flow of work from you.
The incentive to the client could be that your work is somewhat discounted because you're providing it in quantity. But if you have a great freelance reputation, or your work is in demand, you could take an opposite position, in that committing your time in advance actually commands a premium price above your regular rates. This is a balancing act, as you will have to impress client with your unique abilities or how well you know the client and their needs.
?2. Get to know the client(s)
You know your own strengths, you have your value proposition figured out and you're ready with your marketing pitch. Before you approach a client, get to know them and their business. Figure out how you can help advance their business interests with your freelance skills.
For instance, to know how a retainer agreement will work with a specific client, evaluate their current state. Look at whether they post regularly on social media, or send out email newsletters, and be sure you are following and subscribing so you can learn more about them. You will gain a better understanding to enable you to suggest improvements or to take over that aspect of the business.
It's also good to know if they have full-time employees that look after that sort of work. Could those employees better spend time on other aspects of the business if you took on that work? Understanding the business of potential clients will make it easier for you to sell them on how a retainer agreement works and the benefits of having one with you.
3. Sell the client on a retainer
Once you have your pitch ready and can articulate the value you can bring to a client, it's time to incorporate the retainer concept into your proposals and pitches.
There are several ways you can pitch to a client how a retainer agreement works:
At the beginning of the relationship, when proposing to do work.
At the close of a project, as part of client off-boarding.
In this way, you're selling your ability to support the completed project, before you start the work, and at the conclusion of the work.
As part of an initial pitch, you can include the option for a retainer relationship at the successful conclusion of the project. When the work is complete, you will understand the client and their needs. You can support the work you just implemented, you can provide some value-add to the project, or you can tweak anything that needs to be adjusted.
The end of a project is an ideal time to transition to a retainer, as the client will also know you and the value you can bring to their business.
If you're approaching a new client and the work doesn't involve a project or other finite amount of work to start the relationship, you may want to give the client a taste of what you can offer. A free trial of your services can give clients a sense of what you can do for them. Just be sure you don't dedicate too much time for free - there's a balance between enticing a client and working for nothing.
4. Structure the agreement
So what is a retainer agreement? There are different ways to structure an agreement, from a time management perspective. It's up to you to consider the different ways you want to work with a client, before proposing a retainer relationship.
For instance, you can agree to provide an allotted amount of work each month, such as 10 blog posts per month. This way, you are billing for value and actual work completed, not time.
You can also agree to provide a certain amount of hours of work each month. In this format, it would be important to determine what happens if all the time allotted isn't used - does the client "lose it," or does it roll over into the next month.
And, as Entrepreneur.com points out, "Since your client will have prepaid you for your time up to a certain amount, you need to make provision in your retainer agreement for periods when your client uses more than the time you've sold them in advance. Then you want to negotiate to bill them for the extra time you've spent rather than carrying it over to another period."
You can also build retainer proposals with different tiers. In this scenario, you offer different levels of work with differing amounts of pay. You could have Tier 1, 2 and 3 options, which gives the client a choice rather than a "yes or no" to only one option.
To summarize what is a retainer agreement, it can be structured in several different ways:
Client pays a set amount each month to access a certain amount of time. Be sure to spell our what happens if the time is not used - is it "lost," or does it carry over into the next month.
Client pays a set amount each month for a specific set of deliverables. The agreement spells out the additional costs if more work is required, or if an emergency arises that needs to be handled over and above the deliverables.
Client pays simply to have access to the freelancer. This is probably the least common contract for freelancers, but more common for prestigious agencies or law firms. It could be possible if you are a sought-after freelancer.
What is a retainer agreement that works for you depends on several factors:
The client's business.
The client's needs.
The relationship between you and the client.
5. Establish a contract
The actual contract is the nitty gritty that defines: how does a retainer work. It's important to work with the client to determine what you'll deliver every month. Be sure to clearly define that work and prevent scope creep. Being vague will not help you or the client. If you need help, Bonsai has resources for all your freelance contracts needs.
It's also key to determine and discuss what happens if extra work is needed. If the client requires work that isn't within the scope of the retainer, there should be a process in place so the client knows what to expect. That could be replacing other work or including an additional fee for the extra work.
And even if you aren't charging per hour, you should be recording your time to determine the profitability of the retainer agreement. There are always ways to improve your efficiency and profitability, either with another client or when your retainer agreement is re-negotiated. Bonsai has resources to help with freelance time tracking.
As well, if you're considering retainer relationships with more than one client, it's important to be up front with those clients, and ensure you aren't entering a conflict of interest situation. Working for two clients in the same industry could cause issues. In fact, often companies that hire a consultant on a retainer basis have a clause in their contract that prohibits them from working for the competition.
It's also good practice to define deadlines for your work. Things to consider include:
If you're doing regular work, what are the timelines for it?
Will you deliver on a weekly basis? Or by the end of the month? Or will you work on call?
Often clients who are paying a retainer for services expect that work be done on short notice. Or, depending on your business, the client may have a need to access you in a crisis or emergency situation, such as a website going down. What will happen if you're busy with another client, or away from work? A contingency plan should be built into the contract.
It's important to clearly define deadlines to ensure the client stays happy, and that you can meet expectations. You also have to consider your other clients and prospective clients when you establish deadlines on a retainer. A retainer agreement needs to work for you, your client, and any other or potential new clients you have.
6. Ensure you get paid
As part of the structure of the retainer agreement, how and what you get paid is an important component - especially for you! That regular cash flow we mentioned as a benefit to a retainer? It's good to make sure it's flowing to your business!
What is a retainer fee and how it works can help determine the payment plan. There are several ways to structure the fees you charge to have you on retainer for services:
A lump fee up front, perhaps for a full year of work.
A single, monthly payment.
A fee plus clearly defined additional fees for additional work.
A fee for simply being available, plus additional fees for completing emerging work.
A fee adjusted monthly according to how much work has been delivered.
Once again, depending on the nature of your business, your client's business, and your relationship, the retainer fee, how the retainer fee works and the payment structure will vary. Bonsai has some great tips on invoicing clients.
How and when you get paid can vary too, depending on your needs and your client's preferences. Perhaps you prefer the payment up-front for an entire fiscal year. Or perhaps you prefer regular, monthly payments.
Tip: Bonsai can help you set up recurring auto-payments for your retainer agreements.
It's also extremely important for your business that you get paid on time. Some ways to ensure that happens include:
Bill up front.
Make it easy for clients to pay you.
Invoice promptly (Bonsai can help you get your freelance invoices paid faster.)
Don't do work until you're paid.
Get it in writing.
7. Budget your time
You've got a relationship with a client, you've got a contract in place for a retainer, and you've been paid.
Budget your time.
Manage your workload.
It's crucial that your time is budgeted appropriately to ensure you're able to manage the regular work from your retained client, as well as any emergencies, if that's built into the contract. That work needs to be handled along with work that flows in from new projects, new clients, or new proposals to ensure you have additional jobs.
Unless the retainer agreement can support your business, it's important to make sure you don't forget other clients. You need to structure your time to ensure you can continue to bid on other work, while still meeting the expectations of the client or clients on retainer.
?8. Report on benefits
A regular report to your client will go a long way to proving the benefits they are gaining from the retainer relationship they have with you. A monthly report for your client can showcase exactly what you did and the benefits of the work, which provides proof of why they're paying you.
Here's the deal: Customers always want to know what they're getting for their money. If you're working on a project for a client, regular progress reports are part of the project. A retainer relationship shouldn't be any different: show the clients the value they're getting for their money.
Again, depending on your freelance business and what work you are providing for the client, reports could include:
Social media engagement.
Number of website followers.
Number of blog post readers.
.you get the idea.
If you're able to benchmark your work and compare growth every month, even better. If you've established goals as part of the contract, progress to goals is important to describe. The reports should always show the client why they are continuing to pay you. Sign up for a free Bonsai trial to get resources on reporting.
9. Review and adjust
As with any kind of contract, agreement or project, it's important to track the work, review the arrangement, and adjust as necessary.
Part of that process means tracking the work you're actually doing, the time it takes you, and comparing that to the value of the contract. Is the work profitable? Is the retainer work taking away from other clients, or from finding new work?
It's also valuable to have a discussion with your client on a regular basis, such as every six months or on an annual basis:
Are they finding value in the contract?
What's missing for them?
Are they willing to provide a testimonial that you can use with other clients?
It should also be made clear to clients that the communication lines are always open. If there's an issue, you want to hear about it immediately. You don't want to wait for an annual review discussion to find out the client is dissatisfied and won't be renewing the contract. That's a worst-case scenario for you and your business.
You may even want to consider regular reviews as part of the contract. That can be a brief monthly chat, followed by a semi-annual or annual review of the full contract. Bonus: don't forget to bring new ideas
Now that you've navigated what is a retainer agreement and been successful at securing such an arrangement, it's important not to be complacent. One of the downfalls of a retainer agreement is sticking to the agreement, and not bringing new ideas to the client. By sticking to an agreed-upon list of work, you can actually do damage to your relationship by avoiding the creativity of new work.
As discussed in Forbes.com, a scope of work is created at the onset of a retainer agreement:
"This list of to-dos is created at a single point in time.so on the one hand, there is pressure to stick to the 'Scope Of Work' because no one wants to undo the agreement. On the other hand, there is pressure from the marketplace for 'new thinking' that may or may not include the items on the list."
One solution to this is to include "or equivalent" in the retainer agreement. While different work will need to be discussed with the client, the "or equivalent" clause will allow you to bring forth creative ideas without being perceived as selling additional work. Since business is fluid, a retainer agreement needs some fluidity as well.
During your regular reviews with your client, be sure to suggest any new and creative initiatives that you can accomplish to add benefit to the agreement, perhaps as a replacement for work that has diminished in value since the inception of the agreement.
If you're able to secure one or more retainers for your business, you will have some breathing room in ensuring expenses are covered, some of your work is guaranteed, and the potential for additional work is there.
The ability to work under a retainer relationship will build lasting business collaborations and help your freelance business profit and grow.
Did you know that you can create your retainer contract (step 5), set up automatic payment reminders?(step 6) & manage your time?(step 7) - all inside Bonsai? Well, I mean - the 'real' Bonsai. The best bits of Bonsai are hidden behind a 14 day free trial... but you need to add your credit card. It's to differentiate the top 0.1% freelancers from
the rest. Give it a try today.
See you in the next lesson.
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It's a long-known fact that word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to generate new business. In fact, in 2014 an impressive 52.2% of small businesses reported that friend referrals was their most successful business tool. But what about if you're not a mom-and-pop-shop or restaurant. Can referrals also work for your freelance business? And, if so, how to ask for referrals?
It turns out the answer is a big resounding YES. A recent survey of freelancing trends reported that prospective clients coming from referrals were 30% more likely to convert to paying clients than those coming from other channels.
Acquiring new customers for your freelancing business can sometimes be the most challenging part of your day-to-day work, especially if you tend to work on one-off-projects, and referrals can be a great way to make sure you never have to worry where your next client is going to come from. But how exactly do you get a great one, and how to ask for referrals from existing clients?
1. Why ask for referrals
As a freelancer, you know how much time and effort goes into writing freelance proposals and trying to acquire new clients- in which case, it may come as no surprise that the cost of customer acquisition has gone up by a whopping 50% in the last five years.
Think of referrals as a form of free advertising. Prospective clients who come to you via referrals seem to almost drop out of nowhere, landing in your lap without any extra effort on your part. Except, of course, doing a great job in the first place.
You spend much less time trying to convince referred clients to work with you because the person who referred them has already done much of the convincing for you. As an added bonus, social proof felt by these prospective clients means you can also charge them more: they already have an idea of the value you'll provide and so will be more willing to pay a premium for your services.
2. How to attract referrals
The quickest and best way to attract referrals for your business is to make your clients happy (and if you do, why not ask for testimonials?). You want to make your existing clients so pleased with the work you deliver that they want to brag about you and the work you've done to all their friends and colleagues.
While you'll always want to do your best to deliver on-time and on-budget, besides using creative ways to get referrals (or thinking about how to increase referrals), look for ways to exceed your clients' expectations whenever you can.
Is there a way you can change your schedule to deliver ahead of time?
How can you go beyond the scope of the project (within reason) to deliver a superior product?
Or, how can you make your client feel like the work you've delivered is of higher quality than the price you charge for it?
Constantly going above and beyond is the best way to attract referrals. but that doesn't mean you can just do a great job and expect referrals to roll in. While some existing clients will refer you just because they're happy with the work you've done, more often than not you will actually have to ask for a referral, in some cases even asking for referrals in an email.
(PS: As your business grows, you're going to need tools to help you save time and money. Try the 'real' Bonsai today?(CC required) and see the 'real' benefits of freelancing on autopilot.)
3. How to ask for referrals in an email
One of the most efficient ways to secure a great referral is to ask for one from your existing clients in an email. Keep in mind that this isn't a cold email or a pitch, so your request isn't going to require the same amount of formality you'd use in, for example, a freelance proposal.
Talk to your client in the same way you have been all throughout your working relationship, and don't be afraid to be friendly and warm in your approach. And be sure to include your preferred contact information so they know exactly how you can be reached if they do decide to refer you to someone else.
Always follow up and thank your freelance clients for a referral, both when they make the offer (or accept your request) and if that referral ever generates new work for you. Be sincere in your thanks, mentioning what it means for you and your business. The genuinity will make them feel good about referring you, and therefore more likely to refer you again in the future.
4. When to ask for a referral
Now that you know how to ask for referrals, you're probably wondering... when is the best time to ask? You don't want to jump the gun and ask too early in your relationship, but you also don't want to leave it too late.
Put simply, if it's a one-off project (like content for an eBook, or a brand redesign), ask for a referral after you've gotten final sign off from the client. Don't wait too long- you don't want them to forget about you and the awesome value you've provided- but wait just long enough for them to see actual, noticeable results. For example, you might want to ask them how many leads were generated by your eBook, or whether they saw an increase in traffic after their website was redesigned.
If it's a long-term project or a retainer agreement (like ongoing graphic design work or regular blog contributions), ask once you know you've provided unparalleled value. This will mostly go by gut feeling, but you can be smart about it. Ask for stats as you go and check in with your client for constant feedback. After all, you don't want to ask for a referral before you've proved your worth.
Never ask for a referral as part of your freelance invoice. You always want to wait until after the project is wrapped up and payment has successfully gone through.
5. Creative ways to get referrals
5.1. Don't want to just come out and ask for a referral?
Ask for a testimonial instead. That way you still have something you can use on your website or in your marketing materials. plus you'll get your client thinking about what a great job you did. They might even offer a referral on their own!
5.2. Offer an incentive
Let your existing clients know that you'll offer them something if they refer you to someone else, like a discount for future work or a project add-on. This won't work for all business models but are especially valuable if you offer digital products.
5.3. Give and take
For example, if you're a graphic designer who works with other creative entrepreneurs, refer their services to your other clients. Or, if you previously did work for a content writer, think about recommending their services to your next blogger client. Most freelancers would be happy to return the favor.
Wondering just how to ask for referrals in an email? Here's a sample email template to follow- just be sure to personalize it for each client.
I hope things are well with you. (Insert a personal anecdote here)
I'm really glad that you were so pleased with my work on (project details). I wanted to reach out to you to ask if you might know anyone else who might be interested in similar services. I'm always looking for new referrals and ways to grow my business and (add a note about your availability, particularly if limited).
Let me know if anyone comes to mind, and feel free to direct them to (your website or wherever they can find out more about what you do).
Things to remember:
Asking for a referral can be nerve-wracking, especially if you're just getting started. Here are some things to remember that might soften the blow when it's time to ask for referrals:
People like to help other people! If you've truly done a good job and built a good relationship with your client, they should be more than happy to refer you to someone else. After all, they'll get a good feeling out of it too.
Remind yourself the worst that can happen is that they say no. And if that happens, you simply move on. Plus you then have the opportunity to ask why and what you can do to improve. Learning from your mistakes and growth is important for any business
It's expected. It won't come as a surprise to your clients that you've asked for a referral, and they're not going to assume you're not busy or are in desperate need of work. As long as you've delivered a good project, it's highly unlikely they'll say no.
The more often you ask for referrals, the easier it will get. and before long, your business will be growing exponentially.
Wish you a great week ahead!
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165 11th St., San Francisco, CA 94103 USA
We explained why contracts are critical in our last email: they're the foundation of your relationship with the client. They define your relationship and work with the client and set proper expectations. However, contracts can be time-consuming and confusing, which is why many freelancers don't use them often.
Bonsai Proposals and Contracts are easy to create, look beautiful, help win clients, and protect you.
Bonsai Proposals come with several templates to help you create winning proposals quickly.
They're also packed with powerful features like
Service packages that clients can choose from
Read receipt notifications to know when clients view
Automatic reminders to get your proposal accepted
E-approvals and signing to start your project faster
CHECK OUT BONSAI PROPOSALS
Bonsai Contracts also come with template drafted by top lawyers. They're so easy you create, all you have to do is fill in the blanks.?Contracts have tons of other great features like:
Rock solid templates drafted by top lawyers
Read receipt notifications to know when clients view them
E-signature to close your projects faster
PDF export to easily save and store your contract ?
Don't have an actual client yet? No problem! Send it to the Bonsai sample client to try it out. We'll sign it for you!
CHECK OUT BONSAI CONTRACTS
Bonsai 165 11th Street San Francisco, CA?94103
Three weeks back, I asked for your help in understanding how COVID-19 has altered freelancers lives - and their livelihood. We just published the results. It has some interesting tidbits like:
If you do get some value out of the study, please share it with other freelancers. It'll make our effort - and the effort of the near 1,400 respondents - worthwhile.
Cheers, Madhav Bhandari, Head of Marketing @ Bonsai
PS: We added some cool features to Bonsai recently, including custom client forms.
In today's digital world, reputation is everything. Take any business, from software to restaurant - reputation plays a decisive role. Fancy advertisements will only take you so far if your product's ratings and reviews are pathetic. You might taste success initially, but it'll be short-lived.
Freelancers aren't immune to this either, especially with freelancing websites becoming more popular than ever. Having client testimonials next to your profile, or even using it to build a freelance portfolio website, can go a long way in removing that uncertainty from the minds of the potential client and nudge the decision in your favor.
Get ready to build your freelance reputation and to become successful with the following tips:
Get Published in Top Websites in Your Niche
Getting published is an excellent way to get noticed and establish your expertise in your niche. The key here is to ensure that you pick the right websites - their reader base should overlap with your target segment.
There are two ways you can do this, either you can submit articles through their content submission page, or you could get in touch personally with the relevant editor or content manager. Start building the relationship on social media first - Twitter would be ideal. After a few interactions, take it to email.
Once you've managed to succeed, ensure that you take full advantage of it. Flaunt it on your website, LinkedIn profile and freelance marketplace profiles. This can do a lot to both your credibility and visibility.
Get Testimonials From Your Clients
Once a project is over, you aren't obliged to keep in touch with the client. But, if you want to build a good reputation, you better!
Here are a few ways you can keep in touch with your clients post wrap-up:
Arrange follow-up meetings to ensure that whatever you worked on is functioning satisfactorily.
Send them satisfaction surveys, feedback forms, or just ask for testimonials.
Send them festive greetings.
Say congrats, convey best wishes on their recent achievements.
Recommend their business to your network.
Offer them advice, suggestions.
Share relevant, helpful resources and products.
Doing all this will help you gain more referrals, repeat business and foster top of mind recall. More than that, it shows that you are diligent, trustworthy and helpful.
When you're starting out as a freelancer, take up smaller and simpler projects which can be finished quickly. Once it's wrapped up, ensure you receive some kind of testimonials from your client.
The idea is to build up a profile and show that you can finish off tasks on time and satisfactorily. Having the right productivity and email management tools in your kitty can do more than you can ever imagine. Clients would trust you more when you're quick to respond to their emails and meet deadlines.
Quick tip: always use email reminders; most of us would, more often than not, fail to stick to the to-do lists (they've never worked for me!)
Connect With Influencers
Connecting with influencers from your niche is a great way to build your credibility. Merely sending connection requests on LinkedIn or following people on Twitter won't do you much good. You need to engage in meaningful conversations with them.
One way to do it would be to engage with them about their content. If the influencer published an article recently, write an informed comment or tweet to them (don't forget to tag their handle). You have to be a little persistent here - it could take a while before you get your first reply.
Once you've built a connection, get down to business- tell them more about yourself and the services you offer, leverage the relationship. Here are few things you could do:
Request them for recommendations and referrals.
Write a guest post for their website.
Request them to share one of your articles on their social networks.
Offer helpful resources, suggestions, and ask them for mention in their articles, podcasts or webinars.
The end result - people will begin to recognize you ,and you'll be able to establish yourself as a knowledgeable, reliable person.
Complete a Certification Program, Attend Workshops and Classes
Completing certification programs or attending workshops and classes by subject experts aren't merely about learning new things, it authenticates your knowledge and skills. It shows that you are serious, committed and that you're up-to-date. It'll also help stand out among the ever-growing community of freelancers.
The key here is to ensure whatever course you're attending is relevant and valuable to your business.
Go above and beyond Your Client's Expectations
With a little extra effort and some common sense, you'll be able to surpass client expectations. Things such as doing minor and supplementary tasks free of cost, submitting your project on time, and doing your tasks without being asked to, will go a long way towards impressing your client.
Put yourself in their shoes, find out those small things which you could do bring value. Do this consistently, and your client will consider you as a trusted partner. Plus, it could also help you develop a unique identity in your niche.
As a freelancer, a good reputation is only the beginning of it: it will get you a steady stream of projects, but eventually - it really boils down to how good your work it. You need to keep your eyes open all the time for opportunities; keep learning, adopt new approaches, and widen your network.
See you next week.
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This email again is a long one, but I can promise you this - by the end of this email, you would've found at-least ONE method of time management that works for you.
Top 0.1% freelancers protect their time religiously. That's what allows them to get a lot more done throughout the day vs the other 99.99%. They feel less stressed too.
As a freelancer working from home it's easy for a day to go by and feel like you didn't get enough work done. With no manager peering over from the other side of the office, it's up to you to manage your freelance time tracking. There are a whole host of tricks, methods and habits to pick from - run a quick Web search and you'll turn up dozens of useful ideas.
Here we'll talk about 5 steps you can take to improve your time management and accomplish much more throughout the day. We'll also take a brief look at three of the most popular techniques which can be used to improve time management for freelancers, explaining how they work and why they might be suitable for you, knowing that some freelancers are even committing on following some of those techniques directly on their design or writing freelance contract.
1. Practice tested techniques
There are some well-tested time management techniques available to increase your productivity. Two very popular ones are the Pomodoro technique and the Eisenhower Method.
1.1. The Pomodoro technique
Credited to entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo - who has since written a best-selling book about it - the Pomodoro technique breaks working time down into strict segments separated by short breaks.
The usual routine is 25 minutes of solid work followed by five minutes of downtime. For every four slots of work, you take a longer break, around 15-30 minutes. The technique also relies strongly on planning (working out the tasks to be completed in advance) and logging your progress (giving you a feeling of accomplishment).
This technique is effective because it forces you to put all your energy into those 25 minutes of work. There is no time for distractions and every minute counts towards accomplishing your next task. You will be surprised with how much you get done each hour.
Cirillo first used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to enforce the Pomodoro technique when he was a student, and the official timer still looks the same today. From our experience, the Pomodoro technique is one of the most effective: it cuts out distractions and aids focus, but it can feel a little too rigid at times. You might often find yourself modifying the timings based on how well you're working and how difficult the current project is.
1.2. The Eisenhower method
The Eisenhower method splits up all tasks into four quadrants:
Important and urgent (do) - the kitchen is on fire, or your client's website has crashed and needs immediate fixing.
Important but not urgent (decide) - your actual work and everything key to it, or your client's website is due by the end of the month.
Not important and urgent (delegate) - a friend calls on the phone, or replying to a comment on your latest blog post.
Neither important nor urgent (ignore) - Facebook. unless you work at Facebook, or seeing what your friends are up to on social media.
Dwight Eisenhower once said: "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important".
You may be prioritizing your tasks incorrectly based on what you think is important and urgent, while devaluing the tasks that should have a higher priority.
Important and urgent tasks should be completed right away, according to the order of urgency.
Important but not urgent tasks should have a start date and completion date. The majority of your tasks will fall into this category.
Unimportant but urgent tasks can be delegated to other freelancers to save you time and allow you to focus on your most important tasks.
Not important or urgent tasks should be ignored completely so you can better use the time in your day.
Anything labelled important is done first and in person: put out the fire in the kitchen, then get on with your work. Urgent but unimportant tasks are delegated or dealt with quickly, while everything in the final quadrant is ignored (or at least minimized as much as possible).
We've found it very useful at times - with so much to deal with as a freelancer besides the actual work itself, it is handy to be able to categorize all of the incoming jobs and get them into some kind of order of priority. For your own use you may need to relabel the boxes or divide them up further, and last but not least, consider time blocking for each to-do.
1.3. Getting things done
Dave Allen's getting things done method often crops up in discussions of time management for freelancers and you'll find it's heavily referenced on the Web. Allen suggests focusing on the small day-to-day tasks first, then building up to the bigger picture: create a record of everything that needs to be done, then break this up into small actionable work items that you can focus on. There are six "horizons of focus", which compare to a plane taking off.
Every bit of GTD that you pick up can prove very helpful, particularly in enabling you to focus on one job at a time rather than worrying about the overall picture every few hours. However, it does require a fair amount of preparation, review and planning to do effectively - you might have to invest in the book to properly start getting things done.
2. Minimize distractions and focus your mind
Working hard doesn't mean much if you're only using half of your attention. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit can be huge time wasters throughout the day. It may be tempting to check out the latest news or see what your friends are up to while you are working, but it will hurt your overall productivity. Try using a browser extension like WasteNoTime to block specific websites while you are working.
You can specify daily time quotas for such websites or completely lock down all distracting websites during work hours. You can use the data collected from the extension to see a report of how much time you spend on different websites each day, week, or month.
Another way to eliminate distractions from your mind is to write all of your thoughts and things you need to do onto a piece of paper. Writing by hand is better for learning and memory and is more therapeutic than typing, and it will allow you to clear your mind of any distracting thoughts.
If you don't like writing by hand and use Gmail as your main email platform then consider using Google Tasks, which is built into the sidebar of Gmail in the latest update. The "Tasks" sidebar allows you to enter tasks you need to do, start dates, end dates, and separate tasks in categories.
This tool is very helpful if you always have your Gmail open and want to add new 'to-do' items to a list after receiving an email.
Now that you have all of those distractions out of the way you should work on improving your focus. The most effective way to do so is to practice meditation and mindfulness.
Practicing regular meditation allows you to clear your mind of all thoughts and focus on the one task you are doing, which makes it a great time management technique for freelancers. There are many other benefits of meditation, including improving your memory and creative thinking skills.
Mindfulness is when you stay completely focused on the present moment and what you are doing. You can practice mindfulness at any time, like when you are washing dishes. Focus on the heat of the water, the texture of the dish you are washing, and the sound of the scrubbing. Exercising all of your senses allows you to stay in the present better.
3. Have three clear tasks to accomplish each day
It can be easy to look at your to-do list and get overwhelmed by all that you need to do. Deciding on which of your tasks should take priority for the day can be difficult at times, but a good approach for better time management for freelancers is to go with three main tasks.
Your three tasks could be 'write that new blog article', 'reach out to 10 local businesses in my area', and 'complete 10 more seconds of my motion graphic design'. Choosing just three tasks will help you feel less overwhelmed and more focused throughout the day.
At the beginning of each day, or before the next day, decide which three tasks would make you satisfied if you finish them by the end of the day.
In the case that you finish your there daily tasks before the end of your work day, spend the rest of the day working on growing your business.
As a freelancer, it can be hard to find time to grow your business since you are constantly focusing on client needs. Use the free time after completing your three tasks to strategize, create plans, and market your business.
4. Stay organized
Being disorganized is a big time waster. It's a headache to be constantly searching for login information, notes, expenses, and files. Use an app or Google Drive to keep track of all your information and notes. Use project management tools for freelancers to keep track of your progress.
Google Drive has many fans since it is free and comes with lots of storage. You can create a folder for timesheets, another folder for client strategies and logins, one for blog posts, and whatever folders you need to stay organized.
As long as you spend a little bit of time organizing things it will save you lots of time and frustration in the future. You don't want to waste time searching through old emails to find login information or to remember what a client asked you to change on their website last month.
5. Don't take on every project or client that comes your way
Spreading yourself thin or taking on projects that are too time consuming can hurt your time management as a freelancer. Sometimes a project is outside of your usual scope of work and you aren't certain about how to complete it. And sometimes a client is asking for too much for too little money.
You need to value your time and expertise and know what you're worth. Calculate your freelance rate and don't undervalue yourself.
You'll manage your time much better with a higher rate because time is money. If you aren't completing a client's task properly when charging a high rate then they will probably drop you and find someone else to do it.
You also don't need to spend as much time from your day on clients when you have a good rate. It allows you to focus more of your time on growing your business since you don't need to take on as many clients to pay the bills.
It can help to find a niche customer base to focus on as well. If you do website design for example, you may wish to target only chiropractors or real estate agents. This way you know just how to deal with the client and how to build a high-converting website in their industry.
Bringing in new clients is easier if you can show them you've done good work for someone working in the same industry as them.
Wish you a focused week ahead!
Matt CEO, Bonsai
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Welcome to Bonsai! Our goal is to give superpowers to freelancers.
Successful freelancers have to juggle a million things: proposals, contacts, invoices, payments, finances, and more, not to mention actually doing the work. Bonsai streamlines these day-to-day administrative things so you can earn more, save time, and grow your business.
Bonsai is so powerful because all its tools are in one place and deeply integrated. For example, when a client signs your contract, Bonsai auto creates and even sends your invoices. When you're ready to invoice, we remind you about any unbilled time or expenses for that project. You can use as many or few of these tools as you want, but our most successful users embrace everything Bonsai has to offer.
We want to make you successful with Bonsai and to know how we can improve, so please ask questions and give feedback! Chat with us at any time via the? widget at the bottom right of your screen. Deborah and the rest of the Bonsai team are here to help.
GO TO YOUR BONSAI DASHBOARD
Bonsai is built by former freelancers that know the ups and downs of an independent career. Over the next few days we'll share some resources that helped us and the Bonsai community thrive as freelancers.
The first is Bonsai's Rate Explorer. Pricing is a tricky topic. Freelancers often underprice because they don't know what to charge or how to justify their rates. We graphed the hourly rates for tens of thousands of freelancers and broke it down by skills, experience level, and geography. Knowledge is power, and now you have that power with the Rate Explorer.
GO TO THE FREELANCE RATE EXPLORER
Bonsai 165 11th Street San Francisco, CA?94103
Processes are the backbone of every scaling freelance business. Heck, let me correct that - processes are the backbone of ANY business.
What's the best way to set up and implement processes in your business? Adopt new tech and tools! We asked 100,000+ freelancers what tools do they use to process-ify their business and we compiled their answers into this directory.
...but there's a problem. There's a tool for everything now - an invoicing tool, a time tracking software, a proposal making tool, an accounting tool, an expenses management tool etc.
This means you're switching windows every other minute and that's a LOT of time wasted. To add to that, each tool comes with it's own pricing - which makes this entire system of tools that your freelance business relies on, super expensive. Our research tells us it's somewhere north of $300/mo!
There's no NEED to stitch all these tools together and pay for all of them. There's an all-in-one tool that comes at the affordable price tag of $19 per month. All features, unlimited projects, no BS. It's called Bonsai.
Bonsai helps you:
Run your freelance business like an enterprise
Get paid on time
Reduce time spent on administrative tasks such as creating proposals, drafting contracts or billing clients
Focus your time on the tasks that actually bring in money for you - delivering great work for your clients
$19 per month is roughly 4 cups of coffee from your favorite neighbourhood coffee shop and you get access to a suite of freelance tools that will make your life easy and seamless, from creating proposals, to drafting contracts, to tracking time and billing clients.
It's used by 150,000+ freelancers and we've baked in all of the best practices from this course in our platform.
Take that next step to scale your freelance business.
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Matt here from Bonsai. For the last 3 years, I've spoken to thousands of freelancers and studios, crunched data, and read all I could to uncover best practices of the world's top 0.1% freelancers. I put these insights together into an email course and - good news - you've been given access to it.
So why be a top 0.1% freelancer?
Attract an endless stream of clients
Start working with better clients
Start charging higher rates than everyone else
After doing all this research, I've found that the freelancers that separate themselves from the other 99.9% follow 7 key strategies:
They invest in their personal brand
They use referrals to get more clients
They focus on long-term relationships via retainers
They use agreements with every-single-client
They're extremely protective about their time
They have a growth mindset
They process-ify everything (to scale up)
For the next 7 weeks, you'll get a weekly email covering in depth each of these best practices. The first email is already on it's way and our digital pigeon should reach your inbox in a couple of mins. ;)
Here's to making freelancing more rewarding for you! ??
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Bonsai x InVision Guide To Freelancing
We're very excited to announce Bonsai's collaboration with InVision on our Guide to Freelancing. This ebook is?available for free?for our users by clicking the link below.
is the guide we wished we had when we were freelancing, and is packed with tips for new and experienced freelancers.
It covers everything from marketing yourself and finding clients to setting your rate, creating contracts, getting paid on time, and much more.
DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK
Bonsai 165 11th Street San Francisco, CA?94103
A (radical!) way to rethink your freelance rate
In our last email, we showed how contracts are critical to set client expectations and manage relationships. The three most important parts are the work scope, payment terms, and intellectual property terms.
It's common for freelancers to struggle with setting their rate. Often their current rate is some mix of what they've heard from other freelancers and what they charged past clients.
The problem is that most freelancers still think of themselves through the lens of full time employment: i.e., the client is paying me some hourly rate (often calculated from an annual salary) to "do stuff."
Remember, as a freelancer, you're not getting paid for your employment. You're not even getting paid to produce some code or a logo. You're getting paid to solve a problem for the client.
The client isn't hiring you to build a landing page because they want a landing page... they want to convert more of their visitors. They're not hiring you to build an Android app... they're hiring you to help grow their user engagement through new platforms.
So what does that mean for your pricing? Well, first you need to find your minimum price. This is what you need to survive. We'll cover this in a separate lesson, but this is basically what you need to make in a given period to pay your rent/mortgage, tuition, healthcare, food, etc. Everything above that is "profit". But how much above that can you charge?
This is where we get back to the value-oriented
mindset. Through conversations with the client, you should ask questions to understand the project's context: what problem are they trying to solve and why, and how does it fit into their company's priorities.
While this value-focus can be your little trick, it can also be helpful to make the client aware of it. Remind them, for example, that you're not just building a landing page, but helping them to convert more visitors to users. Ask them to consider how valuable the problem you're solving is, and to think of your rate in the context of that.
Now, this won't work for every client. Clients who get this value-based approach are generally good ones you want to establish a relationship with. A client not understanding approach is generally a red flag, since
what they're looking for is cut rate work.
Hopefully this helps you think about your work in a new light, build relationships with better clients, and earn more.
START A PROJECT ON BONSAI
Bonsai 165 11th Street San Francisco, CA?94103
You've heard a nugget of wisdom repeated over and over: always use an agreement with clients! It seems like common sense, but a surprising number of freelancers continue working without agreements. We'll outline some common reasons why they don't use an agreement, and explain why they should.
First and foremost, remember that you are a business. It's important to establish a great reputation and long relationships with clients, but you have right and duty to protect your interests. Good clients will respect the professionalism you show by using agreements. Always protect yourself and your business.
Just like they say, "good fences make good neighbors", good agreements make good client relationships.
A good freelance contract sets clear expectations for what happens in various circumstances, and allows you to enforce expectations if something goes wrong. Ultimately, having an agreement reduces the risk you don't get paid for the work you do. A good agreement can protect you from:
Scope creep - This is a common issue with freelancers: you'll complete a project for a client, as agreed upon. Then the client will ask to tweak this.. and that.. and that.. until you end up doubling the time you budgeted for no extra money. Your rate has been effectively cut in half. You'll save yourself many headaches if upfront you clearly agree to (1) what you'll do (and not do), (2) how much you'll get paid for this, and (3) the process agreeing upon work beyond this. Simple, but powerful.
Unresponsive clients - You agree on terms, block off your calendar, produce great work, and then. nothing. The project takes way longer than expected because the client takes days or weeks to give you feedback, and you end up with less business because of it. Including your expectations for feedback (and what happens if the client isn't responsive), can help save you time and money.
Late / no payment - This is another common issue: you do the work, the client likes it, then. nothing again. That check you were expecting you pay rent? They'll "get it in the mail. soon." Sometimes this happens because clients are busy and disorganized. Sometimes they need a gentle reminder, and having clear payment expectations in the agreement helps. Sometimes, clients act in bad faith and simply withhold payment because they can. Again, having written expectations is the only way to solve that.
So, why don't freelancers use agreements, and why should they? Below are some common answers we get.
"I've worked with client X so long and often, we just understand each other. We don't need to formalize that."
It's great that you've developed a long-lasting relationship with your client. They wouldn't want to continue working with you if you weren't professional, and part of professionalism is having agreements. You don't need to make it a complicated process getting new agreements signed. Having a simple yet comprehensive and fair agreement that you can create, send, and sign easily makes this process easy.
"Agreements don't mean anything. What can I even do if the client breaks it?"
This is a common objection, but couldn't be farther from the truth. You can use an agreement to correct a wrong long before you have to resort to any legal option (e.g., a lawsuit). First, agreements serve as an important written record, one you can point to if there are "what if's" in the relationship. Often re-reading what both parties signed and agreed to will settle most disputes.
If the client still doesn't adhere to the agreement they signed, the threat of legal action can help. You determine how best to handle this with your client, but it can be anything from saying you may involve a lawyer, to actually having a lawyer contact the client about the agreement. And finally, in the worst case scenario where you must go through a legal proceeding, having a clear written agreement will make the process much easier for you.
"I don't want the hassle of signing an agreement. I just want to get to work and get paid."
It can be tempting to jump right into work, especially when you're coming out a dry spell. Be disciplined about including agreements in your process for signing all clients, new or returning.
It helps to have a standard agreement in place, one that's easy to understand and fair to you and the client. It may take a few extra minutes up front, but it can save you a lot of time and money later. As the Boy Scouts say, "It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it."
There are many excuses for not using an agreement with clients, but none of them are good. Remember, you are a business and you must protect yourself. Having an agreement also helps your client relationships, by signaling your professionalism and defining what's fair in the relationship. The key is having simple, comprehensive, and fair agreements that you can quickly create and send to clients.
Also, just saying but you can auto-magically create a contract just like this using Bonsai with minimal effort -- it's 100% free?(no catch).
Matt, CEO, Bonsai
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Chances are that getting paid - especially getting paid 100% of what you're owed on time - is important to you. Unfortunately freelancers struggle with this, but we've built Bonsai to help your business and finances run smoothly.
Bonsai Invoices and Payments are built from the ground up to be a freelancer's best friend in the payment process, so you can focus on your work and still get paid. Here's what you get with Bonsai Invoices:
Powerful branding and customization
Branding is a key part of a freelancer's identity, so we've made the invoices very flexible to show off your brand. Our Premium plan includes full whitelabeling, so the client will only see your brand in their emails and documents.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR INVOICES
Deep integration with contracts and proposals
Bonsai is all about saving you time. We do that by automatically creating your invoices when a contract or proposal are accepted. We remind you to send those invoices, or can even send them automatically along with payment reminders.
CHECK OUT THE INVOICE INTEGRATIONS
Subscriptions and recurring payments
Do you work with a client on retainer, or want to bill them regularly and automatically? No problem with Bonsai! Just create the schedule, and once the client enters their payment details, we'll charge them and deposit the funds in your account automatically.
CHECK OUT RECURRING PAYMENTS
Read receipts, smart reminders, and automatic late fees
Regain control over your payment process by knowing exactly when clients view your invoice. Bonsai can also send payment reminders on your behalf so you don't seem like the bad guy, as well as automatically add late fees if the client pays late.
VISIT THE INVOICE DASHBOARD
Get paid your way
Bonsai integrates with multiple payment providers to give you flexibility in how you recieve your money. We work with Stripe card payments and ACH, as well as Paypal and Coinbase. You can also manually enter your own payment details.
MANAGE YOUR PAYMENT SETTINGS
Deep integration with time and expense tracking
Do you track time for your work, or do clients reimburse you for expenses? Well you're in luck with Bonsai. We've built powerful time and expense tracking features that not only make it easy to track everything, but actually get paid for it too.