Freelancing is not for everyone, but for those looking to make some extra money or perhaps even quit your day job and work for yourself, freelancing is an excellent option. In this post, I’ll share some of my experiences and give you my thoughts on how to get started.
Before we get started, this post is intended for those that already have a background in Salesforce. If you are just getting started with Salesforce, review my post 5 Steps to Jump-Start Your Salesforce Career first.
I started freelancing in 2012 while working full-time (also called moonlighting). The intention was to have some extra spending money and pay off personal debt faster. After a few years, though, I have worked on several projects and have fallen in love with the work.
I decided to start a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to make this a formal side-business that will allow me to scale quickly in the future should I decide to step out on my own. Now all of the groundwork is laid and my personal property is now also protected.
So, how do you become a freelancer? Let’s take a look at what is needed.
Determine Your Availability
Before soliciting for jobs, it’s important to understand how much time you can dedicate to a freelance project. You need to be honest with yourself and set a firm boundary because it is very easy to get consumed in a single project or multiple projects.
Between family time, vacations and your typical work schedule, you may have between 4 and 8 hours a week to comfortably commit to contract work. If that is the case, don’t over commit. If a deal comes across your desk that requires 10 hours a week, you may need to decline the job.
Aside from the number of hours, you should also determine how many contracts you can handle. For me personally, two active contracts provides me plenty of work. Sometimes, it is too much depending on what is going on in my personal and professional life. I have turned down several offers because I just don’t have the bandwidth to manage any more than two.
Determine your availability and stick to it when talking with prospective clients. It will keep you sane.
Determine Your Value
This is perhaps one of the hardest parts for the freelance beginner. Without working as a consultant in the past, I had to try and determine what a fair rate would be for work that will be done on the nights and weekends. In my eagerness to land a job, I charged only $35 per hour on my first contract. Big mistake.
Realizing this, I reached out to the Twitter community and asked what others are charging. Per hour rates ranged anywhere from $50 to $120 per hour (or even higher). Having this information helped me negotiate a higher rate on my next contract. The problem was that the rate was still not at a place that the market can support. I short changed myself again.
As I was talking this through with a friend, he argued that my time was perhaps even more valuable as a moonlight consultant because the opportunity cost was so high. Spending time with my family in the evenings is crucial and is worth much more than $35 per hour.
There is fear in negotiating a rate with a client. We tell ourselves that quoting a high rate may scare customers away and that is exactly what you don’t want to do. Fast Company had a great article some time back which talked through this process of determining your value and I thought that it addressed this and similar fears perfectly. Take a moment and read it here.
Remember – you can always negotiate your rate down. I have never been able to negotiate the price up.
Make it Legal
Generally, if money is to exchange hands, I like to get everything in writing. All of the clients I have engaged with have had a contract and a Statement of Work (SOW). Fortunately, my dad writes and negotiates contracts for a living so he was able to create a consulting services agreement with me which includes a bunch of legal jargon, but you don’t need a complex legal document. The key is to create a document that both parties will agree upon and sign.
Your contract should include language around the following:
- What your agreed hourly rate will be and what you will be paid for (such as time and materials, travel expenses, etc.).
- Invoice frequency and due dates and late fees (i.e.: invoice monthly with payment remitted 14 days after invoice date with a 2% per day late fee for every day the payment is late).
- Termination language (who can terminate the contract, when and how).
A SOW is the what and when of the project. It should include a short description of the work that is going to be done and some general timelines (either number of hours or a particular date).
There are several tools to create a formal legal document online including one called RocketLawyer which asks you a series of questions and populates your answers into the legal template. While there is a fee to create these documents, the can be reused for future engagements.
NOTE: I am not a lawyer and am not providing legal advice. You should consult with experts to create a document that has the appropriate legal protections.
Get the Proper Tools
There are only a handful of tools that a beginner freelancer needs and they fall into the category of hours and expense tracking and invoicing. Several tools exist for freelancers – most of them have a free version with limited or restricted functionality that is perfect for those just getting started.
Time Tracking & Invoicing
I use a tool called Harvest to track time and invoice clients. Harvest offers a free version of their app which allows for two active projects. Tracking time against a project is really easy and can be categorized into any type of service or task you may be providing. It also allows for a detailed description of the time spent which can be included on invoices.
Speaking of invoices, Harvest also allows users at all levels to create professional looking invoices for services. The invoices can be sent electronically or downloaded as a PDF and sent to your client. There is also an option to receive payment online via PayPal.
Timely is another great tool that I started using for various other time tracking activities but it is very capable of working for the freelancer as well. It too has a free version for up to three projects. One unique feature is that it allows you to schedule work in advance in order to create an estimate. With a calendar integration, users can block off this time from their personal calendars as well to ensure that the work gets done.
Right now, Timely doesn’t have the ability to generate or send invoices. The data needs to be reported out of the system and into an invoice generation application. Not a deal breaker, but I prefer the all-inclusive option of Harvest.
Client & Deals Tracking
With so many emails going back and forth between clients in multiple locations, it can be hard to recall who you have talked to and where a particular project status lies. That is why I created a free Salesforce Developer org to track my clients and prospect details.
When I have a client sign a contract, and I obtain credentials, I even store the username, password and security token in a custom object related to the Account for easy recall anywhere.
Now that Salesforce1 allows for multiple accounts accessing this information from any location is now SUPER easy.
Initially, I saved this information in a Google Spreadsheet, but after having trouble keeping everything in one place, I decided a developer org was the way to go. Now I store contracts and important communications in Salesforce for easy recall.
Starting out, it probably isn’t important to have some of these communication tools but if you may decide that having some communication tools makes working with the client easier.
Google Voice is a great way to separate your personal phone number with a “business” phone number if this is something that you are concerned with. I have used Google Voice in the past to help create some delineation between my personal and professional life and found that it worked well. However, being an iPhone user, I don’t think it works as well as if I was using Android.
Screen sharing and web/audio conference tools may also be necessary depending on the needs of the client. I found myself wanting to share my screen to vet configuration, but without a screen sharing tool, this is hard to do. Research your options ahead of time and have an account set up prior to any meeting where there may be a need to share screens.
Find a Job
Now that you have everything to do the job, it’s time to find a job to work. There are several great options for finding positions but I have found that LinkedIn works the best. Post a status update to your profile letting your network know that you are looking for a position and more than likely several people will respond.
After doing this a few times, people in your network will notice that you do freelance work, and referrals will begin to come in as well.
If LinkedIn isn’t working for you, there are a few other sites to solicit your expertise:
CRM Market is a new tool created by a friend of mine which aims to help connect consultants with projects. But more than that, it includes some really cool features such as public consultant profiles, automatic Salesforce verification, robust project search, simplified project management and streamlined and secure payment management.
Remember to follow-up with all possible gigs with a response – even if you don’t have the bandwidth to take on a new position. This will ensure that you don’t lose out on future work for these potential clients.
Make it Happen’ Cap’n!
With all of these tools, you are ready to go. You can totally do this! Don’t be intimidated or let that little voice of doubt tell you that you can’t. You already know how to do a lot with Salesforce. Let this experience challenge you – get you to think outside of the box. There is nothing more rewarding.
Want to discuss this topic more? Head over to the Success Community and join the Salesforce Freelancer group!
Do you have questions about becoming a freelance consultant? Perhaps you have some suggestions. Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!