Tips and Tools for the Unintentional Freelancer

I had dinner with a friend last night who was recently laid off. When he got the news he immediatly called a few contacts and was able to secure some freelance work. He’s been at it about a month and making good money. He’s debating whether or not to seek another job at a big firm (only 5 months at the new job before the cost cutting ax) or try and make a go of it on his own. I strongly recommended the latter.

The following is the content of an email I wrote to him after our conversation. Seemed like it would make a good first blog post.


Tips:
  • Create an LLC. Even if you don’t use it long term you’ll have the vehicle in place and it will help create a buffer between you and lawsuits. Can’t be to careful. You’ll also be able to deduct a lot of stuff as business expenses. Get details from your accountant.
    • I used LegalZoom, http://www.legalzoom.com/, to setup my new company. The process was really easy. There are other services, but I can vouch for the ease of use of this service.
  • Get a credit card to use only for work related activities. You can use one you already have, but make it business only.
  • Setup a business bank account. You’ll need the LLC EIN (business SSN) number to do this. You may have clients that will want to pay you via direct deposit. You don’t want your customers AR department having the keys to your personal bank account and SSN. Also, from an accounting perspective it will make it easier to separate business from personal activity.
  • Name your company and get a domain name for email and website.
  • Don’t work without a contract and make sure your rate and payment terms are clear.
    • LegalZoom has some boiler plate contract documents if you need a place to start.
  • BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER!!!!!!
Tools:
  • It’s easy to use & free to try for 30 days
  • It will help you keep track of time & expenses by client or project
  • It makes invoicing and receiving payments easy
  • You can integrate expense from you credit card and easily add them to your invoices to bill back to clients
  • if you start hiring people to help you with project you can have them log time in the system as well and combine everything on a single invoice.
  • Get a domain name related to your company name. In fact, do this before you actually setup your company to make sure the name is available. Don’t be afraid to use non’.com’ top level domains (TLDs) like .co, .us , .io, .net, etc. if the .com you want is not available.
  • Once you have your domain name setup a business gmail account. It’s $50 year.
  • It’s good for 1-100,000 employees.
  • It enables you to use all the Google tools you already know and love and it works well with mobile devices
  • You could use the email that comes with your Godaddy domain, but functionality will be limited, particularly if calendar & contacts are important to you.
    • You could also use Microsoft or Yahoo services if Google is not your thing.
  • This app/service has become an extension of my brain
  • I use it everyday to organize, write, plan and store stuff for later
  • It’s cross platform so your notes will be with you on your phone, computer, iPad or someone else’s computer (via web interface).
  • There’s a free version, so no reason not to try. If you become addicted to it like I am there is a paid version with added functionality. That said, the free version is very robust.
Computer Backup
  • As I stated earlier, BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER!!!!!!
    • You should be doing this already.
    • Local in house backup isn’t enough, you need a remote/cloud based solution.
      • Your computer will be your primary work tool. The documents and content you have on it are more valuable than the device itself. Make sure it’s backed up and secure.
  • There are a number of ways you can go here.
    • You can use a service like Carbonite, http://www.carbonite.com/. It’s a set it and forget it solution. You won’t know it's there after you set it up, but you’ll be glade you have it if you need it.
    • If you go with Gmail for business you could use Google Drive to sync all work related documents to the cloud. This will also work nicely for collaboration. You can send links to people instead of document via email. You can also kill the link when you don’t want to share anymore.
    • Other similar service are Dropbox and Box.com. All work well. Just need to pick what works for you. I have used them all.
Bottom line
While not free, getting setup as a business and using tools like these help you stay organized and allow you to spend more time on things that are important to your business and personal life and less time on Admin stuff.

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