Divya Manian

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Freelancing for Dummies

    <p>I often get asked about how I "handle" freelancing by wannabe freelancers. These are some of the basic steps any wannabe freelancer should take care of, before you jump into freelancing.</p> 

    <h3>Get a Domain Name and a Hosting Solution</h3> 
    <p>You need a memorable and recognizable domain name (<a href="http://www.thinkvitamin.com/features/biz/how-to-name-your-company">Read on how to name your company</a>) when you start your freelancing. Domain names get more quickly passed as references than name cards.</p>
    <p>There are <a href="http://marcusvorwaller.com/blog/archives/2005/08/09/how-to-find-a-great-domain-name/">several online apps</a> that makes it simple for you to create a good domain name.</p> 
    <p>Regardless of your area of freelancing, you need a hosting solution so that you can upload client files for viewing, maintain your website, or simply put files up for temporary storage.</p>

    <p>While there are quite a number of big hosting solutions out there, my experience has been best with smaller hosting solutions (I can recommend <a href="http://syminet.net">Syminet</a> or <a href="http://rimuhosting.com">rimuhosting</a>) which seem to provide immediate service and accommodate special requests (e.g. installing an extra database or a linux video encoder). Make sure your hosting solution gives you FTP access, SSH (optional - only if you are a freelance developer/designer), an email account and at least 5GB of space.</p>

    <h3>Sign up for Google Apps</h3>
    <p>This will make your life so much easier as a freelancer. Go to <a href="https://www.google.com/a/">Google Apps</a>, sign up for the free version, and follow these <a href="http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/admins/resources/setup/">steps to set up your Google Apps account</a>. Use the domain name you have created above for your Google Apps. You will have the access to your business calendar, email, and even gtalk for that domain name. If your business expands you can add more email addresses for your domain and even have shared calendar items.</p>

    <h3>Get an account with Paypal</h3>
    <p>As a freelancer, you would be dealing with clients all over the world and <a href="http://paypal.com">Paypal</a> takes away some of the pain of organizing global payments. A new competitor on the horizon is <a href="http://checkout.google.com">Google Checkout</a> (but it is not available to people outside of U.S. or U.K. yet)</p>
    <p>With Paypal, you can also track history of transactions that have been completed and keep the money in Paypal till you are ready to withdraw. After you set up your Paypal account, you <a href="https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=xpt/cps/general/NewConsumerLink-outside">link up your bank account to Paypal</a> to receive your withdrawals directly to your bank.</p>

    <p>You will also get fraudulent emails masquerading as official Paypal emails and at this point you need to know how to distinguish between them. Paypal has a tutorial on <a href="https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=xpt/cps/securitycenter/general/UnderstandPhishing-outside">how to identify if the email is from Paypal or not</a>.</p>

    <h3>Register with an online invoicing application</h3>
    <p>Don't waste your time in creating invoices in MS Word, or using any word templates, use online invoicing solutions like <a href="http://blinksale.com">Blinksale</a> or <a href="http://freshbooks.com">Freshbooks</a> to manage your invoices. These services keep track of the history of your invoices, which simplifies your financial planning and payment of taxes.</p>

    <h3>Set up Your Workspace</h3>
    <p>A good workspace can mitigate some of the effects of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repetitive_strain_injury">RSI</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpal_tunnel_syndrome#Prioritizing_hand_activities_and_ergonomics">Carpal Tunnel Syndrome</a>. Use ergonomic, adjustable desks and chairs (its worth investing in an <a href="http://www.hermanmiller.com/CDA/SSA/Product/0,,a10-c440-p8,00.html">Aeron chair</a> and a big desk like <a href="http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/categories/rooms/workspace/11717/">Ikea Galant Desk</a>)</p>

    <h3>Get a Laptop Computer and a Workstation</h3>
    <p>A must have for any freelancer. You can go for one with just enough RAM to sustain your tools and adequate storage space to hold files from at least 3 or 4 projects.</p>
    <p>Designers, illustrators, and developers get a workstation with a 24" or bigger monitor (<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/16/magazine/16guru.html?ei=5090&en=c8985a80d74cefc1&ex=1287115200&adxnnl=1&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1129521853-ar/Jp1qnf0XCl9MGUEiLGA">see how bigger monitors make you work faster</a>) and a powerful processor.</p>

    <h3>Compile your Portfolio</h3>
    <p>Spend some time in coming up with a small set (&lt; 20) of diverse and impressive works. When you are ready, create a website on your domain or put them up on free online portfolio apps like <a href="http://www.carbonmade.com/">Carbonmade</a>. You could also use the free blogging applications like <a href="http://wordpress.com">Wordpress</a>, <a href="http://vox.com">Vox</a>, <a href="http://blogger.com">Blogger</a> to post a short write up of what you are capable of and what you have done. Make sure your contact information is available on your portfolio that is easy to locate. Send a link to this page/portfolio in emails you send out for prospective clients.</p>

    <h3>Get a Blog</h3>
    <p>If you think you can write, spend some time setting up a blog. <a href="http://problogger.net">Problogger</a> has an <a href="http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/14/blogging-for-beginners-2/">excellent list of tips Blogging Tips for Beginners</a></p>

    <h3>Give Stuff Away for Free</h3>
    <p>If you are a freelance developer, release some of your applications under an <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_license">Open Source license</a> and put them on your website for free download. If you are a freelance writer, use the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons_licenses">Creative Commons License</a> for a few of your short stories, or premium articles and make them available for free download on your website. If you are a designer, give away wallpapers, brushes, or posters under Creative Commons License. This gives more exposure to your work while being a constant source for prospective clients.</p>
    <p>Publicize the work you have made available for free on forums, blogs, etc.</p>
    <h3>Use a Feed Reader</h3>
    <p>Feed readers (like <a href="http://google.com/reader/">Google Reader</a> or <a href="http://bloglines.com">Bloglines</a>) can be used for tracking posts, job listings, forum posts on your area of expertise.</p>

    <h3>Blog posts</h3>
    <p>Competitors and industry experts regularly write insightful articles that would add value to your freelancing. Use <a href="http://www.technorati.com/search">Technorati</a> or <a href="http://www.google.com/blogsearch">Google Blog Search</a> to find them.</p>
    <p>Sign up for <a href="http://delicious.com">Del.icio.us account</a>, and use the search feature to find out popular bookmarks about your industry. You can also subscribe to feeds (<a href="http://siteblog.wikispaces.com/subscribing">see a tutorial on how to subscribe to feeds using google reader</a>) from delicious for bookmarks that match your topics of interest.</p>

    <h3>Forum posts</h3>
    <p>Become a member of popular web forums that are in your area of freelancing and start contributing. Forums are a good source of potential collaborators and clients.</p>
    <p>Track forum posts with your feed reader so that you know which are the most appropriate posts to respond to.</p>

    <h3>Get a Contract Ready</h3>
    <p>Finally, you must prepare yourself for freelancing offers and spend time before you get them on the procedures you would have to do to finalize the deal. One of those is drafting your contract that clients and you can sign off on.</p>
    <p>Kristen Fischer says it best in <a href="http://freelanceswitch.com/clients/legalese-for-freelancers-creating-a-contract/">Legalese for Freelancers: Creating a Contract</a>. You need a contract as a safety measure from clients who demand unreasonable refunds or who refuse to pay for the work you have done.</p> 
    <h3>Off you go!</h3>
    <p>This is just a small set of things that you would have to do to start your career as a freelancer, but by no means complete. Read <a href="http://freelanceswitch.com">Freelance Switch for tips on how to sail through freelancing</a>. </p>