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How to fire difficult clients

Yes, you can fire clients! If you’re self-employed you have the freedom to pick and choose the clients that you work with. Of course, if your finances are stretched or job prospects are few and far between, you might not be a in a position to fire clients at will, but if  I client become truly unbearable, it’s nice to know that you have the freedom to show them the door.

Of course, you have to keep in mind, that if they’ve paid you to do a project, you’ll either have to finish the project before you fire them, or give them a refund. And if you fire them while they still owe you money, well it might mean you have a difficult time recovering that money.

When should you fire a client?

  • They are rude/offensive/abusive/disrespectful
  • They don’t respect your boundaries (eg. they continue to call you at 11pm on a Friday after you’ve asked them to contact you during office hours)
  • They ask you to work for free, refuse to accept pricing increases or withhold payment
  • They ask you to break the law or engage in unethical/immoral behaviour
  • They otherwise breach terms of your contract

3 ways to fire a client

Increase their pricing

If you’d be prepared to tolerate a difficult client if they pay you more money, this can be a win win for both of you. You’ll be financially compensated for dealing with the difficult client, and they’ll get to keep using your services. Otherwise, increasing pricing is an easy way to get a difficult client to walk out the door without you having to ask them to.

Politely tell them you can no longer work with them and explain why (politely!)

Tell them the truth in the most professional and non-confrontational way possible. Something along the lines of “unfortunately I can no longer work with you as you have violated the terms of our contract by…”

Make up an excuse to explain why you can no longer work with them

You could tell them that you’ve changed your business model and are no longer able to provide the services that they require, you could tell them that you have to reduce your business hours for personal reasons and no longer have availability to work with them, or you could tell them that you have to take a temporary leave of absence but hope to work with them again in the future. I generally don’t condone telling clients lies, but this kind of softly-softly approach can be beneficial if you don’t have the courage to tell them the real reason you don’t want to work with them, or if you want to keep the door open in case you want or need to work with them in the future, or if you’re worried about the negative backlash that might arise if you’re truthful with them.

NEVER be rude when firing a client

While it might be tempting to lash out at your client and tell them what you really think of them, it’s never a good idea, because you never know what kind of negative consequences your outburst will have. Your client will likely tell his networks what happened (completely skewed so that they sounds completely innocent) and you might lose clients (or future clients) as a result. You might find yourself wanting to work with the company again in future (because for example the client has left the organisation) so you don’t want to burn your bridges.

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The best reasons to be self-employed

1. You’re your own boss

When you’re self-employed, you’re your own boss. Yes, to some extent you still have to answer to your clients, but how you manage your business and your day-to-day work schedule is entirely up to you. There’s no higher-ups to give you a hard time, take credit for your work, or needlessly make your life difficult.

 2. You can earn more money

The only reason that an employer pays you is because you make them far more money than you actually cost them. The design agencies I used to work for charged my time out at $120-$180 per hour, while I was paid a mere fraction of that. Now, as a freelancer, I don’t charge the same high hourly rate that is charged by agencies, but I do charge a lot more than I was earning when I worked for an agency, which is a win for both myself and my clients. When you’re self-employed you can also claim a lot more expenses on your tax than if you’re working for an employer.

3. You have less expenses

Being self-employed can also save you money too. If you work from home you no longer need to be for fuel, parking or public transport costs to commute to work. Even if you work from an office, you have the freedom to choose the location, so you can work closer to home – saving you both fuel and time. You may be able to cut down or eliminate your expenditure on office clothing. You also have the potential to save money on coffee and take-away food, as it’s a lot easier to make lunches home when you have access to your (hopefully fully stocked) kitchen at lunch time, and it’s a lot easier to find the time to make dinner when you don’t have to commute for an hour to get home. If you’re able to juggle working and kid wrangling, you also have the potential to save on childcare costs.

4. You don’t have to deal with the usual office drama

When you’re self-employed more often than not the only person you have to work with is yourself. This means you no longer have to deal with office gossip, personality clashes, egos, tantrums, or spending your work days with people you just can’t stand.

6. You have the freedom to buy things that you need for your job

Your computer is so painfully slow it’s impairing your ability to do your job? If you work for a typical corporation, the process of obtaining a new computer could means days, weeks or even months of submitting request forms to various departments, only to have your request rejected. But if you work for yourself and you need a new computer, provided you have the finances to pay for it, there is no one to stop you from going out and buying a new one on the spot (and it’s a tax deduction!)

7. You can set your own schedule

Working for a corporation, you’re typically expected to be at your desk from 9-5 regardless of whether that suits you or your work schedule. But when you’re self-employed you have the flexibility to create a schedule that works for you and your clients. Want to work until midnight and spend the morning watching TV in your jammies? No worries!

8. You can choose your clients

Working as an employee, you’re forced to work with whichever clients are sent your way. And if a client is incredibly difficult, rude or offensive, there’s not much you can do about it. But when you’re self-employed, you have the freedom to pick and choose your clients. Sure, when you’re starting out or you’re having a quiet week you might have to take on less-than-ideal clients, but you have the peace of mind of knowing that if/when they become truly horrible, you have the freedom to (politely) fire them.

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How to find work as a freelancer

1. Make sure you have a web presence, and work on your SEO

First and foremost, get yourself set up with a professional looking website that showcases your skills and enables people to easily contact you. You can do this yourself, or hire a web designer to do it for you. Make sure that you clearly state on your website that you are available to take on work. Include plenty of keyword-rich copy on your site and update it regularly. This will help to improve your SEO and make it easier for people to find you through Google and other search engines.

2. Register with freelancer websites

You can set-up a profile on websites such as eLance, O Desk and People Per Hour and gain exposure to clients from all over the world. Just be aware that these websites typically take a percentage of your earnings (usually around 10%) and you’re competing with thousands of other freelancers from all over the world, many of which are prepared to work for an extremely small hourly wage.

3. Call/email potential clients

Make a shortlist of businesses that you would like to work with, give them a call or do some searching online to find out the best person to contact, and then send them an email or call them and ask to set-up a meeting so that you can pitch your proposal to them. You’ll probably have to contact a lot of businesses before you find someone that is prepared to meet with you, but if you can get just one new client out of a week of cold calling it can be well worth it.

2. Network

Attending networking events and other functions is a great way to meet you new people and tell them about your business. Aim to make connections rather than sales. People will be put-off if you go in with the hard sell. For more tips on networking, you can read my article: How to Handle Networking Events Like a Pro.

1. Encourage referrals & word of mouth

I would argue that the best way to get work as a freelancer is through word of mouth. Of course, this is easier said than done, and is really only something that can happen over time as you build up your client base. When I was starting out, I got the ball rolling by doing free work for charities and community groups. Not only did this allow me to build up my skills and confidence, but it also generated paid work for me through word of mouth. You can also offer incentives to encourage your existing clients to spread the word. For example you could offer them a gift card for any new business that they send your way.

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5 Things that selling on Etsy taught me about business

1. Don’t be afraid to enter a saturated market

When I started my invitation business on Etsy, I was skeptical. There were already so many stores on Etsy selling invitations, I was doubtful I’d be able to compete with them. But I gave it ago anyway, and to my surprise, my invitations started to sell. Of course, if you are entering a saturated market, you will have to work much harder to complete, but it’s certainly not impossible!

2. Your business may not be successful in the way you think it will

When I started my Etsy store, I thought that success would only come in the form of invitation sales. But to my surprise, my freelance graphic design business started to receive enquiries from people who found me through Etsy, which proved to be much more lucrative than selling invitations. So now, although I still love selling invitations, I mainly keep my Etsy store open because of the referral traffic it brings to my design business. Likewise, when you start any kind of business, it could end up evolving into something completely different, and that’s really exciting!

3. Doing research will help you to develop strategies for success

Once I started to research selling on Etsy, I discovered there were all kinds of little strategies that sellers use help you gain better exposure and get more sales. Having great photos, updating your store with new listings regularly and creating treasuries are all strategies that can be used boost rankings on Etsy. And the same can apply to any kind of business. Research your market and look at what your competitors are doing to develop strategies for success.

4. Delight your customers

The Esty community is encouraged to add a little something extra to customer orders. This might come in the form of lovely packaging, free samples, a discount voucher, or a handwritten thank you note. One of the many things I love about buying things from Etsy, is that I never know what little extras are going to come with my order. These little extras cost very little, but are a great way to delight customers and encourage referrals and repeat business.

5. Business success doesn’t only come in the form of profits

While the money I’ve made from Etsy sales has been modest at best, designing invitations is something I really enjoy doing in my spare time, so I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed running my Etsy shop and creating new products. In addition, I’ve received lovely feedback from the Etsy community, met new people, discovered new products, attended Etsy networking events (with free booze!) and received referrals to my design business. Success doesn’t only come in the form of profits alone. Yes, of course it’s important that you earn enough money to cover your expenses, but business success isn’t all about money. Success could mean having the freedom to do what you love, or having the flexibility to spend more time with your family.

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How to avoid distractions when you work from home

Working from home can be a lot of fun, but it can also be very easy to get distracted. Here are my top tips on how you can avoid distractions when you work from home:

1. Be clear with your friends and family

When you’re working from home, friends and family have a tendency to assume that what you’re doing isn’t really work. They may expect you to spend the day running errands or doing chores, or they might think it’s OK to drop by for a coffee and a chat. Be clear with your friends and family that even though you’re working from home, you are in fact working. If they want you to do anything else, make it clear that you’re only available outside your work hours.

2. Have a designated work area

This really helps you to get into “work mode” and also helps to signal to family members that you’re working and therefore not available. It also helps to keep you away from things that you might find distracting (eg. the TV or that pile of washing that needs to be folded) and keeps all your work-related things in one centralised location. If space is an issue, it doesn’t have to be a separate room (although this is optimal), even a corner of your bedroom or the end of the kitchen bench will suffice.

3. Make a timetable and stick to it

Sticking to a timetable is challenging, but it’s a great way to stay on track. Tailor a timetable to suit your lifestyle and your job. Don’t think you have to work 9-5 (unless the nature of your job makes that necessary), one of the benefits of working from home is that you can create a timetable that fits around your life. Don’t feel you have to be at your desk by 9am and schedule your timetable 9-5. If you’re more productive at night and you prefer to sleep in, there is nothing wrong with creating a routine that reflects this. Of course, if you have clients who work 9-5, you’re going to have to at least be available on phone and email during this time. The key is to create a routine that works for you, and allows for maximum productivity, and then stick to it!

4. Study time management

Developing great time management skills is one of the best ways to stay focused and maximise your productivity. I strongly recommend studying the GTD system.

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5 Mistakes that new business owners commonly make

1. Not doing enough research

It’s important to do a lot of research before commencing a new business venture. You need to be able to answer questions such as: who is your target market (“everyone” is NOT a target market), and who are your competitors – not just their names but everything about them. I’m shocked at the number of small business start-ups who come to me who are not able to answer these basic questions.

2. Hiring too soon

Staff can potentially be your biggest expense, so it’s important to hold off on hiring staff for as long as you can. There are also many tax and legal requirements associated with hiring staff, which will cost you additional time and money. When you do start hiring, start off slowly. Maybe hire freelancers or casuals a couple of days a week to start with.

3. Spending too much money

Office space, office furniture, computers… it’s easy to spend a LOT of money when you start a new business, but this will likely cost you money that could be better invested in growing the business. Think about what you really need to get started. Do you have to hire office space, or could you convert es file explorer apk your garage into a home office? Is new office furniture and computers an integral part of your business’s brand? Or could you get away with using what you already have or buying secondhand instead?

4. Being too financially dependent on the business

It can take time for businesses to become profitable (typically 6 months to 2 years), so if you’re relying on your business to start making money straight away, you might find yourself in trouble. Yes, it’s not unreasonable to pay yourself, but how much you pay yourself needs to be in line with how much money the business is making. If your business isn’t making enough money to cover your expenses, you need to look at other sources of income such as a taking a second job, or cut down on your expenses.

5. Working too hard or not working hard enough

It’s easy to get caught up in your new business, and being dedicated is obviously a good thing, but if you work too hard you can burn yourself out. It’s important to take time off and do things that take your mind off the business. Likewise, being your own boss means that you can do what you please, but if you don’t invest time in your business, it’s not going to be successful. During the start-up phase, I would recommend working 60-80hrs per week on your business.

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Should you rent an office or work from home?

As a sole-trader or small business owner, you’ll likely have to decide whether you should rent an office or work from home. I’ve worked from home and rented office space, and I would say hands down that working from home is a lot better. You save money on rent, you save time on commuting, and it give you the flexibility to work when it suits you. But working from home certainly isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t suitable for every kind of business. Whether or not you should work from home or rent office space depends on a number of factors:

Business Factors:

  • Will your business be relying on walk-by traffic? Is there an alternative way that you could promote your business that would enable you to operate from home instead?
  • Are you legally allowed to operate your business from home?
  • Are you in an industry where it would look unprofessional or be inappropriate for you to work from home?
  • Do you need office space so you can meet with clients? Could you go to their office or home instead? Or could you meet them at a coffee shop or rent a meeting room by the hour?

Personal Factors:

  • Can you get into ‘business mode’ while you’re at home? Or will you find yourself getting distracted?
  • Can you separate work life from home life? Or will you find yourself working more than you should if you work from home?
  • Have you discussed working from home with your family members and any other people that you live with? If applicable, would they be comfortable with staff Windows Update Error members and clients coming to your home?
  • Are your friends and family members able to understand and respect that when you are working from home you are in fact working and not available to do other things?

Financial Factors

  • Can you afford to rent office space?
  • Can you afford to rent the kind of office space that is appropriate for your business?
  • If you lock yourself into a lease, will you be able to afford the rent if your business isn’t as successful as you think it will to be?
  • Will office space assist your business to grow?
  • Have you considered other things that you could spend money on to help your business to grow if you don’t have to pay rent?
  • Do you need to pay for office space? Could you barter with another business that has unused space?
  • Could you share office space with another business to save money?
  • Do you need a permanent office? Could you rent a co-working desk by the hour, day, or week-to-week?
  • How much space do you really need? Could you rent a smaller office in the short-term, and move to somewhere larger when your business starts to grow?

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How to save money on graphic design

When it comes to graphic design you generally get what you pay for, so if you can afford to spend more money on design, I strongly suggest you do, but if you’re genuinely on a budget, hopefully these tips will help you save some money. This is very generalised advice based on my own experience as a graphic designer, I can’t speak for all designers out there, but hopefully you’ll find it useful.

1. Don’t hire someone based on their hourly rate.

A cheap hourly rate won’t necessarily mean a cheap job. For example a $20 an hour student designer might charge you for 6 hours for a project, while a $120 senior designer at an agency might only charge you for 1 hour to do the same project. Ask for a fixed price quote that details exactly what is included in the price.

2. Let your designer know your budget.

Generally designers won’t reduce their hourly rate, but if they know what your budget is, they can suggest ways to work around it.

3. Make sure your designer know what they’re doing

A “self-taught designer” that only charges $20 to design a flier may seem like bargain, but if it takes 20 rounds of revisions and several hours of your time to produce something you’re happy with, is it worth it? I’m not saying not to hire someone who is self-taught or a student – just make sure they know what they’re doing!

4. Factor in cost of the printing (if applicable)

Your printing company may charge a file setup or pre-flight fee if you supply your own artwork, so it might be cheaper if you get the printing company to do the graphic design too. Likewise, a freelance graphic designer may charge more for design, but they may have access to cheaper printing prices, so the overall cost may be cheaper.

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How to start your own online shop

Starting your own online shop (eCommerce store) is a fantastic way to supplement your income and it can be a lot of fun. Based on my own experience, I’ve complied a list of steps that you can take to start your own web-based store:

1. Decide what you’re going to sell and decide how it will be manufactured

Do you know what you want to sell? Are you going to make the goods yourself, have them manufactured in Australia or overseas, or are you going to buy existing products and re-sell them? If applicable, do you know how you will import the goods into Australia? Do you know what your minimum costs will be and do you have the funds to pay for them?

2. Test your market

Do you know if there is a market for your product? Do you know who your target market is? Do you know who your competitors are? Once you’ve paid to manufacture and import your goods, and then add mark-up and postage, will your prices be comparable to those of your competitors? And is there enough demand to support another business entering the marketplace? Does your product have a unique selling point (USP) that will set it apart from its competitors?

If possible, buy or make a small quantity of the goods that you plan to sell and try selling them on Gumtree, Ebay, or Facebook. Try experimenting with different prices and see how quickly they sell. Yes, might have to buy the items at retail and sell below cost, but that is preferable to investing time and money in goods that people aren’t going to buy!

Once you’ve confirmed that there is a market for your product, you can safely start making or ordering stock.

2. Choose and register your business name

Once you know what you’re going to sell, and you’ve confirmed that there is a market for them, you’ll need to choose a name for your business. It’s a good idea to choose something memorable, that preferably tells you something about the business. Avoid strange spellings or uncommon words Best Intel CPU for Gaming because that makes it harder for people to find your business online. Check that your chosen name isn’t already registered, and check that your preferred domain names are available.

Once you’ve chosen your name, you’ll need to apply for an ABN (if you don’t already have one) and register your business name. At this stage it is a good idea to visit an accountant as they can help you set-up your business correctly and give you some information about your tax obligations.

3. Set-up your online store

When setting up your website there are a number of different options ranging from cheap to expensive:

  • Web Design Agency (or Freelance Web Designer)
    If you can afford to spend $5-$10k, arguably the best and safest option is to hire a reputable web design agency to design and develop your website for you. They will be able to design a website with conversion and SEO in mind, and they’ll be able to take care of then entire process from start to finish.
  • eCommerce Solution
    Another option is to create your own website using an ecommerce solution such as Shopify. This is a quick and easy way to get your website up and running as soon as possible, and no experience is required. You are charged a monthly fee, so in the long run these services usually end up costing you more, but you can always setup your website this way to begin with and go to a web agency later down the track.
  • DIY Website
    If you have some technical savvy or you’re prepared to learning, the cheapest option is to set up your ecommerce store yourself. You can use free CMS software such as WordPress along with a free ecommerce toolkit such as Woocommerce, however you will need to learn how to implement this software. There are also a lot of security considerations to take into account if you choose the DIY option. Ensure you have a SSL certificate and use a reputable payment gateway.

Not sure which option you should choose? Think of it this way, if you were to open a bricks-and-mortar version of your shop, what would you do? Would you rent a great looking shop in a great location and hire a professional to do the fit out? Or would a cheap warehouse be more suitable for your business? This might help to give you an idea of which option would work best for you.

4. Start marketing your online store

Now is the time to start implementing a multi-faceted marketing plan. This will be limited to your time and budget, but some suggestions include: Search Engine Optiomisation (SEO), Google Adwords, Social Media Marketing (SSM), blogging, and advertising through both traditional and digital channels.

5. Monitor your progress and continue to grow and develop your business

You can use free analytics software, such as Google Analytics, to monitor traffic to your website and track how people navigate the site. This will help to determine areas that you need to improve on. For example, if you’re getting lots of traffic to your website but your conversion figures are poor, maybe you need to redesign your homepage or have another look at your pricing.

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