By Opinno Editor de MIT Technology Review en español.
Despite flexible schedules and the satisfaction of laying down their own rules, the life of a self-employed worker also presents some challenges. However, it’s nothing that a good handful of advice and tools can’t resolve.
Being your own boss, managing your time, choosing your customers and dealing with them, paying taxes and social security contributions, saying “no” once in a while… Being freelance means managing your projects independently in the broadest sense, therefore, any help is welcome when it comes to organizing yourself. If you work for one or several companies at the same time, you’re not alone: you are part of the workforce of the future.
At the beginning of the decade the Intuit 2020 Report, published by Emergent Research and Intuit, predicted that the percentage influence of self-employed workers on the US labour market would grow from 6% in 1989 to 43% by 2020. According to Intuit, in 2017 the so-called gig economy already represented 34% of the total. And it is a global trend. According to the European Agency Eurofound, of the 32 million European freelancers (14% of the working population), 60% of them chose this option as compared to 20% who resort to it by necessity.
However, a study prepared in 2018 by the independent companies and workers platform Malt on the Situation of Freelancers in Spain warns that the greatest concern for 95% of respondents is that they do not feel that their situation attracts enough political attention. 71% indicate difficulties in coping with their financial responsibilities and 21% report social vulnerability. Fortunately, there are a myriad of tools and apps that will help us to be freelance and not die trying.
Design your office
From the mental image of the freelancer working away in pyjamas to sunny co-working venues, there’s a whole world of possibilities. If you choose to work from home, your internet tariff will be a key decision, but if you go for public spaces, apps like WiFi Map, Swift WiFi and Instabridge will notify you of the available networks, even outside of your country and without having to be online. If you need to see people, Workfrom will locate shared workspaces.
Not only will you be able to decide where your office is – you can also choose which tools you use. Without robust technical support, it will be helpful to make use of cloud computing and storage classics such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Be sure to make backup copies and keep passwords for each application under control in 1Password. Can’t concentrate? The melodies of Noisli will block out any noise that is around you.
How can you make contacts?
Platforms that put companies in contact with independent workers will be great allies. They usually charge a commission per piece of work and publish offers from companies, mainly related to the digital world, as is the case with Freelancer, Upwork, Fiverr and Yeeply. On the French platform Malt, it is freelancers who publish their rates. Let’s not forget the importance of cultivating your personal network of contacts, attending sector events and taking care of your LinkedIn profile. To track your digital reputation on social media and online you can count on tools like Awario or Reputology.
The labyrinth of self-management
Working for yourself means dealing with administrative tasks, paying taxes, pensions, Social Security contributions… Hiring an accountant is one option, although with tools like FreeAgent, Xero or Quickbooks you can keep your accounts up to date. In any case, you should be well informed, comply with the rules, and distrust cooperatives that promise to be able to invoice without paying freelancer fees, although this is not mandatory for professionals with sporadic work and a low level of income.
Making appealing proposals
Once the project is well defined, you have agreed on prices and established the strategy, you have to submit proposals that are appealing. To do this, there are applications that offer templates with designs that alert you when someone opens and even signs the document. Qwilr, Draftsend and Proposify are options that allow you to save sections of text, replace data, copy and save proposals made to different clients.
Organization is key to keeping projects under control without wasting time or money. Digital tools such as Trello – particularly interesting for collaborative brainstorming -, Basecamp, Kanban and Podium show at a glance on a board tasks that are pending, in progress or completed, whilst Asana coordinates team work and assigns tasks. Many virtual teams are opting for Slack to communicate with each other.
Time-wasting is prohibited
If conciliation was one of the compelling reasons for being freelance, there is no time to lose. Applications such as RescueTime record screen activity and the amount of time spent on each site, whilst at the same time visualizing productivity. FocusBooster applies the Pomodoro Technique, inspired by kitchen clocks, dividing the time devoted to each activity into 25 minute periods.
With Harvest you are able to precisely control how much time you dedicate to each project and manage the workload of each team member because it also integrates with Asana, Trello and Basecamp. StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that limits access to the distractions on certain websites or social media.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Whether large or small, your client portfolio will need to be kept in order and followed up. A CRM tool brings together all the information from interlocutors and records interactions. Depending on the size and the needs of the project, you may turn to free and online systems like Pipedrive, Hubspot CRM, Zoho CRM or Bitrix24.
Once a project is completed – that is to say, delivered, and of course paid for – it is not too much to reflect briefly on it. Has there been sufficient balance to devote the necessary time to your personal life? How could the strategy be improved? At the end of the day, the strong point of freelance work is freedom, so you can always invent your own rules until you find the tricks that are most useful for you. Now, all you have to do is enjoy what you’ve accomplished with a coffee in hand.