Walter Akolo is an award winning freelance writer, blogger and internet marketer. He is the founder of FreelancerKenya, which is a friendly website focused on helping Kenyans to make money online.
We recently checked in with Walter about negotiating payment as a freelancer and how freelancers get earn better payments. Here’s what he shared:
How has freelancing and online entrepreneurship evolved since you started your career? What excites you about the future of the market?
There have been a lot of changes since I started freelancing in 2011. Some of the remarkable changes include:
- More freelancing websites have come up
- There are now many people offering training courses on how to earn online. This has led to an increase in the number of qualified freelancers and online entrepreneurs.
- There has been increased competition between freelancers in different sites.
- There is increased focus on mobile. The projection is that more advertising cash will be spent on mobile in the coming years. Freelancers should find their space in this.
- Blogging is increasingly becoming profitable.
- Due to cut-throat competition in freelancing websites, experts are now focusing on creating their own brands, as opposed to looking for clients through freelance websites.
- Social media is increasingly becoming huge and extremely effective.
What excites me about the future of the market is the fact that there are unlimited opportunities online. I believe that in the near future, the number of six to seven-figure freelancers is going to increase. Some will even earn way more as online entrepreneurs.
What are some of the most common challenges facing freelancers and techpreneurs today? What issues are you following?
Some of the most common challenges include:
- Difficulty in getting started since there are too many competitors trying to start up as well.
- Country restrictions in some sites
- There is too much information online, thus beginners get confused on what is right or wrong
- Online scams
- Lack of funds to get the proper equipment for work
I am following up on ways to get more people to become online entrepreneurs more than just freelancers, especially those who are established. This way they can build thriving online brands (the likes of Google, Amazon, AWeber etc).
Their exit from freelance platforms will give way to beginners who are starting out. As their online brands grow, they’ll end up even becoming employers and outsourcing more work to freelancers.
What are the major benefits you’ve discovered about working as a freelancer/techpreneur? How has it impacted your life?
- The freedom is amazing. I work without having a boss looking over my shoulder.
- I have enough time to spend with my family. As a father I’ve been able to witness my children’s growth milestones first-hand since I’m mostly at home with them.
- It’s been great to train other people and see them succeed as freelancers and techpreneurs.
- With smart work, it’s possible to keep increasing income.
- There is no commute, therefore I can spend most of my time doing productive things as opposed to many who spend up two to six hours a day stuck in traffic.
What about the drawbacks? What would you like to change about your work?
I would want to increase my passive and semi-passive income streams.
Below are some drawbacks of online business:
- Potential health challenges since online entrepreneurs tend to spend most of their time sitting.
- When starting out, freelancing can eliminate someone’s social life since there’s minimal human interaction. This can be controlled as the freelancer’s finances grow and they move to semi-passive income streams.
- Some income streams, such as blogging, take time to show results.
What should freelancers be doing in order to earn more on each project the work on? How can they increase their value?
They can better their skills or learn additional skills. This way, they’ll be able to deliver more than the average freelancer.
Additionally, they need to have excellent marketing skills and know where to “fish” for the right clients. Freelancing is not just talent, but marketing, also. Some sites pay peanuts while others pay very well for the same quality job.
Some marketing methods where a freelancer reaches out directly to clients through blogging, cold pitching and social media marketing among others tend to pay more than working through intermediary sites.
What do you think are the biggest mistakes freelancers make when it comes to managing their payments? What are some best practices for managing invoices?
Some of the biggest mistakes include:
- Working for people with unclear reputations thus exposing themselves to scams.
- Not having clear payment terms from the beginning of a project.
When it comes to managing invoices, here are some best practices:
- Using good invoicing platforms
- Coming up with strict policies and sticking by them
- Using affordable methods of accepting payments. These methods should also be timely.
- Trying to get clients to pay a form of down payment before getting started. I usually advise freelancers to ask for 50 to 100 percent in advance.
- When freelancers get work from freelancing sites, they should ensure some form of escrow is funded and that clients have verified payment methods before they start working.
What advice can you offer freelancers on setting rates for their services? What should they consider when deciding how much to charge?
Freelancers should not just charge for their time, but rather for their expertise. They should also factor in their expenses. This is because their clients don’t pay their insurances, taxes, allowances, bonuses, paid leave, etc. They have to take care of all these through their freelance income.
Freelancers should value themselves and charge what they can comfortably survive with. Their income should be able to pay all their bills and allow them to properly save. However, to command excellent rates, they should ensure they give top-notch quality and are able to “fish” for the best clients.
Do you have any tips for negotiating rates with a potential client? What are some dos and don’ts?
- Have a minimum allowable rate in mind and never go below it
- Evaluate the value of the whole project
- Understand the client’s budget
- Start high
- Do not go below your minimum rate
- Do not disrespect any client because they seem to be below your level
What are the most valuable tools for freelancers interested in nurturing their craft? What resources should they check out?
Some incredible resources include:
- Good old search engines
- Social media groups
- Education sites such as Udemy and Lynda
- Top blogs
- Some freelance sites have extra resources such as a knowledge base, useful videos, forums and webinars
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