Sunday, October 21, 2012

Freelancing Tips for the Latina Nerd by Odilia Rivera-Santos

In order to be a freelancer, you've got to be like a shark: keep moving at all times.
This is a slight exaggeration, but it is imperative to keep gigs going and to enjoy the intensity of the search for the next gig. And at times, you may have to take a part-time job to supplement your income.

Why would a bilingual Latina nerd such as yourself want to be a freelancer?

When a bilingual Latina nerd works at a company, she is interpreter, translator of language and culture, cultural ambassador and liaison between Latino clients and non-Latino 'superiors' for the same pay as a monolingual non-Latino. If you compartmentalize and do these gigs separately, you earn more and can create your own schedule.

There are many ways to work the freelance thing: long-term projects lasting for months or up to a year, a project-by-project gig for a company or individual with varying lengths of time, or very short-term projects.

Latinas and Latino Culture
Whether Latinos care to admit it or not, Latino cultures around the world have a different expectation of women than of men. Although women in general, regardless of country or culture, are expected to be nurturers, gentle, noncompetitive, and not aggressive in business, in Latino culture the aforementioned attitudes are a little more potent. Without the training provided in a corporation regarding appropriate boundaries between workers, Latinas, and women in general, carry the burden of keeping -- especially male clients -- professional and focused. 
Latina nerd freelancers do not do windows, nor do they have time for caretaking. Stay on course. 
Be professional and avoid answering personal questions whenever possible. 
If a potential client asks if you are single, this is a warning sign. 
This is a dude looking for a smart Latina girlfriend and not a professional transaction. 
Nip it in the bud. Don't lose time and your focus dealing with this nonsense.

Rules for freelancing

Decide what your fee is and stick to it
To decide a fee for your service - researcher, translator, editor, writer, etc., consider all your expenses on a monthly basis and your ability - if you are an expert*, your fee must be higher than someone with very little experience. Break down expenses by the hour and charge accordingly.
Expenses should include everything, including money set aside for vacation, investments, savings, etc.
If finding clients is difficult, don't lower your fees. You might be looking for clients in the wrong places. 
If you're talented and confident of your abilities, you will find customers who recognize your talent and are willing to pay what you ask.
Remember, you are being paid for your expertise, not your hours. Experimentation and failure are part of your spiritual growth as a business owner. Dealing with money is also a spiritual process.

Value your Time

Make sure the client understands what you will do for him or her and their business in a conversation and email everything you said. Following up a conversation with an email insures that you won't have to entertain the conversation again.
Sometimes, people are under the impression that freelancers sit around all day in a coffee shop, shooting the breeze, and clients may want to sit around and chat.
Make it clear to your client that work is work and you don't have time to repeat a conversation; if they insist on meeting repeatedly to discuss the same issues, charge an hourly meeting rate.
For clarity's sake, you may decide how many meetings to include on each project and how much to charge for additional meetings. If the client is not clear about what he or she wants and they process information through meeting in person, it can become a very inefficient use of time. Set rates for each interaction -- this will benefit you and the client. If the client is disorganized and needs your assistance to 'think through' ideas, you get paid. If the client decides to save money, this would be an opportunity for the individual to clarify his/her goals in order to avoid extra meetings. 

When we approach work as an opportunity to be of service and earn money, we seek ways for all parties to benefit.

Rates? huh?
My rate is set according to my skills, education and living in an expensive city.
Emails and text messages are a mode of communication I consider a lot easier to manage because they do not require travel. As a Writer, I choose to give away information -- my writing and research -- on my blogs:

The blogs serve as my online portfolio and if someone asks I write a blog post about something in order to 'audition' for a writing gig, I pass. 
Never give away your time to a client in a way that does not serve you. Work is service, but we do not need to approach it from a position of being servants and/or supplicants or slaves. 
Being of service to others and to yourself at the same time means you are engaged in a healthy professional relationship. 
If you de-value your work and de-value your time, you lose as in the income-generating game. 
Your time is your money.

If you set aside an hour to meet with a client and the client is paying for the meeting, charge for the full hour even if the client is late. You can't run a business if you rearrange your schedule for the entire day based on one client -- if you have three separate meetings and one person is late, this might mean rescheduling the other two meetings, so it doesn't make sense. Your client's chaos need not be your chaos.

Create a humane Schedule for yourself and fees
Take a two-hour break each day to handle your life chores and eat meals away from the computer. 
Get adequate sleep, eat normal meals and be careful not to over-schedule yourself. Charging the very low fees some freelancers charge will put you in the position of having to work twenty-hour days. Make sure part of your freelancing work is a fee for a project, which is based more on skill than hours. What is the easiest thing you can do to generate income as a Writer? Kickstarter projects? Translations? 
Sprinkle some quick, brainy, easy jobs into your workweek. 
Everything doesn't have to be intellectually challenging.

Use different means to advertise your work
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Googleplus, Podcasts,Tumblr are great, and you may also want to use flyers, business cards and attend networking events that are well-organized as real networking events, not a singles night. Experiment and fail and don't take failure personally.

Contracts, Agreements, Money - what is that?

Always have a written agreement with a client, as people might renege on a verbal agreement and/or they might want to re-negotiate fees. Since freelancers' woes are not covered by the Department of Labor, unpaid wages must be obtained by means of taking a client to court. This is not cost-effective, nor is it fun. And remember, each experience is an opporunity to learn. I have had two verbal agreements recently and the two individuals either didn't remember what they had said or decided to renege. I let it go. This falls under the 'Te conozco bacalao' rule. 

Never count on money you can't count in your hand.
If you can't count the money, you are still in the 'hoping' stage -- hoping the client will actually pay for services rendered. Even with a contract, sometimes, people flake. Creating a budget with money you have yet to receive is illogical.

Multiple streams of income are mandatory
A smart logical freelancer doesn't wait for the gig in the area of his or her career that is most fun, exciting,etc. 
You make a list of jobs you do well. Teaching workshops, selling makeup, creating curricula, writing business plans, personal training. Hone your interpersonal and sales skills in all of your support work. Support work keeps your business afloat, so if you're working at Starbucks, be grateful for the gig instead of giving in to the temptation to let the internal dialogue remind you of your education and skillset and how you 'should' be king of the world.

Remember, Oprah was not built in a day.

Keep in Touch and Work at Relationships

Create contact lists for the different gigs you love, the gigs like or the ones you can tolerate doing.
In every job, you have the opportunity to be of service, to learn and to make yourself better for your dream gig -- the one that makes you jump out of bed in the morning excited to face the day.
What's on your jobs list?
Teaching, Editing, Copy-writing, Translating, Tour Guide Work, Makeup Sales, Singing Telegrammer, etc.
Send out occasional text messages, emails, and make calls to let people know you're looking for a gig. 

*I don't believe in experts or gurus, but some people do. I do believe some people are highly-talented at what they do and have difficulty connecting with the right consumer who understands the value of the freelancer's work.

Write about what you've learned with your failures.
Did you give up too soon?
Did you hang on to a project/client for too long?
What did you learn?

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