Best practices for Freelancers and One-Person Shops

(notes from a session at DrupalCon 2010)

  1. Act like a business, because you are
    • client interaction is more structured and formalized if you act like a biz
    • need to think ahead to how to deal with clients who pay slowly or don't pay, additional work beyond the original project scope
    • can figure rates backward: how much do you want to earn, and how many hours do you want to work? and/or adjust to match demand.
    • consider how you'd want a freelancer to treat you as a client, and act that way
    • make sure you have a good contract. start with boilerplate, customize, get it reviewed by an attorney. Have a provision in there for late payment.
  2. Define your goals, so your business will work for you.
    • what kind of biz do you want to be? Grow or stay small? Hours to work? work environment?
    • make a choice to move in a direction and make sure you go that way
  3. Define your services - exactly what do you do?
    • will you do Drupal exclusively? what types of clients?
    • clients' needs change; you may be asked to expand services
  4. Find work and clients
    • write a module that people use - they will contact you to write features, and you can ask for pay
    • write documentation
    • participate in meetings and newsgroups, answer questions
    • word of mouth is key!
    • Web site should model what you do as well as showcase examples and share information
    • present a professional image - take a stand against lame freelancers!
    • join chamber of commerce and network.
  5. Get the work done. What is your job, really?
    • meetings are not your favorite thing, but they're part of the job.
    • maintenance is liable to be a bigger part of the job than just launching sites
      if building a team, think about communication. who's the point person to talk to client?
    • not going to talk about tools... but Google Docs and Skype are awesome.  Use a doc as a checklist for features, etc.
  6. Professional development - the world changes, so you should change, too!
    • attend DrupalCon! and BarCamps!
    • get together with other freelancers and build a site together
    • contribute back to the Drupal project or modules.
    • learn more about how businesses work: community college classes, SCORE
  7. What Not To Do
    • don't hide income, and don't mess with the tax system.
    • don't take spec work (paid only if they like it)
    • don't work for free - your time is valuable - give discounts instead, so they know the value.
    • don't overshoot the client's budget; propose project in stages so they can buy more later.
    • don't take a project that doesn't interest you, or for a client you don't respect.
    • don't mess with your teammates. don't steal their clients!
    • don't forget that you can say no!