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Online workshop report: Freelancers Forum


This is the report from the online Freelancers Forum held on Tuesday 30 January 2001.

Stephanie Phillips Hi Rod, you're the first here today! We'll wait a few minutes to see who else turns up.

Stephanie Phillips Nice to see so many people here today.
JPJ Good afternoon.

Stephanie Phillips Today's session is very much a free-for-all, i.e. for you to raise questions and answers to put to others here today.

Matthew Haggis Had trouble finding the link from the home page, but I'm here now!

Keith Bryan Me too.

Stephanie Phillips Matthew - apologies for that! If we can start with introductions - your background, your areas of interest....

Matthew Haggis I'm a sort of OD consultant (what does that mean?) with a particular interest in community involvement stuff.

Keith Bryan Online development?

JPJ I'm an IT trainer working for a big blue chip in the southwest. My main interest is in breaking into the Freelancers market- the how's, what not to do's etc.

Matthew Haggis Can I ask a starter for 10? Anyone every wandered into a loose 'partnership' with another freelancer with a view to doing things together?

Michiel Erasmus I'm a freelance lecturer for e-commerce, MIS (MBA level) and Project Management.

Matthew Haggis What happens about the need for a formal agreement - and tax etc? (Who said we'd start with the easy stuff?).

Keith Bryan A good Question Matthew 'Associates' are something of particular interest to me.

Matthew Haggis If you pay an Associate a fee (not a profit share) are they simply employees as far as the IR are concerned?

Stephanie Phillips Rita, Rod, would you like to add your areas of interest to the discussion?

Keith Bryan I assume one of the Associates Ltd company would be responsible for the paperwork, although IR35 could put a stop to that.

Matthew Haggis JPJ - don't expect anything too big too fast, unless you wait for the 'break' before moving across...

Rod Storey I investigated the partnership area a long time ago. My understanding is that you need to have a loose association, OR a very formal legal arrangement.

Matthew Haggis I would prefer the loose association, but if there is a partnerhsip (or project) bank account, does that make a difference?

Matthew Haggis Keith, what if neither of you is a Ltd Co.?

Rod Storey In a formal partnership I think that each Partner can be responsible for all the debts of the whole partnership.

Michiel Erasmus Even in a loose association a 'informal' agreement is the better way to go - addresses the problems before it occurs.

JPJ This form of 'Associated consultants' is quite tricky to break into. Are you suggesting that I should look for business opportunities before I leave the security of a permanent contract, or is it worth establishing myself with an appropriate agency and working through their network of contacts? Would an agency route 'Do Away With' this problem of agreements with associates?

Rod Storey No, the agency has nothing to do with the status of the business. I think that the legal situation is that there can be a partnership (formal) or a limited company, which has 'limited liability'.

Rod Storey You mentioned an Agency. Do you have a good one in mind?

Michiel Erasmus JPJ one of the challenges when branching off on your own is to build credibility.

Matthew Haggis JPJ - all I meant was that it can take a while (like more than a year) before people start thinking of you as a freelancer, unless you set a few things up first.

Michiel Erasmus Another challenge, JPJ, you will be facing is the marketing/production cycle - to ensure work keeps flowing in whilst training/lecturing.

Matthew Haggis Michiel - yes, I agree, but also even a 'credible' freelancer may take a while to 'prove themselves' and start getting calls about work.

Rod Storey I suppose the best bet, if you can, is to start to set things up whilst you are still in a 'proper' job.

Tim Pickles How do you keep skills updated?

Rod Storey Rod. Read a lot!

Laura Lindell I work part of the time for myself and part of the time as an 'associate' for others. Sometimes I need people to offer skills that I don't have so I hire 'associates'.

JPJ There are one or two which we have used in the past as a company- so it could be a case of better the devil you know. I have to confess that does not seem to be many out there...full stop! IT training is perhaps a bit more buoyant, but there is still this gap in terms of the recruitment market catering to the needs of trainers. Quite a curious situation when training is a enormous industry in its own right.

Michiel Erasmus Skills update is a continuous process - similar to the learning organisation.

Laura Lindell Oh yes and read and read and use the internet and this site.

Stephanie Phillips Thanks Laura - there should be a fair bit of useful information on the site!

Michiel Erasmus Trainer/lecturer only as good as the skills mixed to the latetst developments in his field(s).

Rod Storey How about finding clients?

Michiel Erasmus Many methods Tim; read, informal courses, use your network of specialists, attend formal courses, even further study at university, attend seminars/lectures/conferences.

Laura Lindell there's no substitute for networking. Keep talking to people.

Matthew Haggis On skills, has anyone managed to achieve a 'cross-over' with a client - joining in some other training they are doing in an area you want to develop?

Matthew Haggis Rod - what do you mean, finding clients?

Matthew Haggis Laura - yes IPD, sorry CIPD, local branch evenings can be good.

Rod Storey Getting your name and skills in front of people, so they want to use you.

JPJ Networking in areas such as this has it's obvious advantages, but are there any other on line forums or Profile data bases which can explored?

Laura Lindell What if you aren't IPD member?

Matthew Haggis Laura - aha! Join!

Laura Lindell But what if I'm not qualified enough - my age old worry.

Michiel Erasmus Rod; finding clients is a 'marketing' exercise.

Tim Pickles Laura, You can join CIPD at various levels.

Michiel Erasmus Laura- the age old question - it is not necessarily the qualifications that makes the trainer...

Tim Pickles Do qualifications help getting the contract?

Michiel Erasmus Laura - I'm aware of excellent trainers in the UK (in client services and sales) that do not have formal qualifications.

Michiel Erasmus Tim - in some cases (i.e. project management in UK) not having a formal qualification will not get you the job/assignment.

Michiel Erasmus Tim - at the MBA lecturer level even more difficult without formal qualifications and/or MBA.

Laura Lindell So many qualifications, so little time, so much to be interested in.

Tim Pickles I suppose it depends at what level or subject you deliver.

JPJ Michael: There would seem to a cyclic thing here with business development. You need to become associated to gain client contacts and you need client contacts to gain further associations. How does one gain access to the market. Where can you look formally/informally for people who may want to utilise ones skills?

Michiel Erasmus Tim - true subject level training as well as the organisation for/to which the training is delivered to plays a role.

Tim Pickles So, being freelance would give you more credibility backed with exp. and qualifications?

Keith Bryan From the TrainingZONE perspective, what can we do to aid the freelancer community in terms of finding work and other associates?

Matthew Haggis JPJ - I agree about networks - Chambers of Commerce, Business Clubs, TEC/LECs etc.

Michiel Erasmus JPJ; you are right about the question.

Laura Lindell Changing the subject slightly - what do you people do about contracts?

Matthew Haggis Laura - sign them and take the money, please!

Rod Storey Cover payment terms in your proposal letter.

Tim Pickles Laura, many factors affect type of contract, size of organisation, length of time, what they want.

Michiel Erasmus JPJ; some suggestions - you could align yourself with a training organisation on a part time/freelance basis; whilst searching for new clients in your 'spare' time.

Michiel Erasmus JPJ; alternatively you could use external marketing (agent or whatever) to 'find' potential clients.

Michiel Erasmus JPJ; the key is to balance the 'marketing' effort with the 'production' (or training) effort.

Rod Storey Anyone know a good marketing agent?

Michiel Erasmus JPJ; you would also need to 'manage' the business side of your business; financial, marketing, public relations, production, etc.

Tim Pickles So, doing all these things as a freelancer, when do you have time out of work?

Michiel Erasmus Tim; it is a balancing act and depending the size of your organisation some functions would need to be out-sourced; i.e. financial to your accountant, marketing to the agent, etc.

Matthew Haggis Tim - I knew there was a reason I have no money in the bank...

Tim Pickles Or how do you weigh up doing the jobs to get the work, for which you don't get paid - with actually doing the work that pays you?

Rod Storey 40% paid, 60% the rest.

Michiel Erasmus Tim; but if any of the three critical areas; marketing, business management and production (the training that is delivered) is not attended too - then sustainability of your business at risk.

Matthew Haggis Surely most of us do the 'marketing' in down time when there isn't much work on, but that is why we get the feast/famine stuff.

JPJ Michael/Matthew- how much of the business that you get is referral/rebook?

Michiel Erasmus Matthew; I believe marketing is all the time (even whilst you're training; you need to identify the opportunities) and can not be persued part time.

Matthew Haggis Laura - what *did* you mean about contracts - did you get the info you wanted?

JPJ Michael - sounds like I should ditch training and go into sales!!!

Tim Pickles JPJ - would you be successful in this field?

Michiel Erasmus JPJ - most of my business is referral/rebook on the training side - but I still continue marketing throughout; as that could be the next client.

Matthew Haggis Michiel - yes, a good entrepreneur is always on the lookout, I suppose I was thinking of doing the more tedious stuff in off-time.

Michiel Erasmus JPJ; depends what your strong points and likes are.....but sales also has its challenges.

Matthew Haggis Almost all my work is referral, if you mean as opposed to responding to adverts or invitations to tender.

Tim Pickles All my work to date has been referral, but that has limited my client base.

Stephanie Phillips All - we need to wind things up shortly. If you'd like to make your last few comments.....

Matthew Haggis Tim - yes, it can mean you get focused into a corner, which can be OK for a while... Bye, folks. Nice talking to you.

JPJ Matthew. yes, that is exactly it. And it leads me back to my point about breaking in from the outside! And how does one get in?

JPJ Thanks for your help and comments.

Stephanie Phillips Thanks all for coming along to take part.

Keith Bryan Thanks.

Tim Pickles Thanks, bye.

Michiel Erasmus Thanks all.

Stephanie Phillips I hope to 'see' you all at another session in the near future - we run these freelancers forum on a regular basis. The next one will probably be in April.

Stephanie Phillips Thanks again for coming along. Bye all.


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