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February Program: The Freelance Edge

Nuggets of Advice to Establish and Grow Your Business

The Freelance Edge kept our audience engaged throughout an informative and interactive evening where advice, tips, and questions touched on a variety of issues that continue to be pertinent to many of us, from how to build a business to what makes us unique and keeps us competitive. The program started with a general session followed by four breakout groups that focused on legal, financial, insurance, and business development. During the general session each presenter provided nuggets of advice for the new and the more seasoned freelance or business owners.

John Schickendanz, president of the Alliance of Creative Professionals and the principal of Cadre C2C, a business development and sales support firm, provided advice on how to tap into your selling skills to “wow” clients and grow your business. His key nuggets were:

  • Business development is networking, establishing, and nurturing contacts, which in the end leads to sales.
  • To develop and keep business one needs to focus on the client's needs and how to solve them.
  • Remember that you have to let prospects and clients know why you are better than others at what you do and position yourself uniquely. Remind your clients about how good you are and ask for referrals.
  • Last but not least, he encouraged all of us to give to our contacts, even if it is an answer to a question or referring someone to them. Give and you will receive.

Helena Swyter, a licensed Certified Public Accountant, who helps people turn their passions into careers by handling their finances so they can focus on following their dreams, had these business formation nuggets:

  • Start your business by obtaining a DBA (Doing Business As) license; never do business just under your name.
  • To protect yourself from liabilities if someone sues you, establish a legal entity such as an LLC, S-Corp, or a C-Corp.
  • She explained the key differences between the three types of entities:
  • An LLC allows you to do business on your own or to form a partnership with multiple members.
  • An S-Corp allows you to protect your assets and to pay yourself a reasonable salary. The money you make after you take your salary comes as a distribution, which can help to save on taxes.
  • A C-Corp is laborious and pays higher taxes. It's not good for self-employment, and is more appropriate for a larger business.
  • If you decide to establish a partnership, talk to a lawyer first.

Alexis Bettis, an attorney and partner at Klevatt & Associates, LLC, who has significant experience as counsel for small-to-medium businesses, provided a variety of legal issues nuggets for entrepreneurs at various stages of business formation:

  • Have strong contracts with vendors and clients.
  • Plan for the unexpected and for disasters; plan for growth and for ending a business.
  • Enter into a contract with the right legal entities; make sure you have the right legal name and titles of business entities.
  • Choose the state that will rule in contract disputes in case of litigation; you do not want to have to travel to another state in such a situation.
  • Pay attention to the attorney fees provision in contracts to know who pays in cases of litigation.
  • Beware of independent contractors and unpaid interns: both can have IRS implications.
  • Outline who will be responsible for what in the business and what decisions can be made by which party, as well as how to break a tie and the method of dissolution of a business.
  • Save a lot of money (and stress) by keeping documents organized.
  • Look for an attorney who is willing to charge a flat fee versus an hourly fee for some projects.
  • Request a free legal audit.

Stoddard Barnhill, a Senior Account Executive with Century Payments (which provides merchants and small business owners with information to properly manage the payment aspect of their business), shared the following credit card acceptance nuggets:

  • Keep in mind that credit card acceptance requires volume.
  • If you accept credit, ask your provider for their interchange fee plus pricing schedule. Keep in mind that interchange fees change twice a year.
  • Keep in mind that a tiered pricing schedule usually consists of qualified pricing (1 percent fee) and nonqualified (3 percent fee). Businesses with smaller volumes may find themselves in the latter category.
  • Bigger is not better; some banks use a third-party provider to process credit card transactions and then charge you for it.
  • Select a merchant whose focus is payment processing for better service and price.
  • Read your credit card statements and ensure that they reflect the fees agreed to during the life of the contract.
  • Be prepared when you meet with your processor and ask questions; act bigger than you are. Ask how much of the interchange is going to the issuing bank, to the processor, and to you.
  • Square can process credit card payments, but not if you have significant volumes.
  • When selecting a payment processor, keep in mind that to avoid liability due to fraud and other issues, you will need a processor that is payment care industry (PCI) compliant.

Robert Slayton is a licensed insurance agent whose company, Robert Slayton & Associates, Inc., strives to tailor solutions to meet the needs of a business or an individual, shared the following insurance services nuggets.

  • Protect yourself with a legal structure.
  • Once you get started in business, protect yourself with insurance.
  • A contract is a type of insurance.
  • Purchase general liability insurance, which most corporations require of their vendors, and which only costs $425 a year.
  • You may want to have workers compensation insurance, too.
  • Another type of insurance to consider is publisher's insurance to protect your brand, in case plagiarism comes into play.
  • And, of course, last but not least, have health insurance.

Catherine Delcin, the Managing Director of Delcin Consulting Group, a legal and management consulting firm based in California , focused on personal motivation and inspiration for small business owners, a subject she covers extensively in her forthcoming book, Entrepreneur Initiative.

She shared with us the following personal motivation nuggets.

  • Take a leap of faith. Identify what is your gift and value and how you can help others. This will lead you in the right direction.
  • Motivation will help you to build your business.
  • Operate in two worlds: the dream world and the real world. The dream world is where if you can see what you want, you can do it and you can build it. The real world will help you to step back as needed and to create a strategic and tactical plan to get things done.
  • Avoid two circles of people that she has coined as top-preneurs (those who talk, but do nothing about it) and pre-preneurs (those who are always planning to do something, but never do it).
  • Keep in touch with business people who have accomplished things.

You can reach our Freelance Edge speakers for more information on their subject matter and presentation at the following addresses:

Jon Schickendanz: jon@cadrec2c.com
Helena Swyter, CPA: Helena@sweetercpa.com
Alexis A. Bettis, Attorney: abettis@chicagolaw.biz
Stoddard Barnhill: Stoddard.barnhill@nmerchantsolutions.com
Robert Slayton, Robert@slaytonins.com
Catherine Delcin: Catherine@delcinconsulting.com

Maria Martinez is a marketing–branding specialist, writer, and editorial coordinator with 29 years experience in retail, financial services, and publishing. Maria held the position of Marketing Director at Sears Holdings and at Citigroup. She has a Masters in Journalism from Medill at Northwestern University . Maria is the author of Cuban Stories, a memoir. She can be reached at info@mariamartinezbooks.com.

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