Am I Freelancing Correctly?

When I read Dave Smyth’s article What Is Undercharging?, I hoped there would be a magical solution for charging the perfect amount. Instead, it reassured me that I’m not alone trying to determine whether I’m freelancing the right way.

Month to month, year to year, it seems that freelancers are constantly trying to figure out what works best for them. What makes them happiest? What earns them the most money? What platform gleans the most clients? What is the perfect number of hours to work?

How do you freelance correctly?

This isn’t a blog post that will give you the right answer or even the best answer. This is an article that outlines exactly what one freelancer did in non-billable hours in January 2019. In an effort to determine my own self-worth, I hope it helps you, too.

How I Spent My Time Last Month

As I mentioned previously, I started tracking as much as possible, including non-billable hours. I do this to remind myself that even though I’m not getting paid for certain tasks (like writing this blog), I’m still working.

In January 2019, I worked a total of 118.87 hours. Here are some of the non-billable tasks that I track:

  • Finance/accounting: For adding up my hours, creating invoices, sending invoices, talking with my accountant, and managing any other money-related tasks. Total time in January: 1.22 hours
  • Graphic design: For tasks such as designing coupons for my services or graphics for my website. Total time in January: 1.91 hours
  • Job applications/networking/research: Includes consultations, phone calls, coffee meetings, researching leads, drafting proposals, and intentional social networking. I know some people charge for consultations and creating proposals, but I don’t (though I’m considering it). Total time in January: 17.62 hours
  • Training: For online courses, tutorials, live broadcasts, and reading anything that I consider professional development. Total time in January: 0.55 hours (not enough!)
  • Writing/blogging: For writing blog posts and updating my website. Total time in January: 10.72 hours
  • Planning with IWNG: I genuinely enjoy working with the International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam, and it’s growing in a very exciting way! I value my time with IWNG, but at the moment, these aren’t billable hours. Total time in January: 33.46 hours

I worked a total of 65.48 non-billable hours in January. Another way of looking at it: I will not be paid for 55% of the hours I worked in January.

How to freelance correctly: push buttons, have ideas, send emails, profit

Is This the Best Way to Work?

At first glance, that seems like a harsh reality to accept. But look at those numbers again: I worked a total of 118.87 hours in the month of January.

In order to earn full-time pay, a person has to work 40 hours per week (at least in the States), which totals 160 hours per month. But those 40 hours aren’t full of meaningful work. Even for a part-time employee, every hour of scheduled work isn’t always packed with tasks that directly make money.

Before freelancing, full-time work was the only type of work I knew. I still compare myself to that standard, but I’m trying to change that mindset.

For example, I spent 33.46 hours working on IWNG affairs. We planned an incredibly successful event, and as a result, I’ve made some great personal and professional connections. That kind of self-investment is incredibly valuable to my career as a freelancer.

As great as it would be to be paid for all 118.87 hours at my current rate, I’m still happy with the balance I achieved.

So…am I undercharging?

Short answer: probably.

In regards to Dave Smyth’s article on Work Notes, my paid/unpaid balance seems to be in line with what he sees as his golden standard for sanity and happiness that also pays the bills.

The rates I charge (that anyone charges) account for education, experience, materials (including software subscriptions), time, expertise…the factors are endless.

But this is where talking to other freelancers has been extremely helpful. We talk about our areas of expertise, what skills we want to build on, what our strengths are, and how we each balance our workloads best.

While I “figured out” the work hours trick, I now have to determine what I should charge, which will lead to ultimate happiness! Easy enough, right?


Interested in getting to know me? Want to share struggles, ideas, or questions? Let’s talk.

The Hardest Part of Being a Freelancer

As an extrovert, I have found that the hardest part about freelancing is being alone.

This may not seem like much of a revelation, but as someone who has always been proud to be an independent worker and self-motivator, this came as a shock to me.

Being independent is, of course, a very important aspect of working for yourself. But what makes it different from working for a company is that you have no team, no daily motivator other than yourself.

Freelancing: A Team of One

With almost every project I receive, I think to myself “What if the company did this instead?” or “If I include these elements in the graphic, it can be used all these ways throughout their marketing efforts!” or “Didn’t someone tell them that their logo doesn’t translate well in black-and-white?”

But that’s not my job as a freelancer. My job is to be a specialized outsider. My job is not to be part of the team. The company and their work will continue on without me once my project is finished.

That’s hard for me.

I want to give everything I can to a client because I want them to succeed. It doesn’t help either of us if their business isn’t the best it can be, right?

But I’m not supposed to do or be everything for them. It’s not what I’m hired for.

Setting Boundaries and Limits for Yourself

That mindset – it’s not my job – is a toxic way to work when part of a company. As an employee, you may be expected to do more than what was explicitly described in the job posting.

And why not? You’re part of a team, and sometimes the pitcher has to cover home plate to make the play.

But not as a freelancer. As a freelancer, that’s how you can get taken advantage of.

You are hired to create graphics for an annual report, but maybe the client also needs a photo or two to be edited. You’re already using Photoshop, so why not? Or maybe you are formatting the layout, and you notice a couple typos in their copy. It’s easy enough to just swap “they’re” for “their,” or to highlight the extra “s” at the end of a word for your client to review. Why should you allow for these errors?

But that’s how your work takes a wrong turn. You overreach into aspects of the project that aren’t your responsibility. You take it upon yourself to “fix” or “help” when you haven’t been asked. Or if you have been asked, you comply, because for whatever reason, it seems like a worse outcome to say no.

As a freelancer, you are hired as an outsider to complete a specific task. If another task requested, then you accept it only if the client agrees to pay for it. Alternatively, you discuss these options upfront so that an appropriate rate can be determined.

Final Thoughts

Often it seems the best outcome for everyone is to stay in your lane. As a freelancer, you’re the base runner that subs in for the player with a bad knee so that you can score the run. It’s a limited yet important job for the team.

And that’s OK. As long as you do your part and do it well, you can (and will) help the business achieve its goals.

Bamboo Juice and the FDA: Are the Hazards of Fresh Juice Real?

Food Safety News reported that the juice company Bamboo Juice received quite the scolding from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Included in their strongly worded letter was a list of violations, such as:

  • misbranded food (calling a juice “spinach apple” when it also includes other ingredients)
  • unapproved new drugs (claiming a juice is an “inflammation tamer” or is a “natural remedy for kicking colds and clearing sinuses”)
  • inadequate 5-log reduction plan (not enough steps taken to eliminate microbial hazards)

While the first two are more about phrasing choices, the last item may cause harm to consumers. A 5-log reduction plan should be included in the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, which is a collection of procedures that the business implements in order to prevent outbreaks of food illnesses.

While it was initially required for seafood and meat manufacturers, HACCP plans are now a requirement for almost every aspect of the food manufacturing industry. So what does that mean for juice?

HACCP and Pasteurization

When I worked for a different Georgia juice company, one of my first tasks was to create the HACCP plan.

In addition to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Sanitary Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs), the 5-Log Reduction is a major component of food illness prevention. For those who are not food safety or math savvy, a 5-Log Reduction refers to what steps the business takes to reduce the number of microorganisms (read: bad bacteria) in their final product.

Until recently, that usually meant pasteurization, which is the process of heating up the product in order to kill bad bacteria. As a result, however, the flavor may change and some of the nutritional value may decrease.

HACCP and Pasteurization

 

But with high pressure pasteurization (HPP), the bad bacteria is eliminated through a cold pressure process, therefore preserving the nutrients and flavor while still eliminating the bad bacteria.

But there are many who believe that pasteurization isn’t entirely necessary. Think about it: do you wash your apple in water that’s 160° F for six seconds before eating it? If you juiced that apple instead, why would you heat it up to that same temperature for that same time period?

This example, of course, is not to scale. Juice companies receive huge quantities of produce from a variety of suppliers. It is, however, something to consider when you read about the dangers of drinking fresh juice.

Overall, pasteurizing juice is one of the best and most common ways to prevent food borne illnesses – a “better safe than sorry” situation. Its primary purpose is to prevent the highest risk microorganism, which in most cases is E. coli, clostridium botulinum (botulism), and salmonella.

But there are other steps businesses can (and do) take to prevent the occurrence of bad bacteria: properly washing the produce, culling for “bad apples,” and having good relationships with produce suppliers. That trust of sources can be crucial.

With the establishment of GMPs and SSOPs, some juice companies have two lines of juice:

  • A fresh juice line, which is only sold directly to customers in retail locations
  • A pasteurized juice line, which is only sold to consumers via a retailer such as Whole Foods, Publix, and other local markets

By having two product lines, a juice company can increase its business while also staying true to their mission of spreading good health.

Bamboo Juice and the FDA

According to this letter from the FDA, it seems that Bamboo Juice may not have two separate product lines, even though they sell juice both directly to consumers as well as through third parties.

The letter specifically states:

while your plan includes three critical control points as processing, bottling and cooler packaging and delivery temperatures, none of the critical control points identify and/or include a microbial reduction step. In addition, your “5-log reduction program”, attached to your HACCP plan, indicates the juice is not subject to any treatment that would ensure a 5 log reduction and is therefore not a suitable process to comply with the minimum 5 log reduction requirement for any of your juices.

While there are no details as to what “processing” includes, I read this statement as saying “you’re not pasteurizing your juices to prevent microbial growth.”

Bamboo Juices has made a commitment to not pasteurizing in order to preserve their products’ nutrients. This means, however, that they are not permitted to sell their juices to third party retailers.

Final Thoughts

I do not know whether Bamboo Juice has considered HPP as an alternative to traditional pasteurization. Because HPP is a newer technology, the financial barrier to access it is high – possibly higher than Bamboo Juice is willing to invest.

Hopefully, however, Bamboo Juice will find a way to meet FDA requirements while still producing the healthiest juice they can.


I love to simplify concepts so that customers can make informed decisions. Need help with that? Let’s talk.

Blockchain for the Medical Industry? Maybe.

This morning TheNextWeb posted an article suggesting that “blockchainification” is just one more possibility looming in the future of medicine.

It is certainly possible – blockchain is the cool new kid that everyone wants at their birthday parties. But how will it serve the medical community?

Blockchain_Med_indiv-01

Making communication more efficient

This article immediately reminds me of an episode of the podcast The Impact, which explores the human consequences of United States policy-making. Their first season focused on health care policy, during which the host Sarah Kliff investigated why the industry is still so heavily dependent on fax machines.

In Barack Obama’s first presidential term, the government “spent upward of $30 billion encouraging American hospitals and doctor offices to switch from paper to electronic records.” It was massively successful, in the sense that nearly 85% of hospitals were using electronic medical records by 2015.

It was unsuccessful, however, in deterring dependence on fax machines: while hospitals now have digital records, they all use different software programs that don’t speak to each other. As a result, hospitals and offices still have to use the fax machine.

Businesses found an opportunity to monetize this digital revolution in the medical industry. Ultimately, the ease of sharing medical records is not in the interest of most companies (and hospitals) because it makes it easier for the patient (or consumer) to switch providers.

Blockchain_Med_indiv-02

More technology, more problems

Which brings me to my original concern with blockchain technology. It all sounds well and good to have this incorruptible digital ledger, but can it be read by any software? Or will everyone in the supply chain need to have the same program?

While it seems to be in everyone’s interest to exchange research and ideas, it is not necessarily a profitable business practice.

Another obstacle that “blockchainification” may face, according to TheNextWeb, is recently-implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It would seem, however, that blockchain technology may actually work in favor of GDPR because it has the potential to give data control to the patient, rather than locked in the hands of the healthcare provider.

There are still significant questions like this that need to be explored before blockchain is meaningfully implemented throughout industries.