Get Paid for Your Work – Negotiating a Freelance Contract

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During a time of unemployment, some individuals make finding a full-time job into their main pursuit. After putting in long hours and hard work, something ultimately comes through and the task is done. Then there are those people who work for themselves. While freelancing allows great latitude and more control over what you do and the time you spend doing it, it also confines you within the realm of constantly seeking out work and renegotiating your terms of employment. There is more job security, as you control your own destiny, so to speak, being your own boss and in charge of seeking out new projects. And yet, there is less security, for there is no way of telling how long that lag between the end of a project and the beginning of a new one will be. Read on for a list of negotiating tips, so that you can ensure you get the most out of your freelancing experience.

Write it Down

First and foremost, whenever you negotiate a contract with an employer, be absolutely sure to put all terms down in writing. If you instead opt to commit to something verbally, you run the risk of having an employer change the terms on you, or conveniently remembering them in a different way. Write it down, and should troubles arise, you can take your documents to a third party and settle the problem accordingly.

Agree to a Price Upfront

When you discuss project details with an employer, it’s important to discuss compensation at the outset. Don’t wait until you’re halfway through the job to bring it up – by that point you might already be too embroiled in the work to easily get out of it if an employer refuses to compensate you properly. And never, under any circumstances, hand over work without first agreeing on the value of your efforts. If you turn over your work without first setting a price, you turn over all power.

Set a Date

Negotiate a date on which you will be paid in full – and write this down in the original contract. That way, you hold an employer accountable, and if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain, you can pursue the next necessary course of action. If you don’t set a date, you give the employer the opportunity to continue pushing off payment later and later, which keeps you in a state of limbo and prolongs an already unhealthy business relationship.

Procure a Retainer Fee

After you have set a price and a pay date, require that your employer pay you a retainer fee. This is an amount of money that an employer pays you upfront in order to secure your services. Even once you draw up a contract with an employer, you can still run into a tricky situation at the end of your business relationship: your employer may claim that you did not live up to the terms of your end of the bargain, or may lack the finances to pay out to you in the end. A retainer fee ensures that you do see at least some of the money for your work, regardless of your employer’s funds or their opinion on the quality of your work.

Understand the Time Commitment

It’s important to have as thorough understanding of the project as possible, at least to a point where you know how much time you will be spending on it. Why? Several reasons. Some people may wish to negotiate pay based on an hourly rate. If you originally underestimate how much time a project will take you, it may be difficult to go back and convince your employer of the time that the work actually took, and of how much you truly deserve to be paid. It’s also imperative to know how much time you need to devote to the project so that you manage your time well. Getting the work in on time is built into your part of the contract, and failure to do so may delay or nullify payment. Finally, understanding time constraints can be helpful so that you can convey this information to the employer. If you establish exactly how long you will be spending on a project with an employer beforehand, you can avoid having them demand superfluous work or hours from you throughout the process.

Understand the Project

A nice segue from the discussion on time commitment, you must understand the project you are undertaking, and so should your employer. If you are asked to complete one thing, make sure that this is the thing that you deliver in the end. This will help keep you on track, as well as lessen the likelihood that an employer will claim that you did not provide the work you were supposed to, thus ensuring that you don’t run into unnecessary issues when it comes to getting your paycheck.

Freelancing can be tricky – more often than not, you don’t have someone else advocating on your behalf, and there are many uncertainties that you run into working for a new employer every few days, weeks, or months. But freelancing can also be a lot of fun. Who doesn’t like being their own boss and changing the scenery every now and then? Just follow these simple guidelines and enjoy the ride!

Until next time,
The Doostang Team

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Graduate School vs. Full-Time Career

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Many individuals who are finishing up their undergraduate degrees are faced with the dilemma of choosing between pursuing higher education or jumping into the real world and landing a full-time job.  There are certainly pros and cons to each path, but ultimately it comes down to the individual.  If you are facing this conundrum, here are some things you may want to consider:

Graduate School

Pros

Many people in favor of going to graduate school straight out of college argue that this creates a much smoother transition.  You are still in “school mode”, having spent the last 17 or so years of your life in the classroom, and you don’t have as many commitments in the real world that are holding you back.  Because you are fresh out of college, you don’t have a job that will be difficult to leave, and you likely don’t have a family of your own to think about when potentially moving across the country.  In short, you still have the flexibility that makes focusing on graduate school much easier.

People in favor of graduate school after college also argue that in this sort of economy, delaying the job search may be a good idea.  You don’t have to enter the fray quite yet, and in addition to waiting out an iffy job market, you are adding more credibility to your name by earning additional degrees and accolades.

Cons

The downside of entering graduate school is that if the institution you are attending does not sponsor your degree, you are getting yourself into further debt without the guarantee of a job immediately after graduation.  You may also lack the real world experience to determine what exactly you want to pursue, and whether or not your choice of study will be useful in the real world.

Full-Time Career

Pros

One of the biggest pros for waiting a few years before going back to school is that the real world experience you bring with you enriches your academic experience.  You have a better perspective on the practical use of your degree and know more thoroughly what you want to get out of it.  Waiting a few years before returning to your studies may also ensure that you end up pursuing an area that you’re actually interested in, instead of jumping into something right away just for the sake of staying in school.

Another plus to having some real world experience under your belt is that, upon graduation, you are more likely to land a great job. Companies often prefer real world experience in addition to a degree, as opposed to someone who has the same degree but no idea of what it’s like to be in a real working environment.  Also, there is the added benefit of already having the proper connections from your previous job to help get you back on your feet and working again, which you wouldn’t have had if you went straight into grad school.

Cons

The downside to putting off graduate school is that it may be difficult to get back into it.  You may find that you love your job and it’s difficult to leave.  You may have a family, in which case it could be hard to relocate to a place that otherwise would have been an ideal fit for you.  Or you may feel too distanced from academia itself to feel entirely comfortable heading back.

There are certainly drawbacks to each side of the debate, but people pursue both paths successfully all the time.  What it really comes down to is weighing all the pros and cons and deciding what is right for YOU.

All the best,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News December 27: New Year’s Resolutions for Your Job Search

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The New Year signifies a shot at a New You – a chance to hit the reset button, so to speak, and realign yourself in a direction that leads to better health, more exercise, or greater knowledge.  The problem is, junk food tastes so much better than Brussels sprouts, you don’t have the time to keep up with all the daily news sources and stay on top of the New York Times Bestseller List, and that one-year gym membership loses its shine in February.  It can be hard to stay on top of your goals, but if you make the effort when it comes to your job search, it really will pay off.  Moreover, if you set short-term, concrete milestones for yourself, you’ll be more likely to stick it out.  Here are some ideas:

  • Resolve to build out your professional network.  Hold yourself accountable and vow to meet a certain number of people – say, two – per week.  You could also decide that you will attend one to two networking events per month.  Picking a number and sticking to it is important, and it’s also a helpful way to track the people you meet and when you met them.
  • Promise to yourself that you’re going to really make your job search a full time job, and set a goal for yourself as to how many jobs you will apply to each week.  If it helps to break it down to a specific number of jobs per day, do that; just make sure you set a goal and don’t fall below it.
  • Decide to have a happier, healthier year by taking up a hobby or volunteering.  It’s hard to sit in front of a computer all day and search for a job, so commit yourself to an activity or join a group that meets once a week, and make it a part of your routine.  It’s important to get out and remain social, so that you don’t get too worn out by your job search and lose steam.
  • Commit yourself to learning a new skill or subject matter.  Use your free time to broaden your mind, and consider taking up something that will allow you to bring more to the table at a new job, so that you can become a more attractive candidate to hiring managers. Were you always hoping to one day learn Spanish or HTML? Now is the time to do it.
  • If 2010 was a rough year for you as far as job search goes, consider seeking the aid of professional services that will look over your resume or coach you on how to perform in an interview.  Perhaps this is something to add to your holiday wish list for those who have no idea what to get you.
  • Make a resolution to build your online presence and leverage social media channels to get a job.  Sign up for various social and professional networking sites, and craft an image that you want employers to see.  Consider starting a blog that serves as an online portfolio of work or as a further networking tool, and make sure that you update it once a week.
  • Perhaps the most important resolution is to find a way to stay positive, even though you may be feeling anxious about not having a job.  A positive person will be more productive, will exude enthusiasm and confidence to hiring managers, and will be more likely to land a job that they enjoy.  Do what you can to keep your head up, whether it’s yoga, a weekly movie night, time with your kids, or anything else that relaxes you and keeps you happy.

Staying on top of New Year’s resolutions isn’t always easy; but if you really think them through, establish small milestones for yourself, and follow a set course, you’ll effectively end up where you want to be!

Happy New Year,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News July 19: Turning an Internship into a Job

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If you’re going to give up your precious summer break or coveted after-school and weekend hours to intern at a company, you sure as heck want to get something out of it, right?  But parlaying your internship into a full-time opportunity can be tricky, and it’s hard to determine the most tactful way to advocate for yourself.  Here are a few things you can do to leave a company wanting more:

Meet Goals

It may seem obvious, but many a deficient intern has left their work unfinished, failing to see the long-term repercussions of the loose ends they leave – after all, it’s not your problem once school starts back up in the fall, is it?  Well, yes it is, actually.  Because if you want solid recommendations or a possible job waiting for you when you graduate, you really need to put forth your best effort.  Demonstrate that, even as an unpaid, inexperienced intern, you are someone that your boss can rely on.  And if you manage to complete your work early, go a step further and volunteer to take on other projects.  You’ll really make a difference at a company and they’ll be anxious to have you back.

Learn

Another common mistake that interns make is taking a very narrow view of their work.  When you have tunnel vision at an internship, you squander one of the most important reasons you are there – to learn.  Showing up at an internship isn’t just about getting through the day and then slapping it on your resume after three months.  It’s getting to know the ins and outs of an industry, so that you are more qualified to assume a full-time position in this sector when you’re through.  When you graduate, your goal probably isn’t to land another similar internship.  So try to cultivate the skill set of a more advanced position within the company by paying attention to what’s going on around you and helping out in creative ways.

Socialize

For full time workers, one of the greatest advantages of having interns around the office is being able to interact with promising, vibrant students and other young individuals.  So don’t be shy and indulge your coworkers a little.  You’ll learn a lot about the company and the industry by doing so, and these interactions will shed light on the more personal aspects of the job – how easy it is to manage work with a family, what sort of people you can expect to encounter, etc.  More than this, the people you meet will be the individuals who will vouch for you later on.

Show Gratitude

Because an internship generally requires you to show up on a regular basis, it can be easy to take for granted the opportunity you have…and to forget to thank those who helped you along the way.  So make sure to say “thanks” every once in awhile, and definitely send thank you notes to the individuals who really had an impact on your experience when your internship is up.

Stay in Touch

Just because your internship ends doesn’t mean the relationships you established along the way have to end too.  Make sure to email people you met along the way from time to time – to ask questions about jobs, to check in and see how they are doing, to share an exciting experience in school, etc.  It’s far better to keep in touch with people in a friendly manner than to merely contact them out of the blue when you need something.


While it may seem sometimes that you have the raw end of the deal in an internship that doesn’t pay you very well – if at all – and demands a lot of your time, it really is a unique and valuable experience that you can benefit from in more ways than one.  Hard work, gratitude, and friendliness can take you far.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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