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自由职业者如何定身价

Katherine Reynolds Lewis 2013年01月14日

无论你是独立顾问,还是按小时、按天、按星期或按项目收费的自由职业者,你都是用时间来赚钱的。这里教给你几个小技巧,合理确定自己的收费标准,让你的工作带来最大的经济回报。

    自由职业对很多人来说意味着有望按自己的方式来完成工作。但除了这一份独立自主,随之而来的还有一系列抉择要做。最难的是如何给你的时间定价。

    无论你是独立顾问,还是按小时、按天、按星期或按项目收费的自由职业者,你都是用时间来赚钱的人。因此,珍视自己的时间价值,这是你与客户协商的核心。

    “如果你不珍惜自己的时间,别人也不会珍惜,”艾奥瓦州得梅因的一位自由职业作家本•格兰说。“必须确保你坐在桌前工作的每个小时都是赚钱的,以弥补你由于推广或缴税而不在桌前工作的时间。”

    全球外包网站Elance最近发布的报告指出,市场对自由职业者的需求正在不断增长。Elance为独立工作者和公司提供了一个服务平台。2012年第三季度,新发布的工作职位增加了41%,自由职业者的收入增加了42%。尤其值得注意的是,销售和营销项目呈现增长,其中社交媒体营销、策略和潜在客户开发均较上年增长了一倍以上。

    但在算自由职业者的经济账之前,首先要明白一点,独立顾问必须要在收费工作和不收费工作之间取得平衡。人们的本能总是要尽可能多地将每段可利用的时间用于收费工作,但现实是,很多工作并不能带来收入,不管是是营销、人际交往、写提案、开发票,还是其他案头工作。成功的顾问总是孜孜以求效率,注重时间管理。

    第一步:设定目标收入。按小时、按天或按星期,你需要赚多少钱才能满足开支需要,才能赚到你期望的收入?搞清楚必须要赚多少钱,你就可以更容易地判断并回绝那些报价过低的工作,同时确保一个项目能给你带来期望的小时费率。例如,本文采访的顾问和自由职业者将目标设在每小时收费50-300美元。

    第二步,必须能准确估算一个项目需要多长时间才能完成。即便按小时计费,你也需要提供给客户一个项目总的费用估算。

    “任何提案最有压力的部分就是最后一页,列出我所做的所有工作要收多少钱,”纽约州斯卡斯代尔的营销顾问特雷西•拉扎勒斯说。“我的方式是给客户提供一个报价,为他们创造价值,他们就会给我一个让我满意的费用。”

    每个项目拉扎勒斯都会撰写详细的提案,列明每一个步骤以及客户将获得什么。比如,她可能会列明她将撰写5个新产品销售创意,或者提交的文件最多将经过两轮修改。这样,她就可以避免节外生枝或额外工作,导致工作时间(和成本)上升。

    “我确保自己不被盘剥的方式就是在提案中明确我的主要工作内容,这样就没有太多可以随意阐释的空间,”她说。“如果不够详细,结果会是报价不当,有些钱可能没有加进去,或者你忘了还有一个步骤……”

    For many, being self-employed offers a promise of doing fulfilling work on your own terms. But along with that independence comes a dizzying array of decisions. One of the toughest of these is how to price your time.

    Whether you are an independent consultant or freelancer who charges by the hour, day, week, or project, you are trading time for money. So the question of how you value that time is central to how you negotiate with clients.

    "If you don't value your time, no one else is going to," says Ben Gran, a freelance writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. "You have to make sure every hour you spend in the chair working is profitable, to make up for all the hours you're not in the chair working because you're marketing yourself or doing your taxes."

    Demand for freelancers is growing, according to a recent report by Elance, a website that connects independent workers with companies. New job posts grew by 41% and freelancer earnings climbed 42% in the third quarter of 2012, compared with the previous year's quarter. Most notably, sales and marketing projects were on the rise, with social media marketing, strategy, and lead generation all more than doubling from the previous year.

    But before you dive into the freelance economy, understand that independent consultants must balance the need to pack billable work into every available hour with the reality that many activities won't bring in revenue, whether that's marketing, networking, writing proposals, invoicing or other paperwork. Successful consultants maintain an unrelenting focus on efficiency and time management.

    The first step: know your target income. What dollar amount do you need to bring in each hour, day, or week to cover your expenses and make the kind of income you desire? Having a clear understanding of what you must earn makes it easier to turn away work that pays less than you need -- or to ensure a given project delivers your hourly rate. Consultants and freelancers interviewed for this article set targets from $50 to $300 per hour, for example.

    Next, you must be able to accurately predict how long a given project will take you to complete. Even if you're being paid hourly, you need to give a client an estimate of the overall cost of a project.

    "The most stressful part of any proposal is the final page, which is how much I charge for all this work," says Tracy Lazarus, a marketing consultant based in Scarsdale, N.Y. "I've found a way to provide a price to clients that provides them with a value while providing me with a fee that I'm happy with."

    For each project, Lazarus writes a detailed proposal that spells out every step and what her clients should expect to receive. She might specify that she'll write five new product concepts, for instance, or that a given document will undergo up to two rounds of revisions. That saves her from unexpected changes or additional work that would add time -- and cost -- on her end of things.

    "How I make sure I'm not exploited is I'm very specific on the key activities in the scope of the proposal so it doesn't have a lot of leeway for interpretation," she says. "If you don't detail it enough, what happens is you don't price it out appropriately and you leave money behind, or you forget a step…."

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