Congratulations! So, you want to be a freelancer. Here are the questions you should be asking yourself first:
1. What do I know about being a self-sufficient freelancer/ business owner?
2. What is my service or skill I have to offer?
3. How much experience do I have? Am I an expert?
4. What are others in my field charging?
5. Who are my competitors?
6. What can I do to stand out? How am I different from another similar businesses/freelancers?
7. How much time am I willing to dedicate?
8. Where will I market/publish my work/ services?
9. Will this be my main source of income? Should I keep or maintain a part time job? Will it support me and my family?
10. Am I responsible enough and ready to handle my own bookkeeping, taxes, fees and forms on top of managing my clients and workload?
11. Do I have the necessary equipment? What are my startup costs?
12. What is my business plan?
13. Do I need a financial and or administrative representative/ service provider? Can I afford them?
14. Do I need self-employment and health insurance? Where do I look? Can I afford it?
15. Where can I make an appointment with a financial officer that can assist with my business plan and searching for investors or capital?
16. Where can I find a mentor in my field?
17. What are my short- and long-term achievable goals for freelancing/ my business?
At the very least you should be asking yourself these questions to get you on a realistic path in freelancing. If this already seems overwhelming, you need to find another field of work. Otherwise, work with what you have first. Then, make your way down the list, whether it’s this list, someone else’s or your own.
At this point you feel like the lone wolf and you’re making things happen all on your own. Are you though? You think doing everything on your own will get you far? Not always the case. But you’re a freelancer, isn’t that how they live? You need to network and get familiar with people in your profession. Research on how to navigate the field. Gather information and begin to make informed decisions. Get your name out there and create strategies to appeal to your demographic. This path isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of time and assistance. Being able to ask for assistance and ask it the right way will get you far. If you’re going to ask for suggestions or advice be sure you make good use of it. Don’t waste the time of others in your field. They could potentially help propel you forward and introduce you to other likeminded professionals. You never know when a window of opportunity will open. Be keen on who you ask and how you ask. Do your research and create professional introductions through correspondence, meeting them virtually or in person.
Include in your conversation what you researched and a list of specific questions relevant to your similar field. It’ll be the best use of their time and yours. It also prevents you from receiving the same information you could have just read elsewhere. Remember these people are busy, so don’t get offended if they don’t respond right away. Move on to another ideal professional or take care of another task.
To get you in the right direction, the Small Business Administration (SBA) https://www.sba.gov/ and Freelancers Union https://www.freelancersunion.org/ are there to help and guide you. Check their websites to see if there is an available representative or group in your area. The SBA is there to guide and assist with coaching, capital, and contracting. The Freelancers Union offers Insurance benefits, Community, Advocacy, and Resources. As you build your freelancer network, utilize the Freelancers Union monthly community meetings, SPARK, which consists of a collective group of people from different backgrounds and experiences that contribute to the benefit of each other’s knowledge as entrepreneurs.
What do you have to offer in manner of services or your business? Are you an expert in it? Whether you’re an expert or not, you should always be improving, especially if you want to be among your local competitors or come out ahead. To avoid being bored with what you do, challenge yourself. Collaborate with someone, educate yourself on better techniques. My point is don’t turn yourself into a robot or create a mundane mindset for yourself. You really don’t want to fall into resenting what you do. Other than falling short of funds, losing interest in what you do are among the few reason’s freelancers/ entrepreneurs fail. You started as a freelancer because you want to make a living doing what you love or are passionate about. So, maintain that drive and you’ll never be bored.
You’re doing what you love and you’re starting to receive income. GREAT! Starting your own business as a freelancer is exciting. You control your workload and hours. You’re pumped and ready to tackle your next project. But remember you are not a robot. As a human being you need the essentials- food and rest at the very least. Ignore taking care of yourself and your work productivity and quality start to decline. As a freelancer your schedule will at one point, or another have changes and that’s ok. Be flexible.
Being your own boss is hard, but it also has its own advantages. You can adjust your schedule to make that special occasion you used to put off. Or attend that cool computer tech convention you always wanted to attend. Whatever it is, you will find innovative ways to enjoy time off whilst gaining information on improving your skills and business at the same time. Some would advise against this. But if you love what you do, it will seem more like play than work. Again, time management is key for effective productivity and resetting yourself.
As a new freelancer you’ll develop two minds- a business mind and a creative mind (depending on what your vocation is). It is a constant struggle knowing when to consider and act on the decisions of one mind over the other. Believe me, as an artist I’m usually questioning if an added detail or perfecting something will allow me to meet my deadline and still be cost effective. Most often the answer is no. But if you’re ahead of schedule and develop efficient work skills, you’ll learn to always add an additional amount of time to allow for changes, mishaps, or improvements.
Being your own worst critic is a bad habit to break, but it also provides some sense of reality to how you’re viewed from the outside looking in. It keeps you in check. No one is telling you how to dress or how to present yourself or your business to the world. Being your own boss allows for creative self-representation. Call it innovative self-marketing techniques. If you do that well, your previous or current clients will create more leads for you without you having to actually pay for marketing or ads.
There’s an endless number of digital platforms out there to showcase your work and services to the world. But before you go on a hunt paying into services of ads you consistently see on your social media platforms; you’ll want to do your homework. Again, research. There might be additional services within what you’re already paying for in a current subscription. Sometimes there are even special subscriptions for- holidays, students, teachers, and businesses. I always say, work with what you have first, before spending more on what you might already have in your back pocket. If you went to FIDM or an art/design school, you might be familiar with a digital design computer program used for CAD and graphic design. If you’re already paying a monthly subscription for a service, it usually includes at least one or two free portfolio platforms to display, share or even sell your work and services (if it’s digital art related). None the less, check for what you already have before throwing your money away on a duplicate service.
Let me be clear, if you use the word proficient, you need to grow more gumption and own what you do. If you genuinely want to gain the business of possible leads, people need to trust you. Proficient is a subpar reference to your skill set. You are either skilled, an expert or you’re not. And even experts are always learning, so don’t get “proficient” confused as all knowing. While on topic of your skills, avoid overwhelming yourself by offering more services than you can handle. Stick to what you are an expert in and limit yourself to a few key things. This ties into your time management. If you can achieve this, you’ll be known and referred to by others for your expertise and not an overabundance of mediocre work.
Create a contract. I am by no means a legal representative, but this is especially important and should hopefully spare you future complications between you and your clients. Check valid legal online resources and other businesspeople in your area. Ask your mentor. Be sure it’s relevant to your business, legally sound, and pertains to where you are located. Start with a template and work towards what applies to you. There are basics essential to creating a solid contract- deadlines, payments/ fees/ taxes, the client’s basic information. This should include a policy that covers your work if the client refuses to pay or is late. There are new and reliable services that you can subscribe to for a small fee, that your clients can submit full payments to and the service will disburse your payment amounts as you reach certain milestones of a project.
This brings me to price points. It is often that those new to freelancing think that they need please leads to gain them as clients and the first thing they do is undercharge. Know when to charge by the project and when to charge by the hour; yes, there’s a difference. Make sure you don’t short yourself to what you are providing to the client, product or service. Research and find out what others of your skillset and profession charge. Make sure you are clear on paper and to the client. Explain your process and make sure nothing is left to question.
Altogether I hope that this article was informative at the very least. If not, a refresher. If I missed anything you experienced, we’d like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave comments and voice what worked for you and didn’t. You’re as much a part of this as anyone else. There are more of us alike in the same situation, than we think. Through our shared experiences these articles can shed some light on issues we all un-knowingly have in common and provide some guidance and support to others as we continue our path as freelancers.