Top Tips for the new Freelancer
I’ve been a freelancer for just over three glorious years now. I am more than qualified to let everyone know that starting out as a freelancer is utterly terrifying. I can assure you of that much. But don’t let that scare you.
I remember well the first time my business phone rang and I knew it was a potential new client. I went to pieces. All of my past experience and the confidence that I knew I had went away. It vanished and reduced me to a gibbering wreck. Lord only knows how I managed to secure that client, but thankfully I did. I am still here to give you my tips on starting out as a freelancer and surviving.
The many advantages of freelancing are fairly obvious. Mostly it comes down to freedom.
- to choose who you work with
- of location and avoiding commutes
- to work the hours that you want
- to do the type of work that you want to do
Freelancing also comes with a few drawbacks. For me being a single woman there are two main disadvantages:
- Financial insecurity
I have personally turned those cons around into pros. As I am a single woman I am hungry for success. I need my freelance business to succeed. It’s hard work, yes, although I never looked on my freelancer life in any other way.
I work hard and so far [touching wood] it’s paying off.
Managing your time becomes so much more important when you’re a freelancer. As a freelancer you also have to develop, grow and maintain your own business. Which in all cases means taking care of the many non-money making tasks involved in running a small business.
When you worked as an employee, you spent your day doing the one task you were paid to do. A whole host of other departments and employees spent their day working to support your employers business; Accountants, Bookkeepers, Marketeers, a Legal Department, Customer Services, the list is endless. When you freelance you have to do it all and chances are you have had no training or experience with any of it. Not many of us are born with the knowledge to allow us to do it all.
I’ll take a step back to the word freedom, yes you have lots of it as a freelancer. But don’t make the mistake of letting freedom get the better of you. You can be more flexible with your day, just don’t fall into the trap of long lay-ins, spending hours on the sofa watching day-time TV or dropping everything when your friends call and say they want you to join them for a day out. If you do you’ll slowly start losing interest in your business, which, in no time at all will result in lack of motivation and apathy.
Get up, get ready for work and get your head into work/business mode…
With apathy and a lack of motivation your business and ultimately your finances will suffer. Remember that as a freelancer you won’t have the regular pay cheque going into your bank account every month. No more paid holidays for you and there is definitely no benefit in ‘pulling a sickie’ – not that I ever did that as an employee!
If like me you have to earn to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly, you have to keep a tight eye on your cash flow.
So, when there is so much to do and so much to think of. How do you manage your time, keep yourself motivated, keep yourself and your business cash happy and stop talking to yourself as the only means of adult conversation?
Give yourself enough time – Under promise and over deliver. Make sure you add buffer time to a project deadlines, even add a small buffer time of 5/10 minutes between your daily work schedule. Think of Murphy’s Law When you work to an overly tight deadline you can guarantee that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
However, if you add buffer time, you’ll take the stress away from yourself, you will have time budgeted for any foreseeable disasters and if you finish the project before the deadline, your client will think you are a super-star.
Outsource – Outsource the non-money making essentials like bookkeeping, accountancy and marketing. Outsourcing the tasks you are rubbish at frees up the time you can spend doing what you are good at. So hire a Virtual Assistant. Obviously having more time to make money far outweighs the money spent on outsourcing. And you can also offset the payment for the Virtual Assistant services as an expense. It’s win, win.
[bctt tweet=”Outsource ~ Speculate to Accumulate.” username=”VirtuosoPA”]
Keep structure to your day – Make sure you are at your desk at a set time every day. You’ll soon find that if you stick to a regular structured plan it will soon become second nature. Write a to-do list every evening for the next morning and stick to it.
Force yourself to work in short bursts – set a timer for say 30 minutes. Then concentrate solely on that piece of work during that time. No Facebook, no cups of tea, no procrastination at all… yes, that means nothing but WORK. Then give yourself a ten minute do what you want break. Rinse and repeat throughout your work day.
Set clear invoicing dates and payment terms – this may sound obvious, but so many new to being a freelancer don’t do it. Some businesses invoice immediately, as soon as the work is completed. Others prefer to invoice on set dates. It’s completely up to you and how you want to do it. Just do it!
As long as you take into account that the payment may not arrive in your account until the final day of your payment terms.
As the majority of my clients’ are retained on a monthly basis, I invoice at month end and I’ve set my payment terms as 7 days. We all know when the invoices will go out and the time scale in which payment will be received. If you invoice immediately on completion use an App especially developed for Freelancers like you and me. Create and send professional invoices where-ever you are and get paid online. Use an App like Invoice2Go for reliable cloud invoicing and payment.
Budget – it may sound like a nasty word to use and class as a tip but it is essential. You can’t manage your finances if you don’t measure them first. Your income may fluctuate as a freelancer but your expenditure won’t. So, keep your budget as low as possible. Work out how much you are going to have to pay out for the essentials like tax, national insurance, operating licenses, professional insurance and any required software annually, and budget accordingly. If you have a really good month financially and your business bank account looks buoyant resist the temptation to splurge. Instead take a look at your budget/financial forecast and spend with the mind-set of a freelancer. Yes you’ve had a good month, and you know that next month will be an OK month too. But what about a few months down the line.
Working from home as a freelancer, can, if you let it lead to isolation – you spend 24/7 with only yourself as company. When you start talking to yourself and then answering back, you know you have major problems. Before it’s too late, head it off at the pass!
Schedule networking into your weekly planner – It may be time away from work, but it’s not wasted time. You are working. Meeting like-minded people, sharing experiences and woes. Gaining insights into how others cope and tackle daily challenges is work. It doesn’t have to be face to face in person networking either. You can join on-line networking groups as I have.
When I first started out as a freelancer I attended many networking events on a weekly basis. One thing I never did and can offer up as a big tip is… Never join a networking group either on or off-line with the sole intention of business referral. It reeks of desperation and the majority will smell it and avoid you. Instead attend with the thought of meeting new people who understand your trails and can offer advice, help and support.
Since my early days as a freelancer I have gathered many new friends. Some of those whom I have never met in person. It sounds a bit like on-line dating doesn’t it. We ‘virtually’ meet in an on-line group a few times a week. Chat about life and chat about business. They support me and I in turn support them. I also meet once a month with an informal group for in person networking. We are all local business women and we meet after work for cocktails. Networking is not always about sales. Make networking about support and friendship and the business relationship and referral will follow.
[bctt tweet=”People do Business with People they know and Like.” username=”VirtuosoPA”]
By recognising and planning for these few potential challenges that may well befall you as a freelancer and having the ability to tackle them before they become an obstacle, you will be well ahead of them.
After all, forewarned is forearmed.