Navigating Freelancing

Maybe it’s because I’m now almost exactly 1 year out of college, maybe it’s the amount of time I spend learning about other freelancers, or maybe it is just the time period we live in but it seems like just about every fifth person is trying to work for themselves, start their own business on the side, or become a freelancer. It makes sense that in this day and age I can work with someone who is thousands of miles and a few time zones away and perfectly fit the criteria they have for their dream copywriter. We can be in pretty much constant contact if need be without ever hearing each other’s voice, a project can be completed, invoice paid and we both go on our ways happy with the relationship having never truly met other than through a few emails. If you are just starting your own company and don’t want to hire somebody but still need the skills of a profession you aren’t in hiring a freelancer is a no-brainer. That way you can choose when you want to spend the money to get the job done right the first time or take the time learn a trade yourself that might be helpful as your business grows. Business owners and entrepreneurs make these decisions all the time and as everyone seems to be trying to make a living with their own business idea many people are in essence trying to sell themselves. If you’re an artist, web developer, marketer, writer, app developer, whatever, you are selling more than your skills you are selling yourself as a person who possesses those skills. And this is where things can get confusing.

When you are essentially selling yourself when does your “pitch” start or stop? Do you put up boundaries as to when you are “courting new business” and when you are just out having drinks with friends? Do you have a twitter account for you as a person and then a separate one for you as a business? If you find yourself doing tasks for your regular life as well as your business life can you really say you were working the whole time? These are the things that can quickly take a toll on you if you are self-employed, working from home, or if you just have a less than traditional revenue stream you might ask these questions of yourself every now and again. Honestly I haven’t got any of the answers either, I think this is certainly one of those questions we just need to ask ourselves every so often. And that question can be simply put as, “How long can I keep this up?”

Creating your own startup, running your own business, working as a freelancer is all about getting to that point where you are paying the bills and will be able to for the foreseeable future. Often getting to that point means working or thinking about work for far more than 40 hours a week between 9 and 5 on weekdays. The lack of a real time clock on when you’re working can make you feel like somedays you got a ton done and others like you didn’t make a dent in your progress despite having worked the same amount. You may start to lose a feel for when your “workday” is or if there are any days that really aren’t “workdays”, you may even start to think of small things that you do for yourself as work projects because in a sense they do help your business because they help you.

From learning about the pitfalls of passed freelancers and those who have delved into the world of starting their own business before withdrawing I think there are certainly some things you can take away as successful tips or best practices for your new business or life as a self employed person, and they are as follows:

Number 1: If you can, try and be financially stable if not wealthy before you start.

If you don’t need to worry about your business making money you have got a great advantage over those scrubs who have to pay rent or buy food with their income. If you aren’t already rich try and treat it as a second job and don’t rely on it for income until you can positively assure that even with a few months of bad business you can still stay afloat.

Number 2: If you aren’t wealthy try to be a little famous or at least well connected in your industry.

If you can sell your product or service to your immediate circle of friends and family that’s pretty nice for you but you will probably have to buy their kid’s girl scout cookies and whatnot so it really only can keep you going for a short while. On the other hand if you are already famous through something like your pinterest profile, or you have the ear of a large network of local yacht owners you will pretty easily be able to leverage that into sales for something like your children’s ascot company.

Number 3: Sit down and seriously think about how long you can work the way you are.

If you have made the switch to this being your sole source of income eventually you will need a vacation or a few days off or even a few hours off. Set some boundaries for what is your professional life and what is your personal life and try to stick to them so you don’t wear yourself out. Try and spend a few hours where you are doing something for yourself that doesn’t immediately effect the business.

So that’s about all I’ve got, it can certainly be tough to try and shut off that part of your brain and put your business out of your mind but every once and a while you will need to do it. As your business grows you may find that you are able to do it more often as you delegate responsibilities to employees, other businesses, or freelancers. Good luck to all you people trying to make a name for yourselves and remember to work smarter not harder.