I started freelancing years ago with no real plans to do it long term. I dabbled into work here and there to keep up my skills as a public relations practitioner. In a nut shell, I’m self-employed, and I help businesses communicate with audiences important to them.
In the beginning, I collaborated with people who knew me. Overtime, my workload started to expand through referrals. I began to form ongoing relationships that opened doors to project after project.
Fast forward to today and I’m managing a steady freelance practice. I like working for myself and dictating my schedule. But, I’d be lying if I told you it was all easy peasy. There are things I wish someone told me early on to make the growing pains less painful.
So, I’m going to do some of the legwork for you. Here’s my top five of what I wish I knew before jumping in as a freelancer.
- Arrange clear payment terms. You get a bill and you pay it, right? That’s not how everyone thinks. To avoid acting as a debt collector, consider adding detail on your invoice to spell out payment terms. Definitely include ramifications for late payments! Chasing down people for money is no fun. And it can be damaging to a good relationship.
- Be prepared to do everything. You don’t have the luxury to bounce ideas off colleagues or call IT for help if your computer goes awry. Not only are you doing the job hired to do, but you’re also the accountant, office manager, technical support and more. Make your own business network to solve problems outside of your wheelhouse.
- Be savvy at digital networking. I don’t have time to network the traditional way. I’m working at home juggling my kids and my freelance projects. Lunch meetings and happy hours are not my thing. Try staying connected to people online. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Use social media. Or – gasp – actually call someone.
- Don’t say no. Saying yes majority of the time isn’t always preached as a good thing. But, if you want to be a go-to freelancer, you need to do what it takes to get the job done. That means working odd hours and even some holidays.
- Trust your gut. My mom always told me that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. This motto holds true for me. I’ve had my share of questionable projects and prospects but I’ve grown to better navigate these situations. Raise a red flag when needed.
Any other tips from my fellow freelancers or business owners?