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?
8 CommentsLeave a comment
Great tips, Kim! I also learned the payment lesson early on, as well – and it wasn’t fun. It’s not easy when you don’t have someone to delegate to when things get complicated. I’ve also found that having two to three women who also freelance to be set up as my “guiders” has helped me. I call them when I’m stuck and they help me think my way to the solution!
Love the “guiders” concept. ? Must be people I can really trust!
Great takeaways Kim! Gonna stock these away for when I hang up my mic!
I have been saying “yes” at every opportunity since starting my residential design business last year and now, in order to maintain the flexibility and freedom I was after as a self-employed professional, I’ve been practicing not saying yes all the time. Sometimes saying not right now is what is needed in order to keep from getting burned out. I have also realized that if your intent is also to build a brand, sometimes you must pick and chose those projects that fit your future goals.
Thanks for your comment! Saying yes early on helped me to not only get in the door but also to stay there. Now I don’t feel such pressure to take on everything. I completely agree it’s key to establish a name/brand for yourself/business. Best of luck to you!
I agree, Amanda – so glad I have the “luxury” of saying no after several years of all yes – I can be true to myself and most successful when I recognize work I shouldn’t take on.
As a former agency PR practitioner and current SAHM beginning to do freelance work, I appreciate and agree with these great tips. To your point about the benefits of “saying yes” more often, doing selective pro bono work (on a local board, etc.) has kept my skills sharp and provided additional networking opportunities.