Lessons from working as a Freelancer

Working as a freelancer has its many positives - you have much more freedom, you are your own boss, you don't need to commute to and from work, there is more income potential, you get to pick who you work with...

This added freedom from being a freelancer does however come at a small price - you take on a few more responsibilities along the way. I'm not sure about you... but I don't have a team of people working around me, such as accountants, client managers, project managers and marketing / advertising teams. 

This means you are responsible for all these other aspects of your business, so it makes sense that getting good in these areas will determine your overall success.

Whatever your specific work is, be that a writer, a designer, a photographer, journalist or a web developer, I'm sure you love and are passionate about this work. And if you are like me, you probably feel slightly less passionate about those other areas of your business, such as accounting, marketing, project management, writing proposals and advertising yourself.

Because most freelancers out there avoid these areas, (and I was guilty of this at one stage) and focus on their specific skill exclusively, these are the areas you should be focusing on to put you ahead of your competition. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying don't work at polishing your specific talent, but don't forget these other areas which will enhance your business even more and take you to the next level.

Get to grips with these less enjoyable tasks

If you feel you are not reaching your best potential in one area of your business then I would strongly advise that you buy some books on the subject, watch YouTube videos, buy a course from Udemy or some other online course marketplace, read self-help articles and forums online on the subject, do whatever it takes to gradually improve your experience and skills in these areas. 

There are always areas to improve and this type of time focusing on improving your business skills should never stop, no matter how competent you believe you are.

Even if it is just 10 minutes per day, this is more than enough to begin getting on top of these areas of your business that you might be putting off, many times the first hurdle is the most difficult to get over, you never know you might start enjoying these other areas of your work that you once found tedious and a chore! 

A Healthy Work-Life Balance

Keeping a good balance between work and the other areas of life is something for me that really does improve my productivity. I try to make sure I exercise every day, even if it is simply a 30 minute walk. 

Just this time away from your desk can be so beneficial and can help get through those periods of feeling stuck and really helps to clear the mind. When I return with a fresh perspective I can usually then see things in my work that I couldn't see prior, and will occasionally catch a second wind of inspiration and creativity.

For the majority of us, working freelance means working from home, so we need to manage our working and non-working hours, we don't have a boss to whip us into action so we need to be strict with ourselves. Making sure you are up everyday consistently within set working hours is essential.

Personally I do work into those later hours when I am getting into a project, or when a deadline calls for it, I think this is completely fine, but I always put time aside in a day for things like cooking a healthy meal, or exercising, and I can usually tell when the quality of my work begins to drop and when a break is needed.

A happy and productive life is about finding balance.

I would also recommend meditation as a healthy practice to keeping focused and enhancing those creative periods of work, meditation is very healthy for the mind and helps to reduce those negative, self-sabotaging thoughts which can creep into your work, so set aside even just 10 minutes per day to get out of your mind and back into the present moment. If you don't know how to meditate then now is the time to learn.

Communication

Communication with your client is important during all stages of a project but more so during the early stages. You will need to get to know your client's business as best as possible, you'll want to best understand their products and services and what makes them unique.

Additionally you should get an idea of who their customers are, many times a business has more than one type of customer, so for an example, in the instance of a recruitment agency, one type of customer would be a person looking for employment, and another type would be a business looking for employees.

Ensure that you get detailed briefs from clients, Understanding precisely what is required before starting any work is vital. Try best understand what the clients specific goals for the work they are hiring you to do is. 

By taking the time at the beginning of a project to communicate with your client it will save you time and extra work down the line, the rest of the project will run much more efficiently, and will involve less amendments and costly mistakes down the line. 

Brainstorming, Sketches & Wire-frames

If you want to work smart, fast and get the maximum creativity out of this phase of your work, use a pencil and paper, it doesn't matter whether you are brainstorming ideas, designing a logo, brochure or a website wire-frame, nothing works better than a sketch, resist the urge to go straight to the computer, like building a house, get a solid foundation built first.

This method will save you a lot of time down the line, take it from me, don't rush into the latter stages your work, you might have to resist the urge as creative inspiration flows in. Not getting ideas properly formed in your mind and on paper can lead to hours moving things around later down the line.

I usually start by putting down as many ideas as I can on paper, even the ones I don't think are that good, you never know what ideas might grow from this primary idea which you didn't think was so good at the time, so get it all down.

Your sketches do not need to be polished, but the more time you spend on them, the faster it will be when you start working on your computer.

Keeping Organised with your Accounts

I've never met a person who enjoyed doing their own accounts, but this is one area of your business that definitely can't be avoided. Keeping organised in this area of your business will save you a lot of time when it comes to filing your tax return. In your business you want to be running a smooth operation with well oiled parts and that is why I would recommend using some invoicing / accounts software, this will streamline invoicing and keeping track of your incomings and outgoings will become a breeze.

I personally use invoicing software and if you are just starting up there are many accounts and invoicing applications available that will give you free trials or software with limited functions for free, so do your research to find which one will work best for your purposes. 

Be sure to take a look at the different packages provided by QuickBooks, Xero, and Freshbooks for different invoicing choices. One of these options may have what you’re looking for.

I would also advise having a separate bank account for your personal and business, as well as keeping an excel spreadsheet of all incomings and outgoings, It is also a good idea to use 2 folders on your computer, one for incoming and one for outgoing where you can put your invoices/receipts, then within each of these have another folder for each month.

You may think "I will just throw all my receipts and invoices into one folder and deal with it later", but it is going to be much more time consuming when it comes to returning your taxes, so keep on top of it now, it will grant you much more peace of mind in the time being also!

And Finally...Don't be Afraid of Making Mistakes

Making mistakes is part of being human, as long as we learn from them then they are not wasted opportunities. It can take healthy shame (as the author John Bradshaw calls it) to accept that you are not great at something, but until you accept you have room for improvement, you will find it very hard to improve.

Greatness is earned through dedication and hard work, and the successful people ones are the people who keeping going when others would give up.  

Thanks for reading