Lessons I’ve Learned Working on My Own

After reading an article on LifeHacker about working on your own, this inspired me to write down some of my lessons learned in my freelancing experience as well as summarizing some of this articles points. I have personally been working as a freelancer since 2007, about 6 years or so. A lot of mistakes could have been avoided learning from other peoples mistakes. This article does bring up some good points and advice. One thing I have realized is that freelancing isn’t really for everyone. I used to think that everyone wanted to work for themselves, until I actually asked around and at least in my circles most people just want to work 9-5 for someone else. I would suggest that anyone who does freelance, at least work for someone else in a similar position for 1-2 years before deciding to go solo. This will give you the experience to learn and make mistakes on someone else’s expense. When starting off, it is better to charge by the hour then by the project, and working for someone else gives you this opportunity to do this.

Accounting

Get an good accountant to help you out, they will help you save money in the long run and it will give you the chance to actually focus on the business rather then your accounting. Setup your accounting software with them for invoices / expenses properly in order to streamline and organize this part of your business since paperwork can be time consuming and complicated. Use one of the following accounting softwares (or any other cloud based software that can manage expenses), accounting on the cloud to prevent data loss and accessible from anywhere and any computer:

  • waveaccounting.com
  • xero.com
  • quickbooksonline.intuit.ca

Lawyer

Get a lawyer to setup your business properly. Different regulations might apply depending on where you are located and you don’t want to make costly mistakes starting off. Also, creating strong contracts for clients to avoid problems. Some major problems in the beginning are:

  • Clients thought unlimited revisions were included, clearly write this in the contract or reference the contract to look at the proposal for this information and get the proposal signed as well. 
  • Timeframe: I used to put a fixed timeframe, such as 1 month after project kickoff. The problem I had here was that most of the time, clients were really slow and late delivering their content to me making it impossible to make this deadline. I reworded the contract to 1 month after receiving content, or something along those lines.
  • Content collection: Sometimes clients just wouldn’t give me the content I needed, and project would take over a year to finish but the still would expect to be put in priority ahead of my other clients even though they were at fault the delay of the project. I would then add a clause in my contract, giving a time limit to getting content otherwise client would be put out of queue or priority  or project would be put on hold. This would go something along the lines of “specific content requested must be delivered 1 week of request otherwise client will risk being put outside of queue / priority”.
  • Sign NDA non-disclosure agreement with other freelancers working with you in order to protect  your clients and them soliciting them for work, stealing  your clients.

Outsource

If you don’t have the skills or will just take you longer to do then someone good at a specific task on your project, consider outsourcing. If doing something yourself might give you more headaches and it is not something you really like doing or want to learn outsource. Finally, if there are repetitive tasks such as data entry where your time would be more valuable investing it somewhere else in the project consider outsourcing as well. We can’t be the master of everything, we have to know our limits. If in the end we make 30% less money doing a contract, but it is finished more quickly and goes more smoothly with no headaches it is worth every penny.

Client Managers / Rainmakers

A big part of freelancing is finding clients, talking to them and figuring out what they want. A lot of these tasks are repetitive collecting info from potential clients as well as content, images, text from current clients. It is a good idea to consider hiring a rainmaker, someone to find you contracts and a client manager someone to collect information from your clients. Doing everything is a sure way of burning yourself out and by dividing the work you be more focused on the actual task on hand as well as stay focused and reduce your stress.

Location

Don’t work from home, this can be the most unproductive way to work. Aside from working where you sleep, eat, watch tv there are too many distractions involved to reach your full potential of productivity. In addition, it can add more stress since you will never be fully relaxed, always at work. Separating your work life from your home life is a good way of balancing your life. Renting a design in an studio with other freelancers can also be beneficial, making contacts and discussing issues with them if you need help. Also, get a PO box to receive all your invoices and mail from clients which costs about 200$ / year.

Balance

One of the most important things is your health and overworking to make money, or be successful in your career is not worth your health. Not every single deadline is made, not every project goes as smoothly as you want it to. Learn to separate your personal life from your work life. Make sure you get your 8 hours of sleep, eat properly, get your exercise and most importantly spend time with the people you love and have fun. In the end this will only make you more productive since you are recharged.

Article: http://lifehacker.com/5993360/lessons-ive-learned-in-a-year-working-on-my-own

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