Starting out in the world of freelancing is more than slightly daunting. Sure, you’re your own boss now, but you’re leaving a guaranteed regular paycheck and benefits. You’ve just jumped out of the plane. Do you have a parachute? Is there a net? Everyone wants to be their own boss, but so few actually succeed at it. What makes you think you can do it? Well, if you took the first step, chances are you can take the next one, too. You can do this, and these tips can help you do it better.
Register Your Business Name
This is not only a legal matter that makes things a lot easier at tax time; it’s a matter of confidence and commitment. Taking this step means that you really mean it when you say you want to be a freelancer. You’re not just sitting at home, taking on a project for a friend whenever one comes along. You’re actively seeking out contracts and new clients, and you’re working to strengthen the relationships you have with your current clients, too.
This commitment isn’t just for your clients, though. It’s also not just for branding or for the face you present to the world. It’s for you. It’s to show yourself that you mean business. When you register your business, you’re telling yourself – as much as the rest of the world – that you mean business and that you mean to succeed.
Set Boundaries Between Work and Home
As a freelancer, you’re going to be working from home a lot. You’ll spend some time meeting with your clients at their places of business, coffee shops, restaurants, and other venues, but when you’re getting down to the nuts and bolts of your work, you’ll be working from home. This means that you need to set some boundaries. If you don’t, you’ll either find yourself working all the time or none of the time.
Set yourself office hours. Of course, there will be days that you need to get up early or work late, but that’s true of any job. For regular business days, though, you should set a schedule of 8-9 hours of work. If you do this, you’ll stick to a 40 to 50-hour week, and you won’t burn yourself out. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself working until 3:00 AM one day, then dragging yourself out of bed late the next and procrastinating on work. You may even find that you get nothing done at all.
If, however, you set boundaries between work time and home time, you’ll find that you get a lot more done in a lot less time. If you have an extra bedroom in your home, converting it into an office space can help you to define these boundaries physically. If you don’t have extra space, you can still define physical boundaries by setting up a specific place that you do your work. If you work at the dining room table, make sure that you put your “office” away at the end of the day.
Learn the Value of Saying No
When you’re just starting out, a lot of people will ask you to do work for free or for a severely discounted rate. They’ll tell you that you’ll gain exposure by doing this for them, or they’ll ask because they’re a friend or family member. There are times and places for gratis work like this, but – for the most part – the times are few, and the places are far between. Don’t let your friends and family bully you into free work, and don’t undersell your work or do free work for “exposure” if there’s not going to actually be any.
Every freelancer – from writers to designers to musicians, and so on – has to work for free at some point. However, once you’ve committed to freelancing, you need to start saying no to work that won’t get you any positive returns. Once you start doing this, you’ll start seeing more and more paying jobs coming your way. You’ll build your portfolio with discounted or smaller jobs, and then you’ll start to get higher paying jobs and larger projects. Before you know it, you’ll be saying no to the small stuff so that you can say yes to the big, exciting contracts.