Think starting a new job is scary? Try hurling yourself into the world of freelancing with no plan or significant savings. (I should note that my sudden transition to freelance wasn’t entirely my decision – more on that here.)Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best position to start my own business, but in August 2016, I did it anyway.
So without further ado, here are 4 things I wish I had known from the get-go.
- SET A SCHEDULE & STICK TO IT
One of the most common things you’ll hear freelancers brag about is the ability to “work whenever they want.” It’s pretty great, I won’t lie. But here are three reasons why playing it by ear isn’t the best plan:A. If you’re anything like me, you love sleeping and despise alarm clocks. I think you can see where I’m going with this, but waking up at 1pm isn’t exactly conducive to productivity.
B. If you really love your job (like I do) and have no set hours, it’s far too easy to find yourself working all the time. Whether it’s client work or on your own business – it’s important to find a balance to avoid burnout. (That means actually closing your laptop sometimes – gasp!)
C. Now that you’re sleeping in, working late, and inevitably still making time for Netflix (because duh), you’ll find that you don’t have enough time for other things… like spending time with friends, preparing healthy meals, or exercising.
I recommend not only scheduling time for WORK, but also for other important things in your life – like quality time with loved ones, working out, reading, etc. It doesn’t have to be a rigid schedule, but having a “quota” of sorts for the week has helped me keep on track with healthy habits.
- KNOW YOUR WORTH
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Nobody knows what to charge…and if they do, it took them a hella long time to figure out.There’s a lot to consider here. Since you’re no longer an employee, you no longer have employee benefits. No 401K. No medical reimbursement or maternity leave. No paid vacation or gym stipend. It’s all on you now. (No pressure, right?)
When you’re first starting, you’re probably looking to get a bit of experience under your belt and grab a few testimonials. It’s not a bad idea to start small for this purpose, but DO NOT stay at starter prices for too long. The longer you undervalue yourself, the harder it is to start charging what you’re worth.
So, how do you know what you’re worth? That’s a tricky question. Obviously, your education and experience come into play. But your formal education may have less to do with it than you’d think… Take me for example! I am a culinary graduate, former legal intern, and dropout of gender/sexuality and art programs. On paper, I’m essentially unemployable…. However, I was able to get my foot in the door with marketing and build up my experience. Then, I relied on online programs (like Marie Forleo’s B-School and courses by Copy Hackers and Digital Marketer) to further my expertise.
Keep in mind, it’s not only what YOU are worth, but the value of the work itself. For example, writing a sales email sequence for a brand new startup would have a very different ROI potential than the same for, say, Coca Cola.
My advice? Spend some time looking up other freelancers within your niche and see what they’re charging. Determine who you’re on a similar level with and gain some insight into what the “norms” are. (But hey – don’t rip off packages/pricing verbatim. Nobody likes a copycat.
- NETWORKING IS YOUR FRIEND
Working from home is rad, but it gets lonely. As it turns out, pets are weak conversationalists. There are days where I love the silence and others where it drives me mad. Luckily, there are a few ways to get around this…1. Get out of the house. If there’s a coworking space near you – PERFECT. You’ll meet like-minded entrepreneurs and probablyeven score a few gigs (or friends). If that isn’t an option, you can always belly-up at cafés like Starbucks, Panera, or your favorite local spot to get some work done. If you make a habit out of it, chances are you’ll start to meet people and develop some great relationships.
2. Use the internet! You’re on it all day anyway, right? No matter what your industry, there are groups out there full of people like you, waiting to connect. A few of my favorites as a female freelance copywriter are: Digital Freelancer (Slack), Ladies Get Paid (Slack), The Copywriter Club (Facebook), and B-Schoolers (Facebook). A simple search will help you find the right networks for you. Within these groups, you’re likely to find everything from biz BFFs to gigs, advice, and mentorship.
Many freelancer networks require a small monthly fee for joining, but I’ve found that it’s well worth the expense for all of the knowledge and camaraderie it brings me.
USE SYSTEMS FOR EVERYTHING POSSIBLE
You know how they say that deciding not to decide is a decision in itself? Well the same goes for your client experience. Not having one doesn’t mean there’s NO experience – it just means it’s a bad one.
I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from the competition is by using systems for everything from requesting a quote and gathering brand information to proposals, invoicing, scheduling appointments, and so much more. Systems help you to achieve a more professional appearance AND they make your life (and work) SO much easier.
On that note, I’ve compiled a list of 100 go-to systems and resources for freelancers. Spanning 25 topics (from social media and finances to legal compliance and webinars), the Be Your Own Boss Starter Kit is jam-packed with free and affordable tools for online entrepreneurs.
Meet The Author:
JoAnna Carpentier is the Founder and self-proclaimed “Copy Fiend” behind Salthaus Collective – Brand Storytelling. When she’s not physically attached to her Macbook, you’re likely to find her spending time with her beagle Igby, hanging poolside, or enjoying the beaches in beautiful Wilmington, NC where she resides. To learn more about JoAnna and the collective, visitwww.salthaus.co!