From being ready for the unexpected, to keeping yourself afloat through the rough and the smooth, running a freelance business can be a lot like learning to navigate a boat. Here are some suggestions for keeping the wind in your sails and steering away from storms, no matter what stage you are at on the freelance journey. Find Part 1 here
5. Learn how to read a compass
Learning should be a part of your everyday experience as a freelancer. Often, it can feel like a real uphill climb: a new client expects you to not only overhaul their website text but also advise them on SEO. Don’t fake what you don’t know, but use each client’s individual needs to grow as a professional. Stay on top of websites and articles that are relevant to your sector, and in your downtime, keep learning. Technology is changing fast and while it may seem that other freelancers are more expert in certain areas, there’s always room for growth. If you’re writing for the internet, find out what buzzwords mean – SEO, long tail keywords, whitehat and blackhat marketing, affiliate marketing, the deep web, the dark web. Clients may often throw questions at you just to understand how up-to-date you are. Even if you only do one thing well and you don’t want to branch out, you should at least know your place in the ecosystem.
6. Never run out of water
Handing your finances is a big part of running a freelance business successfully. Your best clients are likely to have a 30 day payment policy. That means you’re likely to have lots of clients with a 60 day payment policy or who don’t pay unless you send them a reminder. It’s not fair, but you’re going to have to cover your expenses in the meantime, which means having a minimum of six months rent or mortgage payments in savings. If that sounds like a lot, just remember that the freelance life doesn’t always include healthcare insurance or maternity leave, so the unexpected (or the expected) can become pretty harrowing unless you know that the big ticket expenses are covered for at least half a year.
7. Beware of pirates
It would be great if we worked in a world where everyone respected your creativity, but we don’t. Ideas can be copied, and that’s something you have to shrug off. But if your work is stolen directly, that’s another matter entirely. Take precautions: watermark your photographs or graphic design work before publishing them on the web or social media. For writing, it’s little more difficult. You can run a plagiarism check on the internet if you suspect that some of your original content is being copied; you can also google key phrases from your articles. If you’re worried about protecting a longer work, a piece of music, or a business name, investigate copyright procedures in your own state or country, as there is no substitute for registering an original creation properly.
8. Find your fleet
As well as having great business partners on speed dial, it can be really important to stay in touch with other people that do the same work that you do. It’s a big world, and there’s room for millions of writers, photographers, designers and sector experts to work alongside one another. Never be afraid of the competition – you’re unique, and will always offer a unique set of skills. So befriend other freelancers in the same line of work, meet up, swap ideas, develop partnerships. Guest blog for one another, exchange social media accounts for a day. If you’re full of work, don’t turn down a client but recommend a reliable partner; these acts of kindness tend to come back to you. Have an abundance mentality: ideas can’t be copyrighted, so if you see an acquaintance trying to do something similar to you, shrug it off. There are always new ideas. Identify local friends with odd working hours so you can escape for a coffee, or run round to use their printer in an emergency. Socialise when you can – freelancing can be a lonely journey. But it can also be intensely rewarding, and surrounding yourself with friends, partners and other travellers lightens the voyage.