Are You Undervaluing Your Freelancing Business?



Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?

Imagine that you were given the position of president of a big company. With your new responsibilities as the leader of a large company, would you change how you act?

Consider the following questions:

  • As company president, would you change the way that you interact with others?
  • As company president, would you be more careful with your time?
  • As company president, would you be more mindful of how money was being spent?

The truth is, as freelancers, every one of us is in charge of our own business right now. Like the president of a big company, we’re ultimately in charge of whether our business succeeds or fails. We make the final decisions.

However, most of us probably don’t view things that way. Without realizing it, many of us are blind to the true potential of our freelancing business.

Instead of seeing our freelancing as a business with real potential, many of us tend to undervalue the business aspect of our freelancing. We focus instead on the freedom that freelancing provides to us or perhaps on the creative aspects of our jobs. By doing so, however, we miss out on what our freelancing business could ultimately become.

Why We Undervalue Our Business Potential

Why do some freelancers undervalue their freelancing business?

Of course, there are a lot of reasons that we fail to recognize the value of our freelancing businesses. Here are a few pitfalls that I have noticed that freelancers often fall into:

  • We fail to think in terms of our freelancing being a business. Maybe we started freelancing part-time or in between jobs. Along the way our freelancing took off, but we never adjusted our thinking.
  • We fall into the anti-corporate trap. We left the business world when we began freelancing, or so we thought. So, when our freelancing shows the potential of becoming a full-fledged business we refuse to acknowledge that fact.
  • We fall into the creative trap. Freelancers are usually creative and/or artistic people. In our minds, we mistakenly think that creativity and business can’t ever mix.
  • We lack confidence. This is especially true for those who have just started freelancing. As freelancers, we may be handling tasks that we’ve never handled before, and we’re just not sure of ourselves yet.
  • We get too comfortable. It’s possible to achieve a degree of success as a freelancer and never move beyond it. Some of us get so comfortable with where our freelancing business is that we never grow.

The Challenge

Today’s challenge is to picture yourself as the new chief executive of a small company (which just happens to be your own freelancing business).

As the new president of this company, consider what changes you would make to the business. Examine what the company is doing right and what it is doing wrong.

Ask yourself, where will this company be in five years? Then, ask yourself – where should it be?

What About You?

Have you failed to recognize the full value of your freelancing business? Have you fallen into one of the pitfalls mentioned earlier? What’s holding you back?

Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.

Top image by jimbowen0306

Comments

  1. says

    Fantastic article Laura :-), I definitely undervalue my profession, I’m still in the first year of business and quite young, so procrastination is still quite a large part of my working day, but that’s slowly decreasing with the workload increasing.

  2. says

    Another great article. I need to treat it more like a business myself. In fact over at Problogger.net Darren Rowse just mentioned the same thing about blogging. He said that we need to approach it as a business if we are doing it to be a professional writer. I think that it goes hand in hand with this article. We need to approach freelancing as if it were a corporation. Great thoughts here.

  3. says

    If I were president of a company I wouldn’t act any different, I guess that is the point you are trying to make.

    I work full time “for the man” and part-time as a freelancer. I find blog posts really bring in the clients (once they find my site). I like doing what I do the way I want to do it, so I don’t see a reason to change.

  4. says

    What a great visualization exercise — today I’ve been struggling to come up with the long-term vision for my business.

    Imagining myself as a no-nonsense, results-driven president gives me a lot of direction in deciding what’s worthwhile and what’s a waste of time.

    Thanks!

  5. says

    very useful article. By the fact, I undervalue a lot my freelance work, and your article opened my eyes on many useful aspects to be changed soon.

  6. says

    Hi Laura

    A lesson I have to continuously teach to many of my clients, as well as to myself!

    Not only are we the President/CEO/MD, we are also the FD/CFO, Marketing Director, R&D Director, Sales Director, HR Director, Operations Director, Logistics Director, Head of Legal, and Office Junior, and failing to play any of those roles properly (or to efficiently delegate them) can lead to disaster.

    Dave

  7. says

    Great article Laura. One thing to always keep in mind is that the customer always comes first. Customer service these days is sorely lacking. When you are the president of a large company you do not deal with the customer directly.Generally speaking, you would have people do that for you. When you are a freelancer and in business for yourself you deal directly with the customer and you are the sole face of your company. Remember, customer service and quality win in this game. Thanks again for the great article.

  8. says

    I have undervalued my practice to gain business. This because i see value in my first assignment from referrals, that is if my clients are happy. I expect in my second year to be able to value my business right.

  9. says

    Great article, and I totally agree!

    It is a funny coincidence, I just wrote a post touching on this aspect of freelancing. However, directed more towards clients than designers (but definitely applies to both equally).

  10. says

    Thanks for all the feedback.

    Of course, as Andrew points out, there are many roles that we must play as freelancers if our business is to succeed. It is easy to forget this.

  11. says

    Laura, I think I’ve fallen into “the anti-corporate trap”. My freelance business has been growing enormously fast since I decided to make it a full-time effort just 2,5 months ago.

    Other people already advised me to incorporate my freelance business and start hiring employees, but just thinking about all the hassle and efforts needed to run the company (especially on the administrative aspects) always made me very hesitant to incorporate the business.

  12. Rich Bailey says

    Laura.. thanks for your article as I felt connected to the message at hand. I have only done freelancing on a part time basis while I had a regular job. Now that my job has ended like so many others right now I have been forced to rethink my freelancing as a true business and its a challenge I fully accept. I think once you get over that though the real challenge comes in finding quality clients that won’t try to undervalue you or what your business stands for. But i guess that part of the battle of this profession right???

  13. says

    Hi Laura, this arctile let me understand why I always wakeup late, because I dont notice this can be a company business. As company president I should not wakeup so late.

    Great article.

  14. says

    Hi, Laura,

    Absolutely right on the money. For me, the change in my thinking has happened over the past two years. Following my CPA’s advice, I incorporated my business in 2007. Suddenly, I was no longer “just me, freelancer,” I was “Carol Logan Newbill, Principal Partner.” Receiving checks made out to the business name and having to deal with taxes and corporate paperwork — and payroll for me! — has really reinforced the CEO mentality.

    I’m about to relaunch my website in the next few days. The new one will reflect that corporate image while still being creative and emphasizing personal service.

    (If you click on my link and the site is purple, that’s still the old one.)

    Carol

  15. says

    Laura, this is an interesting post. I hired freelancers from copywriter, designers and even trainer. I told 1 or 2 of them that I prefer to call them Independent Copywriter or Independent Designer. A rose is a rose, still, there is a subtle difference between “independent” and “freelance”. Somehow, the latter did not evoke as much respect as the former. Perhaps it’s all in my mind …

  16. says

    Hi Vivienne

    In the training world we tend to use the word “associate” which has all kinds of hi-falutin implications and doesn’t give away the fact that the person is not your employee, except to the 99% of clients who know what it means!

    Dave Bull

  17. says

    So true! Many freelancers and creatives don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs or business owners. They focus heavily on their craft but don’t necessarily think strategicall about their business. That’s why we created The Free Agent Formula – to help this community of artisans and solo-preneurs switch from being a slave to their business to rocking it. You can check it out here: http://www.freeagentformula.com

  18. says

    “We fail to think in terms of our freelancing being a business.”
    This is a very important issue, if you don’t take your freelancing as a serious business, the clients will treat you in the same way and this will reflect on your portfolio.

  19. says

    True, I’ve actually almost forgotten that my freelance work is my own. But then again, I think this happens because we always want to please our customers – which should always be. But we should also keep in mind that we have standards to follow and keep.

  20. Julian says

    Great Post Laura!

    My right food is stuck in the “lack confidence” trap and my left foot in the “too comfortable” trap. The big thing that’s holding me back is that I’m continuing my university degree starting September 2009. It just wouldn’t be feasible going to school full-time and performing demanding tasks for long hours doing client work. I don’t want to be another graduate who looks back at university and say “If I only knew, I would have tried harder”. With my degree I can see my earning power tripled easily.

  21. says

    I’ve never lost focus on my costing strategies! Cost always plays a major role in any client project I undertake. You have to break your projects down into stages and make sure you charge a good solid professional rate for each.

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