Let’s be honest: freelancing isn’t easy. It’s not that it’s actually hard to be a freelancer or do the work… it’s the getting started, getting set up, getting clients, and getting a solid business foundation for sustainable growth that complicates everything.
There’s a lot more to freelancing than just… well, freelancing.
So I’ve put together an insider guide to my favorite freelancing shortcuts that really work. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been freelancing for a while, I guarantee each of them will change your business––for the better.
Oh, and make life a helluvalot less complicated.
Shortcut 1: Don’t Be a Do-It-Yourselfer
I know that when you’re starting out, money’s tight, and it’s easy to think that bootstrapping is the way to go. The problem with doing everything yourself is that it wastes an incredible amount of time: You have to learn new skills, guess at actions you need to take, make a lot of false starts and clean up mistakes as you go along. It’s the school of hard knocks––not fun, that.
Be smart. You’re good at what you do––let others who are good at what they do help you out. Set aside a small amount of money every week for a month or two, and then hire someone to do what you need done. They’ll do a much better job, free up your time and save you a lot of headaches.
Shortcut 2: Partner Up
Most freelancers work alone. That’s changing, but it’s still not the norm, and it should be. When you’re alone, you have to do everything. You lose out on jobs that pay well because you can’t provide all the services. And you limit your freelance business from growing because you’re stuck saying no to clients who want various services––but, you can only provide half. You’re also dealing with a whole bunch of stuff on your plate, and if you fall sick or need time off, your whole business grinds to a halt.
When Mason and I wrote The Unlimited Freelancer together, a major part of our focus was teaching freelancers how to get together with other freelancers. United we stand, divided we fall and all that good stuff. Get to know other freelancers and find people willing to team up to provide a wider range of services. It creates a mutually beneficial situation––you both get more work, better pay, great referrals and extra free time.
Shortcut 3: Hang Out In the Right Places
A common mistake I see many freelancers make today is sticking to a small crowd of people within their niche. Designers hang with designers. Writers hang with writers. Marketers hang with marketers. That’s nice if you want friends or support, but it’s not so good for bringing in cash and clients.
Explore other groups of contacts, different blogs where you could hang out or forums unrelated to your line of work where you could pick up clients. As a writer, I used to guest post on blogs for designers, for example. I hung out in marketing forums. I commented on blogs completely unrelated to writing. All these actions brought me clients.
Shortcut 4: Be Everywhere
Getting known is a problem, because there are a lot of people out there trying to get known as well. You’re all clamoring for the same attention––or worse, you’re hanging back and not attracting much attention at all. For many people, it’s tough to be in the spotlight and push your way to the head of the line. So, they don’t comment often, they don’t hang on Twitter much and they don’t send guest posts out.
Do it. Be everywhere. When Hollywood launches a brand-new unknown actress, their publicity makes sure that pictures of this person show up everywhere, all over the place. Tabloids, newspapers, television, blogs… And suddenly everyone’s wondering, “Who IS this person? She’s all over the place!” That’s what you want, because soon everyone knows your name, who you are and what you do.
Shortcut 5: Spend Money Wisely
Too many people buy a whole bunch of stuff they don’t need, and that often adds up to some serious expenses. They think they need this new product or that course might help or maybe they should do this, that or the other––all of which cost a pretty penny.
Know where you want to be. Set a goal. Have a clear vision of your future. Each time you feel the urge to spend or buy, ask yourself, “Does investing in this bring me one step closer to that future? And if yes… how quickly?” Chances are that the answer is going to be no. If you’re not sure, ask someone objective.
Shortcut 6: Ask for Help
A lot of freelancers play the guessing game and hope they’re investing their time or money wisely. So they spend time on a project that flops. Those “great ideas” sure are tempting, after all. Personally, I prefer to be sure my idea is great before I invest even five minutes into it, and I don’t rely on myself alone to make that decision.
One of the fastest shortcuts you could give yourself is the gift of consulting. Many successful freelancers now offer consulting services––they’ve reached their goals, and they want to help others. Benefit from that. Don’t rely on yourself to know what you need to do––ask someone else for help and get those ideas of yours cleared up on a great path to more of what you want.
Shortcut 7: Don’t Do It All
Have a site. Have a blog. Have a newsletter. Have an ebook. Have a course. Have 10 services. Have 20 products. Have this, have that, have it all… You’ve got to be kidding me. Last time I checked, human beings had two hands and one head, and there was only enough time and space in life for SOME stuff––not all.
You don’t have to have a blog if you don’t want to. You don’t have to have a newsletter or create a course or host webinars. You can do whatever you’d like that works with the time and life-space you have. Figure out what will bring you the most clients and income, and pursue that one single goal––leave the rest until you’re ready.
Shortcut 8: Ditch What You Hate
So many freelancers get into projects they don’t like, clients they don’t enjoy or work they really wish they didn’t have to do. They feel obligated to say yes––people generally feel uncomfortable saying no. But doing what you hate doing only makes you miserable and unhappy with your work. Why bother?
Nicely, politely, diplomatically start saying no to what you don’t enjoy doing and yes to yourself. Take care of you––make YOU happy first. Ditch the work and clients that hold you back from getting up every day thinking, “I love my job.” Because you should feel exactly that when you’re a freelancer, and nothing but.
Shortcut 9: Take Care of Number One First
When you’re a freelancer, there’s no one to tell you it’s time to go home. Or, that it’s lunch hour. Or, that it’s break time and you should stretch your legs. There are no two-week vacation periods and no “off for the holidays.” So what happens? Well, quite frankly, most cubicle workers have it better than freelancers.
Come on. What’s with that? Treat yourself well––after all, you’re all you’ve got! Don’t push yourself to work long hours. Get the sleep you need. Spend time with your family. They’re with you in this too. Eat meals with them at the table. Get out for a walk or take up singing lessons for some weekly fun. Plan vacation time––and stick to it!
Shortcut 10: Don’t Be a Freelancer
Remember that “I love my job”? That might actually work out best for you in the long run––having a job at someone else’s freelance business instead of having a self-made career. There’s no prize medal for becoming a freelancer/solopreneur, after all––it’s not a badge of honour, and you don’t have to be on your own it if you don’t like it. Sometimes working for someone else is the key to happiness––they deal with the admin and you paid to do what you really enjoy doing.
So if you don’t LIKE running your own freelance business, then don’t. You don’t have to go back to working 9 to 5 at some generic company, but you sure can decide that you want to be part of someone’s team instead of operating your own. We’re all different people, after all, with different needs. Some love forging their own path––some love working with others to create one awesome business. And that’s okay.
What have you struggled with most as a freelancer? What have you learned?
Share your answers in the comments.
Image by hlkljgk