Being an entrepreneur and freelancer is one of the most liberating and challenging professions out there. Yes, we can go to Trader Joe’s midday and shop with our favorite little old ladies, but when facing the pros and cons of the lifestyle, the cons may outweigh the pros if you’re not doing it right. We spoke to a group of freelancers to thumb through their pasts Ls, so they can be learned from to help someone else receive some Ws. From these mistakes, we created The 10 Freelancer Commandments.
Depending on where you are in your freelancer/ entrepreneur journey, this advice may be obvious or just the refresher you need. Whether you have experience in your industry for less than a year or more than 5 years, the people you come in contact with have a huge effect on your life. It’s always good to pick up habits that other successful people in your industry suggest that have helped them soar. That may include reading a new book everything month or simply meditating in the morning to focus on the day’s goals. Whatever they may be, you want to make sure you trying to better Yourself, and not become that person. And it’s not always the Oprah’s and Bill Gates of your trade. Sometimes you may be strongly inspired and influenced by a local person who’s only a few years older than you. But remember, they received their blessings because of who they are and how they handle business, the same way you’ll receive your blessings. There’s only one you. Be the best at it.
Never sell yourself short – do the research
“Charge what you’re worth and then add tax” is a popular saying in the freelancer world, and it’s gospel for a reason. Of course, if you’re just starting out, you wouldn’t charge the same as someone with more experience would, but don’t sell yourself short. Research, research, research. Find out the average cost of each service you provide. Check search engines like Glassdoor, and go even deeper and compare local businesses who offer similar services. Also, consider the time it takes for you to complete the project. Take pride in the uniqueness of you and the work you produce. Most times, people are willing to pay your worth. There’s nothing worse than lowballing yourself to a client, and they tell you they were open to paying a higher price.
Get everything in black and white
Whew, this one can be very intimidating but is very necessary. You’ve mustered up the courage to demand what you’re worth, and thankfully, your client has agreed to your terms and pay. This is where the self-protection comes in. Life happens, and we all understand that, but these bills don’t change, and they come around every month, promptly and on time. Whether you’re doing business with a good friend, or a prolific client, have your agreed terms and expected pay written out, and signed by both parties. Accountability is one of the top principles that will help keep your business afloat. If a client is not willing to sign a contract, that’s a precursor to the type of business relationship you’ll have – unprofessional. Save yourself time, money, and possibly tears, and find the right client for you – someone who handles business the right way.
Require a deposit
Time is money, so treat it as such. When dealing with clients, sometimes situations change, even after having a written agreement. Having a cancellation clause in your written agreement is typical. Requiring a deposit along with that cancellation clause guarantee’s a certain amount of pay even if a deal doesn’t follow through. Though a completed and paid project is ideal, you still want to protect your efforts and work.
Have a savings account
In such an up or down business climate, it’s never wise to count your money before it’s in your hand. A savings account will be your saving grace for those low client periods. Taking a note from George S. Clason ’s “The Richest Man in Babylon,” every time you receive money, set aside 20% for your savings and 10% for tithes/charity. The logic behind this is your checking account isn’t really your money; it’s disposable money. Constantly putting money in your savings is basically paying yourself, leaving your checking account for bills, groceries, and miscellaneous spending. If you remain disciplined, that 20% can build into the ultimate cushion while you’re in between projects and clients.
Confirm your travel per diem
Congrats, you landed a project that allows you to travel and work! Your hotel and flight are covered, but the benefits shouldn’t end there. When you travel, food and ground transportation are usually outside of your personal budget. To cover those extra expenses, it’s recommended to request a per diem from the company you’re working for. There are many options for receiving a per diem, but if a company isn’t comfortable with giving straight cash, suggest a prepaid card with a certain amount. Try avoiding reimbursement options unless you have a long-term relationship with that company or client.
Keep your word
You can’t expect the world from your client and give nothing in return. Be professional and know your limits. Stick to your word, including turn around dates, meeting times, payments, etc. If you know a typical project takes 7 business days, tell your client 10 business days to give yourself a cushion for error. It looks even better if you produce the work within 5 business days instead of 10. Be early or be on time, but never late. Overpromising, and not producing will reflect badly on your work ethic and business.
Keep it business, never personal
“Get out your feelings and get into your bag. There’s no money in emotions.” As a freelancer, you are your business. You can’t afford to miss a step. Practicing self-control and healthy, professional habits not only make you a good business owner but more likable. Communication with your clients is key. If there are discrepancies on either side, communicate. It’s better to be upfront and professional with issues, rather than let them linger and cause issues in the long run.
Always seek more knowledge
The greatest leaders are always students. As a freelancer, life is usually your biggest teacher, but you can also pick up some tips from successful people in your industry. As it’s often said, “ there’s nothing new under the sun, only new players,” so learning from others mistake is an excellent teacher. Even more, as your industry evolves, so will success tactics for services and technology. Always stay educated. Subscribing to leading professional platforms that report on industry methods is the best way to stay on the leading edge of your trade.
Give opportunities to others, just as they were given to you
It’s best to say that you didn’t wake up one day and get to where you are without any help. With success comes responsibility. We are charged with the responsibility to help and uplift others, just as it was done for us. Pay it forward and build up the people who follow behind you.