I got my first job when I was 16, and before that, I’d been babysitting since middle school.
Working for other people is something I’ve had decades of practice doing. Working for myself is new.
So I was glad to stumble onto Lorena’s Epiphany, a blog by a Lebanese freelancer with good pointers on how to be successfully self employed.
Her tips include:
1- It’s gonna take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to stand completely on your own. You’ll probably be working a lot more than you ever did at any agency and nothing is ever certain by ways of work. You may have a great line-up of clients to work with for 2 months and then a dry spell for a few months after.
3- Plan the legalities. Register yourself and learn a few things about the accounting side of things. Many times I wear different hats – designer, client manager, accountant and PR. You’ve got to be ready to follow-up with clients consistently, be open about discussing rates and then ensuring your projects get done in time. It helps to learn the most you can about everything so that once you start hiring employees, you already know what to expect. No one likes a boss that’s a dummy.
4- Being a freelancer doesn’t mean working in your PJs. Work in your PJs if you must a day or two during the week, but don’t make it a habit. I recommend having a space outside your bedroom to freelance from. That helps you take your freelancing more seriously and get dressed in the morning – it’s very psychological. Getting dressed + a space to work + lots of coffee = Mental readiness for the tasks at hand.
5- Get ready to talk money. It was never easy for me to confront clients about what I should get paid. Even harder when you’re a woman. Many times I settled for lower rates than the project merited just to ensure I was getting paid that month. It’s not pretty nor do I support that, but when you’re starting out, you have to make a few sacrifices. Also, NEVER EVER start a project without a signed agreement and ask for a deposit upfront (even if it’s as little as say $200). Clients will take you and your work more seriously if they’ve already invested in you.
7- Cold calling is chilly, but something that leads to bigger things. The best projects I’ve worked on where projects where I called people and said “hey, I love what you’re doing and would love to find a way to collaborate” Then comes the selling. You’ve gotta be ready to highlight your skills and achievement and have an idea in mind why the hell you’re calling them. One of my friends took this idea to a whole other level when she wanted to get more web design projects. She started the Digital Cleaning Lady – a fun approach to reviewing websites and then providing them suggestions for their layouts. More often than not, the suggestions were well taken and that would open doors for her working with them.
If you’d like to read more of Lorena’s pointers on self employment, check out the link to her blog below.