One of the hardest parts of being a freelancer can (weirdly) be being your own boss. Although you’ll have clients and deadlines, they won’t be setting hours or work in the 9-5 sense (and in fact they’re not legally allowed to!) So what do you need to do to truly become your own boss?
Learning the business
As a wise man once said, “To be in business you have to be in business.” When you start freelancing you’re not so much dipping your toe in the business world as throwing yourself in. You need to know your industry, so keep a close eye on trends and industry news. Stay up to date with relevant software and hardware – you don’t want to lose a big client because you haven’t bothered updating Photoshop.
You also want to get an idea of the freelance competition around you. What can you do that they can’t? You can also make sure your rates fall in line with theirs and you’re not penniless in comparison.
Solid commercial awareness and business acumen are essential when working for companies. This article talks about how freelancers often end up underpaying themselves because they don’t tend to see the bigger picture in these situations.
Making tough decisions
Being your own boss means you have to put your foot down. This means being prepared to dump that nightmare client who never pays on time and keeps demanding a more vibrant shade of black. On a less thrilling note, it also means being prepared to tell your friends that no, you can’t just take a day off to go to the beach when you’re close to a deadline. Would a boss let you? Probably not.
Keeping on top of the accounts
You’ve also got to deal with the less glamorous parts of being a boss. Keep your books up to date and track expenses, because no one else is going to do it for you. Otherwise tax return day will be a less than pleasant experience (unless you like trawling through piles of receipts to find a petrol receipt from 6 months ago).
Managing your workflow and time
Be realistic about time frames when taking on projects and don’t bite off more than you can chew – build your work load gradually over time to figure out how much you can reasonably handle, rather than taking on a million projects on your first day freelancing. You’ll also have to plan ahead and book clients in in advance. Remember to bear in mind that any holidays you take are (sadly) going to be unpaid now you haven’t got a boss paying you!