I know a lot of freelancers who struggle just to get by. They want the stability and notoriety of being self employed, doing what you love, and having a steady stream of income. So they leave the corporate world and start freelancing, but often find the process harder than they imaged.
Here are three steps to helping you succeed and grow your freelance business this year:
When many of us begin our freelance careers, the first thing we do is fire up Google and find out what everyone else is doing. We click around from portfolio to portfolio, bounce from one tutorial site to another, and chase link after link only to eventually find yourself back where you started - still searching.
We justify this in our minds because we convince ourselves that we’re just checking out the competition. We’re keeping up with current trends. We’re taking a break from work. We’re researching to grow our business and the freelance economy. The list goes on simply because we allow these excuses to capture us.
Stop following what everyone else is doing and start focusing on your own business. Trying to keep up with the next trend and living the copy and paste life is a recipe for failure. By continually trying to fit in you lose focus on who you are and your long-term goals. You can’t establish any sort of future on a foundation of following. Define and understand your focus first, then say no to the external influences that pull you away from that focus.
There are those who collaborate and there are those that burn out and fall apart. Everyone knows that two heads are better than one, yet many of us think we can do it all ourselves. If you’re one of the “Multidisciplinary” freelance types that offers design, photography, content writing, copy editing, technology consulting, dog walking, and illustration services, you may as well just start filling out some resumes and submitting them during your ample downtime and missed deadlines.
Consolidate your overwhelming list of services and take your top two skills to focus your business on. Partner with others that are excel on the missing pieces. If you’re a content writer, partner with a skilled illustrator. If you take great photographs, start looking for some graphic designers that create wedding invitations. By leveraging each other’s time, the two of you will be able to complete bigger projects in a shorter amount of time and earn more money.
The second part of this is that you need to be part of a trusted network of professionals. Step outside of your discipline and start joining other networks to help foster some collaborative opportunities. If you’re a photographer, you aren’t going to find much photography work when you are only networking with other photographers. You have to branch out to other fields where you can add to their services and vice-versa.
Make everything you do a project and commit to a deadline. If you are writing a book, then set a deadline and stick to it. If it’s nice outside and your friends want to meet at the park, finish your work that you’ve defined for the day before you go out. We have to learn to say no to ourselves and the influences that have a negative impact on our businesses.
If a client has commissioned you for work and the deadline is February 20th, then set the deadline for February 16th and just get the job done. This doesn’t give you four days to play with, it gives you till the 16th. “Under promise and over deliver” is a disease best not caught. Just deliver what you promise and you’ll be rewarded.
Just because we have tools to be connected all the time is not justification for doing so. Turn off the gadgets, ignore client emails, shut down the update feeds, and just get your work done. If you are serious about growing your freelance business, then buckle down and take action. Projects won’t get done unless you are working on them now.
Freelancing is tough and can be a very trying and stressful experience at times. It’s so easy for us to lose our focus and just call it quits like many do every day. If we start treating freelancing more like a business rather than something we do, the focus shifts a bit and the energy and passion will start flowing again.
Justin Knechtel is Founder and CEO of The Small Potatoes, a design collective that provides services to small businesses and non-profits through a network of freelance professionals. He lives in Seattle with his fiance and their two-year old son. He just started using his personal Twitter @justinknechtel and you should follow The Small Potatoes as well @small_potatoes. Go say hi!