A growing number of workers are taking the plunge and going freelance, an exciting and scary move to a world very different to that of an employee. Developing progressive habits is important as soon as you make the move to ensure that you doing everything you can to build a viable business. While everyone works differently, some aspects of freelancing are important to success. This article looks at five of the most common habits of successful freelancers and why they’re key.
Treating it like a job
The distinction between work and play is obvious when you’re putting on a suit and commuting to an office. But when you’re sitting in your home office it can be far more blurred. This can often cause a lack of motivation and focus, as your mind is continually being dragged from work to home and back again. Treating your freelance work like a job, with a separate office with a lockable door, and a ‘no distractions’ policy, is an important part of building a successful business. You’ll also appear more professional to clients if you need to use the phone.
Building a routine
If you’re looking to excel under pressure and fit a lot into your life, then building a routine is essential. It allows your brain to habituate to specific activities at certain times of the day until the shift in focus becomes second nature. This is particularly important when your working life is so intimately connected to your home life (see above). Build a regular routine that includes exercise, healthy eating, quality time with family, hobbies and, of course, work. Try not to think of work when you’re supposed to be spending time with your partner. The idea of a routine is that sufficient time is given to all priorities so that you can concentrate on each uninterrupted.
Being proactive at all times
Unlike employees, freelancers do not have a guaranteed income. Dry months can and do occur, but they occur more frequently for freelancers who sit back and relax during the good times. All productive and successful freelancers know that good times are often transient, and that marketing and sales activities shouldn’t drop just because the client roster has grown. If you don’t have any more time because your workload is too high, then that’s different (although you may wish to hire your first staff member to give you some breathing space). Marketing and sales are key for any freelancer – if you aren’t winning clients, you aren’t making any money. Good freelancers continue to be proactive at all times to ensure the long-term health and strength of their business activities.
Staying on top of the finances
The move from employee to freelancer does not only entail having to seek out your own clients, it also puts you in charge of bookkeeping and ensuring there is sufficient liquidity in the business. Staying on top of your finances involves a lot of tasks, such as keeping track of expenses, making sure clients pay you in time and ensuring you remain compliant with taxation regulations. All financial responsibility transfers to you – this can be scary, but unless you’re always aware of how much cash you have, how much you owe, and how much is owed to you, you’re going to find it hard to build a profitable business and take action when it’s necessary.
Maintaining commercial awareness
When you’re working for yourself, there’s no safety blanket to keep you insulated should your own error lose you a client. Because of this, many freelancers become scared of losing clients and so do everything in their power to keep them, including over-delivering (which is fine, occasionally) and always assuming the client is right (which is not). Clients run businesses too, and many will take advantage of freelancers who are scared of rocking the boat. And it’s a slippery slope – if you go out of your way to please one client, you’ll likely start doing it for others. Make sure you retain awareness of commercial objectives, and remember that your relationship is two-way: they need your services, and you need their money.