I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about freelancing since I quit my corporate job 6 months ago. It turns out, I have! But, it also turns out there’s a lot of things I’m not doing the best way. Fortunately for me (and for you), I have a lot of talented freelancing friends that have taken me under their wing and taught me a thing or two.
The Importance of a Schedule
I’m slowly coming to the realization that having a schedule is incredibly important. If I don’t plan out things to do for the day or the week, I’m going to do precisely nothing. That’s nice, but doing nothing pays, well.… nothing.
I do not like earning nothing. It makes me feel like a failure (gee wonder why??). I like doing work for people that earns me money. I’m having some earth shattering revelations over here, let me tell you.
I don’t have a set schedule in place quite yet, but I’m getting there by adding clients that have work that need to be done by a specific time. This brings some stability to my life and helps get my butt out of bed in the morning.
I want to work more on coming up with a 1 year, 3 year, and 5 year business plan that I can then break down into little chunks of work to do weekly/monthly. I am having flashbacks of my life as an Agile developer but as much as I don’t like the idea, it does work. I’m not the best at long term planning, but just because I’m not good at something isn’t an excuse for not doing it. More practice and I’ll be better at it! At least, I hope so…
I’ve downloaded a business model canvas from Strategyzer and have a planning session on the books to brainstorm and come up with turning this haphazard mess into a streamlined business!
Don’t Get Emotionally Invested
I wear my heart on my sleeve. My brain goes into overdrive every time a new opportunity comes my way. I’m adding up how much money that would be a month and thinking about ways to spend that money — all before I even get the gig.
THAT. IS. BAD.
Doing that is the fast path to being depressed and staring at the ceiling fan from bed at 2 pm. This is business. Being emotionally invested in things that make you money is not good. It’s one reason I failed at being a landlord. I loved the house too much. Being emotionally invested will get your heart broken many times over, potentially in a day. I’ve learned I can’t get too excited about things. I have worked on stepping back from the work and realizing it’s just that — work. If someone doesn’t want to hire me, that’s not a reflection of who I am personally. They evaluated their options and found a better option and that’s ok.
I’m probably going to type that last line up and stick it to the wall behind my computer so I can remind myself of that often.
Takin Care of Business
It turns out I have a LOT to learn about the business of freelancing. Thankfully, my friend Kara from Bravely has produced a Freelance Starter Guide and let me tell you, this is going to change everything about how I do business.
And by everything, I mean I’ll actually know how to start a freelancing business, which I have so far woefully ignored.
(Full disclosure: I got access to the guide for free in exchange for writing about it, which I was more than happy to do because it is SO HELPFUL!)
The first section of the guide talks about the various kinds of businesses you can form when starting out as a freelancer. Right now, I’m doing the Sole Proprietor avenue, although I might incorporate into an LLC later. The guide talks about the pros and cons of each path and even goes briefly into how it affects your taxes!
The second chapter goes into business accounts. This is the part where I’d tell you how my business accounts are setup, but I, erm, don’t have any. Yet! This guide told me exactly how I should set it up from the beginning, so I’ve added that to my ever growing to-do list. So far I’ve just been keeping track of business expenses and income with the help of Mint and a spreadsheet, but that’s not enough. Although the guide does recommend a spreadsheet as well to keep track of everything.
I do somehow have an EIN though, so I should definitely start using that when filling out form W9 for people so they don’t have access to my Social Security number. Time to go dig that bad boy out of the depths of my email!
Update: I had absolutely no record of my EIN so I had to eat my pride and call the IRS. The lady was very helpful and found it for me! If you have that issue, call 800−829−4933 and they’ll get you sorted!
Chapter four is alllll about how to calculate your rate for your services. The guide has a really nifty formula you can use to figure out your rate which is supes helpful. Right now I’m not charging a whole lot as I get my feet under me and learn what I’m doing. A freelancer friend of mine told me every job I take, raise my rate. So far I have yet to take that on, but I’ve got it ready!
So far this year, I’ve made just over $1,500 from freelancing. Not bad, until you consider that’s for 6 months of work… However! In October, I’m on track to make almost twice that number! In one month! Woo! Finding my niche has been more helpful to me than anything else I’ve learned so far.
Chapter Five includes a pitching template and pitching tips which are going to be super useful. I’ve done a few pitches so far, and some of them have worked and others have fallen into the deep, dark pit of despair known as someone’s spam inbox. This is helpful to let me know what I did right and what I didn’t do so great at. More room for improvement, yippee.… I also found it great the guide included screenshots from brands to illustrate the process. If you didn’t know how to pitch before Chapter Five, you’ll definitely know how afterwards!
Chapter Six is all about your statement of work which is something that I also haven’t been doing and should probably do from here on out. A statement of work is kinda like a contract, but not quite so binding. It lays out everything clearly so there are no misunderstandings and everyone is on the same page. Literally. The guide even includes a sample statement of work, so you don’t even have to Google for it. Everything you need in one place!
Chapter Seven is on how to craft an effective invoice. I’ll be honest, I kind of skimmed over this chapter because this is one thing I have a good handle on already. I use And.co to track my time and create invoices for all the various projects I do. That’s not even an affiliate link — I mention them because it’s a product I love. They were acquired by Fiverr earlier in 2018 and Fiverr made it free to use! As a struggling freelancer, free.99 is my favorite price to pay. I create professional looking invoices with a few clicks. They also tell you when people open the invoice so you know to remind them to pay it later if they don’t do that immediately. I’ve been on both sides and can attest to the fact And.co makes it easy for everyone!
Chapter Eight is all about your profit and loss spreadsheet and income tracker. What that is, why you should have one, how to set it up and how to use it are all covered. This falls under the category of “business stuff” that is super useful to have and once again, is something I haven’t been doing beyond a few scribbles here and there in my notebook.
The last chapter is Chapter Nine and covers taxes. Duh duh duh duhhhhhhh. The dreaded taxes. The guide goes over taxes in great detail, which is what you want when it comes to doing taxes. Also don’t read this at night after a long day of work. Just trust me.
Taxes are one thing I’ve kinda buried my head in the sand about which is exactly what you shouldn’t do!! This year I think I’m covered under the taxes my employer took out on my W2 pay. Also, I’ve made $1,500 this year and that falls firmly in the first bracket of income which means very little tax to pay. The guide explains everything about all the brackets, how to fill out the various forms depending on what business setup you went with, how much tax to set aside from each check, when to pay taxes and even tells you where to mail the forms based on what state you live in.
For example, I need to mail my quarterly taxes to a PO Box in Cincinnati since I live in Minnesota. SO HELPFUL.
Bravely’s Freelance Starter Guide has already given me hours back of my life. I don’t need to spend hours Googling things anymore, but if I do need further clarification I know exactly what to look up. Already I’m less stressed out about all the business stuff I knew I should’ve been doing and wasn’t doing. Thanks to the guide, I know exactly what to do and how to implement it which is a huge lifesaver.
If you’re looking to get started, I can’t recommend this guide enough. It’s a steal, too at $65. Seriously, if you’re interested in freelancing or just starting out, you can’t afford to not by this guide! Go forth and prosper!
As always, thanks for reading! Are you interested in freelancing? If you’re already freelancing, what kind of work are you doing? Let me know in the comments below!!