My top three tips for new freelancers
I’ve been freelancing here at home
since my youngest was about three months old, and I’ve made a career out of it since he was a year old. It’s my entire livelihood and I’ve gotten rather good at it in the last six-ish years thanks to some serious systems … and trial and error.
Since I get asked for suggestions a lot and sometimes it’s hard to sum it up quickly on the spot (we writers are not known for that), here are my top three tips for new freelancers … other than buying lots of yoga leggings and developing an addiction to Diet Coke …
1. Organize your finances as if your life depends on it (it does).
Track every hour/word/project in accounting software and know exactly who owes you what at all times. If a project is ongoing or going to take more than a month, invoice them every two weeks so you’re not waiting for a huge lump sum at the end.
If people aren’t paying you within a socially acceptable window of time, politely inquire about your invoice. (For me, I wait two months before asking — freelance invoices are always the last to be paid.) Yes, sometimes it feels really, really uncomfortable to ask to be paid (in-office employees don’t have to do that!) but you have to do what you have to do.
Build up a savings account to tide you over during those weeks/months when it seems like ALL of the clients in the world are on vacation and/or not paying you in a timely manner. Even now, almost six years in, there are times when I have thousands in invoices outstanding and need to transfer money to my chequing account and wonder why the heck this is still happening. It’s just part of the lifestyle, unfortunately.
2. Keep your
head (work) in the cloud.
I use Google Drive exclusively for my writing because I can access it from anywhere. I don’t have to panic about being out and about and an editor suddenly needing a document or an edit, because I can retrieve it from ANY computer — even my phone, in a pinch. When you’re your own boss, everything stops with you. If a client/editor wants something and you can’t get it to them until much later, it might be a huge inconvenience to them.
I do most of my work on a desktop dual-monitor set-up in my home office, but if I need to run upstairs to work at the dining room table, I can pop open my Chromebook and instantly be back in the same document. #lifesaver
3. Be an OCD scheduler.
I’m a digital girl so almost nothing is written down on actual paper. My colour-coded calendar is my life. When I get an assignment, I schedule the due date and then I actually block off time to do it — even if that time ends up getting shifted to another day, it’s still in there.
When I have a phone interview (sometimes five or six a day), I put it in my calendar and set notifications to go off 10-15 minutes before (in case I’m not in my office and need to hustle to get there) and two minutes before to make sure I’m at the desk, document open and headset on.
When I need to follow up with someone a day or a week down the road, it goes in the calendar. I absolutely would not stay organized without it.
There is a LOT more I could say about this crazy #freelancelife and how I make it work for our family, but I think these are the three biggies.
If you’re a fellow freelance, hit me up in the comments and let me know your best tips!