How Freelancers Set About Becoming Businesses

All freelancers need to understand something — you are still a business, and the business is you. I ought to know — I’ve been freelancing for over seven years. From the very moment you establish yourself as a freelancer, you are building your own reputation in your industry, and you grow your business by building up your client base and your products and services. That said, just because you are technically a business from the first day, it will still take a long time before you start to feel like a business. Surviving the first year is quite possibly the hardest part of the journey. Here are a few tips you can use to build your reputation, and eventually you will start to feel less like a freelancer and more like a business owner.

Laptop, Woman, Coffee, Breakfast, Working Woman, Desk
Image Credit: Pixabay

Dress the part

It’s tempting to throw away all your business suits and just work from home in your pyjamas. Unfortunately, this small act can have a negative impact on your business. Pyjamas make you feel like going back to bed all day, which can severely affect your productivity.

If you liaise with your clients over the phone or by email, your tone is different and people don’t believe that you want to work — of course you don’t, you’re dressed for bed. You don’t necessarily have to put on a tie every day, but dressing for work and sticking to established business hours can make you feel like you’re running a business instead of just working from home.

Protect your business

When you first become a freelancer, you’ll sign a lot of contracts with new clients, designed to protect their interests. As you are your own business, you also need protection. Therefore, there are two things you need; a Professional Indemnity insurance and a lawyer.

You can PI insurance from Qdos Contractor, and this will protect you when a client accuses you of providing inadequate services or designs. It covers the legal costs and expenses in defending the claim, as well as compensation payable to your client to rectify the mistake. A lawyer will not only defend you from these accusations, but they can also read over contracts before you sign them, and chase clients who don’t pay you for completed work.

Office, Tablet, Laptop, Home Office, Work
Image Credit: Pixabay

Ensure you get paid

Even if you don’t feel like a business that exchanges services for money, you should still think of yourself as a hired professional who deserves to get paid. Sometimes clients are completely satisfied with your work, but they forget to pay you because they get busy. Always remember to, politely, chase them for the money they owe. Although it might feel scary at first to bill a client, you provided a service, and they need to pay you for your work; it’s that simple.

Read also: 3 Tips to Improve Your Performance as a Freelance Graphic Designer

Outsource

You can’t do everything yourself; you might have a few skills in addition to the one that’s helping you earn a living, but you shouldn’t try to be a computer wizard if your profession is a freelance writer. Pay other people to be your tech support, accountant, or even web designer if you don’t think you have the skills. This is your business, so you need everything to run smoothly.

Business Hooks While Balancing The Books

Stress, it’s a big thing, and when you own a business, you’re going to run into your fair share of it. Of course, this mainly stems from money worries. Trying to squeeze every penny across expanding departments and attempting to increase your online presence requires a lot of investment, so what can you do to minimise spending while maximising your business potential?

Image Credit: Pexels

Get Freelancing

Outsourcing to freelancers is not such a dirty word anymore. Every business is feeling the pinch, and it’s a very natural part of the process to hire outside sources to take over the vital components of your business. From getting web/graphic designers to give your site a makeover to IT Support services. It’s a very cost-effective measure.

Many IT support services can be affordable, and on a monthly payment plan, so you can get the most suitable infrastructure for your budget. The start of any business means getting a lot of little tasks complete, and you can make the most of the job websites that hire out freelancers.

When you’re at the point where it’s all hands on deck, freelancer sites are a lifeline to get those last important bits ready to go.

Advice from Influencers

Never underestimate the advice from people who were once in your shoes. We all make mistakes, and you will make a lot more when trying to realise your vision, but the advice doesn’t cost anything, and you can learn from other people’s mistakes very easily.

Aligning yourself with the key influencers in your industry from an early point should be part of your whole entrepreneurial ethos. It’s a common misstep of many startups that fail to see and leverage the value of networking. It can be a big obstacle to overcome, especially for those who are still trying to find their feet as a leader.

However, by networking with key influencers, you will have an opportunity to learn lessons quickly. You never know, you could end up becoming an influencer in your field, which will only help to increase your business connections.

UK Entrepreneur James Caan | Image Credit: LinkedIn

Make the Most of Your Image

Contrary to popular belief, you can make the most of a business image without much money. When one of the UK’s most successful Entrepreneur James Caan started his recruitment firm Alexander Mann, he could only afford a renovated broom cupboard.

On the upside, the location was in a prime part of London’s City Centre, so the correspondence gave out a good impression before anything else.

He conveniently held meetings in rented spaces to avoid being found out, but the proof was there. He built up his business image before doing anything else that made the clients and customers come in droves.

Make the most of your image in this way because operating a business out of your residential address does not look good. Instead, make the most of the virtual office services; which, as part of the package, is a professional address. It’s simple, cheap, and it will do a lot for your reputation right from the start. Cheap ideas do not have to be cheap in quality, and the best ideas come from nothing.

Female artist in well-lit home studio

Creative Space Ideas For Professional Artists

Working as a paid artist is hard work and like any other freelancer most of your time will be spent trying to get your work noticed and pick up commissions. The rest of the time will hopefully be channelled into actually creating your next masterpiece.

Unlike most freelancers however, an artist requires a little more equipment and space than a desk and a computer.  A good art studio is expensive to rent and is often difficult to find locally.  There are options of renting shared spaces with other artists, but if you really want to create the ideal space to inspire your creativity then why not consider building your own home art studio. If you have a garden, even better, if you have a spare room, either way, the following tips will still prove helpful:

Step 1.  If you don’t have a suitable building or space to convert into an art studio you can build your own using a prefab steel building. These are cost-effective and quick to install and will give you a blank canvas to create your ideal studio.

Step 2.  Look for clever storage ideas. One of the key elements to a good home art studio is making sure you have storage options for all of the many art materials you will need. Storage can be as elaborate as fitted cupboards and bespoke shelving or as simple as empty jam jars and biscuit containers to store brushes and paper safely.

Table filled with a variety of art brushes
Image Credit: Pexels

Step 3.  Decorate it. Whilst you don’t want your new art studio to be so busy that it draws your attention away from your creative projects, you do want the space to feel warm, welcoming and inspiring so decorate your space to your own personal taste making plenty of room on the walls for sketches and pictures that you will accumulate along the way.

Step 4.  Even in the summer, if you find yourself working through the night you will need some protection from the cold (assuming you’re not in the tropics).  Not all art materials perform well when the temperature drops below a comfortable level so install a heater to turn up the temperature on your creative ideas. Portable space heaters are also an affordable option.

Step 5.  Furnish your studio.  Although you will probably spend most of your time on your feet in your home studio, it is handy to have a comfortable seating area to allow you to take a step back and consider your direction. Try an old sofa or bean bags for a more relaxed working environment. You will also need a table and shelves to store paints, brushes, boxes, and other materials. If you are also going to be using a computer then you will need a sturdy desk. One important must-have is a sink with running water for your dedicated clean up station ensuring art tools like brushes and cups are kept clean after use.

Whimsical garden studio with big glass windows
Image Credit: Pexels

Step 6.  Plenty of light. Make sure when you are creating your space, decorating it and filling it with all your necessary materials that you leave plenty of room for good light.  Natural light is always best so make sure there are adequate windows.  If windows are a premium, try adding artificial lighting in strategic positions to flood light onto your creative processes.

Step 7.  Finally all that’s left to do is move in.  Once your studio is ready you can move in and create your new creative future.

Artist in studio painting colourful pieces
Image Credit: Pexels

My Three Phresh Tips for New Freelancers

Following the 2009 global recession, there’s been an upsurge in not only entrepreneurship, but freelancing as well with progressively more individuals (probably including you) venturing out on their own to chase their dreams in the business world. While this step towards self-employment can often be a daunting adventure, when done correctly, the rewards are worth the hard work and sacrifice.

In collaboration with Invoice2Go (a leading invoice app and resource), I will be sharing three tips focused on time management, self-motivation, and social media that are guaranteed to help make you a better freelancer for the voyage ahead.

1. Create and maintain a timesheet to track all your work.
It is important that your time and your customers’ time are never wasted, since “time is money”. You want to ensure that all your deadlines are always met within the mutually agreed time frame. A timesheet or personal time log is one of the best tools to help with your productivity. There is a lot of software out there, but Microsoft Excel is just as effective. Try to make it as detail as possible, capturing minutes, hours, and days spent per task/project, in addition to project categorisation. You will know what projects you can take on and when. With recorded data on your previous projects, it will give you a good idea of how long it takes you on average to complete a specific project. So let’s say it takes you 8 hours to complete a project and three prospective customers offered you separate projects today with the same deadline. Under a 24-hour turnaround policy, for instance, you would know realistically that one project would have to be declined.

Richard Branson - autobio cover
It’s an incredible autobiography that displays both life and business lessons

2. Stay motivated by reading books and blog posts by established founders and CEOs.
Freelancing can be challenging and some days you will feel like giving up on your pursuits. Reading is not only the gateway to tapping into knowledge, but it is a reliable source to discover inspiration. Find personalities in business and entrepreneurship that you look up to and then get your hands on their biographies, autobiographies, and blog posts and learn as much as possible. I can almost guarantee you will absorb a lot from their personal and professional experiences. Personally, I look to Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Group Founder and CEO) who always has a lot of insight and inspiration to share with readers. In Branson’s autobiography Losing My Virginity, I took away a myriad of lessons such as taking risks; going against the status quo; negotiating good deals; reinvention; always keeping a notebook handy; and trusting your instincts. It is definitely worth leafing through.

Modern Keyboard With Colored Social Network Buttons.
Figure out what platforms your target audience and clients are already using and go to them

3. Maintain steady social media presence across platforms used by your target audience and customers.
Take the time to develop your own social media strategy with clear goals and objectives. Be consistent with how you post, present yourself, your products and services, and the content you share across social media platforms. Branding is paramount to your success. It is important that you spend the time to figure out who your target audience and intended customers are and use the social media platforms that they will mostly likely be on for the most reach. If your target audience are young people, they will most likely be using Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. The professional crowd will be using platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. In my case, I use around six platforms, including Pinterest, which is such an underrated channel for exposure. I also found it’s important to get into blogging and creating video content.

7 or 8 Tips to Help You Arrive at Rates That Define Your Value

As a freelance graphic designer, you spent your time giving and gaining new design experiences, whilst creating a client list and a reputation for putting out quality work. You acquire client testimonials, because tooting your own horn just isn’t going to cut it.

Every year you question whether or not you’re charging clients the right amount for design work completed; you look at the prices and you think you have. But have you really?

In business, knowing or even discovering your own monetary worth is one of those instances that requires a sometimes really long and hard look at all that you have done and accomplished as a freelancer or entrepreneur.

Take time to do the following:

  1. Examine your present and past clientele
  2. Evaluate your portfolio of work
  3. Find someone established and positioned as an industry leader and ask for advice
  4. Look at the prices of your competition locally and globally
  5. Join forums for freelance designers
  6. Make the tough decisions on pricing your value
  7. Lose a few prospective customers who aren’t ready to pay you what you’re worth

To get your business to the next level requires a lot of effort in heavy-lifting. It’s a lot like moving your friends furniture to their new apartment that’s on the fifth floor and the place has no elevators only stairs. You know its going to be back-breaking work and sweat pouring down your face, but it’ll all be worth it knowing you’ll be rewarded (not with pizza and cold beer).

Don’t be afraid to raise your prices. Only you can do what you do and if people are lining up around the block just to work with you then that’s a good sign you’re worth more than you first thought.

How did you discover your true value as a designer? Share your story below. We could all learn from it.