November 20th is the day that my company Agile Strides turns two years old! Actually, I wanted to found my company on the 23rd of November. For some reason, however, it had to be done on a Friday. Don’t ask…
As I look back at it today, I will never go back to being employed again. (Yeah, I know, this remark can bite me in the tail in a few years…) I really like my way of living. Yes, it is a way of living. That is how I see it. For some time now, people have been asking me for tips. They ask me what they should or shouldn’t do when they become a freelancer. Note that I am always willing to help people and join them for a (virtual) coffee. However, I also realize that not everyone likes coffee or lives in my time zone. Therefore, here are my tips to become a successful freelancer.
The first tip is to decide what kind of freelancer you want to be? Do you want to do many different assignments or do you want to commit to more long-term assignments? Personally, I am looking to do many different jobs. I prefer not to work for two years for customer A on end, and then go to customer B for another two years. I am looking to help a large group of different customers and learn from them. In my opinion, that is an entrepreneurial mindset. Both preferences are OK, specializing or getting to know many different businesses, but it really makes a difference in how you do things. If you go for the latter option, the more entrepreneurial mindset, keep reading. Also, realize that this choice can be a bit more challenging. You will need to find more assignments and look for more potential customers. I find it to be more rewarding. Really decide on what kind of freelancer you want to be.
Secondly, believe in Karma. Yes, I know, it is a bit vague, especially coming from me, but I really believe in this. Don’t ask money for everything you do, if you are kind and generous to people, they will be kind and generous to you. If you share assignments with other people, they will also think of you when they have to pass on assignments. Depending on your expertise, just do an assignment for free every now and then. I sometimes do a new workshop for free, just to try things out.
Let’s make it more practical. The third tip is to build and keep building your network. One of my old managers, Erik Jaspers, told me once to go out, to meet people, to visit conferences, etc. This has been one of the most valuable tips I ever got in my career. By doing this, I built up a network, met all kinds of people. I found assignments in The Netherlands but also got many assignments abroad. (I don’t mind traveling for business). So, drink coffee with people, meet with them and connect to them.
Fourthly, have at least one day a week where you do not schedule any work. One day a week without customer projects. You will need this day always to build out your network, to do marketing, do sales, admin stuff, write blogs. You will discover that you already have to do many things in the evening hours. If you don’t block one day for yourself, you will work every evening and weekend. A friend of mine has CEO-Monday, the day she does all her bookkeeping and stuff a CEO should do in a company. Keep at least one day per week free on your agenda.
Be seen and be present, the fifth tip. Start writing blog posts, speak at conferences, record podcasts, share things on the internet that are related to your expertise, be active on social media. I share many interesting articles, and I know some people consider it spam :). If people see you on social media, they will remember you when they are looking for someone. Work won’t just show up at your doorstep, at least not for me. Be visible to the outside world.
Sixth: find business friends. Find people with whom you can work together. Make sure you can work together physically or virtually by co-working. Also, work on new ideas together with other people. It is more fun now and then to develop new business ideas jointly, the world is big enough to have enough projects for both of you. In short, partner up.
Seventh: accept that you can’t win all possible leads. You will lose some leads, nothing to worry about. You can’t do everything and at least you were in the race for the assignment! Keep true to your personal values, don’t sell yourself short. As long as you win half of the leads, you are often doing pretty well. It is OK not to win all the opportunities.
The eight tip is about your software: get as many things as possible in the cloud. Make sure you are able to work from anywhere, with any laptop or device. I use Acumulus for bookkeeping, Evernote to store ALL information, Google Drive for working together, Dropbox for storing my files, Hubspot for CRM, Gmail and Google Calendar and last but not least Zapier to automate as much as possible. Get organized in the cloud and work anywhere.
In my opinion, the most important thing is to realize that being a freelancer really is a way of living. There will be days that you worry about money, new projects, too little work, too much work, etc. Things that make you wonder why did I ever choose for this career? And there will also be days where you will be so proud of yourself because all of the success is because of you! You did it yourself, everything that you did is the result of your own hard work! It probably won’t make you rich, a bit perhaps. Yes, you have freedom, but realize that if you are not working you also don’t have an income. So the freedom may be a bit relative. Nevertheless, love your job.
As I said, I am really happy with my life as an entrepreneur. I would not like to be employed at that moment. You never know what the future brings, but at this moment I am very happy. Hope my tips are useful for you and or can help you in making the decision to become a freelancer yes or no.
Looking forward to that coffee!