How to Be a Freelancer

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!

business model strategy

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.

income tracker

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.

Final Thoughts

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!!

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