Right, so once you’ve gone through the questions I posed in my last post and decided that you are suited to freelance work, and you’ve been on the initial courses that I recommended, it’s time to set up good, reliable working practices right from the start. These are some things I’ve found handy:
• Prioritise. This is key. Make sure you have time for work, yourself and other people. If you work all hours, you’ll run yourself into the ground. That won’t do anyone any good. And if you are likely to end up doing lots of little projects …
• Organise. I set up a Gantt chart on a spreadsheet – clients down the side, dates along the top, and I colour-block in dates that projects are booked in for, changing the colour as they arrive, when I’ve invoiced, when they’ve paid. It’s a really good way to see what you’ve got on and whether you can fit in that extra client project.
• Set up terms and conditions. I have standard email text that I sent out when I’m quoting for a job, stating when I will ask for payment, how they can pay, what I’m doing, etc. For larger ongoing clients, I set up an agreement in a Word document and make sure we’ve both agreed to it. It’s better to know how you’re going to end things or deal with conflicts before it comes to the crunch.
• Invoice. Make sure you invoice clients as soon as you’ve done the job. Or before, if you work that way round. If you arrange to invoice people for several projects at the end of the month, do it. There’s software you can buy, or you can just set up a Word template. Then make sure you check and record their payment. That’s where the Gantt chart comes in handy. Not in green – they haven’t paid and it might be time to chase up.
• Tools. Make sure you have up to date and legitimate versions of the software you need – Word, etc. If you will be working with any kind of software, whether to read knitting patterns or invent widgets, there are often free downloads available, or trial copies.
• Work for your clients, not yourself. Some of my clients, like students and translators, need me to show all the changes in Track Changes so they make the decision on what to change and I’m not writing their work for them. Other clients just want me to go in, rewrite and send it back to them. Offer your clients choices, but be prepared to make recommendations based on what similar people have requested, too.
• Be flexible and open. I started off as an editor and proofreader. But as clients asked me to do more things, I added in writing, transcription, copy-typing and localising to my portfolio. All things I could actually do already! More income streams, more work! Have a think about what you can offer outside of your core products. If you knit toys, why not run a class or knit some funny shapes for adults. That came out a bit funny, but you know what I mean!
• Network. Both among your peers (in the business and other freelancers who work from home) and among other businesspeople in your area. Twitter and Facebook are useful for finding out what’s going on. It gets you out of the house and meeting people. LinkedIn offers business networking online – join the groups and get chatting.
• Outsource. Know when you need help. If something is going to take you longer in terms of hours and cost more in terms of work you can’t do while you’re doing a task, outsource it. Freelance journalist – get someone else to transcribe your tapes. Not good at sums – get a bookkeeper or accountant in to control your records. It’s also useful to know people in the same line of business as you to whom you can pass work in an emergency.
I hope you find these handy hints useful. I’ve grown in confidence and developed my skills and, not a natural entrepreneur, have built a successful and flourishing business!
You might also find my Freelance/Business people Saturday interview series useful to find out what people who are already in business wish they’d done differently, and their top tips, as well as my resource guide to articles on careers on this website. Also, do take a look at my e-books, which cover this topic in detail.
This article is based, with permission from the blog owner, on a guest post I wrote for the Subs Standards blog. That was for editors; this one’s for everyone!