More and more people nowadays are trading their 9 to 5 desk jobs for a more flexible and smart form of employment. This phenomenon used to be called ‘freelancing’, but it’s safe to say that this term has recently acquired a mixed connotation, at best. It is often used to indicate unsteady pay, a high degree of uncertainty and very hard work.
I prefer using the term ‘solo entrepreneurship’ as a modern freelancer is essentially starting up a lean company, which relies on one’s skills and intuition.
You might not think of yourself as an entrepreneur, but in reality, you are exposing yourself to all the risks that people address when starting a fully-fledged company.
Going freelance is a rewarding, yet challenging endeavour, which entails for determination and sacrifice, but those who end up ‘making it’ would never be able to go back to a traditional office job.
In this post we’re going to look over 5 essential pieces of advice you should take into account when starting your own self-reliant career. These are the subsections of our article to help you find what you are looking for faster:
1. Realise how much your time is worth
2. You need to learn how to ‘Speak Business’
3. Develop your portfolio through a business model portfolio
4. Share, teach, attract talent, repeat
5. It didn’t work? Try again. Persistence is the #1 success factor
The first element you need to figure out is the value of your time. This can be tricky sometimes: our perception of time changes whether we work for ourselves, as opposed to working for someone else.
As employees, we are naturally drawn to immediately figure out how much our employer values our time on a monthly, weekly, or hourly basis. As freelancers instead (using this term for the sake of clarity), we tend to think much less about the value of our time.
These elements are also mentioned in our 5-step approach to starting a digital business. You can find an article about this topic here.
It’s likely that as a freelancer, you have decided to leave the – relative – ease of a desk job to compete in a much bigger talent pool. Now, however, you need to take into account, that you are unlikely to stand a chance in being successful, just by doing one job. As a freelancer, you need to become every single department of your company. This means that you cannot limit yourself to ‘doing what you do best’, you need to learn the ropes at everything else too and make time for it. As you come to this realisation, you need to be able to structure workflows and time management techniques which will allow you to look after different sides of your professional activity.
One of the hardest challenges I had, when I started my own freelance\business activities, consisted of figuring out how much to charge. Some say that you should price an hourly fee, but this does not make too much sense to me: if you are going to charge more for faster delivery, time runs against your profitability.
Moreover, pricing is a very volatile, intangible element of your marketing mix. The same price point can be either too high for some clients, or very low for others. This is why pricing cannot be based on what you do but on the impact of your work. We call this ROI or return on investment.
How do you do this? Well, by learning to ‘speak business’, and figuring how much money you’ll be making for your clients. If you’re able to do this you’ll gain two major benefits:
If you don’t pursue a quality-oriented mentality, you will never be able to escape the ‘employee mindset’ and even if you have no boss, you will put yourself against the deadline, just as you would do as a traditional old school employee.
As a freelance professional, your time is your greatest wealth. Managing your time effectively is your number one priority. As you develop your professional career, you need to design your workflows and take advantage of a 24\7 uptime keeping you ‘open for business’ even when you’re not actually working.
Telling you that you need to start a website is a no brainer, but that would be just the start of our story. What you should be doing is actually making sure that your efforts in delivering each project can be re-used and recycled, so that out of a single project you can actually extract multiple sources of revenue.
Here’s a breakdown of how this works:
This workflow shows how a day of work can turn into a short-term payment, a piece of content, a lead magnet, a customer acquisition strategy. Your time has just made itself 5 times more valuable.
An additional “intangible” benefit of this structured approach is that it allows you to reflect on your work, optimise it, proofread it, validate it through your community and create an archive. These types of processes ultimately make the difference between a being a freelancer and or fully-fledged business professional.
Each of these community-fostering activities in time will translate in different monetisation streams, so keep up the pace and get your work online.
The ability to develop a community around our product and services is crucial. We talk about this in more depth in a 5 step process to start a digital business with little or no money.
There is no denying it, talent is a fundamental success factor. Your own talent is the founding element of your business strategy. This, however, should not make you too self-centred: other people’s talent is just as valuable as your own. This is why all of us, as consultants, teachers, corporate managers, are essentially in the same business: talent pooling. You need to think about ways to attract and retain talent, and this entails for a double positioning strategy:
At the end of the day, those who succeed are not the most talented, nor the better funded, just those who persist.
This doesn’t mean that a freelancer should persist in doing something which is not producing any results, but on the contrary, successful freelancers learn valuable lessons, grow, and keep trying.
The truth is that even in today’s fast-paced business environment, quality requires time. An example of this is provided by luxury brands, which draw most of their brand value from their heritage and timelessness. Of course, you don’t have 100 years to grow a heritage brand, but you should focus on creating a promise of consistency, and consistency requires time.
Bill Gates famously said “people overestimate what they can do in a year, but underestimate what they can do in 10″.
As we’ve seen in this post, freelancing is about blending opposites:
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