Many people choose a freelance career because of the freedom it affords. But that freedom also comes with the reality that pretty much every business-related task falls to just one person: You. That isn’t always at the front of our minds when we decide to take our lives in this new direction.
The truth is, success in this career path is tied to how well we manage our business as a whole. Beyond just the fun creative stuff, that includes all the money management grunt work and thankless administrative tasks that come along for the ride.
The Freelance Designer Toolbox
Unlimited Downloads: 500,000+ Web Templates, Icon Sets, Themes & Design Assets
It can be difficult to wrap your head around all of the responsibilities. To successfully deal with it requires self-reliance. Thankfully, it’s a skill that can be learned and sharpened through experience.
Here are some key concepts that will help you become more self-reliant.
Develop a Process for Everything
When you’re the one who is responsible for everything, you’d better have a process for getting things done. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get overwhelmed. That can lead to missing critical things like deadlines or following up on sales leads.
Creating your own processes is fairly simple, but it does take some time. First, make a list of all the business-related tasks you can think of. It should include essentially anything your business requires like paying taxes/bills, keeping track of project hours, invoicing clients and marketing.
Next, go down the list one-by-one and think about how to take care of each item as efficiently as possible. Part of the challenge here is to create organization out of chaos. Some tasks, like paying bills, work more smoothly if you set aside a specific day and time to take care of them. Depending on when bills are due, you may have to set up some time a few days a month or even weekly. The strategy of just handling one here and there as they come in can cause too much disruption and ruin your creative flow.
Other items on your list should be taken care of as needed. For example, keeping track of project hours is a task that should probably be marked down at that time. Otherwise you risk forgetting to do so and possibly missing out on some hard-earned cash.
The lesson here is that when you have to juggle multiple tasks, organization is essential.
Sharpen Necessary Skills
One of the more embarrassing parts of being a freelancer is realizing you don’t have the knowledge to get something done. Both technologies and techniques are constantly evolving and can pass you by very quickly.
But there’s no need to be embarrassed. A busy lifestyle sometimes means that we lose track of industry trends. Even if we’ve heard the buzzwords, it’s difficult to immerse yourself in everything. Web design in particular is a challenge because there are so many competing technologies that seem to change on a daily basis.
The good news is that you really don’t need to know everything. Instead, focus on the skills you really need for your day-to-day work. Take an hour or two each month to brush up on what’s new. View some online tutorials and do a bit of practice. That way, your critical skills will be up-to-date and you’ll feel better about being in the know.
That said, it’s still important to keep tabs on new technologies as well. The key is to home in on a few that really can help you become better at your craft. Then, tackle them one at a time.
Be Aware of Your Strengths, Weaknesses and Limits
Each of us have our own unique qualities. Some of us produce fabulous design work but aren’t strong in writing code. Others are really on top of the financial aspects of their business but less so when it comes to marketing. In other words: None of us are perfect.
Having knowledge of the areas where we thrive and struggle can help us become more self-reliant. It’s those weaknesses we know we need to shore up that make a difference. And there are multiple ways to improve.
For one, taking a deep dive into the specifics can help us learn as we go. Another way to gain strength is through helpful tools or services that take some of the pressure off of us.
It’s also good to know your limits. Realizing that you don’t have the time to do your daily work and learn about accounting practices can be a good thing. It can lead to working with an accountant or financial adviser.
But wait, isn’t hiring on someone else the opposite of self-reliance? Not necessarily. Part of being self-reliant is solving problems and doing what needs to be done. By being smart enough to “know what you don’t know”, offloading some tasks to a trained expert channels both of those traits. The goal isn’t to do everything yourself. Rather, it’s to be thoughtful and confident enough to make smart decisions.
Self-reliance = Freedom
The best part of becoming self-reliant in your business is that you will truly have taken charge. That feeling will give you confidence in your abilities to succeed in just about any situation. That’s part of what freedom is all about.
This is a process that takes time, though. Especially when considering the things you need to improve upon. Just remember that there are many facets to running a business and nobody learns them all overnight. You may make some mistakes – but that’s okay. They make for great learning experiences.
Think of harnessing the concepts above as an investment in your future. It’s something that will allow you to take on bigger and better projects more efficiently. Plus, that personal growth can also improve your life outside of work.
Make the decision to become a more self-reliant freelancer. You’ll be amazed at how it can transform your business.