Tim Aldred - The Frazzled Freelancer
Freelance commercial writer, successfully navigating self-employment one unexpected obstacle at a time. Contact me at twitter.com/tim_aldred
7 New Year’s Resolutions for Freelancers
But what about the resolutions that will make my freelance businesses leaner, meaner and more profitable? Here’s seven that will help me achieve the things I want from 2012. Feel free to join in.
1: Get brave
Fortune favours the brave, especially in business. Why did another freelancer land that huge contract that I’d love? Usually, because they actually went for it.
Chase late payments, put your prices up, apply for that dream freelance job. The only way you get what you want is to ask for it.
2: Set long-term goals
Most freelancers have a target income each month – whether they’re in it for pocket money or, like me, it’s a main source of income.
Working month-to-month will only get you so far, keeping your business above water. To improve my overall situation, I’ve set some long-term goals.
I’ve got ideas that I’ll put in place in the first half of this year, and a few things I’d like to accomplish by the time the year is out. It’s important to give them time and attention even though there may not be immediate financial returns. I know my business will be in better shape if I do.
3: Break a bad habit
Everybody knows working from home means getting to stay in bed that little bit later than everyone who has to commute – but staying in bed that little bit longer than we’re meant to is also tempting.
Trouble is, starting late means finishing late, and that’s much less fun. I get up and brew my first coffee of the day happy in the knowledge that starting on time means finishing on time, ready to open a packet of biscuits in front of Pointless (BBC1, 5.15pm, weekdays).
Science says that we enjoy routine and it makes us more productive.
4: Get my finances in order.
Healthy cheques dropping through my letterbox often lead to day-dreaming about all the wonderful things I could buy. But we all know that’s not how it works for the self-employed.
HMRC hasn’t come knocking yet – but you can guarantee they’ll want their share in due course. Before heading to the sales, I’ll put about 20% of it in a side account I’ve called ‘taxman’, and another bit in another account marked ‘rainy day’.
Even those of us with regular work each month can never be sure it will last forever and some reserve cash will see me through the months that aren’t as good as others.
5: …and my paperwork.
I nearly let an unpaid invoice slip a few months back. I billed it on time, they didn’t pay, I forgot – because I’d got a bit sloppy with my paperwork.
My clients have contracts, they each need monthly invoices, every bit of work I do has pages of notes, transcriptions, research and other bits and bobs. You can imagine how many sheets of paper that involves.
Filing it all feels like a chore – but it’s nothing on the inconvenience of sifting through a mountain of A4 in search of once specific piece.
6: Introduce a feel-good project
Freelancers have the freedom to pick and choose their work projects. That’s not the same as everything we do being an overflowing parcel of fun.
Sometimes work’s hard, serious, or just plain boring. Often, these are the projects that pay the best.
To balance this, I got involved with a project that I knew I’d do even if it didn’t pay. When I’m looking back over my accomplishments of the week, month or year, it feels great to have an achievement that gives me pride.
Knowing I’ll soon be getting my teeth into something I enjoy also makes the slow days pass that little bit quicker.
7: Take a break
Holidays are a freelancer’s biggest fear. Especially going without checking emails and voicemails for days at a time.
But if we worked 52 solid weeks a year we’d succumb to stress, our decision-making skills would slip and our standard of work would deteriorate. That’s never good business practice.
So book that plane ticket, pack your swimmers and jet off to the beach for a week or two. Remember: your business requires it.