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 things freelancers do – but shouldn’t

Getting comfortableLast week, I wrote about seven quirky and unusual things which, if they sound familiar, mark you out as a freelancer. They were good fun: taking a spontaneous day off, working in your pyjamas. However, even the most finely tuned freelancing individual will confess that not every familiar trait is a positive one, and so here’s seven more things freelancers do, but here are the ones that are probably best avoided.


1/ Stay at home

Sure, we can work from the local café, library, even the local park when the sun’s out. But whilst the change of scenery is a positive thing, don’t mistake it for time off.

It’s not kicking back on a beach, skiing in the Alps or even camping in a muddy field. Despite the heaps of research that shows how much more productive we are after taking a break, actually committing to switching off our email, smartphone and getting out of the office is still one of the hardest things for a freelancer to do.


2/ Forget about the taxman

Nobody enjoys paying tax, in fact it’s one of our favourite things to whine about. We do all that hard work and the government comes along and takes a huge slice.

So how come, if we’re spending so long complaining about it, so many of us are forgetting to put money aside for the tax bill we know is coming?

A great many freelancers will set their prices without taking tax into account. And it’s the easiest (and most fun) thing to spend money as soon as we have it.

Yet every year, the taxman turns up and asks for his cut. And every year we’ve forgotten to save up.


3/ Take things to heart

Business is business, people make decisions based on finances, on politics, on all manner of things. Everybody does it – changing suppliers if they offer us a deal, trying a new product because our favourite celeb endorsed it in an advert.

Yet when it happens to us we take it to heart. They didn’t buy my proposal? Then obviously they don’t like me as a person. Maybe I won’t even pitch, because what if they don’t like it and I feel personally insulted?

Of course personal relationships make a huge difference – often winning, and sometimes losing, contracts. But plenty of other times, decision makers are meeting quotas and budgets when they say ‘no thanks’.

Knowing that doesn’t stop us feeling like the spurned freelancer, though.


4/ Get comfortable

It’s easy to get into a position where you think you’ve “made it”. Maybe it’s a regular stream of work from one client. Maybe you’re the darling of one particular market and you’ve become the go-to supplier.

Whilst it might sound defeatist, it’s always healthy business practice to sit back and ask: “What if this one revenue stream stopped tomorrow?” Because it might, for whatever reason. Your favourite customer might run into cash-flow trouble, or choose somebody else, it could be one of any number of things. Would you be prepared?

If not, it might be time to diversify a bit. Add a bit of variety to your working week – some new products or customers. Just in case.


5/ Lose touch

Communication is key in business – and not just submitting a pitch and invoicing afterwards. Being ‘in the know’ is a priceless attribute. You’re privy to information that can help you win work, it keeps you well-known so that people will make approaches and it keeps the wheels of industry turning.

It takes a lot of effort though, and it’s not always a high priority. A chat with a supplier, a friendly email to an old customer, a coffee with a potential source of work. None of them guarantee a return up-front, make it easy to choose to do something else.

But if you’re not doing it, someone else is. And that sociable someone else will be at the front of everybody’s mind when there’s new work up for grabs.


6/ Forget this is a business

Freelancing’s fun. Almost all of us got into it to do something we’re passionately about. Whether it’s dealing with people, crafting things or providing a service.

And it’s a great way to operate – on your own terms, in your own timeframe.

That said, it’s important that we never forget we’re running a business. When all’s said and done, we need income that’s over and above our outgoings by a margin that’s enough to live on. At the very least.

We need to take care of paperwork, pay the bills and prepare for the future. Dismissing all of this and just concentrating on the fun bits might seem like a lark, but it’s a dangerous game to play.


7/ Give discounts

Discounts are ok, they have their place. But they shouldn’t be commonplace, and you certainly shouldn’t start offering them without the customer asking for them. But how many freelancers think that knocking a bit off their price will help seal the deal?

Maybe it will, but wouldn’t you rather win the contract at full price? Not every business buys the cheapest. In fact, in many areas of life the opposite is true. You wouldn’t take the cheapest wine to a dinner party, because sometimes there’s more important factors than pounds and pence.

If you’re the best at what you do – or even if you’re just really good – charge accordingly. You’ll make more money, and your reputation will grow.


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Written by Tim Aldred on August 7, 2012 and filed in Frazzled Freelancer, Opinion , , , ,

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