Our cultural approach to and view of work has been changing rapidly over the past decade. Along with ideas like four-day weeks and remote work that have transformed internal company cultures, the opportunity for freelancing has become more and more prominent. According to Forbes, 56.7 million Americans do freelance work, which can extend to nearly any profession or area of work. This could include programming, writing, videography, website design, financial consulting, and more. How can freelancers stay productive and deliver the same quality of work that companies would find from internal employees? Let’s look at some basic needs in our Freelancer 101 guide.
Workflow for Freelancers
One of the hallmarks of a freelancer’s career is often a busy workload. The more clients or contracts you have, the more you’re able to earn. However, without a robust and reliable workflow in place, it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. There won’t be an established system in place like an existing agency would have, so you’ll need to create your own. Not only will a project workflow help you accomplish tasks, but it will also allow you to provide documentation and file sharing services for clients.
There are many online tools that can help you track projects. Google’s suite of cloud-based resources like Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Calendar is trusted and free to use. It’s easy to set up shared folders for your work or a calendar that reminds everyone of established deadlines. These can all be detailed with unique permissions to prevent one contracted business from seeing the work of another. There are also paid options such as Podio, Asana, Trello, and Bonsai which can aid in project management. Whatever option you choose, make sure it’s something that your clients can access and use easily.
Collaboration for Freelancers
Another big part of any freelancer’s life is the need to engage and collaborate with stakeholders during a contract. This could include content editors, subject matter experts, customers of your client, and even other freelancers. This process is extremely important, as figures published by Bit.AI Blog found 86 percent of employees and executives feel workplace failures were caused by a lack of collaboration and communication. If that’s true for colleagues in the same office, you can imagine how much more difficult it is for freelancers working independently and remotely.
One of the most important elements of collaboration for freelancers is an ability to handle feedback. It’s not uncommon for people to recoil in anxiety and fear when critical conversations and critiques come down the pipeline. However, it’s vital that this kind of insight is viewed from a place of positivity. Whether it’s regarding creative work, like writing and video editing, or something more tangible, like how someone is handling business analytics, hearing opinions from the client will most often strengthen your work. Welcome these opinions with open arms and an open mind. Be ready to actively listen while building a strategy for revisions and changes.
Invoicing as a Freelancer
Freelancers have the unique opportunity of varied projects, the chance to work from home, and the ability to call themselves their own boss. But, at the end of the day, we all still need to get paid. You’ll need to be responsible for creating invoices that are easy to understand and enforce during your work. Though it might seem daunting, there are some basic components that go into invoices to ensure they’re properly executed.
- Write accurate service descriptions that outline everything that was done
- Make it easy for customers to pay, such as with PayPal or Venmo
- Emphasize due dates for payments and any relevant penalties for late payment
- Find out who handles freelancer payment and send it to them only
- Don’t be afraid to be assertive in collecting owed payments
Establishing Work/Life Balance for Freelancers
There is an image of freelancers as people who work from their bed or watch TV while responding to client emails. However, the best independent contractors treat the remote workstyle the same as someone in an office. It’s important for freelancers to establish a concrete schedule, not only to stay productive but also to ensure there’s a healthy work-life balance. Without it, there’s a strong chance you’ll find yourself working late hours or erasing those all-important boundaries between personal and professional time.
First and foremost, create a work schedule. True, freelance workers often are more flexible than 9-to-5 jobs, but without designated worktimes, it’s easy to put in way more than 40 hours in a week. This schedule can really be your own; if you’re a night owl, establish those evening hours as your time to get work done. If you prefer rising with the sun, follow that instinct and knock out projects early in the AM. What’s important here, though, is the ability to unplug once the day’s work is done.
The freelance life is alluring but making your own way in business takes a lot of hard work. Not only are you untethered from traditional work environments, but there’s no supporting staff to handle things like project management, payment, or relationship management and collaboration. However, by following some simple guidelines and self-advocating, freelancing can be much less intimidating and become a fulfilling career in the long run.