A few weeks back I gave a talk at The Alley about my experience in joining the freelance economy. The evening was filled with personal stories and powerful tips for getting started. I learned a lot from the other presenters and had a great time sharing my experience so far. Below are key takeaways from that talk.
1. Establish your value-add.
Before you make the jump, it’s critical to understand the value of what you bring to the marketplace. Speak with business leaders in your circle to understand their needs within your area of expertise. For me, it was an intimidating process because marketing is such a huge vertical. After I understood what people needed the most help with, I was able to establish a framework for how to help.
2. Get organized.
I use Trello to manage action items related to the business itself. For example, I have several lists set up for capturing to-dos and tracking leads.
One thing I wish I did earlier was set up a separate gmail account for business correspondence only. Having a separate account helps keep things streamlined and creates a better work-life balance.
Google drive is key for collecting and sharing project files and documentation. I use Freshbooks for invoicing, Slack and Skype for communication, and countless other services for managing my calendar and keeping inboxes streamlined.
I went to the bank and got a business checking card to separate business expenses from personal ones. In conjunction with Mint, this will make things much easier come tax season.
3. Optimize your environment.
For the first two months as a freelancer I worked from home. I learned that it wasn’t sustainable over time. I needed to get out of the house in order to work more efficiently in general, and get at least a little amount of socialization in.
One of the hardest parts about going freelance for me, outside of worrying constantly about money, was working alone 100% of the time. I learned that I need to be around other people to get the juices flowing, so I designed a work environment that worked the best in order to achieve that.
4. Remember that Energy is greater than Time.
As a freelancer it’s important to optimize your time, but it’s equally if not more important to maintain mental energy. If your energy is low, you won’t be able to complete tasks as quickly or with nearly as much focus. It may seem selfish at first to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. But in the end, it’s critical in order to prevent burn out and keep your energy reserves high over a sustained period of time.
5. Plug-in to like-minded communities.
Go to events hosted by companies that support the freelance economy. Some examples of companies that host great events include: WorkFrom, Fivver, and Cloudpeeps. Explore co-working places and opportunities to work with others. Co-working communities often host events for socializing and have Slack channels for participating in knowledge share during the work week. These communities are helpful for building friendships, finding resources, and generating leads.
Remember, your desire to be a freelancer is a logical one. It was never explained to us when we were young that this way of living and working is a viable option, therefore the concept can at times appear hazy.
However, the percentage of freelancers is on the rise. Freelancers are part of a larger movement focused on creating a sustainable and independent work economy. With some solid strategy, decent organizational skills and willpower, you can make the transition too.
View the presentation from my talk here.