I graduated from college 10 years ago, and since that point, I have had a full-time, salaried job, until June of this year when I decided to go out on my own and start my own freelancing business.
Now that I’m about six months in, I have a list of things I wish I’d known when I started. Some of these things are practical, some are philosophical, but all are good advice for anyone thinking about going out on their own.
- It’s better to start with systems than to develop them as you go
- Pay for the accounting software
- Your business name doesn’t matter nearly as much as your business structure
- Working for friends can be a blessing, but it can also be the hardest client relationship to manage
- Insist on signed estimates and deposit checks before starting a project
- Hold on to your free time. Just because you work at home doesn’t mean that you’re always at work
- Be confident in your abilities, but know when to ask for help
- It’s OK to outsource things you’re not good at (more on that in my next post)
- The worst part of any job is going to be billing – dealing with money sucks
- Save everything – receipts, business cards, notes, emails, mockups, draft documents, checks, etc. – you never know when you’re going to need to refer back to something
And above all – remember the reason you’re doing this – whether it’s for creative freedom, the ability to work from anywhere, the ability to spend more time with friends or family, remember that reason and hold on to it. There will be hard, horrible days where you’ll wish you could go back to a full time job, or where you’ll want to fire clients, resign accounts, and quit projects. On those days, it’s important to think about why.
For me, there are multiple reasons why freelancing works for me, but one of the biggest is that life is short, and there is so much in this world that I want to see and do, and so when I have a hard day, I remember a raft trip down the Nolichucky river on a Wednesday morning, and how it was a perfect day, and how in my previous jobs, it was a day I would have had to miss, sitting instead in my office while the leaves went from green to yellow to red, and then fell off the trees. Those are the kind of days that make it all worth it.