When it comes to running my business I’m a great believer in looking back to see what worked and what didn’t. Life as a freelancer is a constant learning process. I didn’t always think that. I looked at people who had been running their own businesses for years and believed they had it all worked out. Now I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of them I know that they never stop learning.
So, when the lovely people at QuickBooks* got in touch to ask me for my freelancing tips in celebration of National Freelancers’ Day I was delighted to help. Here are the things that worked for me.
Make a plan
When you first become a freelancer there are tons of things to think about but I decided to get the practicalities in place first. I used to be a solicitor so have first-hand knowledge of how badly wrong things can go when you don’t. I thought about registering as a limited company but decided against it. Working as a sole trader meant that I could just register with HMRC and complete a self-assessment tax return. It’s far less complicated than dealing with all the Companies House rules. There can be tax benefits to becoming a registered company, but my earnings in the first few years were unlikely to reach those sort of levels.
The next part of my plan involved marketing. Who was I going to work for and how would I reach them? My marketing is a work in progress but there’s one thing I know for sure – I’m better off being myself. There is masses of impersonal marketing out there. I think companies sometimes forget that they’re talking to other human beings.
The truth is that, if you’re a freelancer, you are your business. Your personality is the only thing that differentiates you from the next freelancer with seemingly identical skills. I have a wide range of clients now and I do my best work for the people I get on with. I might have left the law but I’m still happy in a room full of solicitors because I know how they tick. Finding a client that I can talk to honestly is like hitting the jackpot. I can get great results for them and they know they can treat me as one of the team.
The same applies to my marketing. I won’t find those relationships if I don’t use my own voice in my blogs and social media posts. Don’t worry about alienating people, if someone doesn’t like you do you really want to work with them anyway?
I can be really bad at this but it’s so important. I have systems for keeping track of customers, how my marketing has performed and, most importantly, my finances.
My financial record keeping currently involves a paper ledger and a couple of Excel spreadsheets. I keep track of my expenses and invoices so I know what’s been paid and what hasn’t.
Invoicing can be a bit of a nightmare. It’s all paper based and then I have to trawl my bank account to see who’s paid and who hasn’t. QuickBooks offers invoicing software to help with this problem- I haven’t signed up yet, but I really like the idea. If it sounds like something that appeals to you, you can find out more here.
Are you a freelancer? If you have any advice to share with me, feel free to leave a comment!
*This is a partnered post in association with QuickBooks. No payments have been received. They’ve put lots of helpful advice for freelancers (including mine) in this article so go and have a read!