Since the spring of 2021, approximately four million American workers have left their jobs every month OECD. There are now about three employees for each vacancy, per de US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One reason for the Great Resignation’s longevity: Workers bruised by the pandemic and years of slow growth before they know that a stable salary isn’t all it is — and that “stable” often doesn’t deliver on its promises anyway.
Many once loyal corporate employees are taking matters into their own hands and taking more control of their professional destiny. They go freelancing – doing for many different clients what they once did for one employer, or maybe retrain and take a completely different path.
It’s an exciting shift, and a daunting one. Because even the most capable, most driven freelancer can’t do it alone.
3 essential tips for freelancers
Maybe you’re ready to join the Great Resignation and see what you can do as a free agent. Or maybe you already own your own business and are eager to scale up.
Either way, the following tips will help you maximize your productivity and set yourself up for long-term success.
1. Think like a business
Make no mistake: freelancers are entrepreneurs. Even if they never hire help, and yes, even if they don’t formally incorporate their business.
This means you have to think like an entrepreneur. According to this guide from Harlow, a freelance management tool company, your freelance business should have a few parameters before signing your first contract:
- How much is your work worth, whether that’s an hourly rate, project fee, or something else?
- When and how you get paid: when you invoice, which payment methods you accept, whether you take an advance, and more
- How to market your freelance business and sell your services to clients
- How to track and organize your business expenses to make sure you don’t leave money on the table during tax time
As a freelancer starting out, it’s tempting to focus on pleasing your clients at the expense of professionalizing your business. But you can do both — and if you want to do this for the long haul, you should.
2. Manage your time effectively
If you want to freelancing for the long term, you also need to manage your time well.
According to the Corporate Finance Institute’s time management guidepoor time management has serious consequences: loss of control over your daily work, a broken workflow that makes you even less productive and of course poor work quality.
As a freelancer, there is no one to hold you directly responsible for managing your time. It’s all up to you. Here’s what you can do:
Follow a workday routine.
Have a morning routine that works for you. Arrive at your desk around the same time every day. Try to schedule calls and meetings one at a time so that you don’t jump from one type of task to another. Take a lunch break and some time to clear your head. Set aside another continuous work block in the afternoon. And if you work in the evenings – as many freelancers do – do so in a distraction-free environment, not in front of the TV.
Plan your week in advance.
Prepare your weekly schedule as detailed as possible on Sunday evening or Monday morning. Also set daily goals: tasks and milestones you want to achieve every day.
Set time limits for specific tasks.
Include a time limit in your weekly schedule for every task you can do. Realistically, some tasks will take more time than expected and some less, but this will help you hold yourself accountable and beat Parkinson’s law.
Use a workflow management app.
Use a productivity app that’s free for individual users to manage your work over time. Within each project you are working on, give each major milestone or delivery a due date.
Check your productivity every month or every quarter.
Conduct regular “staff assessments” to analyze how well you are meeting your time management goals. Do you often work longer than budgeted on specific tasks? Do you regularly fail to achieve daily goals? Are you missing longer term deliveries? Identify what’s holding you back: digital distractions, writer’s block, family obligations, and so on. Then make a plan to deal with all possible problems, such as locking your phone if you have a deadline to meet.
3. Build your network
You know that networking is essential to a traditional career. It’s arguably even more important for freelancers and small business owners, many of whom get most of their business from referrals and word of mouth.
When you freelance, every interaction is an opportunity to land a new client — or at least get someone to recommend you. So take these steps to grow your professional network and maximize its value as it grows:
Take business cards.
If you don’t already have them, design and order your first batch as soon as possible so you’re ready to hand them out when you need to. Take them to personal mixers, conferences, interviews – wherever you meet new clients.
Ask for references.
Do not hesitate to ask former colleagues or other professional contacts for references and introductions. You may be expected to answer something, but that’s fine.
Publish professional testimonials online.
If you have a professional website, ask your contacts for permission to publish their testimonials there. On freelance marketplaces, make sure past customer reviews are publicly visible.
Stay active on LinkedIn.
Even if you rely heavily on freelance marketplaces to find and work with clients, many potential clients will find you on LinkedIn. Set aside a few hours each month to update your profile with recent examples of your work, solicit references and recommendations from past clients, make new contacts, and respond to contract vacancies.
Get ready to grow
Think like a business – because you are one.
Simplify your working life, because you don’t have a minute to lose.
Build your network, because your network is your wealth.
These three essential tips have helped countless freelancers cut ties with W-2 work for good. If you’re ready to scale your freelance business, put them front and center.