Freelancers are often portrayed as wanting to escape employment in a traditional business setting. And that’s certainly true in some ways (for example, most bosses won’t appreciate you coming to work in your pajamas).
However, there are other ways in which freelancers still have to abide by the same rules as any conventional business. Here are four of them.
Freelancers Need to Focus on Accounting
In the early stages of your freelancing career, you might find that you can get away with individually crafting invoices on a project by project basis. You can also keep track of your income and expenses in the “Notes” app on your phone.
But as you start to amass more clients and projects, this system quickly proves inadequate. Pretty soon, you’ll find that you need to establish an official accounting system. Otherwise, you risk letting things fall through the cracks. (In this case, “things” means money.)
That’s why you’re much better off setting up an accounting system from the get-go. If you haven’t done so yet, it’s better late than never.
The key is to utilize a system that allows you to keep track of your clients, projects, invoices, and tax info and that scales along with your work. You might never employ an accounting department like that of a major corporation, but you do need to establish an accounting system just like any other business would.
Take Charge of Security
When you’re a salaried employee, you don’t need to spend a minute of your time thinking about the company’s digital and physical security. The only exception might be resetting your password every few months.
Higher-ups and the IT team take care of ensuring that business, customer, and employee data is secure (or at least they should).
When you’re a freelancer, nobody is thinking about security on your behalf. It’s tempting to assume that no criminal would ever target a humble freelancer. But the reality is that no office and no computer are completely immune from these threats.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to invest in the physical security of your office by installing a security camera, strong locks, lockable file cabinets for any paper records, and/or other deterrents. While you’re at it, invest in your digital security with the use of strong passwords, encryption, and so on.
You Should Practice Accountability
We all know that major corporations are beholden to their customers. If they deliver a faulty product or fail to provide adequate service, customers lose their trust in the business and tell others about their poor experiences. As a result, companies lose business.
The same is true when it comes to freelancing. As a freelancer, you are beholden to your clients. But without a direct supervisor to hold you accountable, it can be easy to let client communications fall by the wayside.
This is a bad idea because you personally are your brand. You must not keep clients waiting for days or weeks at a time. You can’t fail to live up to the commitments you’ve made or otherwise conduct yourself in an unprofessional manner.
If you do so, it will become increasingly hard both to attract and retain clients. On the other hand, maintaining prompt and effective communications with your clients and sticking to the deadlines you’ve set will help you maintain a steady supply of satisfied customers.
Don’t Forget to Devote Time to Visioneering
Companies that want to grow devote time, energy, and resources to thinking about their goals for the future and charting paths to get there.
As a freelancer, you might be consumed with simply procuring enough clients to pay your rent each month. You can’t fathom a future in which you feel more in control.
But the only way to create a freelancing business that sustains you personally, professionally, and financially is to envision what that kind of business might look like.
Then craft a path toward getting there, and regularly take stock of your progress. At a minimum, plan to set aside time every quarter to do some visioneering.
Tend to your freelancing business’s accounting and security needs, remain accountable to your clients, and craft a vision for what you want your freelancing to look like down the road. By stewarding these responsibilities, you’ll help ensure that you have a viable future as a freelancer.
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