Maintaining Your Entire Freelance Business Alone

As every freelancer knows, having to manage every aspect of the business is quite a task. One that can be very taxing and if not handled correctly can be extremely costly as well. So finding ways to help keep all of your bases covered when you are flying the freelance skies solo is an almost necessary pursuit if you want your business to by sustainable by any measure. Which is what brings us to the post you are currently reading.

Here we have taken what we feel to be the four most vital bases that you need to keep an eye on, and attempted to help you get them covered. With what we hope is important information and useful tools/services filing into each category for coverage. As freelancers ourselves, we know that a post like this would have been beneficial to us when we were getting started, but alas, we didn’t come across one and had to learn the hard way on many of these areas.

Hopefully, this post will prevent others from falling into any of the same traps that we did getting started (or keeping going for that matter).

Time Management

Probably one of the most crucial areas we need to keep in check for the sake of our freelance business, and our sanity, is time management. Scheduling your days effectively, and being able to keep to it are major players in the success and failure rates for your freelance business. Especially as we try to maintain a professional edge to remain competetive in our markets as we go up against established companies with reputations for solid results.

If we are unable to manage our time, how is a client supposed to expect us to meet their deadline? We need to ensure that we make our meetings, that we are able to respond to our clients in a timely fashion, that we are able to meet deadlines on time (and not just the final one either, but all that the project demands); and to do all of these things, our time management skills cannot be lacking. If they are, and we suddenly miss the designated window for submitting samples to the client for approval, it reflects poorly on our business, our preparedness, and our ability to complete the project on the client’s timetable.

It only takes one dropped ball to ignite the embers of doubt in our client’s minds. To get them looking at us as a risk, not an asset to their project. That is never what we want. So we have to take all the steps necessary to stay on track, and on time. Below are a few resources that can assist you on this path to better time management.

Customer Support

Another area where we need to step up our games due to the corporate competetion that we will inevitably be facing, is the customer support arena. With other big businesses having entire departments specifically for addressing the concerns and issues their clients run into, we need something in this field of play giving us an advantage. Seriously, let’s face facts. The only way a team of one can be in any way competetive against a team of a half a dozen or more, is with unlimited time and a decent bag of tricks at their side.

Now we cannot do anything about the time part, but we can certainly point you in the right direction with regards to filling your own proverbial bag of customer support tricks. Client’s have great expectations in the customer service department these days, and as such, many may already be a bit leery of opting for the freelancer route simply due to their expectation of customer support needs, and their lack of faith, that a single person can meet them. So as freelancers, a lot of times, we are already coming at this area from a disadvantageous position.

One selling point that we can make to this end, that might weigh heavy in our favor with some clients is this: if they have any issues, they will be dealing with the same person that has handled the project from the beginning; not some faceless stranger to the project who has to play catch up all of the details each time before getting started on ways in which they can help. This is often appealing to anyone who has ever had to play this catch up game with a customer service rep.

Now while that may help a bit, there is still some disadvantaged ground that we need to make up for. In large part, with regards to accessibility. As a single freelancer, we tend to not be as reachable as those entire departments whose only mission is to man the phones, and offer support. But we can certainly give our clients the impression of accessibility in their times of need, which is helpful.

Project Management

Time is not the only thing that one has to learn to effectively manage to make the most of their freelance business. One other vital branch of this management tree is project management. One of the keys to being a sustainable freelancer is being able to run multiple projects at once without letting anything slip through the cracks or fall behind. This is not always easy to do, especially as the unforeseen will tend to rear its ugly and derailing head into the arena on any given project, at any given time. So we have to do all that we can, and focus as much effort as necessary to keep all of our projects progressing along smoothly.

Naturally there are tools that can really help you step up your project management game, but the main factor you need to be concerned with is you. We are the biggest wildcard in this equation. Our organizational skills, our ability to perform under pressure, our ability to remain focused and driven, how we handle the unexpected and deal with problems, and so on and so forth ad nauseam. All of these things play into how we deal with whatever the clients and projects throw our way. They all impact how we are able to effectively manage all of the tasks at hand.

So we need to do as much work as we can on getting ourselves prepared for each and every project that comes our way. As thorough preparation can course correct so many ills that can derail a project before things get out of hand. Also the more prepared we are, the less likely we are to be completely panicked by any distressing developments along the way that can often land things in something of a chaotic twist. Research and constant learning can be your best friends in this end, something that most freelancers spend most of their careers doing already.

Part of being prepared to manage your projects effectively, is having being armed with the right tools to relieve as much pressure from you as possible.

Invoicing

If you are not able to collect from your clients, then your business is always going to be moving away from sustainability and satisfaction. Which is why proper invoicing procedures are always a must-have element when it comes to keeping your books balancing in your favor. This is also a way of legitimizing your freelance business to clients who may view you as just some disconnected person working from their basement. Which we may very well be, but if we have an effective and professional invoicing and collections system in place, then our clients are less likely to see us this way.

For whatever reason, a professional, consistent billing system does seem to have some sort of psychological triggering effects in our minds. The more organized, comprehensive and structured the invoices, the more legitimacy and weight we seem to give them. So as freelancers, who may not always be skilled or adept when it comes to tracking, pursuing and collecting payments, leaning on some of the various billing tools and services that are available to us online can prove invaluable to our businesses and peace of mind.

That Just About Does It…

…but now we want to hear from all of you! What areas do you think we should have looked at in this post? Or what tips or tools would you have added to those we have already gathered? Feel free to leave us your take and two cents below to expand this freelance resource’s reach even further!

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  • Rashid Rupani

    Nice post. Can you please share what invoicing tool you use.

  • http://deadwingsdesigns.com Rob Bowen

    Hey Rashid,

    When first getting started, Billings was the the app I used. And I totally loved it. However, I have since gone to a self created template in Numbers on my Mac. But Billings is worth looking into. For PC I would look to the links in the post. Some good stuff there.

  • http://www.madebyguerrilla.com MIKE

    Nice post Rob. I spend a lot of time wondering how many others are managing their freelance business alone like I am. The One Man Army type of freelancers are more common than I originally thought.

    A lot of nice advice here. Going to have to share the link now :)

  • http://www.logoblog.org Nora @Logo Design

    Great n very important article for me! i am freelancer, i do agree with all these tips, btw i also believe that time management is the basic n first important step for freelancer, n also for others!!

  • http://www.highqualityprints.com/ High Quality Prints

    Great tips. I think the most important part is learning how to do the marketing yourself. Marketing can be expensive and time consuming to outsource.

  • http://www.skywebstudios.co.uk Kev @Skyweb Studios

    Great post, very interesting and have to agree with “High Quality Prints”. Marketing is probably an area I need to start looking into more.

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The Arbenting Blog was created by Angie Bowen & Rob Bowen to give back to the design community with custom made freebies, design articles, inspiration and more. All of the freebies offered here are available for both commercial & personal use, no attribution required.