Early last year I took my freelancing full-time. This was a big move; I’m not the: “let’s play some golf together, see you at the after-party, and let’s take this show to the moon!” type entrepreneur. Like many creative people, I’m an introvert. I dwell in my own thoughts too long, constantly play scenarios in my mind, and enjoy a nap after long networking events.
A freelancer is not just a designer or developer, you have a few new roles now like sales, accounting and customer service. Introverts have to work a bit differently than our outgoing counterparts. So here are some helpful tips for freelancing and keeping the business going.
“Sir, Would You Like to Buy These Pixels?”
Our biggest hurdle is sales.
We don’t typically make good salesmen, but we can use this to our advantage. People who are serious about getting results are less interested in getting sold to and more interested in what you have to offer. Spend some time and go through your own resume, why are you qualified? Did you get results for clients at your last job? Talk about it, especially if it’s a well-known client. Be real and don’t fake it trying to sound like Joe Schmoozer, because it will show!
Build partnerships. Lets face it, even if we hold to the advice above, our cold calling skills aren’t going to win us a lot of business. We sound awkward, and we’re not good at holding conversations about the weather or the Dallas Cowboys. Get some friends that compliment your services. If you’re a designer start getting in touch with some development agencies (and vice versa). Even if you have to offer a discounted partner rate (and you should) partnerships will be keeping your lights on.
Keep a great portfolio. I won’t spend time on this because it’s obvious, but the point should be made that our work is what’s going to sell what we do.
Take GOOD care of your clients. Your business is going to be made up of a lot of referrals and repeat customers. This is a good thing. Referral projects and projects for repeat customers cost us no advertising or sales dollars. Be sure to hook your clients up with a freebie here and there, and if you close a referral they send, give your referring client a gift or work in a cut of the profit.
“Where Does This Decimal Go?”
This really isn’t just a tip for introverts… but don’t be afraid to get professional help. Don’t mess around and get yourself in trouble with the IRS, find a good accountant to take care of your taxes. There are a lot of invoicing and accounting software packages that will help you out as well. Definitely check out Harvest, FreshBooks and QuickBooks to name a few.
Keep yourself accountable and don’t let the freedom get the best of you! Since you no longer have a manager breathing down your neck, you’re going to need some goals. Use time-tracking software to make sure you’re still working a solid workday. Check out Harvest, FreshBooks and Basecamp to name a few.
“The Phone Keeps Shaking, and So Do I”
Being a business owner you’re going to feel that need to always be connected. Do yourself a favor, turn off email notifications after business hours and give social media a break. Sure you can still check it when necessary to make sure the sky is still in place. But let’s be real, we’re quickly drained by a lot of social activity, I think this still applies on the digital world. Give yourself some time to enjoy peace and quiet. If you feel the phone shake, you’re going to check it and too much connectivity can be dangerous.
There will always be ups and downs, but that’s the recipe for any good adventure. Above all things mentioned in this article, the best advice is to use what some consider to be downsides as an advantage. What you lack is networking skills make up for in solid client relationships, what you lack in sales make up for with building trust with partners and existing clients.