5 Things You Need to Know Before Freelancing

Before freelancing, you’ll want to know a few things. Freelancing is a legitimate job but unlike traditional office jobs, it doesn’t come with training. Some have a mentor or follow strict advice, and others try it out and see what happens. These 5 Things You Need to Know Before Freelancing are going to help you start your business the right way. These tips are good to know whether you’re freelancing as a career or doing it part-time.

1. Freelancing is a business and you need a business permit. 

This is something that’s not really talked about. Freelancing is an actual business. You’ll need a business permit. And you might also need a home occupancy permit depending on where you live. Check with your local city and county to determine exactly what you need. Get the proper documentation before freelancing so you avoid any legal and tax-related issues.

Another useful thing that I did when starting to freelance was taking business classes. Many cities and counties offer free business development courses. Why? Their idea is that fostering small businesses will help the local economy. You can learn some valuable information – for free – by taking these government sponsored courses.

2. Working from home isn’t always ideal.

If you have a noisy neighbor, live on a busy street, or live with roommates, you know that it’s not always ideal to work from home. Don’t worry, you have options. Scope out the local coffee shops and keep a mental list of places you can go to get your work done. I like to find coffee shops that don’t play music too loudly and that are open late.

If you need a more permanent fix, you can look into some of the local co-working spaces. These are more prominent in larger cities and offer you the ability to rent rooms or buy time. Down the line, know that you can rent an office. And if you live in a home or apartment with an extra room, you can convert it into an office and actually charge your business rent! Talk to a tax advisor or do more research to find out more about this.

office photo by Vadim Sherbakov

3. You’ll be paying taxes, so keep records.

Since you’re running a business, you’ll be paying city/county taxes (as applicable), state, and federal taxes. Keep thorough records of business expenses that you’re making. I opt for a simple Google spreadsheet, but use what you feel is most comfortable and extensive. For this portion, you’ll need to do some research in regards to what you can deduct.

Ensure that you have a clear and ethical idea of what you can and cannot record when it comes to your business expenses. For example, you will not be able to write off expenses made prior to obtaining your business license. Starting a new business is exciting and some people can think they need much more than they have, but start conservatively and build from there. You’ll notice that many of the success stories you’ve heard start with a description of that individual’s economic and spacial limitations. Be that story.

4. Don’t be put off by advice about how hard it is.

You’ll see it all over the web. You’ll hear things like “if you’re not organized, don’t even think about freelancing.” Don’t feed into that negativity by believing that you can’t freelance if you have a track record of being disorganized. Sure, there are some who have more discipline than others. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn discipline, or that you can’t start to be organized. Don’t undermine yourself before freelancing if it’s really what you want to do.

Humans have the incredible capacity to learn new skills. And if you want to freelance, it may just be the perfect opportunity for you to pick up some good habits. It’s far better to go for it and try than to remain in your comfort zone. You’re not on this earth to just fit into a mold of descriptors given to you by other people. If you want to be organized, learn. If you want to be disciplined, learn.

office photo by NVSBL Media

5. You don’t need to know everything or be an expert.

Everyone starts somewhere. When you’re freelancing, you’re bound to have to learn a lot in a small amount of time. It’s a perfect chance for you to exponentially expand your skill set. When you look at your competitors, you may notice that they use words like “expert” and “prolific.” Don’t be intimidated by it. Remember that they’re nobody censoring who or what an expert really is.

You don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) say you’re an expert. That is, unless you can really substantiate the claim. There are other ways of selling yourself without being so outright and blatant. Doing solid work and being trustworthy is far more valuable than telling anyone who will listen that you’re the top-dog, even if you are. Trust that your expertise will reflect through your willingness to learn and through your output.

Creative Impulse and Statis

The impulse to create is a universally human attribute. For some, creation may be hiding under many layers that we need to peel back. I recently had a conversation with someone who was told that they could not draw. And it’s not that they are physically incapable, it was just that they were told they were not good enough. The thing is, there’s no “good enough” in creativity.

When you want to express your creativity, don’t wait to be (or get) good enough. I waited for many years to be good enough to write a book. All it meant was that I was not writing my book. It didn’t mean that I was getting better at writing during that time. In actuality, I came to realize the all-too obvious fact that the act of writing would make me a better writer.

When listening to your creative impulse, the best thing to do is act.

snow photo by Sylwia Bartyzel

Holding off in stasis really doesn’t serve you. Emotionally, even if the end-result of creation is frustration, it is better to have done it. Holding off on your masterpiece to come together in your mind isn’t working towards manifesting it. You can learn a craft, like writing or drawing, while still listening and acting on your creative impulse. Don’t let the status of amateur or beginner deter you from creating.

The creative impulse doesn’t just belong to those who have made a career out of creativity. It belongs to everyone who wants to engage themselves in the creation of something. If you want to pick up a pen and draw, don’t listen to someone saying you aren’t good enough. Many times, the goal of creation is not even to start a revenue stream. Oftentimes, it’s meant just as a form of self-expression.

We live in a fast-paced time where we sometimes judge things to be worthwhile only if we are able to monetize them. Result and reward overshadow the primal need to beautify our world through creation. When I’ve focused on monetizing as the sole purpose of creative, I’ve found that it’s been stifling. It takes a toll on the art itself. Let’s more broadly apply the well-know French slogan, l’art pour l’art.

While the saying refers to the separation of art from practical and moral function, it is more appropriate now than ever to expand the usage of this to monetization.

5 Freelancer Tips for Avoiding Client Issues

As a freelancer, you do a lot – run your own business, hustle to get clients, prioritize your time – all while keeping clients happy and work top-notch. Here are the 5 Freelancer Tips for Avoiding Client Issues. Remember these and your days will run smoother, and you’ll avoid that dreaded drama.

1. Don’t undercharge, even if you don’t have a lot of experience.

You’re setting up shop, but that doesn’t mean you have to work for a fraction of your worth. You know your skill level, charge accordingly. If you undercharge, you’re both undervaluing your work and potentially turning off clients who associate those higher fees with quality and experience. You may not want to take every job, especially when you’re starting out. But this could actually do you a disservice.

2. Check the reviews your potential clients leave for others.

These often say more about the client than do their own reviews. If you see that a client is consistently leaving poor ratings and not giving constructive feedback, run. They may have gotten a little too trigger happy with the small amount of power they have. Alternatively, they may not be choosing the right freelancer from the get-go. They may be looking for cheap price and quality, and then realizing they can’t have both.

3. Don’t always be available at the drop of a hat.

That is, unless you’re a personal assistant. If you’re always there, you may end up doing more work than you bargained for. As a freelancer, you’re hired to complete a service. Look out for clients who have you schedule, coordinate calls, and plan meetings. They are likely misunderstanding that just because you are freelancing doesn’t mean you’re desperate for money (even if you are).

freelance workspace photo by Damian Patkowski

4. Don’t do the work before you get the job.

This one might seen obvious, but it’s tough to spot at times. Sometimes, clients will ask you to provide them with an outline, or ask you your process for completing a task. I have found that in all of these situations, the client is not actually looking to hire right away, but to glean information on how they should go about completing a task. Also, don’t do “test” tasks unless they are paid, or take minimal amounts of time.

5. Go with your gut and don’t be afraid to fire clients!

Freelancing is all about working with the right clients. They are the ones you want to help grow, and have a long-standing relationship with. The wrong clients will demand a lot and pay you little. The wrong clients are also the ones who are going to give you poor feedback. If something’s off or they’re asking for something out of scope too often, don’t be afraid to fire them!

Taming the Creative Drive

The creative drive often suffers at the restrictions of jobs and other responsibilities. Society functions on a different level than does the human soul. With so many constructs in place, many of us find little or no opportunity to release creative energy. Job descriptions throwing out “creative thinker” as a qualification mean it in the most restrictive sense. There is rule and there is instruction, and creativity comes last among a list of social and professional protocols. In reality, these types of thinkers are not what employers seek. The phrasing has just become a standard for differentiating companies from one another. But many of them end up sounding all too similar to one another.

You may have periods in your own life when you induce self-inflicted creative slumps. This is not to say that you mean to do this, but it happens. If you’re a fiery creative soul, as I believe all of us are deep down, the functions of this society may frustrate and even harm you. Having little or no command over your creativity can leave you feeling jilted, even if you can’t quite pinpoint why you feel that way. The creative soul doesn’t just exist in proclaimed artists, writer, and others in similar fields. It lives in all professions and all modes of human communication and expression.

Autumn photo by Jesse Gardner

So, what does this all amount to? Where you find confusion and suffering, you find taming of the creative drive. That creative part of your soul doesn’t go away, even if you try to repress it. The reason why creative thoughts may be so painful is that those who think them find no way of letting them out into the world. You’ve probably had an idea for something you wanted to create – whether it’s a cake, an algorithm, a friendship, or a book of poems. But it’s daunting to think of substantiating your impulsive urges to make something. You may stumble over negative self-talk or get caught up in the lack of equipment and money required to complete your idea.

That’s because we’ve set rigid criteria for creation. You’re told you can’t be a photographer because you don’t have the lighting and proper camera. Each creative sectors comes with a list of rights and wrongs, many of which serve against your creative impulses. You’re told you can’t build your own kitchen table because you’ve never done it before. At every turn, you need an expert, a professional, a mentor. Countless self-help books tell you to talk to someone, and seek out advice. But what if you could imagine for a minute that all of your answers lie in communion with yourself? Listening to those very creative urges could facilitate the communications that you have with yourself and bring you closer to your core.

The drive to create is fundamentally human. When we ignore it, we only do ourselves a disservice. And that’s exactly why we ignore it – it doesn’t suit how we are taught to think. We have a narrative of ideas, timelines, and other restrictions by which we are told we must live our lives. Our urges rest in direct opposition to society’s inclination towards dismantling those parts that could feasibly extend the joy and wholeness that humans feel. These drives are ingrained in us, and failing to address them brings discontent. As thinkers and creators, we stand to gain much more by refusing to tame the creative drive.