The current business environment is great for producing freelance work for a variety of fields from writing to graphic design to bookkeeping to virtual assistants. While the underlying skill helps to determine a freelancer’s success, freelancers are essentially running a small business. As a result, some business knowledge and skills are necessary to ensure that things run smoothly and that freelancers effectively build up a good client base. With that in mind, here are some business skills and habits that every freelancer should develop to maximize their performance and profit.
Develop a Business Plan
As a freelancer, it’s easy to get buried in projects and to never think about a long-term plan or strategy. This can result in you not developing in the work that you do, and it can prevent you from getting the clients that you want. Avoid this common trap by taking the time to develop a business plan, including short and long-term goals and a strategy to achieve those goals. Given the various demands on freelancers, it’s also helpful for this plan to include a structure for time management that allots time for acquiring new projects, handling administrative tasks, and building your brand. It’s often hard to take a break from paying jobs, but it’s well worth taking the time out of your schedule to develop an effective business plan.
Become an Expert in Project Management
If you’re a great graphic designer but don’t complete projects on time or within guidelines, you won’t be able to develop the freelance business that you want. For better or for worse, effective project management is an essential skill for freelancers of all types, as good project management is an important part of keeping clients happy. Effective project management includes managing timelines, knowing and meeting client expectations, and consistently providing timely and thorough communication. These are skills that can be developed, so don’t worry if they don’t come naturally to you or if you’ve struggled with them in the past. That said, it’s important to prioritize and consistently develop project management skills.
Part of effective freelancing involves building and promoting your brand. As a result, it’s important to develop some marketing skills in an effort to develop and execute an effective content strategy. The right content strategy varies from person to person, but often includes a blog, a social media presence, business cards or flyers, and online advertising. Constantly developing your brand is important, so allot some time for developing some marketing knowledge and skills.
Research to Gain Tax, License, and Regulation Knowledge
Few freelancers enjoy dealing with taxes, licenses, or other regulatory issues, but unfortunately this is important to ensure that your work is done legally and within all regulations. Depending on the amount and type of work that you do, it might make sense to work with an accountant or lawyer to ensure that your business is in compliance with all relevant taxes and regulations. If you’re going to manage these issues on your own, the key is research. Requirements vary by state and business type, so the best strategy is to thoroughly research your area and field. This is likely a task that you won’t look forward to, but it’s an important one to ensure the long-term viability of your business.
While it’s surprising for some to learn, freelancers are basically running a small business and, as a result, face a number of business and administrative demands on a regular basis. Taking some time to develop business skills in a few key areas can help to ensure that your freelance business continues to be successful and that it grows. You should start with developing skills in the above areas; however, keep in mind that as your business grows, you’ll want your overall business knowledge to continue to grow as well. As a result, it’s a good idea for freelancers to constantly work to acquire business skills and knowledge.