6 Things Freelancers and Entrepreneurs Have to Manage
BY: DAVID LEONHARDT ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2018
Running a ghostwriting agency, I work with a lot of freelancer writers and some other freelancers, such as graphic designers and translators. Being a freelancer and being an entrepreneur is not quite the same thing.
An entrepreneur builds a business. It's not just their own labor.
A freelancer doesn't build a business. It is just their own labor. And yet, most freelancers think of themselves as entrepreneurs. Some are.
I am. I have a team of freelancers who write for THGM clients, but I also do some of the writing myself.
Not everybody is cut out to be a freelancer or an entrepreneur. There are a lot of things you have to manage, many of which you don't have to manage as an employee or as an entrepreneur once your business gets big.
Here are six things that a freelancer and a budding entrepreneur has to manage differently.
Manage your time
Employees have hours. Even if not paid by the hour, they are expected to be at their desks, counters or workshops at certain hours. These are their work hours, and there is somebody watching over their shoulder to make sure they keep those hours.
As a freelancer or entrepreneur, there is no supervisor telling you how to manage your time. There is nobody expecting you to be there certain hours. You make your own hours. That is easy to let slip, thanks to time-sucks like:
- social media
- the garden
- jigsaw puzzles
- the cat
Freelancers and entrepreneurs have to manage their time well...or else. There are some great time management tips here.
Manage your money
The one big benefit to being an employee is the predictability of income. This means they can plan ahead and they live with less financial fear. They can still be laid off or fired, and their employer can still close down, but they have more security than freelancers and entrepreneurs have.
Many freelancers are one gig away from foreclosure. Of course, if you command a hefty fee and are in demand, and if your wants are few, you will never live in fear. You can build up a healthy reserve.
But if you are like most freelancers, you scrounge for gigs and have to compete against cut-rate offshore competition. That means you need to stay nimble and be very careful about your spending. Set tangible goals for your finances in order to build up a surplus for that inevitable rainy day. Otherwise, you'll go into debt. And that's a spiral that could end your freelance career.
Manage your clients
Employees don't have clients. Their employer does, of course, and employees might have a hand in managing them, but it's not the same thing. There is a huge responsibility to managing your own clients as an entrepreneur. Your ability to feed your family depends directly on those clients.
You need to keep track of them.
You need to look for opportunities to up-sell or get repeat business.
You might have to wine and dine them, metaphorically or even literally.
Manage their expectations
Managing client expectations is perhaps the most ambiguous task of freelancers and service-oriented entrepreneurs. On the one hand, you get their business by impressing them with how much you can do for them. On the other hand, they will always want bigger, better, faster and more than you can deliver.
It's a delicate process to give them enough of an eye on the process that they have realistic expectations, but not so much that they interfere in your ability to deliver or to run your own operations.
In many cases, the expectations you need to manage are about how you work: when you are available to speak with them, when you'll report to them (or even who will report to them) and the process you will follow on their project.
Manage your workload
It is cliché to refer to the freelance life as feast or famine. Yet, it's true. There are times when you can't scrounge hard enough for a gig. There are other times when it is hard to service your clients, because so many potential clients want a piece of your time.
I have seen this with some of our writers, and this is related to managing expectations ahead of time. As your workload grows, you need to let potential clients know that right now you are very much in demand and that there will be a delay. One of three things will happen:
1. They need you urgently and will offer a higher fee to get faster service. In that case, it might be worth delaying other client work or putting your personal life on hold long enough to work overtime for some serious cash.
2. They are impressed by how much you are in demand, feel validated in choosing you who are obviously one of the best, and patiently wait. This is what I see the most.
3.They get annoyed at the slow service and leave. Yes, there are some people like this. Trust me, you don't want those people as clients, anyway.
Of course, if your business starts to grow beyond being a freelancer, to the point where it is scalable, as mine is, then you don't have to worry as much about feast – just about famine.
Manage your home life
Managing your home life might be the trickiest of all, especially if you are a dedicated freelancer and a bit of a workaholic. It is for the very reason that you aren't stuck with specific work hours, that you can suffer from work-creep. Before you know it, you are commonly working 80-hour weeks. Rather than managing your work, you are letting it take over all your time.
No time for the husband or wife.
No time for the kids.
No time for Doctor Who.
If you find it hard to manage your home life, maybe you want to set official hours. They don't have to be 9 to 5. But some boundaries sure can help. These three things are related:
- managing your time
- managing your workload
- managing your home life
And don't be surprised to find that managing your clients and their expectations has a great impact on all three of those, too.
It's easier to be an employee. It's also more secure. But many people want to be their own boss and run their own business. Can you do it? You can if you learn how to manage these six things.
Image via Shutterstock