A quick 'n dirty guide

Illustration by Piya Willwerth

Here are five concepts that I have collected (so far) that seem to be the most important, core rules of being a freelancer. These are the things we need to keep in mind when we start our second career. This is a learning process, so I fully expect to update, elaborate, and edit as time passes. I really want to know your thoughts too!

1. Cultivate multiple sources of income

As a freelancer, there may be times of feast and famine. The best way to weather the storm is by generating or establishing multiple sources of income. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we can no longer pin our existence on one thing. We need to be able to pivot -- it will strengthen us.

2. Schedule time every week to maintain your business

As a freelancer, you are running a business, even if it's just you. As a business owner, there are things that you just have to do in order to stay in business:

It's very easy to lose track of this, along with your other duties. But neglecting this will hurt you in the long run.

3. Your portfolio is not just a "thing" you have to do. It is the most important thing.

If people don't know what you can do, why should they hire you? Be like Steve Martin ...

"Be so good, they can't ignore you."

Steve Martin

4. Be a nice person.

You're not going to get very far if people don't like working with you. Always say thank you, be open to dialogue, and be responsive in emails when a client reaches out to you! I'll definitely write more on this later ...

5. Define the terms ahead of time.

One of the ideas I keep coming across is that you have to define the terms before starting a contract or a job.

You can avoid a lot of heartache and burned bridges by defining exactly what the job is, what's expected, and when things should be delivered. You'll also be able to determine the payment schedule, as well as establishing some soft-skill type stuff, ie, you're not a hired gun -- you're a skilled professional. (Sometimes, they are looking for hired guns, and that's okay, too -- if it's been established)

This is one of the more challenging things to get clear on, especially if your first clients are your friends. See my thoughts here.

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