22 nuggets of wisdom. No chicken livers.

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There’s nothing I hate more than Trends pieces at year-end. Except chicken livers. I hate chicken livers. But in the absence of chicken livers to ruin my mojo and because I wasn’t prepared to default to a Trends piece as my final 2015 contribution to Freelancentral, I decided to offer you real value: nuggets of tried-and-tested wisdom from experienced freelancers who are masterfully navigating the tides of solo work.

I’ve grouped the 22 nuggets into four categories: Business-ness (yes, I’m aware this isn’t a real word, but it should be), Cashflow & Admin, Marketing and Good Habits.

  1. Business-ness:
  • Stop thinking of yourself as a writer / photographer / designer. Start thinking of yourself as a business owner. – Tamara
  • There is no higher power. There is no boss. You’re on your own, and you are responsible for your working relationships. If things go wrong – which they do, often – you are not going to be able to appeal to your client contact’s boss to stand up for you. You have to resolve things on your own. – Georgi
  • Never take it personally. – Helen
  • Own your copyright so that you can repurpose/leverage your work to make more money from additional sales. First sales of a story [or photos] should cover costs with some profit, so that every sale afterwards is cream on the top. – Ray
  • “You are in business for profit and for fun.” Use this a guide to keeping clients. Some clients are profitable but not fun and some clients are fun but not profitable. However, when a client becomes neither, it is time to say goodbye. – Up the Organisation by Robert Townsend, via Gwen
  • The act of (writing or photography or design) is different from the BUSINESS of writing, photography, design. Rather be a mediocre writer but a brilliant businessperson, than a brilliant writer and a failed businessperson. – Bazil
  1. Cashflow & Admin:
  • Calculate how much you need to earn over ten months, not twelve, to make up for December and January. Divide two month’s earnings over the other ten and make sure that you earn and put away that much extra. – Georgi
  • Save up for when you can’t work due to an illness, injury, family disaster, or when your stuff breaks down. It saved me when I was down and out after a traffic accident last year. I have a 6-month buffer. – Miriam
  • Be as meticulous about your admin as you are about your craft, however onerous it seems. The success of your business depends on it. – Penny
  • Include payment terms in your quote and invoice. Wherever possible include a 50{7aef4e5c6853be3cc4d057a807069aa9f2ae8fd184061eb63ea53e14fedec9bd} upfront payment (some may argue that this is always possible). – Laura
  • Many expenses can be claimed (for tax) as the cost of doing business. Keep every receipt you get and let your accountant decide. – Ray
  1. Marketing:
  • Learn to sell. – Arthur
  • Keep looking for new business even if you are at capacity (outsource your overflow if necessary), because you never know when one contract or client relationship could come to an end. – Lyse
  • You are your brand. Never forget that. – Magda
  • Consider a strong presence on social and professional media. I don’t mean you yourself, but your company. It will strengthen your brand and help establish your ‘presence’. – Elize
  • Look out for the niches that pay well and have comparatively little competition. But don’t get fat and lazy. Growing numbers of competitors will inevitably enter your niche, while the niche itself won’t remain static: it will evolve in response to changing needs and new technology. – Clive
  • You get what you negotiate, not what you deserve. – Bazil
  1. Good Habits:
  • When you decide to stop writing – for an hour, for the morning, for the day –leave off at the beginning of your next bit of writing. For instance, if you’re compiling 10 tips for freelancers and you stop at #6, start #7 before you knock off. When you come back to what you’re writing, you won’t sit and stare at the page waiting for something to get you going; you’ll get straight back into it. – David
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up. I schedule the follow-ups on my calendar as soon as I send something (a story pitch, a request for an interview, whatever). This diffuses any emotional reaction to their non-response or silence, and keeps things moving along on schedule. – Becky
  • Good time management includes taking time off to recharge your proverbial batteries. – Gavin
  • Communicate with clients when you hit a snag. Five years ago my laptop was stolen during a conference. First thing I did: contact my editor to ask him for an extension. Deadline extensions are not a train smash, but you have to tell your client in advance that you need one (not when your stuff is due). – Miriam
  • Take good briefs (because clients often don’t know how to give one). Try to explain the options companies can choose from when it comes to copy, design, imagery, etc. Ask as many questions as you can to find out what the client has in mind. (I use a questionnaire for this.) Request examples or references to creative work they like/don’t like. Bad brief from client? Multiple revisions for you. – Tiffany

*This post originally appeared on freelancentral.co.za.

 

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