Freelancers aren’t just creative individuals who work on whatever vocation they’ve decided to focus on. They’re not just freelance designers, developers, writers, bloggers, etc. They’re business owners.
Owning a business means they’re essentially a one-man shop and thus have to deal with everything that falls under the operations that keep a business afloat. From finances to marketing to customer service, they handle it all.
If you are thinking of becoming a freelancer or are only dipping your toes into the pool, here’s a heads up on what else you will need to busy yourself with. I’ll also share a few handy tips that might help you along.
Basically, freelancers, regardless of their industry, are their own:
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1. Accountant/finance manager
Freelancers are responsible for handling their own business finances. They do their own books, file taxes, spend hours agonizing over 2 cents they can’t find in their ledger and pay the price if they forget to file taxes on time.
Since most freelancers tend to ignore their taxes and their filing system is dismal, you’ll find a lot of them going crazy near tax time.
Tip: Take the time to search and invest in a good accounting system to avoid headaches and fines down the line.
2. Human Resource Manager
While you get to make the fun decisions like which client to take on and which ones to let go, you also have to be the one to get yourself to show up for work even though you have a cold. After all, you don’t get paid sick leave.
Dealing with fussy clients and hiring other freelancers for subcontracting your work etc all falls on the HR side too. It’s all on you.
Tip: There’s no getting out of this one. If you treat your clients’ right then HR issues won’t crop up often enough.
3. Public Relations Manager
Freelancers are their own PR team. No one else will wax lyrical about their work or business. They’re responsible for telling prospective clients how awesome they are, how they help their clients get success through their work and how working with them is such a breeze.
They also deal with repercussions from disgruntled clients or any other problems that come up.
Tip: Social Media is a freelancer’s favourite PR tool. Luckily, if you use social media right, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes every day to get your PR done.
4. Marketing Executive
If only work would land in our lap simply just because we are good at it, but that’s never the case. Freelancers have to actively and continuously market their business to get clients, not only when they are in need of new clients or work.
No matter how awesome our work is, clients won’t find out about it and us if we don’t market ourselves. It’s one of those daily activities that can take as much time as doing the actual work.
Tip: Instead of focusing on time-consuming marketing efforts, figure out a few smaller, easy-to-do marketing techniques that don’t take a lot of time and do them regularly.
5. Customer Service Team
If you don’t take your client’s complaints seriously, they’ll drop you like hot coals.
Tip: Clients are the lifeblood of your freelance business. Treat them like gold, go out of your way to make them happy with your work and reap the benefits of a successful client-freelancer relationship.
6. Admin Manager
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, there are probably days when you feel more like a secretary than a freelancer. If you don’t watch out, scheduling meetings, deadlines, and interviews can take up half a day.
There’s no one who can screen your calls and emails. Add filing and organizing your files to the mix and it almost feels like you have another job apart from freelancing.
Tip: This is why a lot of freelancers, get virtual assistants if they can afford to. They can’t get you coffee but they can certainly take care of scheduling and organizing your work! Alternatively, make sure you do all your filing, scheduling and organizing as it comes up. Don’t procrastinate.
7. Debt Collector
Unpaid invoices are the harsh reality of freelancing. Thankfully if you’re careful about choosing who you work with, they won’t happen often. But when they do happen, you have to be the one who hound the client to clear payments.
8. Sales Team
Freelancers don’t sell products. They sell services – their own services at that. Every time they contact prospective clients, they’re putting on their salesman hat.
This works hand in hand with marketing but essentially it’s this team which closes the sale.
Tip: It’s their job to convince the prospective client to hire them. Not an easy job but think of the benefits. New client, more work and more money. Definitely worth the effort!
9. IT Technician
As a freelancer, there’s no one you can call and yell at if your computer crashes or your printer stops working for some mysterious reason. Freelancers are responsible for taking care of their own equipment.
If the thought frightens you, get help with the setup then always keep a backup.
Tip: Make sure you backup your files religiously, and have more than one backup! Have alternatives for everything that could possibly break down near a crucial deadline.
10. Quality Control Personnel
Sometimes, when work is plenty and deadlines are too close to each other, freelancers focus more on completing the work on time than on the quality of their work.
Since you’re working for yourself, there’s no one else who can assure the quality of your work except you.
Tip: Pencil in deadlines a couple of days before they’re actually due. This gives you enough time to go through your work and make sure that the quality is still there. Keep track of clients’ needs with their creative briefs.
Lastly, don’t worry if you are not a multi-tasking wizard. I’ll let you in on a little secret: most of us weren’t good multi-taskers when we started out either. We learn everything on the job, and so will you. Just keep at it and don’t give up!