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Freelancer running a business

Whether you see freelancing as a business or not depends on the kind of freelancing you do, and the role it plays in your life. Many people start freelancing as a side gig and keep it that way, and for those people, freelancing might seem less like a business and more like a way to make extra cash.

Freelancing is a viable business, though. It’s common that people start freelancing part-time and eventually become full-time independent contractors or start their own LLC. This means developing a business plan, paying attention to branding and marketing, and keeping track of money.

If your goal is leaving the corporate world behind, then treating your freelance career like starting a business will help you succeed. Here are a few tips on how to start freelancing like it’s your business – not just a hobby.

Cultivate a business mindset

For long-time freelance journalist Molly McCluskey, the line is clear: “Freelancing is more than a pitch. It’s a business.”

Learning how to be a good independent worker means learning the ins and outs of freelancing, and that means optimizing costs, understanding your unique tax situation, and ensuring that you’re working efficiently so that you make the most of your time.

Undervaluing your own time as an independent worker can be easy. If you’re doing a lot of mindless work that doesn’t add value to the business, like spending half your day sending emails, take a look at ways to outsource or refocus your time.

To have a successful freelance career, you must manage yourself. Freelancing might seem glamorous when you’re on your couch in your pajamas, but if its impossible to get work done, you might need to rethink your approach to business.

Be a future-thinker

Many freelancers focus on the present – meeting deadlines, finding new clients, and making the money they need for the month. When you start working independently, you might not even know what jobs are out there or how to get them.

To start a business, develop a plan for how you’re going to grow it. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What kind of work do you want to be doing next year, or in five years?
  • How are you working toward your future goals?
  • What time can you set aside to upskill yourself?
  • What training or learning do you need to grow in your field?
  • What niches do you focus on now? Where do you want to expand into?  
  • Do you want to manage other freelancers someday?

Set aside time to reflect regularly (perhaps every few months) on your ideal business goals, and how you plan on getting there.

It’s your business, so invest in it

When money starts flowing in from your freelance career, don’t forget to invest in yourself.

Determine what you should pay yourself and take any surplus and invest back into your business. This might entail upgrading your portfolio or website, paying for online classes, or even hiring someone to manage your workload so you can take on more clients.

Practice work-life balance

Finally, don’t forget work-life balance. People often struggle making time for themselves when they start a business. Part of the joy of freelancing is having the kind of lifestyle you want, and if you don’t want to work 60 hours a week, then it shouldn’t be the foundation of your business plan.

Remember you should set goals for yourself around when and how much you want to work. If you don’t want to check your email after 7 PM, make it a part of your business plan and hold yourself accountable. You want happiness in your career, so don’t forget to set yourself up for both personal and business success.

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