I’ve been officially (and legally) operating my business for almost three years now! I remember receiving the certificate in the mail from the State of Ohio and the letter from the IRS stating my EIN (Employer Identification Number). It was all really exciting – and to be honest – it still is really exciting. Over the past three years I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with professionals of all ages looking to start freelancing and working for themselves. I’ve compiled some advice and tips if you’re in the same place in life (oh and scroll down to the bottom to win a copy of one of my favorite books).
START SLOW // BE PATIENT
This advice is inspired by my mother. She always uses the phrase, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Unlike a lot of small business owners, I never had to take out a loan or invest in a lot upfront. I had my MacbookPro and Adobe Creative Suite and that was pretty much it. It was tempting, as time progressed, to upgrade to all the newest technology or buy software to help with finances but I was patient. I’m just now getting to the point where I can hire contractors, pay for an advanced account with Freshbooks, or upgrade my computers. I do, however, suggest investing in ONE thing before anything else: a laywer. I connected with a lawyer a year into freelancing and I have never once regretted it. It’s nice to know you have that protection and I would highly suggest hiring her/him to write up your contracts. Other great free (or affordable) resources when starting out: Curdbee Invoicing ($5/mo), Square, Dropbox.
BE WISE // START GOOD HABITS
In college I really learned how to handle my money — unfortunately it was because of a lot of failure and a bad experience with credit cards. I registered my business at the age of 22 and knew there were some key habits that I wanted to establish before I began. They included (but weren’t limited to):
- No using credit for the first 5 years – So far, so good. When I upgrade my computer later this year, I plan on using credit with the cash available to pay it off immediately.
- ALWAYS USE A CONTRACT. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS.
- Put 30% away for taxes – This never gets easier but I do plan on paying quarterly starting next year so the final amount owed won’t be so painful.
- Handle small tasks like email, bookkeeping, account management, etc until it doesn’t make sense financially – It wasn’t until this year that I realized some tasks just aren’t worth doing! I’ve recently hired on a virtual assistant and I’m excited to pass off the bookkeeping soon too.
- My husband and our personal goals come first – I’m not freelancing full-time yet because our personal goals are the priority right now. We are going to buy a house early next year and so for now I am content with where I am and work hard to juggle two jobs for now.
BE HUMBLE // WORK HARD
I designed my first logo for $50! HEYOOO! The first year that I “tried out” freelancing (2008) I would predominately work with Etsy shop owners and many of them didn’t even have budgets. In early 2010, I was a nanny in order to keep some type of steady income. Often times I spend my Friday nights and weekends working. It’s not always glamorous but it is so, so fulfilling if it’s what you’re supposed to be doing. I think it’s important to work hard and always keep learning. Just remember, there are so many talented designers/artists so prove to your potential clients why you’re worth it! Maybe it’s between you and another designer and the only reason they picked you is because you’re easy to talk to. Be kind!
As a last gesture of sharing, I thought I would give away my copy of Creative, Inc. to one of you lovely entrepreneurs out there. I read this book a little TOO late–I ordered it last year and was happy to realize just how much I had learned on my own! It’s great for those contemplating the small business owner role. The authors, Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Cho, share so much wisdom and really walk you through issues like: creating your portfolio, promoting your work, setting fees & terms, dealing with taxes, handling your bookkeeping and giving yourself a vacation. This giveaway will end at midnight on Thursday, June 8th and the winner will be announced Friday morning.