So it's time to get personal. Since starting on the freelance road, I have been on one of the rockiest and most fulfilling adventures of my life. I have never regretted the decision to leave my full-time job and take the leap to self-employment. NOT ONCE. I have regretted other decisions that I've made though! From investing too much money on a marketing project, to not managing cashflow, the beginning of my freelance journey was a crash course in Business 101.
If you are just starting out there will always be bumps in the road, but try to avoid making the following mistakes to avoid unnecessary heartache:
1. Not saving enough before you make the leap
At the end of the day, you can have all the hope, aspirations and dreams in the world (which is amazing!), but you gotta eat! Please do not make the mistake of not having a good cushion in the bank before setting off on your venture. You should have at least 6-12 months of a cushion just in case things don't go exactly to plan. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a situation where you are struggling to find clients and can't pay your bills. That is the fastest route to falling out of love with your business. You don't want to end up in a position where you are making key business decisions out of desperation.
If you have a partner or spouse, it is also critical to include them in your decision making process, as soon as you start thinking about making the leap. Starting a business can put a tremendous amount of strain on a relationship, and if you quit your job to follow your dreams while your partner is left with the burden of the majority of the financial responsibility, your relationship and business will suffer, and resentment will start rearing it's ugly little head. Not a nice situation. Avoid the pain and get a financial plan in place before you get your Girlboss on.
2. Taking on the wrong clients
I know, I know in the beginning it's hard to turn down work that comes your way, and that is completely understandable. But it is important to really know who your ideal customer is. Believe me, taking on a problem client can be as soul destroying and expensive as not having enough clients.
Evaluate the situation and make sure the relationship works for you and your client - there is no point taking on work that you will ultimately come to dread. What's the point of going through all of this if you are going to be miserable in the end?
If you know your ideal customer, and you do your research on your target market, then you will know how and where to find your ideal clients.
3. Not charging enough
You are running a business - which means that although you are doing work that you love, you need to be making money from it. No one has time to be running expensive hobbies, and bottom line is - if you are not bringing in sufficient revenue your business is a hobby in disguise.
It's difficult because it ultimately comes down to a question of self-worth. Do you believe in yourself and the services you provide? Do you believe that what you provide brings value to your customers? Well let me ask you, if you don't believe it, then why should your clients?
Sales and money can oftentimes be uncomfortable subjects to talk about. I never liked sales. It wasn't in my nature. I always thought it was pushy and sleazy. But as a business owner, sales was something I would have to get the hang of since sales pretty much dictated whether I would sink or swim in business. For me it was tough in the beginning of my freelance journey - I was constantly in fear that no one would hire me if I set my prices at a rate that I thought was too high. Fear - there is that word that keeps popping up in my mind. Because of fear, I was working myself to the bone, but still not making enough money. Because of fear I took on clients that didn't value me or my amazing work. Because of fear I had no energy and was falling out of love with my business.
A friend of mine mentioned to me that if you charge cheap, then you will be perceived as cheap. That stuck with me, and the key is shifting the mindset. It's about confidence and integrity. Do your research. Find out what the market rates are in your industry. Present yourself and your brand as a premium proposition. It's not all about fluff and appearances though - you need to deliver outstanding service and prove to your clients that what you provide them brings them tangible value and solves their problems. Once you value yourself and your work, your clients will too.
Banish the fear, charge what you're worth and provide outstanding value to your clients. Your well-being and bank balance will thank you!