As a freelancer and budding entrepreneur, it’s a fact that you have to multi-task and wear a lot of different hats. The tasks you have to accomplish in one day resembles a juggling act of Olympic proportions. The flexibility required is enormous, and if you can’t adapt, you’re likely to pull great swatches of greying hair from your head. As you become more successful, you can outsource some of these necessary evils, but in the meantime, you’re the one in charge. Scary, isn’t it?
These are just some of the duties you’ll be undertaking in the Wild World of Freelancing:
- Accountant: You work for yourself now, bub. Ain’t nobody keeping track of your income and expenses for the dreaded year-end tax accounting; this is something you have to do for yourself. It’s your responsibility to document each and every penny coming in and going out. There are a lot of good software programs to help you with this, but you have to learn them. Plan on spending a good chunk of time learning what you need to maintain the program you choose, but get an early start. If you leave this to too late in the year (or horrors! the very end!) those hours will triple or more and you’ll regret it.
- Webmaster: Whether you like it or not, you have to have some familiarity with the tools of the trade. If you don’t have a blog or webpage of your services yet, you should. That means learning basic HTML coding, how to get around your chosen platform, trouble shooting, how to code links, not to mention the basics of buying and maintaining a domain, hosting, and probably a million other things I’m forgetting. The learning curve is high, but if you take it in small steps, not impossible. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, my friends. One bite at a time. Take advantage of help forums, friends with tech knowledge, and take notes! Again, you can outsource a lot of this work, but knowing what you need and what to ask for really helps in the long run.
- Social Networker: Networking is a huge part of the freelance career. You sure can’t exisit in a vacuum, and the face of freelancing (as in publishing in general, but that’s a subject for another post) is changing daily. The best way to keep up is to network with your fellow freelancers. This means becoming educated about social networking sites and how to connect. Don’t spread yourself too thin; you need to evaluate each social site to determine what is best suited to you, what you expect to get out of it, and how much it costs you in time to maintain. Not all social sites are equal, and if you’re not comfortable there, you won’t spend the time needed. What you’re looking for is quality, not quantity. It is of no value to have umpteen contacts if 80% of them are spammers or entities just looking for a number.
I just want to say on this subject that you get what you give. When I started my writing career and all along the way, I’ve met some very giving, generous and supportive people. I have never forgotten that and I try my best to pay it forward. Like all karma, it eventually comes back to you. Build your reputation carefully; no spamming, no scamming, and no bullshitting. Word gets around quicker than you can blink if you act in anything but an honorable way. Keep that in mind. Help people along, be kind, be an asset to your community or you’re going to wake up someday with nothing to show for all your hard work but a bad taste in your mouth.
- News Hound: As mentioned above, the face of freelancing and publishing is changing daily. You have to stay informed and on the cutting edge; scour the news for impending trends and information needed by the public in general and clients in particular; whatever is new, interesting, and relevant. Your mind must be a sponge.
- Internet marketer: Although it’s probably one of the least favorite of all chores (besides the accountant thing, gah) a writer really must promote themselves. You can’t just sit back and wait for jobs, opportunities or your big break to come to you; you have to go looking for them and you have to make it easy for them to find you. They don’t know how to find you until you get yourself out there. Maybe not all, but many IM principles will help launch your career to the next level.
- Blog reader (and commentor): Again, this relates to being a good participant in community. You can learn a great deal from reading the sites of others not only in your profession or area of expertise, but in a host of others. Don’t set the circle so close; it pays to read a variety of different blogs. Internet marketers, journalists, mommy bloggers, accountants, webmasters — all the hats you need to wear. Pay attention and keep a notebook handy for the tips and information that really speaks to you and your particular niche. Leave a thank-you comment if the article or blog has helped you. These people work hard too, and if something they’ve provided has helped, it’s only polite to say thanks.
It’s quite a list, isn’t it? By no means is it complete, or I’d be here all night, and I don’t know about you, but I have some hats to wear. Don’t be intimidated — one bite at a time. To build and sustain a successful freelance career takes time and commitment (no, not to a looney bin, although that’s an option) so don’t expect overnight success. However, keep plugging away and don’t give up.
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” ~ Richard Bach.