No Magic Bullet
How am I ever going to survive this?
This thought that crosses every person’s mind their first couple of weeks into parenthood.
For me it happened when I fell asleep two words into a 10 word text message.
That’s when the desperation starts to creep in and you start reaching for every possible recommendation the internet and books have to offer: pacifiers, the 5S’s, the Ferber method, putting the car seat on top of the dryer, anything that will help you survive.
When things help it’s great but when they don’t a new frustration kicks in: why isn’t this working?!
That’s when you’ve forget a simple truth: every child is different.
Running a freelance business is no different. We are offered advice all the time that we treat as one size fits all.
- Every client should pay a deposit!
- Never call yourself a freelancer!
- Bill by the project not the hour!
- Raise your rates!
These might all be good suggestions but let me tell you: they’re not laws.
How do I know?
Because if they were laws (or even just rules), I’d be breaking them every day. And I wouldn’t be surviving as a freelancer.
One of the main touchstones of freelancing is our ability to be flexible. With our schedule, with our processes, with our clients.
The same is true of our business practices.
So what do I do?
It depends. It depends on what is best for me and for my business in each and every project, situation or interaction.
- I’ll charge hourly if we’re scoping out a project or if there’s a lot of uncertainty about what might change once we dig into the work.
- I’ll charge weekly if I’m traveling to be on site.
- I’ll let some clients pay me net 15, while others pay net 30.
- I’ll let some clients pay me a monthly retainer, some by the project and others pay by the hour.
- And so on …
I understand that this level of variation may not suit every freelancer’s personal preferences (I can hear some of you asking – “Why reinvent the wheel with every client?”) but you’ve got to find what works for you.
One set of rules won’t fit every freelancer.
So treat all the suggestions as potential experiments.
What works? What doesn’t?
Is there a tool available to help support this approach? (I.e. How can I streamline billing at different intervals?)
Does it leave me vulnerable in a certain area that is not acceptable? (For example, net 30 with no deposit might mean I’ve invested too much time in a new client to risk losing it if there’s a funding problem on their end.)
Will a little flexibility/imagination in my process help me better deliver what my client needs?
There’s no magic bullet, but remaining flexible and willing to experiment will help you see steady growth as you build best practices for YOUR freelancing business.