The Most Important Thing
There seems to be a lot of Freelancing “rules” bouncing around
- “Never call yourself a freelancer”
- “Never use Upwork”
- “Don’t do any work for free”
- “Do not start a job without a contract”
- “Stick to your scope of work, timeline and payment terms”
- “Hourly billing is nuts”
I have a confession to make: I don’t follow half of these rules. To be specific:
- I don’t always charge on value. In fact, I still quite often charge by the hour.
- I don’t work on filling my pipeline.
- I haven’t niched down. At least not as far as I could/should.
- And I haven’t even had a contract with the majority of my clients.
But in spite of that, I’ve maintained a successful business for 5 years.
- I’ve never gotten screwed over by a client.
- I’ve never had to carry outstanding invoices.
- And I’ve never had to miss paying myself.
Is it just dumb luck?
I don’t think so. (Knock on wood… )
I think I’m succeeding at this freelance thing because I consistently keep one focus in mind as I work with my clients and as I talk with potential leads. It’s not a showstopper, but it’s working for me.
Of course, it’s not just one thing. It’s the Most Important Thing.
What is it? (I knew you’d ask.)
“What is best for my client?”
My first question is never “Will this make enough money for me to cover the next several months?”
It’s not “Will this let me fully use my skill set?” or “Will this help me reach a new level of self-actualization?”
My questions look more like
- “What does success look like for this client?”
- “How can I optimize their success?”
- “Do I really need their full budget?”
- “What can I bring to the table that will move them forward faster?”
- “How will they be successful if I have to move on?”
Let’s face it, a lot of the legwork I do isn’t coding. It’s truly figuring out what needs to be done and what success looks like.
I want to do a good job, and I take the fact that they are investing quite a bit of money in me very seriously.
So the rules are helpful. They can help us map out a strategy as we look to build and grow our business as a freelancer.
But the rules won’t always lead us to success, especially if you’re not executing on the Most Important Thing.
(Remember, my definition of success is being able to afford a salary, family health insurance, vacations/sick days, a retirement plan and funds for contractors. A lot of it is also having enough margin to live outside the stress and anxiety that can so easily be a part of the freelance life.)
The track to our success is smoother when we remember the Most Important Thing.