01. Hire an accountant
Save yourself a lot of time + stress, and hire an accountant for your business. You will spend a bit of money initially, however the accountant will save you money in the end through deductions. Not to mention, you will save loads of time through hiring an accountant! Also, once I began telling people that I started my own studio, one of the first questions they seem to ask is if I am going to do my own taxes, or they look worried and caution me about preparing my own taxes. Needless to say, I feel confident and carry less of a burden, once I hired an accountant.
02. Stick to a schedule
Without a 9–5 job, I find myself with a lot more freedom, which is great! However with that freedom, I have discovered that I need to set a schedule, otherwise I would be running errands, going to the gym or anything to fill up my day. For now, I have a rough weekly routine, where I schedule about one task a day. This is a work in progress, but right now it looks like: Monday: business development, Tuesday: write a blog post, Wednesday: work on personal design project, Thursday: write a blog post, Friday: update quickbooks. I also have a loose daily schedule where I have blocked out time to work on client projects, business development, personal projects and social networking. I keep the schedule pretty loose for now, so that I still feel productive at the end of the day, but also easily able to adapt if something comes up!
03. Create a proposal template
I have received a few inquiries from prospective clients, and have quickly learned that having a proposal template is so handy! I created a basic structure, with my process, about Spruce Rd., samples of my work, and several terms + conditions. I can modify each proposal from the existing template. For instance, one client was already familiar with my work, so I removed the portfolio page. I also change the terms depending on if the project includes branding, web design, or print. I am currently working on developing design packages, so that hopefully in the future I will only work on specific types of projects. More on that later :).
04. Establish a brainstorming + productivity balance
This is a big lesson I have learned this first month! Sometimes I find myself with too many new ideas, that I almost feel paralyzed because no action has been taken yet! I have several ideas for passive income, and I struggle with focusing on one thing at a time. Right now I need to focus on client work + attracting new clients, and then while maintaining client work transition to focus on passive income. However, instead I find myself exploring all of these new creative ideas, and getting distracted. This is about the time I put the schedule in place, which has helped me immensely!
05. Change your scenery
I have a hard time sitting in an office chair for several strait hours. Seriously… the struggle is real. I have learned to take breaks throughout the day, so that I don’t get tired from sitting and staring at the computer. Sometimes I walk to the Starbucks nearby just so I have a change of scenery. I also get distracted when working from home, so removing myself from my home office and going to a coffee shop allows me to get focused + productive.
06. Be patient
Be patient… this is probably the toughest lesson learned this first month. I have a few client projects in the works right now, but I still feel impatient and pressured to find new clients. I am reminded of this when small-talking to friends/family. They frequently ask if I have any new clients, and how my business is going. I honestly feel a bit defensive, though I know that is not their intent. I realize that this is my first month of being an independent designer, and that I have to be patient. I also have a clear vision of the types of clients + projects I want to take on, so I say no to some prospective clients, knowing that I will attract my “dream clients” eventually.
07. It actually feels good to say no
Prior to starting my business, I read blog posts from freelance designers on the idea of saying “no” to clients that aren’t the best fit for them. From my prior experience in this industry, I knew that this was definitely something that I wanted to incorporate into my business philosophy. I have a tailored vision for my studio, and I need to stick to this vision and not lose sight of it. I had the opportunity to say “no” to a client within the first couple weeks of being on my own. It was surprisingly a great experience! I was not a great fit for what they were looking for, and was way out of their budget. I could have easily lowered my cost, and compromised my design skills, but instead I was confident in telling them we weren’t a great fit. The conversation ended smoothly, and of course they have my contact information if they needed to reach out in the future.
08. Take time to invest in your business
Throughout this first month of freelancing, I have a lot more time during the day! I think it is important to take this time and invest in your business. I have developed processes, design pricing packages, the characteristics of my ideal client, and so much more! Not to mention, I am about to launch my new website, so that has taken a huge time investment as well! It is important to embrace this time, rather than stressing out and fumbling to find clients. If you have this stressed-out/scared mindset from the beginning, you are missing a key component of your business — defining what sets you apart, as well as what your goals are. Take this time and really dive in deep into this discovery process.
Are there any lessons you have learned through either freelancing on the side, or full-time? I would love to hear about them in the comments section!