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Getting into your sector as a freelancer is an alternative to the cubicle lifestyle. There’s a few things you need to consider, especially if you continue working for a regular employer either full or part time.

7. Understand your limitations.

Understand what limitations or restrictions your employer or contract places on you. Intellectual property clauses which grant your employer the rights to all of your ideas/code/work are common in tech companies and becoming more common outside the tech sector.

Understand what limitations your schedule places on you. Map out the time you have available for freelancing, outside your work day or childcare, or mealtimes, etc. Be honest with clients that you will not be working 8 hour days on their projects and may not be available to meet or discuss the project during the regular work day.

6. Get your paperwork in order.

Check with your district or municipality to determine whether you require a business license in order to operate legally and talk to an accountant or financial manager to determine when you need to apply for tax numbers (e.g. PST/GST).

Develop systems for managing billing and finances; there are lots of online services (free and fee) software, and even apps to help with each of these but if all else fails, a shoe box will save your backside. Even if you only work freelance for 10 hours a month, you need to claim the income and track your expenses.

5. Be prepared to wear a lot of hats.

When you are freelancing, and especially when you are just starting out, you’ll find that there are a lot of roles you need to fill: bookkeeper, sales and marketing team, receptionist, editor, copywriter, social media expert, and so on! You need to be able to switch between hats effortlessly or be prepared to hire others to do that work for you. Often, even if you think you can’t afford it, outsourcing is totally worth your money for the time savings alone.

4. Nurture your clients.

In general, part time freelancers will have fewer clients and timelines that extend a bit longer due to fewer hours per day so it is critical to develop good habits of communication. Making sure you keep clients happy can earn you recommendations, return work and new leads.

3. Build & maintain your support network.

As you are burning the candle at both ends, a supportive family/partner/friend is important to making sure you don’t also feel alone. Supporters will help you get through disappointments and will be the first to celebrate your key milestones, too.

Outside this inner circle is another important support network that can be key to your success: a network of other freelancers who can work as subcontractors, or do outsourcing or even just meet with to discuss trends, common problems, and so on. Join a Meetup. Heck, if there isn’t a Meetup you, make a Meetup.

Help others: potential clients and potential peers alike. Gratitude makes for excellent currency.

2. Adopt some productivity habits.

To freelance part time you need to be able to hit the ground running. When you sit down to do your work, you need to spend the time working and productivity makes that possible. In some cases, it’ll be software that helps you — something that blocks access to time-wasting web sites or allows you to better manage your email — but in many cases it’s just little habits you can adopt like blocking out your time or spending less time checking your email.

Do some reading and pick just one thing to start with and add another after you’ve mastered the first. Soon you’ll be able to spend more time getting stuff done and less time trying to figure out how you’re going to get it all done.

1. Protect your health.

Above all: avoid burnout. If you still have a job that affords you vacation time, take advantage of it; take time off and try not to use it to catch up on freelance tasks. We all need a break and most freelancers will tell you that such breaks are few and far between. One of the biggest perks of regular employment is paid vacation time: use it! Ditto paid sick time.

If you don’t have access to paid vacation or sick time, the most important thing you can do is make sure you get enough rest. Regular sleep is essential, just like your Mom always told you.

Two Bonus Tips

Bonus #1 – There Are Times When You Should “Work For Exposure”
Join a barter system that tracks services and attaches a monetary value to the work performed. Alternate currency systems are also smaller groups of businesses and organization who are encouraged to work with each other.

Bonus #2 – Some ideas for how to deal with clients who disappear.
When a client stops talking with you, that may be their silent cue to end the relationship. When there is an invoice outstanding, there are some approaches that can work.

  • Keep issuing the statements to show the invoice isn’t going away.
  • After an invoice ages to three months, find your local debt collector, and hand them the account for collection. You will get pennies on the dollar, but a debt collector could impact their credit score and make things so uncomfortable that they settle up.
  • If you are sub-contracting and your parent contractor goes silent, consider going around them. Ask a lawyer about the follow tactics and if it’s allowed in your contract with your contracting parent: engage directly with the end client to deliver the work for them; bill the end client for the work; take the unpaid work and sell it to someone else in the vertical. If you weren’t paid, it’s still yours.
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