Why am I not earning a lot of money freelancing? Why isn't my practice working the way I want? Why do I go through these periods of feast or famine? Why aren't my clients paying me? Why do I feel like I'm running around in circles?
In any freelance practice, these issues come from many causes. But I want to work with you today on the real reason these issues show up in your practice.
You're not doing the work.
"Screw you, Twining!" I can hear you shouting that into your screen and I know you're already putting a lot of effort into your clients. Probably more than you should. What I mean by not doing the work is you're not doing the work of managing your practice.
What is the work of managing a Freelance Practice?
When you start freelancing, what you're doing is choosing to set up a very particular type of business. One that's based on trading your time for money. Because you're exchanging time, it feels a lot like traditional employment. Unless you take the extra steps to move it from 'work without job security' to a full-fledged business, then you'll constantly run into the most common freelancer problems. Those are
- Not having enough work
- Having too much at once
- Late or non-paying clients
- All the above. All at once.
Managing a practice takes time and effort. It's about finding and keeping an equilibrium between sales, billables, payments and practice efficiency. When done well, it means your practice will grow and sustain you indefinitely. If done poorly and the impact is less money, less security and far more stress in your life than you need or want.
Think of these four areas as four legs on a chair. If any is shorter than the other, then the chair ends up all wobbly and won't support you properly.
Make time for sales
Consistently spending time on selling activities is the #1 sign of a thriving freelance practice. This translates into roughly a day a week of time spent on identifying leads, qualifying, writing proposals and signing contracts. If you're not doing this, your practice is as serious risk of falling into a feast or famine cycle.
Make time for billables
It's the client work that gets you paid, so making sure there's ample time in your schedule to get it done means that you'll never be starved for hours. That also means spending time on collecting on those billables as well. Invoicing and collections should both be factored in.
Working on your practice vs. working in it
There's a bunch of tasks associated with your practice that don't have anything to do with billable work. Marketing, invoicing, maintaining your website or your equipment. These things are important even though they don't generate revenue. Spending time on regularly reviewing, refining and reinvesting in your practice means you're always working to be more effective and efficient. If done well, these tasks can contribute to improving your efficiency and that raises the value of every billable hour your generate.
Make time for yourself
There's a common pattern in freelancing. People start their own practices and hustle like mad at first and do reasonably well. Within three years, however, a significant majority will return to the traditional workforce. Why? Because they burned out. They didnt plan time off, or didn't charge enough in their freelance practice to be able to do so. The "always on" approach sapped their stamina until they gave up. Ensuring you have the time to replenish your energy means you always have your best work to give your clients. You can't drink from an empty cup, so don't let yourself run dry. Budget for vacation, days off, and personal care.
With a bit of planning and focus in these areas, you can find the balance in your practice to go on indefinitely. Doing the work in a freelance practice means juggling the four key areas of selling, doing billable work, and working on your practice.