Enough is enough. I’m exhausted with the incessant whining I’ve heard lately from the herds who refer to themselves as “freelancers.” You whiny little bitches.
You’re not freelancers – you’re business owners. So stop pulling the woe-is-fucking-me game and start acting like it. I don’t care if you’re sitting in your house working in your bunny slippers, in the middle of a co-working space or a coffee shop devotee. It’s time to cowboy the fuck up and start acting the way you want people to treat you.
Like a business.
I’m going to give you some words to live by that someone shared with me (and not so long ago), along with a few of my own thrown in for flavor. We never give ourselves great advice, so maybe you’ll take my mashup of experiences and rub the lotion on your “freelancer” skin and be all the better for it.
You are a business owner, not a “freelancer.” I don’t care what you have to do to lend a sense of legitimacy to whatever it is you do, but get out there and go do it. Get an LLC, rent office space, have business cards made with your business moniker on them. Hell, GET a business moniker. But when you stop calling yourself a freelancer and start owning a business, you might be surprised in a whole lotta shifts that trickle down. I know I was. You can get your LLC setup online in most states through the Secretary of State office. Easy-peasy.
Get a business bank account. The fees you receive from clients aren’t your own little personal piggy bank. It’s income. It is taxable and subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes as well. If you think you can handle all of your business accounting on your own, I sure shit hope you’re a “freelance” CPA. Otherwise, get a CPA, business formation papers and get thee to a blessed financial institution to open a business account. You need to put aside money for taxes, pay them QUARTERLY (yes, quarterly) and pay a few hundred bucks a year to a qualified tax professional to keep your shit straight. Oh, and get an invoicing program. I personally use GetHarvest, but know several others who adore Freshbooks. Keep your shit straight. Oh – and both integrate with PayPal.
Make it easy for people to pay you. If you only take checks, you’re stuck waiting for the mail. If you don’t take credit cards (a merchant services account or PayPal), you’re making a huge mistake. If you’re not charging a 50% deposit to commence, you’re a moron. The easier you make it for people to pay you, the more likely it is…they’ll actually pay you! If you’re pissed about PayPal or merchant account handling fees, add a surcharge on your quotes – visible or invisible. Doesn’t matter. And by the way, if you had a CPA, he/she would probably tell you those service fees are tax-deductible. Just sayin’.
If you can’t make a living, something is wrong. Until a dear friend and colleague told me my pricing was as out of whack with market trends as GM stock prices, I was oblivious. I was taking more and more work and making barely any more money. Pull your head out of your freelancer ass and do some research like a business owner. Dig into rates that others who provide similar services charge. If you’re in the creative space, know what agencies are charging. If you’re a writer, you need to subscribe to Writer’s Market and download their annually-updated ‘What to Charge” guide. If you don’t price your services so you can afford to eventually outsource the slew of work that will be coming your way, you’re doing it wrong.
You need to invest in your business. I was recently at a conference where someone complained about the $30 ticket price for 8 hours of focused information sharing. I stood up and said, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. This is a steal! You just got 8 hours of info – actionable info – for $3.75/hour.” If you’re not willing to invest in your business, what ARE you willing to invest in? $30 is an investment if you’re buying a pool floatie toy or a hamburger. It is a scam if you’re talking about buying a house or a car. Everything in between is negotiable. We go to Target and walk out with $100 worth of crap we didn’t need (but it was ON SALE), and you complain about a $30 (or $300, for that matter) investment in your business? Shut…the front door.
You need to network. And it needs to be outside of your own backyard. There are conferences nationwide, no matter what industry you’re in, and you need to do your research and figure out which ones to attend. There’s going to be some trial and error, and some of the experiences are going to suck. But you’re going to meet people. And those people are even more valuable than the information you receive. So when you’re thinking about investing in your business, conferences need to be on your radar.
You can’t do it on your own. You need allies. Colleagues. People you can trust. McDonald’s buys their “beef” from a vendor and their soda from Coca Cola. Who are you going to leverage to get business done? Ah – but there’s that B-word again. It’s because you run a business. When you take the time to invest in your business and network, you’d be surprised how easily these trusted resources come along.
It’s okay to be frugal, but cheap can suck it. Not everyone can afford a Bentley (and not everyone that drives one can afford one). But if you run your car on the cheap and ignore things like…oh, say oil changes, you’re going to kill the life of the car. It’s the same with your business. It’s time well-spent to find a $9.99 oil change but it’s shitty money saved to skip it all together. Keep your business running lean – but don’t ignore what it takes for it to keep running.
And for now, that is all fellow business owner. Consider yourself slapped.
I managed to make most of these mistakes consistently in the first six years of owning my business. Having fixed that now, 2012 was better and 2013 is about to turn awesome.
Damn! You don't mince words do you? But I already know that. I am a freelancer and I'm not gonna whine at you but I just lost my biggest client (due to a merger). Now I'm working my ass off to try and land another big one. I hate this life sometimes. THANKS for the fucking advice!
Funny you say that. I have business cards that say "Freelance Mortician, Rogue Taxidermist" on them. I freelanced as a writer the last time the economy took a shit on America, and I survived because of it (and the 'freelance domination' sessions), but that ceases to be appropriate after you've had a real job and a career path (and you're out of your early 20's). It's selling yourself short to present yourself without a one true passion, but have a lot of little interests. It's passion that draws people to you, as something you truly enjoy enough to be knowledgeable about it and not just trudge through. I'm gonna go stuff something now...
How poorly have I been running my business? It's taken me eight months to read this! I'm now in major overhaul mode (website, etc.), so thanks for the slap.
Love it! But damn, the State of California said it will take 2-3 months to get incorporated. WTF! lol We're bankrupt.
Dear Redhead, You are my new hero! I just got into this "freelancing" game when I decided to stop being a complete wuss and walk out on the job I hated working for a bunch of assmaggot lawyers. Of course, having ridiculous amounts of law school debt and only $100 to my name makes it difficult to get off the ground, but that is no excuse for me to be less willing to invest in my business-art-passion. Your Bitch-Slap has opened my eyes and has motivated me to do what I knew I needed to do for MY BUSINESS. So, I'll ask my family for a small loan, get my shit together and get legit! (bows down in worship) I'm not worthy!
You are fucking brilliant. This is probably the first of several disqus notifications you'll see from me as I thoroughly stalk the living shit out of your blog tonight. I put in my notice on Friday. I've paid for the LLC and the papers are on the way. I'll be a skydiving gypsy consulting princess complete with pet unicorn starting February 4. This is out-fucking-standing advice. Thank you for gracing the interwebs with your shenanigans. I'm going to go vomit love all over your other posts now.
I love this! I would add one more thing to this and it probably falls somewhere between "invest in your business" and "get your shit in order"....don't expect to get services for free. You get what you pay for. Not only does it help provide legitimacy for your business but it also sets a tone for your potential clients. Don't expect to receive something for free that you are then going to use to produce income for yourself. It's shady!
Code minion or not... I have been a monkey for over 7 years, but I have ALWAYS had a "side project". If you plan on making money online, doing anything on the side... you should run it with some protection LLC/S/etc and you should do it legitiamtely through the gubment. No one wants the tax man to come collecting. This is one misconception that many developers make, "I just write code". Well, if you get paid for it, you are a contractor. This means you should protect yourself, your money, and your hard work.
Thank goodness for Mondays and thank goodness we have you Erika, to take us to task if we aren't motivated enough to get our asses in the game and do what needs to be done. This is not snark in any way. I appreciate your good advice(.. I haven't heard your bad advice yet)
I probably shouldn't just quote your blog entry and call it a comment, but I can't help myself. It'll never happen again, unless it does. "You’re not freelancers – you’re business owners. So stop pulling the woe-is-fucking-me game and start acting like it. I don’t care if you’re sitting in your house working in your bunny slippers, in the middle of a co-working space or a coffee shop devotee. It’s time to cowboy the fuck up and start acting the way you want people to treat you. Like a business." I swear, I am framing that shit.
Thanks for the bitch slap! I have recently let go of my day job to pursue my business full time, and your post was just the fire I needed under my butt. I'll have to keep you posted in my developments. :)
What a refreshing post! I figure let them whine--less competition for those of us who are running businesses!
Does this apply even to part-timey bloggers? Is that who you're talking about? (couldn't possibly apply to ME, could it?!)
I had to laugh because years ago, this was so me. Ha. And looking at it now, I wish someone had said this to me. Not sure why I tried to play the sympathy card back then, but now that I am a Business Owner, the whole perspective has shifted. I went from doe-eyed "I'm a fweewancer..." [awww] to "Pay attention, World. I own a business." How that morphed, I don't know, but reading this, I am glad it did (and glad I've moved cities since my doe-eyed phase -- how embarrassing). Great post.
Oh you are so singing my tune. Here I am, a newly minted freelancer but know what? I don't introduce myself to contacts or even myself like that. My profile on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn does not have the word freelancer. My business card (yeah that's the first thing I got) says copywriter and a marketing strategist. You won't find any mention of me being a freelancer in my about me page. I haven't yet done a LLC (have to ask someone what is it's equivalent in India) and opened a business account but those are hot ones on my list, as soon as I can get some decent cash flow. And you struck gold on networking. At a recent online conference for freelancers (don't bitchslap me here, that's how it was named) I met a ton of people and some of them are already my business partners. See, I used business, not freelance partners. You can pat me now :) Also while the conference was good, I felt that the real value didn't lie in what the speakers were saying but in networking with like minded professionals. Haven't got around to sticking a PP button yet but I am aware that this needs to be done fast.
Check the wiki article, It says you are looking for an LLP - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limited_liability_company
Glad you stopped by and WAY TO GO with putting yourself at the head of the pack. It's an odd road we travel, being independent, but for me, there's no other way I'd eve go again :) Pat-pat.
OMG! Get the machine that goes "PING!" someone has just had a heart attack reading this...personally I am laughing my ass off and adore your candid style! I love it when what needs to be said, gets said...and not seasoned with a load of politically correct bullshit. Thank you!