Unlike death, taxes, and computer malfunctions right before a deadline, not everything in this world is reliable. Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned to plan for as a professional freelancer.
1. Don’t rely on a single revenue source (or even two or three). Not only can a big-time client dry up and leave you without your primary means of supporting yourself, but having a single client is akin to having a desk job. The sense of freedom that comes with being able to pick and choose your work is one of the biggest benefits of being a freelancer. Don’t give that away.
2. Don’t rely on one method of finding work. Whether you work primarily by bidding on sites like Guru.com or Elance.com (can be hard to find good paying work); searching job posting sources like Freelance Writing Jobs (competition can be fierce, and many jobs are so inundated with applicants they close early on); or focusing on word-of-mouth referrals (great, but not always guaranteed), your best bet is to diversify. Put a few eggs in each of these baskets, and you’re more likely to get the work you want the most.
3. Don’t rely on a steady income. Making big bucks one month may help you in your desire to buy that new pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on, but you’re much better off setting that income aside for a leaner month. If you can, figure out your annual income average and try to “pay” yourself an equal monthly paycheck no matter how the feast or famine may rise.
4. Don’t rely on your spouse or family to always support the work time you set aside. One of the biggest difficulties in working from home is being hit up by relatives looking for favors or a little fun. Although the little devil on your shoulder may beg you to go out and play, it’s not always a good idea to give in.
5. Don’t rely on your computer as a way to save all your files. Back up, back up, back up. Losing a big project due to computer problems sucks, of course, but so does losing all of your portfolio. You may have years of your hard work stored on your computer – unless it’s stored somewhere else, as well, you could be asking for trouble.
6. Don’t rely on the same amount of effort for every project. Depending on where your skills lie, it may take you half an hour to write a 500-word SEO article. However, it may take three times that much for you to write 500 words of sales copy. Know where your strengths are, know where your weaknesses are, and price accordingly. Never rely on word counts to provide all your guidelines.
7. Don’t rely on Wikipedia as a valid research source. Okay, okay, you can use it to look up the answer to a quick question you had or to verify something you already believed. But Wikipedia is not the end all and be all of academic subjects.
8. Don’t rely on clients to come through with the money in the end. Most clients will come through with payments even if you fail to take precautions like an escrow account, pre-payments, or a contract. However, getting stiffed for any project sucks. Take the steps now to protect yourself against bum clients.