10 Things to Know (How to Do) to Be a Freelancer
Training, Upgrading Equipment; sure, but…
One of the classic mistakes people intending to be self-employed make (or people who already are established but aren’t being as successful as they had hoped), is to believe they need better equipment and/or to improve their knowledge and skills. That’s why I met people with ridiculously expensive gear and/or a whole bookshelf worth of diplomas and certifications, who still hadn’t started their business or weren’t as successful as expected. And the worst bit is that they explained this by saying their gear or knowledge weren’t good enough!
That logic is usually due either to the common narrative of “you must be more skilled / have better equipment” (a narrative that is of course supported by equipment and education suppliers – including schools), or to the fear (or perhaps laziness) of leaving one’s comfort zone to go out in the world.
Am I saying that education and good equipment are useless? Absolutely not. Having an average portfolio or launching a massive marketing campaign without being able to produce quality results will only lead to a complete waste of time, and perhaps even to destroying future opportunities. Because once a prospect sees us as amateurs, it’s almost impossible to change this.
The trick therefore is to define “quality results”. And it’s actually pretty easy; are there people ready to pay for what we offer? If there are then it’s useless to invest in training and better gear. At most it’ll give a trivial gain compared to investing the same resources somewhere else (marketing for instance). At worse it won’t make a single difference. In other words: education and equipment only matter to the extent that they increase the income, directly and/or indirectly.
That mindset of sticking to what’s « good enough » works a bit in everything. You should be ready enough to deliver quality work when a customer shows up, you should set up a simple yet effective system to receive payments, etc. But it’s soon enough to improve everything – or to move towards more specialized alternatives – when there’s an actual need. This lets you invest resources in things that produce concrete results.
And yes, for those wondering, I disagree with the common preconception that one should first work as an employee to “get experience” before moving on to freelancing. It’s not a bad strategy per se, but it’s not needed as long as we’re able to offer something sellable. Besides, a big part of the knowledge necessary to be a freelancer can’t be obtained through regular employment. In particular everything related to managing a company.