Looking back a couple of years when I was a full time freelance designer, I had a pretty good lot and worked with some great clients and agencies. For the most part, I was happy with my processes and how I ran my business but there are a few things I’d do differently these days.
I stopped freelancing full time when I joined my good friend @peteduncanson here at Offroadcode and while I take on the occasional freelance project, I’m a 9-5 kind of a guy these days. I do like to post from time to time sharing my experiences from when I was a freelancer (I hope I don’t sound like an old dad) back in the day … and after reading Anthony Kileen’s post and tweets about payment terms I figured with hindsight and a couple of extra years in the industry there are things I’d do differently now if I did go back to freelancing. A few people asked what they were so without further rambling.
I’d sub contract much much more
I was happy a few years back that I filled a requirement that I used to refer to as “front end designer” which covered everything from the initial meeting/briefing with clients, working up visuals (none of this designing in browser, responsive jazz a few years back) and building HTML & CSS templates along with WordPress work (themes). I never felt comfortable billing clients for hacking bits of scripts together to get some sort of Frankenstein monster functionality. If I couldn’t actually understand and do it, I didn’t do it.
There was good demand for those skills but the market is much more involved these days, requirements and deliverables are more complex and varied and this means you either need to be extremely specialist (CSS writing master only?) or you need to team up with one or more people to fill in the gaps in your skillset and vice versa. I wasn’t active on Twitter a few years ago, so options were a bit more limited in some ways but now I talk to a huge range of people I’d happily team up with and manage on projects where I didn’t have the full skills needed to deliver.
I’d get some office space
I never had self discipline issues when I worked from home, I’d be showered and ready to sit down at 9am like everyone else in an office. However, the arrival of my son made working from home difficult even when the wife was looking after him, it’s difficult not to be distracted when you hear crying etc. Space at a local media centre or sharing an office with another freelancer/agency would be high on my list.
I’d consider invoice factoring
This is something I nearly opted for and it’s something I’d strongly consider again. One of the biggest problems with freelancing is cashflow. It’s a never ending cycle of stress wondering when an invoice will get paid and of course each time you chase payment, you’re losing time when you could be doing something else you can bill for.
Invoice Factoring is a service where you sell your invoice to a 3rd party who collect payment for you. Effectively they pay you immediately but you get less than the value of your invoice. You get the security of cashflow but I am aware that you often need to meet some minimum requirements for turnover. Also, if you’re going to do this, make sure your clients are aware before a company call them asking for payments.
A few resources
For the most part, this is a short list because in 3 years full time freelancing, I collected 100% of the value of my invoices and only had a couple of late payments and while there were a few hiccups and disagreements there were no clients I parted company with before a project was done. I figure I was probably on the right course and common sense will steer you 95% of the way anyway.
If you need some sample docs (contract/invoice/business plans etc) then please visit and contribute to Docpool.co and while I’m no guru I try to share my thoughts and experiences and I’m happy to answer questions if you mail me.