Freelancing can look completely different for everyone but most people fall under one of two categories – freelancing as a job or freelancing as a career. But what’s the difference?
When freelancing is your job
Some freelancers want to earn enough to cover the bills, or to earn something extra alongside a regular job. They hit the target amount each month, pay the bills and hopefully have some extra.
When freelancing is a career
Freelancing as a career or business is a bit more than that. You’re not content just to make enough to live on, you want to build something long-lasting and sustainable.
If freelancing is a career path for you, then growth no doubt you have plans to grow. You may be able to see yourself either running an agency or employing people in the future, allowing you to one day take a step back from the day-to-day client work you do now.
Which is right for you?
Either route is fine to pursue, it just depends on your goals for the future. Some people are content to make a living and not grow a business beyond that. They treat it as a job they go to every day, and then they go home and forget about it.
If you’ve been treating freelancing as just a job and feel like something’s missing, ask yourself if it’s because you want to build something bigger than yourself. If the answer is yes, then you might want to look at ways to turn this into a sustainable, long-term career path rather than a temporary job.
Building a business and growing as a freelancer
Building a larger business or forging a career path comes with its own stresses and responsibilities as you grow.
Outsourcing and becoming a manager
One of the first steps towards long-term growth is to take on more work, but you will eventually hit a point where you physically can’t do it all yourself. When this happens, you can start to outsource work to others – such as other freelancers or even an employee if your budget allows.
When you outsource, you suddenly become the manager of these people. This is a huge responsibility, and requires you to adopt a different mindset.
Reviewing and refining processes
Sustainability is rooted in efficiency when it comes to business, so tightening up processes often helps during the transition from casual freelancer to serious business.
Try putting policies and contracts in place with clients, automate communications with new signups, and standardise your rates and costs associated with buying your services. These are all great processes to adopt.
Make marketing part of your business plan
All businesses need to market themselves in on form or another, and freelancing is no different. If you want your business to grow at a faster rate, you might have to invest more time and money in marketing.
Pitching your services on LinkedIn is a good place to start, though building a business can take time. Network, engage in content marketing, advertise, and launch social media campaigns.
Deciding on company structure
Most freelancers start off as a sole trader and many choose to remain that way. However, if you grow and want to employ people, you might want to rethink your company structure. You could be missing out on some tax benefits if your income is over a certain level and you’re still a sole trader.
This is something you might want to speak with an accountant about as they will be able to advise you on which company structure is best for your circumstances.
Deciding what you want the future of your freelancing to look like might seem like a big decision and you don’t have to make it now. It’s a good idea to regularly revisit your wider plans, to see where you’re at and whether your plans and goals have changed. You might want to do this after every quarter, or at the end of one year when planning the next.