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Today is National Freelancers Day – a celebration of the freelancers and self employed that make such a great contribution to the economy

I always say going solo was the best thing I ever did and I would recommend it to anyone that has that drive, that passion and that determination to make it work

But going freelance is like walking into the unknown. You’re never really prepared, you’re learning on the job and all the people giving you advice are on a salary

So here are 10 Things I Wish I’d Been Told When I Started Up

Designer Magazine Crowd

1. Treat It Like A Business
Before I worked in Social Media, I used to work in the music industry as a journalist and an events organiser

They say follow your passion and that’s exactly what i did, but it’s dangerous advice to follow your passion

I remember being so happy for being paid to do what I love, that to be honest I didn’t really treat the music industry like a business

Sure, I made money. But it was a hobby that I happened to get paid for rather than a business that allowed me to do what I love

Those 2 are very different definitions

When you treat something like a business, it pays you like a business – so don’t ever get complacent simply because you get paid to do what you love

2. Set Goals
Setting SMART Goals from the year 2012 was the smartest thing I ever do

It’s changed my personal life and it’s changed by business for the better

When I sat down and said I’m going to set 12 personal goals and 12 business goals for 2012, people said I was mad

But I’ve set 12 goals each year consistently and each year by business has grown sizeably

It’s easy to approach the freelance life without real purpose, apart from the vague notion of “growing”, but you have to have a focal point and know what “growing” means and how you’re going to get there

The next big awakening on goal setting was reading Grant Cardone’s The 10x Rule which inspired me to aim for massive goals as well as realistic goal

3. Read For Education As Well As Switching Off
Being freelance you rarely switch off – you have to realise that you will rarely work 9-5 again

When I started out, I used to read to switch off

I’ve never been into novels, but what I read wasn’t linked with the growth of my business

I wish someone had told me that one book can change your year. And reading about business regularly can change your life

I now have a regular cycle of books that revolve around what is important to me – Business / Health / Spiritual or Politics or Music – and read at least one book a month

You will read about entrepreneurs reading one book a week. But for most people that isn’t manageable amongst the struggles of setting up a business

4. Speak At Every Opportunity
I’d never spoke in public before I set up Altrincham HQ

I wasn’t in a white collar job where it was expected of me every single week

So when I set up Altrincham HQ I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and attack the public speaking circuit like my business depended on it

And it does depend on it

Speaking at every opportunity will set you up as an expert and will bring far greater returns that just turning up at an event to network

5. People will pay late regularly
Cash flow cash flow cash flow

It shouldn’t happen – but people will pay late regularly

When you’ve been used to having a salary and being paid on a set day of the month, it can be tough to get used to the fact that your 7 day payment terms on your invoice get replaced by their own definition of what 7 days is

And the bigger the client, the more likely they are to pay later

3 tips

– Always invoice on the booking rather than on the completed job

– Always have a buffer zone of savings that will keep you through any period of late payers

– Diarise one day a month where you chase late payments

Smart Goals Crowd
6. Networking Is Work
You can’t expect a full time income from a part time work ethic

I’m amazed at how many small businesses seem to spend their time posting social media updates about This Morning, Judge Rinder and Love Island

But I’m never amazed when those small businesses then go out of business

Networking is work and is a vital part of your diary

When you 1st go freelance you need to get out to many face 2 face networking meetings as possible

You want to be so omnipresent at networking meetings, that on the rare times you don’t turn up – people question why you aren’t there and they check on you to see that everything is ok

And then you want to network online so that every single person in your home town knows your name

Awareness is everything and your talent will lead to the conversion to sales

7. Always have business cards with you
There isn’t a business moment and a social moment

When you work hard, they merge together

Always have business cards wherever you go – I’m talking the pub, gigs, holidays – you never know when a business opportunity will come up

Some of my clients over the years have been won standing on packed trams or at 10pm on a Friday night stood at the bar

Be open to the opportunities

8. Connect (And Build Relationships) With Everyone You Meet On LinkedIn
About 20% of LinkedIn users are monthly active users

It’s common to meet someone, connect with them on LinkedIn and then what … nadda

Business is about relationships and although for many LinkedIn is seen as the least sexy of the social networks – it will probably be your most profitable

I can’t emphasise this enough – be active on LinkedIn

It’s easy to default to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram as they’re seen as the fun platforms

Focus on your bottom line

9. People Will Abuse You For Hard Work And Success
When I started I naively believed that hard work and success were qualities that everyone admired

My parents had worked hard for others in their respective careers and it was all I’d ever known

When you start out and no one knows your name – everyone is supportive

Fast forward a few years later when lots of people know your name and you’ve built up an impressive client list, haters will start to hate

I think it’s the British thing of build them up and knock them down

Many people I know have suffered abuse on the internet simply because they’re more focused and hard working than others

I wish I’d have been told that at the start – because the hate fuelled me on to greater things

10. Don’t Worry If You Have One Bad Month
I remember the first few years in business

Every time I had a slightly bad month I used to worry about it for days

If it’s one bad month it’s not an issue

If it’s a pattern it’s a worry

Things always work out over time as long as you’re being proactive

Now I look back and wish I hadn’t spent that time worrying – every minute spent worrying could have been a minute spent building


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Alex McCann

Author Alex McCann

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