I’ve made the point many times before that as a freelancer, you are your own one-person small business. So it should come as no surprise that I’m recommending that you, as a freelancer, make a business plan.
‘Pah!’ I hear you cry. ‘I don’t need a business plan. I’m a freelancer. I find work, I do it on time, I get paid. Business plan? Waste of time!’
Absolutely right. If you want to be in the same place as you are now, in terms of income level, working hours and job satisfaction, in 20 years’ time – and you can guarantee me that the world, the work marketplace, potential clients and the work you do won’t change in that time – you don’t need one. Fine. As you were.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Reality…
You Should Be On A Journey
When most freelancers start out, their contacts will be few, their money will be poor, their working hours will be long and their job satisfaction may not be great either. As they try to establish themselves, they may need to take work that’s poorly paid than just to get some experience and material for their portfolio – not to mention some money in the bank. They may take jobs that are fiddly or boring and work long and/or antisocial hours to secure a contract, jeep a client happy or, yep, just to get some money in the bank. Standards are all very well, but they don’t pay the bills. In the field of freelancing, they’re apprentices – whatever skills they may have brought from their employment – and they will have to serve that apprenticeship by being near the bottom of the pile for a while.
Does this sound familiar? That’s fine – if you’re still in the early stages of your freelance career. But this isn’t a situation that should persist indefinitely. You should be on a journey towards better pay, shorter working hours, greater job satisfaction and a bigger, better client base that provides some semblance of regular work.
Like all journeys with a definite endpoint, this journey requires planning – and this is where your business plan comes in. Your business plan is the place to set goals, targets and deadlines and to set out how you intend to work towards them. How will you find new clients? How will you advertise your services? How will you find more of the work you want?
Nothing Stays the Same
The economy, politics, climate, technology, public tastes and spending patterns – everything is prone to change, and to change the world (and work) around us. Your business plan should be a reminder to keep updating and developing your skills, your client-seeking strategies and your goals. It should also change to reflect your personal circumstances, too.
Perhaps you would like to build in time (and money) for a sabbatical, a round-the-world trip or time off to care for family members? Maybe you want to start working less hours or focussing on a certain niche. That’s fine. Your business plan isn’t set in stone. You will need to revisit it and adapt it as time goes on, making sure it works for you and your current goals.
Don’t see your business plan as a restrictive set of rules but as a motivator and guide that helps you get the most from your working life.
Need tips on writing your freelance business plan? Then check out Five Targets That Should Be On Your Freelance Business Plan.