Before becoming solopreneurs, many freelancers had regular 9-5 jobs. Although working for an employer can give you valuable skills that help you land clients, it probably left you with some unhelpful mindsets as well.
Operating like an employee doesn’t work when you’re a business owner. If you act like an employee, you’ll likely earn less than you’re worth and have trouble running your business day to day.
Even though I’ve always worked for myself, I’ve still made some of the mistakes below. I also had to change my mindset to make my business successful. Here are some tips to help you break out of the employee role and start acting like the business owner that you are.
Don’t Feel Obligated to Work Set Hours
Employees are usually required to work set hours even if they’re remote. But as a freelancer, you don’t have to conform to a 9-5 schedule, even if your clients do. If you’re more efficient at night, you can start work after dinner to maximize your productivity. Working when your energy levels are highest will allow you to get more done in less time.
In the same vein, don’t feel pressure to respond to client emails right away. As a business owner, you get to set your operating hours and decide when you work. As long as you make it clear to clients when you’ll be available, it’s ok to wait to reply to a late-night email until tomorrow morning.
Don’t Apply for Jobs
A mistake that many freelancers make when they start their business is thinking they need to apply for gigs. They use websites such as Fiverr and Upwork to find clients and end up stressed and broke.
Although you can find some high-paying work on freelance websites, they’re often a race to the bottom. The clients who frequent them are usually price shoppers looking for the lowest rates, not the most qualified professionals.
Your best clients will most likely come from networking and cold emailing, not freelance websites. So you need to break out of the employee mindset of waiting for clients to come to you or applying for jobs all day. You need to be proactive and reach out to the companies you want to work with to land high-quality contracts and meet your income goals.
Once you’ve been in business for a few months, you may start getting a steady stream of referrals, which will reduce the need to prospect for new business. But until then, flex those marketing muscles by cold emailing and selling yourself to big companies that will pay you what you’re worth.
Feel Free to Negotiate
Although employees can negotiate their salaries, only 39% of workers do. If you didn’t feel comfortable asking for more money as an employee, you’d have to break out of that mindset as a freelancer. Many clients have budget constraints and will try to set the rate for each project. But if the proposed fee doesn’t meet your needs, you can push back and ask them for more money or walk away from the job entirely.
Freelancers have expenses that employees don’t. You have to pay extra taxes, buy your health insurance, purchase your equipment, and more. Because you have high operating costs, you’ll likely need to charge more than the hourly rate you made as an employee to stay afloat.
You may feel uncomfortable charging high rates at first. You may even run into potential clients who say that your services are too costly. But that’s normal. If clients immediately agree to your fee with little pushback, you’re probably charging too little.
Learn to Wear All the Hats
When you worked for an employer, there were many departments to handle different tasks and coworkers to share the workload with. But as a solopreneur, you don’t have an accounting department to balance the books or a marketing team to handle lead generation.
All of those tasks that keep a business running fall on you. So you have to figure out how to do them and balance them with your regular client work. If you don’t know how to manage your cash flow or pay your taxes, you’ll have to teach yourself using online resources or find an accountant for help.
Running an entire business by yourself can seem scary and overwhelming. But even if it doesn’t feel like it, you can do it as long as you apply yourself.
You may have to learn new skills and work a little harder than you did as an employee. But it will be worth it in the end. Nothing beats the satisfaction of working for yourself and building a business from the ground up.
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Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.