Berlin & Los Angeles


6 Things a Freelancer Is Other Than ‘The Work’

It is the proper mix of business and art to be successful.

I never thought a Business class in college could ever serve me well. So, I never took one but wish I would have. Since I started freelancing I’m learning more about business by being thrown in the middle of it. Now I realize there is more to it than just “The Work”.

“The Work” I’m referring to is whatever medium a freelancer has already gotten him or herself into. It can be graphic design, photography, or writing. All of these creative outlets share a certain number of necessary tasks that a successful freelancer must take care of or at least be aware of.

So, as a freelancer You Are:

1.) The Boss

Ah, yes. You are the boss. How great is that? Well, great but, not-great at the same time. The client becomes your boss yet every responsibility is still yours. Once you submit those proposals to your clients it is time to delegate the tasks out to yourself. As the boss you assure your clients you’ll have the services you promised them by a certain date and time. And, then you fill in those tasks for your employee to get to working on.

You are in charge of the most difficult person your business has; yourself. You may have to be the toughest boss you’ve ever had.

2.) The Employee

The workflow has come through from the client to your boss. Now, it’s time for you to get busy...again. This is the time where you actually practice “The Work”. It’s your chance to show the client why they keep coming back or should do so. This is also the opportunity to better yourself from the last project you worked on. Because, you know, your boss is quite tough on you and will expect improvement.

3.) Customer Service

“Now that you are your own boss you don’t have to deal with aggressive/passive aggressive/terrible/awful/complaining/crazy/etc customers” is something we’ve all heard from friends or family before. I know I have. The well-known truth is that we do have to deal with those difficult people and we are the pivotal point as to whether they’ll come back or not. Regardless of which way they decide to go, a good freelancer will hear it out for constructive criticism.

The other side of that is just as true; you will get great customer feedback. Either outcome is in need of great customer service by drafting a ‘Thank-You’ letter and being sure to let the client know their voice has been heard. That letter and reassurance is more time away from “The Work”.

4.) The Marketing Team

Your business is nothing without your name in the rolodexes of as many potential clients as you can find. This is achieved by drawing up a successful marketing campaign and executing it. If you’re anything like most freelancers you’ll be tackling the majority of this yourself. You may find other freelancers to help with graphics or copy but the execution is all in your hands.

Part of that marketing campaign will probably deal with social media. This means you’ll be on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever other free platform you can find to spread the goodness of your name.

There is also a good chance you’ll be emailing your resume and portfolio out to dozens of potential clients. Those emails will include a cover letter written for each company and taking the time to add attachments. This is, by far, the least glamorous part of the freelancing job.

5.) The Accountant

Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets. That word is cringe worthy to many creatives. Some of you out there may have this covered and I couldn’t be happier for you. But, for the rest of us, gathering those invoices and plugging in the numbers is as glum as it gets. We’d rather be creating or gaining possible clients or just doing “The Work”.

One of the better parts of being a freelancer is finding the things which are tax deductible. The laws vary from country to country but one thing is certain; nobody wants the taxman axing them at the end of the year.


6.) The Face of Your Business

Beyond the boss and employee you are something more important for your business. You are the face of it. When you are selling your goods or services you are ultimately selling who you are. What this means is that showing your face around events or businesses applicable to your medium is important. This also means taking time away from “The Work” to build a rapport with others who may become future clients.  If you don’t want to take a step away from creating then that means it cuts into ‘personal time’...whatever that is anymore.

Freelancing is a fulfilling way to make a living. Yes, it is difficult. Yes, the periods of feast and famine are a rollercoaster of emotions. And, yes, you have to be one focused and determined individual. The greatest benefit, and perhaps the greatest downfall, is that you are accountable for every single thing you do for yourself--also known as your business.

Josh Baker