Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure we could talk about at least 10 other things that need your attention when you are making your side-gig your main-gig, but as someone who made that leap (and sometimes feels as if she is still on a ledge looking down), I noticed 5 areas that really affected me.
I’m sharing them with you in hopes that they will help you of course, but I’m also really interested to know your take on some of these things and what areas really affected you as well. Please don’t hesitate to talk about it in the comments. Iron can’t sharpen iron if it’s a the only pole out there. (That was pretty bad, but it sounded really good in my head!)
Accounting & Taxes
UUUGGGHHH! I think that is onomatopoeia that I’m looking for. Does that actually communicate the way I feel about accounting and taxes? No. Whatever is worse than that is how I feel.
I taught high school for six years. (Oh, the joys of getting cursed out and hated!) After that, I was a program director for a non-profit. Both professions provided me with stability while I did graphic design on the side. And even then, I usually had the added safety net of doing business in conjunction with the savvy prowess of my bud Regina.
After venturing out from under the safety net of a full-time job, I realized that I needed to prove what I made to someone if they ever asked. Here’s what I did (not all at once, I made a number of mistakes along the way):
1) Established a business bank account along with my PayPal. At first I thought my PayPal was good enough until I tried to buy a car and despite my pretty PayPal reports that I printed off (in color) and my official statements from their website, the creditor wouldn’t accept them as proof. Instead, I had to open a business checking account and start paying myself regularly from my PayPal, so I could have actual bank statements. The payments were small at first, but they got bigger (Come on somebody!)
2) Selected an easy online accounting software that would allow me to keep track of everything. I personally found that Wave did the job for me. It works well for freelancers. I have been told that Freshbooks works really well for small business owners.
3) Researched my profession and what it meant to my state. After checking the comptroller’s website, I found out that graphic design and web design services (for the most part) require that I pay sales taxes. So, I started calculating those quarterly and paying them. And just so you know, when you forget to pay them, a nice, little man may come knocking at your door and ask you to pay them. Oh yes! I know this first hand. Apparently the Comptroller’s office feels that a phone call isn’t personal enough.
4) Started saving and recording everything. Now when I make a purchase for my business, I save the receipt. When I go to meet someone, I track my mileage. These are all things I didn’t care about when this was just my side hustle, but now it isn’t.
I believe that I have mentioned this before in one of my (Re)Brand Diary posts that I thought my previous website design was too impersonal and corporate looking. It still had my colors (which I love) and it was definitely functional and attractive, but there was no way that I could live up the type of brand it portrayed. That website represented an entire design team when I needed something that represented exactly what you were getting . . . me.
This is why I say that there is way more to branding than your logo and how your business card looks. Your branding sets the expectation to your audience of who they are dealing with and you want that to be positive and real in every way. For example, if my client knows that I’m a mother of 5 and can only schedule a call after 6pm, then it is not annoying that they may hear Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the background.
Boy is this a big one! I mentioned my 10-minute moments of productivity in Freelancing While in Freefall as well as other helpful tips. Time management is one of those beasts that never goes away, like high fructose corn syrup or love handles (those are probably related). And I strongly believe that the way you go about time management depends on your personality, work habits, and current life status. Honestly, if I go to Amazon and search time management, the amount of information is crazy. Here are a few strategies that helped me:
1) Determining my constants and my variables. This really helps me sort things out and get things done. To make it quick, I know that my constants aren’t going anywhere, so I prioritize them and do what I have to do, letting me know just how much time I have to devote to other things (my variables).
2) Organized my world for easy navigation. I cleaned up my computer, made sure that everything in my house had a place to go (or it got tossed), and worked with some really awesome resources like Evernote, Azendoo, and Asana to collaborate with others and keep my tasks in line.
3) Outsourced my weaknesses. Be careful. Don’t pigeon hole your thinking here. I’m talking about outsourcing ANYTHING that opens up time for you. That could mean getting help with your house work once a week, child care, design work, emails, etc…
4) Stayed honest with myself. I could tell you that this stuff ALWAYS works, but it doesn’t. Not for me anyway. One of the best ways I manage my time is by recognizing when I’m stressed out or just not loving life and I CHOOSE to be productive anyway.
Who did you tell about your transition and what do those people really think that means? When I told my husband I was developing a course for branding creatives, he said, “That’s great babe.” About a week later, he asked, “You finished your course yet?” I’m sure the look I gave him while sitting in my pile of laundry with a baby on my lap and another one calling me name wasn’t a nice one, but I had to remember that he had no clue what went into my world.
Open communication with the people you are working with or with the people you are closest to on a personal level is key when transitioning to this new life. You have to set realistic expectations of your availability and your needs, but you have to be careful not to undermine those relationships. No amount of money can replace the people closest to you and what they bring to your life. Just ask a rich, lonely, miserable person. (I don’t know any personally, but I know they have to be out there.)
Honestly, I’m one of those people who would miss out on all of the Internet amazement if it weren’t for my business. I don’t naturally gravitate towards social media, which means it takes real work for me to keep up.
However, once I ventured out there on my own, I found out how important social media really was.
First, people check your accounts to see how many other people interact with your company and factor that in when deciding whether or not to deal with you.
Second, you generate leads and followers through your interactions on social media.
And third, you find your peeps when you are engaged in social media and by peeps, I mean people you can support you, teach you, collaborate with you and ultimately know more than anyone what you deal with while growing your business. They know because they are doing it too and appreciate your support in return.
Of course, these relationships do not even come close to replacing the ones you have offline, but you never know who you will meet and how it will impact your life.
There were some very specific things that helped me when starting out on social media for business. I’m not saying that I’m balling when it comes to followers but in just 6 months (with no paid help), I increased my Twitter from 150 followers to 890 and my Instagram from 120 to 425 followers.
Here is what I did:
- I used a service like Feedly to read my favorite blogs and schedule them for sharing through a service like Hootsuite
- I scheduled about 6-10 tweets a day including my own stuff and one to two posts for Facebook
- I took more time to design or plan my posts for Instagram and Pinterest and tried to post at least 4-5 times a week.
- I retweeted/shared other people’s stuff as much as possible
- I made sure my accounts matched my branding for my business
Gaining your Independence
As I said before, there are so many things to think about when you step out there and do what you are passionate about.
But guess what? There are some amazing people out there that have done it successfully.
Now enters The Independent.
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Regina Anaejionu, Jenna Arak and I want to introduce this blog-in-print that covers topics creative entrepreneurs really care about. Find out more at TheIndependent.press.
Now it’s your turn! What were your toughest areas and how did you overcome them to start working independently? OR What are you most afraid of when you think of taking that plunch into the independent deep?