Most people don’t understand or know what it takes or what it’s like to run your own freelancing and consulting business. This is to give some perspective and a handful of top learnings from my own experience of running it for one year now.
A friend had recently asked me “What are your TOP Learnings after 1 year of freelancing?” OR “What would you do DIFFERENT if you went back 1 year with all the new knowledge and experience that you have now?” – I thought these are great questions and had started to make some notes on them – finally we have this up and live for all of you to read.
Having a complete control and freedom to choose my own projects, my own team, my own work and non-work times, my own hours are really important for me to function at my very best. All of this led me to starting my own freelancing & consulting business.
Over the last one year, I have interacted with over 150+ companies and individuals regarding their data and the analytics services/products they needed help with and actually worked with 15 of them on short and long term projects. It has been one great year of work, travel, challenges, fun, frustration all combined into my first year of discovering the freelancing/consulting world out there.
My last day at work in Mu Sigma Inc and from 10th August 2016 I had started my full-time freelancing working from home, coworking spaces, co-living spaces, friend’s offices etc in various cities & countries.
Look at how happy I am – I might be sending out a farewell email in there 🙂
Credits: Ankit Arora
If you want to learn how to start freelancing, you can refer to my post on cashoverflow where I detailed a basic strategy & some steps that you can use to get started in freelancing today.
Before even delving into the learnings, it goes without saying that the most important thing that you need is HUSTLE combined with DISCIPLINE to make freelancing/consulting work or any type of solopreneurship work for you. It’s huge amount of work day in and day out for a very very long time.
Without further ado, presenting my top 10 learnings purely from my experience of 1 year of actually running my own full-time freelancing and consulting business with a remote team. They are a combination of things I did well and things I did not do well – but if I was to start out from scratch I would follow these and live by them.
10 Best Ways to Become a Successful Freelancer and Grow in your Career
1. Start with WHY
Very deep and intense word. Simon Sinek introduced this concept years ago on his famous ted talk. The basic crux is that most successful people and companies have a very good understanding of WHY they are doing what they are doing. Psychologically, this is very helpful because this is what keeps them going on the bad days, the harsh times, the problems, the obstacles, the crisis that everyone faces in any kind of business journey. The problems and obstacles are there to stay always at different scales, the question is are you?
So really sit down, take some time out, open up a notepad, a book or anywhere – start listing down really WHY do you want to start freelancing or rather any business on your own. Get to the bottom of it and keep it saved in someplace where you can look at constantly once you do start off. This has been very helpful for me personally and I did this first back in Jan 2016 when I was starting out.
2. Finding YOUR Tribe
There are a LOT of things one needs to run even if they are running a simple freelancing business – from Marketing, Sales to the actual work which would involve client management, project management, actual deliverables, explorations and the main work.
This eventually with time takes a toll of its own. You need to have mentors, your peers and people who you mentor. It’s essential that you have this or build this slowly with time as you would be working alone for most of the time – which is not exactly healthy at all.
Tai Lopez has mentioned this in his famous Ted Talk also – having mentors is one of the greatest hacks in learning business or rather, anything in life. Along with this – you need to have your own peers – who are either starting out or are at the same level as you that can you call as co-workers/peers and lastly people who are in early stage and you can teach whatever you are doing. These three set of folks make up the Law of 33% that he describes in the talk and is a very healthy balance to maintain.
I am super guilty of not building my own tribe and only having certain parts of team as at the start it was all done as a one-man team. Building your online business is a lonely road and I was lucky to have understood the importance of community early on which led me to building my own tribe over the last few months. If there is one thing – I wish I had done before, it would be this one!
Editor’s Note : You may also want to read 40 Steps to a Successful Freelancing and Consulting Career and How to Leave your Corporate Job and Start off a Freelancing Career. Don’t forget reading 12 Ways to Earn Money Online while you Work from Home.
3. The First 90 Minutes of Your Day – The 90/90/1 Rule
This habit and tactic alone from Robin Sharma has helped me to Focus and spend every day on one single goal for my business and grow it at a very healthy rate week over week, month over month.
The 90/90/1 Rule: For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your work day to the one best opportunity in your life. Nothing else. Zero distractions. Just get that project done. Period.
The morning hours are when you have the most focus, most energy and most willpower. The first 90 minutes is game time, show time! In This age of dramatic distraction, Focus has become really important.
The ONE Thing that you focus on can be widely different depending on where you are in your journey. The Focus should be on Important things not Urgent things. You will have to decide what’s important or urgent. If you just landed your first client, the important thing would be to do such amazing work that he would never want to let go of you and he would be recommending you also. If you just have 1-2 clients and want to grow your business, your focus should be on finding a specific niche in your area and working towards getting more projects with new clients on a consistent basis.
4. Investing in Yourself
These words evoke various types of emotions across the spectrum on different people. I believe that Money should always serve to improve the quality of your life. Investing in yourself is simply one of the most greatest things you can do to exponentially improve your learnings and take massive action for your goals. The main reason is because you will be learning from the best, not making mistakes others made and most importantly, you owe it to yourself to do it because you are now heavily invested in it.
Very early on, I realized that I wanted to learn from the best in business and reverse engineer their success instead of committing the same mistakes again. Now there are many ways of doing this – getting a mentor, reading books, taking up an online course and much more. I also wanted to learn from someone who is 5-10+ years ahead of me in their. I had been following Ramit sethi and reading his material for quite a while back then and was ready to invest in one of his premier courses. However, at the same time one of his students had started his website and launched his own course and it was all about freelancing – which was exactly what I needed. I went ahead and bought it in Feb 2016 and that was easily one of the best decisions that gave me a huge advantage in my journey.
By now, I’ve invested over 1,000$+ in various online courses, live consulting, mentors etc and I’ve learnt so much, met so many people and duly made so many multiples of that investment by now that it’s ridiculous how these were literally some of the best decisions I’ve taken.
5. Self Reporting & Your Metrics for Growth
Being a data analyst/data scientist, one of my main roles is to help my clients understand the right metrics for their business and help them in tracking the same.
However, I am guilty of NOT doing this for my own business for the first six months! One big mistake.
I realized this and I created a spreadsheet now which I spend 5 minutes every week but is an in-depth tracking of my single most important goal and all the right metrics related to it that are all aligned with my business objectives. In fact, I even created a KPIs framework (right metrics) recently where I teach my clients and readers how to identify and track the right metrics for their business.
6. Don’t Dabble – Be a Master
Tony Robbins clearly states one of the greatest things you can do in your 20s is to find some clients/customers that you can SERVE and fall in love with them. Note that he did not say fall in love with your product or service, but with your clients, their problems and solutions for them in each aspects and then develop the skills to solve all their needs.
Go deep in your field instead of being shallow. The new thing – either a job, project or a relationship always feels new. But the ones who go deep are the ones who learn the most.
7. Building Systems, Teams & Processes
As you keep doing the work and growing your business – there are certain things that we keep repeating over and over again. Example – The entire sales cycle, setting up calls, similar work in deliverables etc
Now you need to automate as many parts of your business as possible so that you can focus on the most important and highest leverage activity during your working hours. Some examples below:
a. Looking for new projects daily? – Instead, find out Top 10 problems in your industry and add it to your profile page on a freelancing platform or your website – so that clients approach you after reading that. Turn the game around and get invite – only jobs.
b. Wasting 10 minutes on deciding a time for a call ? – Use Calendly to automate this and send a link to your potential clients to choose a time for them directly adding to both your calendars
c. Repeating same process for new clients – Create client onboarding documents and process and just set them up whenever it starts off.
d. Getting too much work? – Increase your rates and hire a team and get it done faster!
Automation is to YOUR TIME what Compound Interest is to YOUR MONEY
Rory Vaden in his talk – How to multiply your time
Basically, think of 10 tasks and automate it so you can keep growing your business.
8. Start with Prospecting Stage
The fastest way to start freelancing is at the Prospecting Stage. Prospecting basically means responding to jobs or requirements or anything that a certain company/client/business needs done. Going where the root and quick requirements are, going where clients are actually looking for people to solve their problems – that is the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to get your first few freelancing gigs.
Ryan describes it very well in the above image and showcases and entire pyramid flow and journey that freelancers can use from the start to growth to becoming thought leaders in their industry.
When you are starting out in freelancing, you do not need to network, promote or create content. All those things are great but they are slow and a long-term process that can be done as you grow and scale your business. Your main focus is to get your initial few clients and start working, which is why Prospecting is your best friend at the start!
9. Move out of Prospecting & Promoting slowly
Yes, you read that right. No, I am not bonkers. (okay at least a little crazy! 🙂 )
Yes, you should definitely start with Prospecting when you are starting out. However, as you grow and scale your business, you should totally work towards moving out of this stage and work on talking to clients and getting them in a different discovery stage. This would help you get high value projects, reach out to a bigger audience, establish more authority and much more.
Networking and Thought Leadership are two huge concepts. This is what you would want to move towards slowly in your journey to constantly grow and scale your business.
10. Move from One to One – One to Many Services and Products
Freelancing business is great! You can work on exact projects that you want to, you can charge what you want to,you can can work from your favorite location etc. However, the con here is that you are still trading money with your time and time is a limited resource that we have.
To create something scalable, you need to have either packaged services or products that are solving some problems & pain-points in your space and adding massive value. These would need a much deeper understanding of your customers, their problems and your field. You would have to do countless hours of research and then development of product or a specific service that you would just keep repeating for clients in a specific field.
Moving from one to one towards one to many is one of the greatest ways one can scale your business and have a much bigger impact!
And that is end of my Top 10 learnings over last one year!
Hope the ten pointers help you as much as it helped me! Leave out your comments and tell us if you have any questions or your learnings in your journey.