Most freelance web designers would agree; one of the greatest discomforts of freelancing is the lack of a regular paycheck. I was recently hired as a user interface designer for Wesabe, a site that helps people track their finances, and an interesting side effect of that has been me spending a lot of time studying the transactions in my bank account.
Based on that, and the last year of freelancing experience, I've learned some useful things about maintaining a regular income such as:
- Always be starting something, in the middle of something, and finishing something
- Invoice at least one client every week
- Focus on what you do best, leave the rest
I've also learned that I should buy fewer latte's and save more, but I'll save that for another article ;)
Always be starting something, in the middle of something, and finishing something
An average week for me looks something like this:
- Monday - Send emails, let customers know I'll reach certain milestone by Friday, prepare them to be invoiced, set pace for the week, get into a project
- Tuesday to Thursday - Work on various projects, send emails to potential new customers, maybe work on a proposal
- Friday - Finish something up, send any invoices, hopefully pick up a check or make a PayPal transfer to my bank account, send any proposals
As a freelancer, you get to wear all the hats that would normally exist in a design agency - designer, project manager, salesman & account manager. Make sure you spend enough time filling each of the roles, not just that of a designer. Try to have a minimum of 3 projects on the go at all times so you can ask yourself: What am I completing this week? What am I in the middle of? What am I starting?
Invoice at least one client every week
Fellow freelancer Sean Mitchell got me into the idea of invoicing someone every week. The way I generally accomplish this is to break even small projects into between 2 and 4 payments, to be made on agreed milestones, and then schedule those items for completion on each Friday of the month. After a few months of this, Friday will begin to feel like payday again!
Since going freelance in November of 2007, the longest I've waited for a payment to reach my bank account is 21 days. I happened to be in the middle of a large project with a very generous budget at the time.
I learned a couple of things from that experience:
- Keep a Float - Many startup companies have investment capital, most companies have credit to fall back on; As a businessperson yourself, you should have a float of cash or credit set aside in case you need to live up to a month without income.
- Break projects into small payments at regular intervals - If you're at all like me, don't trust yourself not to spend your big payday checks before you get paid again. Give yourself reasonable payment schedules.
Basically, make sure you have a few projects on the go at all time, with pre-defined payment milestones and you'll be set.
Focus on what you do best, leave the rest
You know those projects that are just a little awkward? You're not sure you can find someone to fill the gap where your skills fall short? Don't even bother with them. If the warning bells are tinkling in your head, there's a good reason for it.
Instead, focus on selling jobs you find enjoyable, even easy. Rate your skills on various topics from one to ten, then sell your top three like crazy. You'll find that you'll enjoy your work more and you'll be finishing jobs faster, which means getting paid more often.
I hope this has been helpful to you. If so, please Digg It. Also, I'm curious - what are your methods for keeping your income regular as a freelancer? Send me your techniques and I'll write a follow up in a couple of months.