I’ve been freelancing for over four years now and am always looking at how I’m doing business, what works and what doesn’t. Some days it seems that, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose“, in the words of Janis Joplin. Other days, it’s pretty darned good.
My introduction to freelancing came through Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation, still a good read for those considering the road less traveled. I also follow a few sites dedicated to independent work, such as Consultant Journal; Thinking Home Business and Why Go Solo. The advice from all of these sources is good and makes for interesting reading, but I think that being a free agent is very case specific. Like learning, it’s highly contextual. Every freelancer is different and in a unique set of circumstances. There is some general business advice that is suitable for everyone, but I think that freelancers have to cut their own path. There are no real rules and rock solid principles. As many consultants would say, “It depends”.
So here’s my advice. For the most part, you can ignore everyone else’s advice. If you want to go out on your own, start paying attention to everything around you. That includes your own spending habits, how you connect with people, how you do your work and what’s going on in your field. Observe and listen. Look for patterns and make your own deductions. Then take action (like your first project/client) and spend some time reflecting on your actions and those of others. By doing, you will learn. In business and in life, it’s the doing that counts.