One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can take business lessons from just about any aspect of your life. Whatever you do, wherever you are, just look around you and there are bound to be tips to be picked up, often from the strangest places.
Hell, a lot of freelancers (myself included) are so terrible at the ‘business’ bit of running a business that they could probably learn a lesson of two from a lamppost. This week my wife has decided to abandon me for warmer climes (who can blame her, really?), so my dog Spud has been the focus of my attention. He’s a curious fellow; a total idiot to casual observers, but in reality a shrewd creature who knows what he wants, and how to get it.
So what lessons can we learn from this cantankerous canine?
Look after what’s yours
Online – where I do the vast majority of my work – content is currency (unless you’re dealing with, you know, actual currency), and you can’t afford to be ripped off. Thankfully Google has squashed most sites that scrape and reproduce articles, however there are still some nefarious ‘aggregators’ out there with designs on your content. Services like Copyscape can help protect your loving-crafted output, to make sure nobody’s making money from your hard work.
Here is Spud demonstrating the vigour with which you should defend your content – notice the bared teeth.
The hard jobs are the most rewarding
You may have noticed Spud is a small fellow in stature. Don’t let those tiny legs fool you though – he’s got grit and determination by the bucketload. Where lesser dogs (or cats, for that matter) would give up, Spud knuckles down and powers through. Case in point: on a recent walk over Devil’s Dyke, he climbed up and down hills for almost 6 miles while other dogs, children and fellow ramblers fell by the wayside.
When we got back to the pub Spud sat with a look of triumph on his face, revelling in a job well done. You should take a similar approach to your freelancing. Don’t be put off by seemingly insurmountable jobs – delivering them on time is a feeling like no other.
Some things are worth getting excited about
It’s a fact of freelancing life that some work is just more exciting than other work. I used to think I had to keep my ‘serious businessman’ face on at all times, but I realised a few years ago it’s absolutely fine to get excited about cool work, and to let your clients know that you’re excited to be working for them. Spud’s favourite client, as you may expect, is the postman. Here he is excitedly waiting to ‘issue his invoice‘…
Rest is just as important as hard work
There’s nothing Spud likes more than kicking back on his doggie bed and watching horses on TV in the evening (he has this weird thing about horses – maybe he thinks they’re his people?) – and I think all freelancers could learn a thing or two from that. Letting your work and personal lives intermingle is never a good idea.
Find a solution that works for you and stick to it. This could be having a cut-off point in the evening when all work stops, or making sure you have a “proper” weekend. Whatever it is, make sure you get enough doggie-bed-and-horses time (as I’m calling it from now on). The time you spend working will be that much more productive for it.
Sometimes you have to ask
Often it’s all too easy to coast along with a couple of cushy clients, hoping some more work will fall into your lap. This “hands off” approach to business development can sometimes work, but you will see far greater (and more lucrative) rewards if you go out searching for that killer contract, instead of waiting for it to come to you.
The best way to do this, in my experience, is just to ask around. Put a notice on LinkedIn that you’re on the hunt, or shoot a few of your contacts an email asking if they’re in the market for some of your services.
Case in point: most evenings I’d never think to give Spud any of my dinner, but when you look down to be met by this, well, it’s hard to say no.
Image by Ted Fu