Just days before the Covid pandemic hit the US, designer Leah Chew made her official move to become a small business owner and started her own freelance design, creative direction, and illustration studio. Her award-winning work at both agency and in-house positions had us confident in her ability to rock the freelance world, but the world decided she needed just one more obstacle(!) It’s been quite a learning experience and one she was happy to share with us, Rachel and Colin, your cohosts of Work In Progress.

Between us, Colin and I (Rachel) have about 20 years of freelancing experience, although in quite different fields(!) Colin is an experienced programmer with several startups under his belt and a very successful coworking space, while Rachel has a background in public relations and marketing, a short-stint as a small business owner, and two small children. (Not to say that kids make freelancing impossible, it just wasn’t my calling.)

For this episode, the three of us asked ourselves: what do you wish you could have told yourself when you started out freelancing? Needless to say, our lists were long and so we narrowed down to these top five:

  1. Calculate Your True Price — what does it cost for me to be a freelancer. When you freelance, ALL the costs are yours: office space, utilities, equipment, upgrades and maintenance, taxes, insurance, saving for retirement, paid sick days, etc., etc., etc.
    PRO TIP: The number of hours you charge per week is NOT the number of hours you work per week.
  2. Treat Yourself Like a Real Business — Guess what? Freelancing IS a real business. 
    PRO TIP: Owning a small business is like an iceberg – the top of the iceberg is what people think goes into owning one, the bottom is what actually does.
  3. Know What You Are Good At, Hire Out the Rest — Sounds like a luxury, right? Wrong! Every hour you spend trying to learn a new skill (ie: accounting) is one less hour you spend working.
    PRO TIP: Transfer your tax rate from every check you get into a separate tax account or use an app like Catch.com to automate your payments.
  4. Ask For Help — Everyone needs a community, other people to bounce ideas off of, and peers to get feedback from.
    PRO TIP: Contact local small business organizations, join a coworking space, or take an online class led by other freelancers (see Hom Sweet Hom and Skillshare).
  5. Develop Your Processes — When you first launch have several key templates created and ready to plug-and-play (ie: a sample contract, an invoice template, etc.)
    PRO TIP: Don’t let not having the perfect process stop you from starting, improve as you go.

As they say, the devil is in the details. So, listen to the entire Episode and share with us: What do YOU wish you knew when you started out freelancing? What words of encouragement you would share with your past self? We’d love to hear about it! Catch Work In Progress LIVE every Wednesday at 5pm PST on YouTube and Twitch

Side Note: This episode was one of our first in the Work In Progress show. It came with its own technical issues and discomforts that so many new things do, but we persevered. As of this writing (Dec. 21, 2020), we have completed 18 episodes!! Colin and I are delighted by our progress…albeit one that is always being worked on ;