In my experience , working for yourself provides a unique set of challenges and required skills. You need to learn how to work on your business, not just in your business. You have to become your marketing, sales and HR departments. Without useful resources, I undoubtedly would have failed as a freelancer. Below is a list of resources I would recommend to anyone getting started as a freelancer.
As I’ve made the leap to working for myself, I’ve written a set of “lessons learned” posts.
- 3 months in – Managing time and revenue
- Are your your business? – Could you sell your business?
- 6 months in – Managing your workload
- 12 months in – Rebuilding structure
Podcasts are my most valuable resource, because they provide a slow drip of insight and expertise. Listening to a podcast provides a regular insight on how other think about this stuff, without a large commitment.
- Business of Authority. This is my #1 recommendation in podcasts. Rochelle and John are focused and understandable. This isn’t some 2 hour rambling podcast. They provide expertise from very different types of businesses. Every week I enjoy listening to this.
- Ditching Hourly. John continually beats the drum of “hourly work is bad”. Even if you never switch to a flat-rate model, this podcast will help you think of yourself as a business, not as a technician.
- Startups for the Rest of Us. While the topic is startups, the actual focus is small businesses. If you are a business, this podcast will have something for you.
- The Freelancer’s Show. More of a casual chat format, this show regularly has lived experiences from developers working for themselves.
- Finish your Damn Course. If you are a freelancer, you should consider offering products, not just services. Janelle interviews a wide variety of guest who are making training courses on wildly different subjects.
- Creative Class. This podcast is generally only active when the Creative Class course is open for enrollment. I love the easy style Kaleigh and Paul have when talking about freelancing.
- Building a Story Brand. Marketing isn’t always fun or intuitive work, but it is important. Donald Miller explains marketing in wonderful down to earth terms.
Sometimes you need to read a book to get a core idea to stick. Many of these books are also available as audio books, so even if you are busy you can listen to them while exercising or cleaning.
- Getting Started in Consulting. If you travel, you probably have a checklist of everything to pack. This book is a big checklist of everything for starting your consulting business.
- The Secrets of Consulting. Consulting is the art of telling people they are wrong without them having to admit it. This is a fun read on all the weirdness of being a consultant.
- Running a business
- The E-Myth. So many of us go freelance because we are great technicians. But we also have to be managers and entrepreneurs, and much as we might hate it. This book covers that through a great parable.Company of One. I absolutely love Paul’s approach to running your own company. This is a great book for thinking about the unique advantage of running a company of one.
- Building a Story Brand. If you buy one book on marketing, buy this. It is the most intuitive, plain-English explanation of what marketing is that I have ever seen.
- Built to Sell. While it’s almost impossible to sell a one person business, it’s important to think about it anyway. Much of your work can be automated or outsources, but you have to work hard to identify which parts.
- Getting Things Done. The best book I ever read on productivity. A series of simple guidelines for defining and organizing your work.
- Atomic Habits. One of the hardest parts of working for myself was rebuilding structure and routine. This is a great book on the subject, very practical.
- The Phoenix Project. While technically a book about IT management, there is insight for everyone. I found this book tremendous in helping me think of work as a flow and not just concrete tasks.
- Crucial Conversations. While few customer conversations get heated, this book has clear advice on reaching agreement sooner and deescalating critical conversations.
- How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People. The name is a mouthful, but the book is pure gold. This books is how I learned to make small courtesies and always paraphrase back what the customer says
I’ve only taken one course for freelancing and the was the Creative Class course by Kaleigh and Paul Jarvis. If you are brand new to freelancing, I would consider this but definitely listen to their podcast before you buy. The content is easy to follow and enjoyable, but quite introductory. If you’ve been doing this a year or more, you likely won’t get as much value out of this course.
There are tons of pieces of software out there for running a business, but here are some I have had experience with.
- Toggl. I use toggle to track my time spent. Having a weekly timesheet makes it easy to track billable hours and review what my focus is.
- Trello. If you need to collaborate or track todos, Trello is a great free tool.
- Quickbooks. If you are running a business, then you need to track your books and send invoices.
- Mailchimp. I send my weekly newsletter using Mailchimp. It’s simple to use and fairly cheap to start out.
- Buffer. whenever I have a presentation or a course coming up, I like to schedule social media posts. For that, I use buffer.
- Emergent Task Planner. Not actually software, but I find this note pad to be useful for planning and tracking my day.
When you work for yourself, you need to manage the entire pipeline Marketing –> Sales –> Delivery. You need to think of yourself as a business, and you need to have a plan for growing your business even if you always stay a “Company of One”. You need to rebuild structure and routine and find a way to focus on your work.
Consulting is a unique job. Freelancing is a unique job. With the right resources you can succeed at both.