As a freelancer, you’re in an excellent space to work as per your schedule and attend to other things that matter to you. It’s also one reason it’s possible to juggle various clients and their needs. However, if you’re often taking up too much work and looking for ways to work without fatigue, then it’s time to take a cue from businesses that navigate this challenge.
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If you glance around, enterprise businesses successfully navigate their way around people, planning, and data. And if you plan on scaling your current business, a few choices work well, even if you operate as a single-owned freelance business. You might have the right mindset, tools, and client relationship.
But you can always take it to the next level by seeing how enterprises engage in short- and long-term planning, how they outsource non-core activities, and why data matters when you're looking to grow your business.
But first, let's look at how freelancers and enterprises operate.
How Freelancers Function
A typical day for freelancers involves getting new clients, tracking existing work, monitoring income, using tools, and building an active network of freelancers. While doing all this, a few key things are vital.
Mindset - Keeping the right mindset lets freelancers navigate the feast and famine cycle and regularly assess their income goals. It also helps to actively track time, stick to a schedule when working for yourself and bounce back when faced with challenges as a sole business owner.
Tools - Tools are the best way to align all work. It allows scheduling of projects, tracking invoices and payments, and quick communication. With the right set of tools, freelancers can scale quickly without manually doing it themselves.
Network - An active network of freelancers lends a hand to the constant need to pitch to clients. It's also why freelancers rely on word of mouth to onboard new clients. And within the right network, it's easier to keep track of industry news and take on clients or pass on clients to others.
Client Relationship - Maintaining healthy client relationships allows freelancers to pitch in when work pours in on the client side, leading to continuous work. It also builds a deeper understanding of business and how you can play a part in growing your client's business.
Besides these factors, freelancers have a market demand because they have an advantage over enterprises, mainly because of how they operate.
Advantages Freelancers Have Over Enterprises
Working as a freelancer has many advantages over enterprise businesses:
Agility: Freelancers work as a suitable solution for a company looking for a specialist to solve their business needs. It is because freelancers provide agility to their business needs. Market trends change rapidly, and enterprises may not always have the right expertise to cater to a business.
Quicker Turnaround: Because freelancers are subject-matter experts, it's easy to deliver polished work. It also means there is no training required and a quicker turnaround time.
Less Bureaucracy: Unlike an enterprise business, freelancers are independent decision-makers. It makes it easy to speak directly and get work sorted. It's less bureaucracy and fewer processes to reach the outcome.
Easy to Work: It is easy to work with a freelancer who is aware of industry news, keeps up with trends, and delivers consistent quality work every time. In an enterprise, it's often tough to ensure consistent work quality since there is a change of hands at different project levels.
Easily accessible: A lot of freelancers work remotely and with clients from across the globe. As such, hiring a top quality freelancer for your task is more easily achievable than hiring an in house expert for an enterprise business.
Freelancers Versus Enterprises
The many moving parts in your business can get confusing, and it's natural to lose track of things. Freelancers often oversee the business aspect because it can get overwhelming as a sole business owner.
Enterprises have an edge with this as they see the big picture because there's an entire team working towards a common goal, goal-setting, tracking numbers, and several people sharing wins and losses.
Business numbers/Income Potential
Without a long-term vision, you're probably looking for the next client invoice to pay your bills. But like an enterprise, when you focus on achieving your business numbers periodically, there's less stress and sufficient spare money to fall back on.
SME versus Generalist
An enterprise has many people on board that cater to a wide variety of clients. Often generalists are more in number than specialists, making it easy to work with different client needs in multiple projects simultaneously.
Enterprises are adequately covered with liability, especially when the project risks are far more varied. The liability rests on the company rather than on an individual. This protects the company and people, especially in high risks projects.
3 Reasons Enterprises Function the Way They Do
There are many reasons enterprises can expand at a faster pace than an individual. Some are a clear organizational structure, due diligence, and prioritization.
Better Role Clarity - When role clarity is in the organization, roles and responsibilities are well-laid out. Everyone knows who handles what, making it easy to track progress. Another advantage is that it allows people to grow in a particular role, allowing them to specialize as they grow in their roles.
Due Diligence - Enterprises are likely to catch issues at each step. It makes it easy to avoid unnecessary escalations and take corrective actions promptly. It also saves on resources to fire-fight at a later stage. Ensuring due diligence is possible because of how enterprises function so that things don't go wrong. And in case of issues, the concerned people can step in to take corrective action.
Prioritization - The structure of an enterprise allows prioritization. Here, the core activities are done in-house over non-core activities. For non-core activities, outsourcing works as an ideal option.
As a freelancer, following some business best practices can take you to the next level. The best practices followed by enterprises are an excellent place to start and incorporate into your business.
Best Practices Freelancers Can Learn from Enterprises
- Ensuring Better Role Clarity
One way to pursue an enterprise-approach to business is to document everything. When you get in the habit of noting down your critical processes, it's easier to see how well they perform for each project. Fine-tune your processes and let go of those not serving your business.
Practice extensive documentation for each of your work processes. So, it is easy to roll it out to a new hire or a third party. It is useful when you're planning to expand and keep all your processes in place.
Another advantage is that it's easier to set your process and share a process checklist with a new hire. This way, you are both onboard on work delivery and expectations. It helps you be in complete control of the work without stressing about the work quality.
Keeping your processes streamlined and accessible makes it easier to check on progress and bottlenecks, if any.
Setting better role clarity is also great when you set short- and long-term goals for your business. You can factor in new hires and the cost and processes involved for a smooth transition when you set goals.
Tie this with pre-established metrics like content experience, NPS scores, etc. so that you can ensure that the quality of your output does not degrade over time with newer hires.
- Short & Long-Term Planning
Freelancers and small businesses are often working on surviving the present that long-term visions are not a thing. That's partly why freelancers often find themselves searching for the next reliable client. But you can do better than this by engaging in a bit of strategic planning.
Set long- and short-term goals - an advantage of creating a short- and long-term plan is having a clear view of where you see yourself and your business. In a short-term project, assess your finances, processes, client relationships, and business systems to see what you need to take ahead or improve. In long-term planning, identify the investments and resources that can lead the way.
Planning Backwards - to make your goal a reality, plan backward. Set a timeline to achieve each goal. Then identify the resources that can take you there, how you'll acquire them, and use them for goal achievement.
Allocating Resources to meet your goals - with resources in place, identify priority tasks and their relevance in the larger scheme of things. It's likely as you move along, you'll have to re-prioritize. But don't let that stop you from planning your goals. As you prioritize, be sure to outsource non-core activities that can free up time for your core activities.
- Outsource Non-Core Activity
As a freelancer, you may think it's financially prudent to trade time for money (spend doing stuff yourself rather than hiring someone to do it). But outsourcing non-core activities can free up bandwidth that will let you increase time spent on money-making tasks.
For example, if you are an app developer, do not spend resources maintaining your servers–that can be outsourced to spend more time building apps.
In some cases, you may not be an expert in what is otherwise a core-activity. Take sales, for instance. Reaching out to prospects, managing a sales pipeline, and converting them into a paying customer is essential to any freelance business. However, if you are not good at it, consider hiring external help who could help you manage at least the fundamental parts of sales so you only come in once a prospect has been qualified.
This way, you spend time on improving your core competencies,and boosting efficiency in the long term. Another advantage is your sharing resources with the outsourcing partner, reducing any risks on the non-core activities. Because you're relying on their expertise, it's one less activity to monitor.
While you outsource non-core activities, it is also a good idea to automate parts of your business that do not have to be pursued manually. Routing activities like sending out outreach messages, sharing and following up on invoices, or scheduling your social media posts can all be automated.
You may incur costs, but the time saved can be utilized well somewhere else. It allows you to explore other freelance projects with existing clients or work on additional income streams. When you invest time this way, it's easy to improve your cash flow and survive, even if there is any decline in your business income.
And most importantly, it allows you to spend time assessing your business growth every quarter. It could be with the help of a basic spreadsheet or a finance app that lets you see where your business is growing and showing signs of further growth.
For this, start tracking your base business numbers of income and profits.
- Be Data-Driven
Once you develop the skills and your service gives you a stable income, you may seek other avenues to earn. Your gut feel is probably pointing you in many directions. Suppose you approach every decision this way; it may not turn out well. That's because it may not be the most beneficial in terms of profitability.
For this, rely on a data-driven approach. Track everything and use data for decision-making extensively. It could be measuring customer experience, conversions, page loading, and income earned, among many other things. Keep it simple using a spreadsheet if that works for you. Or you can rely on tools to get going.
Either way, maintain a regular log of business numbers.
Using this business data lets you realize whether you are moving in the right direction or a pivot is on the horizon. Another advantage of relying on data is in case of wins or losses; it is easier to track back and replicate it in case of wins and avoid future losses.
So, if you are a SaaS business, measure metrics like MRR/ARR, ARPU, P&L/ Cash Flow, LTV, CAC, and others. In the end, any business aims to make every decision based on data and not on gut feel.
There's a lot going on as a freelancer. You could be new to freelancing or rapidly picking pace. Either way, working as a sole business owner can mean missing out on administrative tasks or on tracking your business growth. While mindset, tools, and a great client relationship can help you tide along, surviving is vital in the long run.
Following basic principles that run an enterprise successfully can help you navigate your way for recurring freelancing income. For it, document all your work processes, engage in due diligence and set clear business goals. Plan backward and get your resources aligned to meet your goals periodically.
And while you're at it, outsource the non-core activity to spare time for your core activities. In the time saved, research multiple income streams by looking at your business data and how you can use your skills for business growth both by working individually and onboarding new hires as you grow.