Freelancers love to talk about the freedom and flexibility of the writer’s lifestyle. Wake up when you want, work when and where you want, and take on the types of projects you want.
It all sounds great. Who doesn’t want a portable career they can build around their lifestyle?
And frankly, good writers are in high demand.
Somebody’s going to write all those e-books, landing pages, blog articles, social media ads, and everything else that goes into today’s sales and marketing cycles. You may as well be one of those writers.
Yet, if you want to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of life as a well-paid freelancer, you’ll want to transition from freelancer to business owner, cultivating a business owner mindset.
Making the Shift
I get it. If you’re used to working for others and following directions, sitting in the driver’s seat can be a little scary.
It was for me.
When I started my freelance business, I had no idea how to get clients. I didn’t know what to say, how to create a proposal, build a pipeline, or invoice anyone.
Maybe you can relate.
Let me share a quick story.
It was circa 2012, and I’d screwed up my courage to attend local networking events to drum up business. I thought I’d talk to people about their online marketing needs since I did know about SEO and writing for the Web, thanks to my Money-Making Website.
But as soon as other business attendees realized I had online experience, they peppered me with questions about social media.
How could they use it for business?
At first, I was perplexed by the questions. I had no idea other businesspeople didn’t connect online or use tools like forums and Facebook to build relationships. After all, I’d been doing it for five years or more.
Then, I watched a webinar with Rebecca Matter and Nick Usborne about offering social media services to small business clients. It was a light bulb moment for me, and I was full of ideas. I dashed off an email to Rebecca asking her what people expected in a service package. She was kind enough to respond that there was no “expectation” — it was up to the individual.
It’s a mind-blowing moment when you consider it really is up to you.
At that moment, I decided I’d brand myself as the Philly Social Media Maven, printed up business cards, and away I went. It worked too. I also handled social media for small businesses, led workshops, and got web-writing work.
Offering social media management and working with many local businesses was a good entry point for my freelance writing business.
And through the years from that starting point, I’ve realized I am responsible for my business. It’s more than meeting deadlines. You also need to be responsible for the client relationship and how the project goes. It’s about your mindset and your attitude about your writing business. You need to make that shift from freelancer to business owner.
Employee vs. Business Owner Mindset
Let me give you an example…
Recently, I tried to pass on a referral to an acquaintance who was looking for work. This person had writing and marketing experience, and while I knew they were job-hunting, I thought they might be interested in a potential project.
I sent along a brief summary saying it was a freelance project with a start-up in the automotive space. I briefly described what I knew about it, and if they thought it sounded interesting, I’d make an introduction.
The questions I received in response made me realize this person was in the employee mindset.
- Is it full-time or part-time?
- Is it remote?
- How much does it pay?
Do you see how those questions cede all kinds of control to the person offering the project?
You’re giving them authority over you.
When you are thinking like a freelance business owner, you would simply respond “yes” or “no” if you were interested. Then, if “yes,” I would have made an introduction and let you two take it from there.
If you’d moved from freelancer to business owner, you would then set up a time to talk with the prospective client. “Discovery” calls are an ideal opportunity to see if it’s a good fit for both of you, and determine the project scope, payment terms, etc.
A business owner asks questions of the prospect like:
- What are the goals for the project?
- Why is it a priority now?
- Is it ongoing or an one-time project?
Those questions give you insight into the importance of the project and your potential role within it.
For example, a company looking to up-level its content marketing needs a plan followed by execution.
As a result, they may contact a freelancer to find help. First step? Define the project. If the company is just stepping into content marketing, they need a plan. They may think they need a writer for a few blog posts, but that will not help them achieve their goals.
In that case, you’ll want to show them how having a strategic plan helps them get to where they want to be. The plan comes first, and then they need a writer to execute the plan.
That’s one scenario.
In another scenario, the prospect has a content plan and someone who manages the blog. They’re looking for writers to contribute one or two blog posts a month. They give you the topics, keywords, etc., and you provide the writing. This is a simple arrangement.
Both are legitimate projects. The first is a lot more work and will vary for every situation because you may be acting as the content strategist, as well as writing content. The second can provide a firm base for steady writing work.
Either way, you determine if the work meets your business goals and explain how you work. Business owners have autonomy, and you set your parameters.
What do you want to offer? What types of companies do you want to work with? Do you thrive on quick turnarounds, or do you appreciate a steady cadence of regular work, making it easy to plan your schedule (and budget?).
How You Can Develop a Business-Owner Mindset
The first step is recognizing there is a difference. Spend time around other freelance business owners (AWAI Facebook Groups are a good start!). Notice the type of language other freelance business owners use — how they talk about project structure, payment terms, and ways they talk about “how they work.”
An additional idea is to set up your freelance business with proven processes to help you run your business efficiently. AWAI has templates to help you structure your projects to feel like a pro!
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to give yourself permission to start thinking like the commander of your own business and be open to learning.