I meet all kinds of people in my work, and every so often somebody will sidle up to me at, say, a luncheon. “I’ve often thought about freelancing someday,” the person will confide in hushed tones. “What’s it like?”
If next month, next week or next year finds you resolving to quit the rat race in favor of making your own hours, here are some insights.
Do the round-the-clock rumba. Sure, you may be able to waltz into your office at noon. But you may be working at midnight. And although e-mail and voice mail make it easier to work remotely and outside usual business hours, you’ll still need to be available by phone and for meetings.
Pick some steps and stick with them. I have a certain process I follow in trying to land new clients. It involves meetings, phone calls and follow-up notes. A colleague of mine prefers to rely on direct mail and listings in freelance directories because she’d rather take a less-intrusive approach.
Wiggle your toes. When I launched my business, a veteran salesperson told me I should be meeting with people at least once a week. This could mean going to a business luncheon, attending a reception — even doing some networking at your local Starbucks.
Find a partner, do-si-do. You’ll need some good vendors; to start with you’ll want an attorney and an accountant. You’ll also need a telecommunications provider, an Internet provider and a bank. You may also want to form alliances with vendors such as designers and Web developers.
Don’t miss a step. When you’re deciding on a phone setup for your business, please, please don’t go entirely wireless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been talking to someone who uses a cell phone exclusively — and have missed half the conversation because of poor reception.
Keep up with the beat. As a communicator, you should be used to juggling multiple projects and facing conflicting deadlines. Don’t expect that to change, if you decide to go into consulting.
Don’t step on the IRS’s feet. No matter how your business is structured — whether you’re a sole proprietor, a partnership, a corporation — government agencies will expect you to report to them regularly.
Get up and stretch. If you’re working at home, you may discover that a couple of hours have gone by since you left your office chair. You may also find yourself eating lunch at your desk. But nibbling in front of your computer isn’t always such a great idea. Take it from someone whose keyboard is full of crumbs.
Put on your dancing shoes. Still think freelancing sounds glamorous? Then get yourself some business cards and make the leap. As for me, I have to ditch my pajamas and get dressed for a trip to Staples.
Kirsten Lambert is principal at Watermark Communications, where the dress code allows wearing pajamas to work. This article originally appeared in the January 2007 issue of Nonprofit Communicators Update, a monthly online newsletter published by Ragan Communications.