One thing nobody tells you about going freelance is that you have to become a jack-of-all-trades. Rather than spending all your time doing the work you actually specialise in, you’ll be devoting a hefty chunk of your working week to the practicalities of running a business. You quickly become a business development executive, marketer, accountant, PA and lots more, all rolled into one.
Letting go can be difficult, but you’d be amazed at how much time you can free up by outsourcing these aspects of business life to other people. That means more time to devote to doing the work you do best – or just to maintaining a better work/life balance. Here are some of the things you could outsource to help you concentrate on what you’re good at.
Perhaps the most obvious candidate for outsourcing is your accounts. If the thought of filling out a tax return fills you with dread, this is something you can easily pay an accountant to do for you. In fact, it’s a sensible move anyway; only a qualified professional can really know the ropes when it comes to the British tax system, and they’ll save you more money than they cost simply by knowing what you can and can’t claim for. Day-to-day accounting can be outsourced, too; creating invoices, chasing payments and logging expenses are all tasks you can hand over to a virtual assistant (see below).
It’s an inescapable fact of freelance life that admin is a major drain on your time, taking away your focus from doing great work for your clients. That’s where virtual assistants come in. A virtual assistant can help lighten your load by answering calls and emails, scheduling work and doing other mundane admin tasks; as already noted, creating and chasing invoices and logging expenses could be other jobs you could hand over. Take a look at sites such as Virtalent and Virtual Assistant Assistant to find out more and connect with reputable virtual assistants.
Whether you’re trying to grow your business or simply stay afloat, marketing is an essential activity when it comes to adding new names to your client list. While you could devote time to learning the ins and outs of Google AdWords, Facebook advertising and other forms of marketing, you could also simply hand this over to someone who knows what they’re doing. As a freelancer, you might find that a marketing agency is beyond your budget, but there are plenty of independent experts out there who could work wonders for your business; just Google “freelance marketing consultants + [your location]” to find someone local to you.
Proofreading, fact-checking and quality assurance
When you’re on your own, who checks your work? The answer is you – and the problem is that you’re probably too close to the project to spot mistakes such as typos, factual inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Outsourcing tasks such as proofreading, fact-checking and quality assurance means your work gets looked at by a fresh pair of eyes, so you can be sure that it’s flawless before it gets sent off to clients. Googling terms such as “freelance proofreader”, “freelance QA” or “freelance fact checker” will bring up professionals who can take this job off your hands.
Outsourcing your work to other freelancers
Of course, it’s not just the day-to-day running of your business that you can outsource to others; you have the option to delegate actual work, too. Working with other freelancers means your business can take on more work, or that you can simply lighten your own workload. If you do decide to explore this avenue, here are some things to bear in mind to help the arrangement run smoothly.
- Make sure it’s someone whose work you trust completely – poor work will reflect badly on you, and you don’t want to be spending so much time re-doing their work that you might as well have done it yourself in the first place.
- Be transparent with potential clients about the fact that the work they commission may not be completed by you personally; explain that you work with other trusted freelancers but that you sign off all work personally before it’s sent to them.
- Have a contract in place with any freelancers you work with. This should cover things like agreed payment terms, responsibilities for meeting deadlines, who’s hiring who, and so on.
- Accept that they’ll do things differently – it’s very unusual to find another freelancer who’ll approach a project in exactly the same way as you would. While you’ll obviously want to make sure their work is of a high quality and free of mistakes, you’ll need to accept that they may not complete the work in quite the same way as you would have done. That doesn’t necessarily mean not as well as you – just differently, and as long as the client is happy, that’s what matters.
Many freelancers feel that outsourcing actual work is a step too far – that clients are hiring them for their expertise, and that bringing others into the equation could dilute the quality of work produced and be fraught with potential difficulties (what if they miss a deadline? What if the client doesn’t like their work?). It’s a personal decision and one that depends on how close you are to your business; if you trade on your own name and reputation, it’s probably not the right move for you, but if you have a brand name and portray yourself more like a company than an individual, it could be a great way to grow your business.
For lots more advice on all aspects of freelance life, have a read of some of our other posts on being a freelancer.