Freelancing for Creatives: From First Leap to Finances | Margot Harrington | Skillshare

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Freelancing for Creatives: From First Leap to Finances

teacher avatar Margot Harrington, Communication Designer at Pitch Design Union

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Making the Jump


    • 3.

      How to Make the Leap


    • 4.

      The Financial Side


    • 5.

      Financial Habits


    • 6.

      Your Budget


    • 7.

      Thinking Tall Thoughts


    • 8.

      Client Management


    • 9.

      Working with Clients


    • 10.

      Client Feedback


    • 11.

      Balancing Life, Schedules and Health


    • 12.

      Scheduling Your Freelance Career


    • 13.

      Your Project Assignment


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About This Class

Learn how to kick your freelance career into gear. This 60-minute class covers everything you need to know to quit your job or re-ignite your current freelance business – how to make the initial leap, best practices to get your finances in order, different approaches for working with clients, and how to balance your freelance schedule. Take what you’ve learned and create your own mission statement for your freelance business.

This is a class for designers, artists, photographers, illustrators and everyone looking to kickstart their freelance career. Are you currently considering transitioning from a full-time role to freelance? Are you newly out of school and are looking for some practical tips to improve your work? Or are you a more seasoned pro with tricky clients and cash flow problems? This class is filled with tips, tricks, and insights for all levels.

Meet Your Teacher

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Margot Harrington

Communication Designer at Pitch Design Union


After several years of agency graphic design experience, I was laid off, and have been running my own studio for over 6 years now. Since then I've found it hard to find financial, legal, client, and life-balance advice for the microbusiness owner which is why I'm focusing on these issues with Skillshare. I've worked tirelessly on ironing out these details so my projects would go as smoothly as possible. I can translate my learning in a way that speaks to every creative person, especially the ones who would rather spend their time making the stuff over worrying about the fine print, managing their budgets, and difficult clients.

As a Graphic Designer, many of my examples, including the sample proposals and budgets I will show you are optimized for my particular type of work (... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: My name is Margot Harrington. I live in Chicago. I run a business called Pitch Design Union which is a graphic design, web design, book design, and branding studio working with clients, large and small, everyone from startups to nonprofit, arts and culture organizations, really anyone with an interesting mission, and try to make a difference in the world. I did graduate with sort of a liberal arts degree, sort of focused in graphic design, and I worked for other people for a few years, in-house as a designer, worked at an agency, and in 2008, I was laid off. So, that sort of kickstarted the self-employment for me, simply because 2008, no one was really hiring. I knew that I was going to have some time on my own and just sort of see how it go, it went from there. So, that was six years ago and I'm still at it. So, definitely been a lot of trial and error along the way, which we're going to talk about today, and how I've been able to maintain a business, really with no planning before I started it, sort of the figuring out as I went to process, which is not really right for everyone, but I think the things that I've learned to be pretty universal to see a lot of people. Who should take this class? Students who are new to the work world and are looking to get a little more information on managing a freelance business, everything from time, financial stuff, working with the clients. People who are considering starting their own business but are overwhelmed or daunted by the steps in the process that it takes to get to that point. Then, also just this transition period between full-time work and independent work, and what the steps are to make that transition a lot easier. 2. Making the Jump: This class is about making the transition from full-time work to freelance, people who are in between full-time jobs who may just be using freelance to sort of supplement their income while they figure out what else to do with themselves. It helps you plan a little bit on how to be prepared for the sort of surprises and the twists and turns that come along the way, and to be able to learn from other people's experience. I don't believe that everyone has the time or ability to do that. So, I really want to help people work through that more easily. 3. How to Make the Leap: So, the first question to ask yourself when considering a freelance role is whether or not it's right for your personality. Ask yourself these questions. Are you someone who can work for long periods of time by yourself? Is being part of a team central to fulfilling work for you? Do you also enjoy wearing many hats and managing multiple parts of the business? That's a big one because you're going to have your attention pulled in many directions all day long. Everything from this business, admin thing to actually making the service that's going to bring in the bacon. Then also, another thing to consider is your health history that might contribute to more expensive health insurance. Some people, unfortunately, it's just cost prohibitive for them to pay for private health insurance, and that can be limiting. The next question is also pretty obvious in trying to figure out what you're going to do when you freelance. Obviously, a product, a skill, or a service to provide to people is going to be the main selling point of your business. However, the part that goes along with that that isn't so easy to pinpoint is why you feel compelled to run this business. Why you feel compelled to do the product or the service that you're offering to people. Having a compelling story, origin story, or a certain task that's brought you to this point, not only helps you stand out from your peers and your competitors but makes potential clients feel like they're investing in you as a person beyond just the work that you make that might be great. Then, the more ways that you can tweak and tailor the story to make it more unique will just increase your impact and help you stay more visible in this crowded marketplace. Another issue for people is really just how to start or where to start. It can be really intimidating and quitting a job just to go seems difficult to wrap your head around. So, one thing to ask yourself is, are you the kind of person that needs a push? Maybe you move to a new city, maybe you've just graduated from school. Can you work part-time? Can you wean yourself off of your day job by working and building up clients solely on the side? Another option is to look for a shorter term contract aka permalance. Add another full-time space agency job, studio, whatever the workplace is. This has two benefits in that, it doesn't have quite the same level of security as a full-time job is, there's no benefits but it does provide you with structure. It will provide you with some new people to meet and network with. Then, it's a great way of testing the waters of planning to work independently while you still have steady income. This permalance, short-term contracts are also a really great way to make money really quickly working off an hourly rate. So, many freelancers also make use of these gigs when work is slow or they're between clients. So, you don't always necessarily have to go right from full time, 40 hours a week to entirely independent. There can be some back and forth between the two to supplement while you build up your client base. Another part of this is working on your courage and your confidence, which if you've already signed up for this class, you are already aware of so you're already taking steps to manage this. So, this class, the one that we're also offering on structuring your finances, working on your client contracts, and scheduling yourself should cover a lot of the just logistical basis that can throw people off. All these things you can keep in mind while working on your product offerings. Most importantly, it's also important to note that you have to work on your courage and confidence because there are periods of overwhelm and fatigue with making this transition, which is so normal. Another big concern for people, especially Americans, is the health insurance question. There's been a lot of changes in the way health insurance has been working in the last couple years. So, I'm going to give you just a few basic steps and overview on getting this going for yourself. So, the first step is to compare the plans that are out there. Much in the same way that you would compare airline tickets. is a great resource. I also really encourage you to look at your state's free and reduced-price services. If your business is small enough, you may actually qualify for free services. Which if you are really concerned about money and need to watch your budget, which most of us do when we're starting out, is a huge boon. Please don't hesitate to partake in those services if you qualify. That's what they're there for. Another thing to pay attention to is what is and what's not covered under your plan. Dental or eye insurance isn't always covered as well as other things like prenatal maternity coverage or child care if you have a family or plan on having one. The next thing to think about is what type of coverage do you want? HMOs and PPOs offer different levels. PVOs, you have more range and doctors. A little bit more expensive, slightly lower deductible. All these things compare and contrast into what is the most comfortable for you in the level of healthcare that you need to purchase. Then, you can apply for a plan online. Once you set in your form, someone from the healthcare agency will contact you to set up an interview, where they will basically just do a full rundown on your health history and possibly recommend that you see a doctor if it's been awhile. They will pay for this to get just a basic physical if you haven't had one in the last 10 years or so. Then, once that's all sorted out, they will send you an updated estimate. The fees that they put on the plan that you apply for are really just a starting point. They tailor them from there based on everyone's specific health needs. So, everyone is going to come away from that with a slightly different monthly cost. But just be aware that it might be a little higher based on your particular specifics. Then, approval. They have to approve you. No one can be declined insurance anymore, which is lovely. Then, just time to give them the money. Another thing to note about getting dental or eye care is, these are not that expensive to add on to your plan, it's not always included. Some people don't actually need to pay for this if they don't wear glasses or they would rather pay for their cleanings for their teeth out of pocket. In the end, usually the fees outweigh themselves but most eye care plans will have subsidized one pair of glasses every year, for example. So, it just depends on how much you want to pay for that. Keep an eye on the healthcare market. There's a lot of growing and changing right now. Plans can be absorbed by another healthcare provider. They might restructure your plan, they might try and raise your rates as you age simply because the older we get, the more risk of health concerns start to happen. So, my solution to this and my recommendation is to keep an eye on what other plans become available every couple of years, and you can switch at any time if your healthcare provider wants to raise your rate. Chances are good that you can start finding very similar plan for the relatively similar price. It is some added administration but I think it's worth doing to make sure that you aren't going to work yourself into debt if you get sick or have an accident. So, those are the basic steps just to get you thinking about what to look for. Check out the resources on the class page. There's lots more on making the jump from full-time to freelance including a couple of videos and books that you can read. If you want to supplement your information, I'm here to answer any questions if you want to ask any. 4. The Financial Side: So, this class is called Keep That Cheese: Beginning Finance for Creative Businesses. We're going to cover setting up the accounts and the types of accounts that you're going to need, finding and sticking to a budget, cash flow, expenses, receipts, different types of financial software, and here's the fun part, it exists. I promise. This class is not about making the cheese in the first place. That's a whole other class about developing your products, finding clients, making sales. These things definitely go together. You can't really have one without the other. But this class is specifically about managing the money once it's already en route to your hands. Why take this class now, and why am I teaching this class now? The answer to that is really why not now? I've been putting this off pretty much for my entire adult life thinking that it would just be easy, or I somehow wasn't equipped with great financial skills, like it was genetic. Also why now is because of this sobering quote, ''Most Americans, freelancers or not, do a terrible job of saving for their future.'' So don't feel bad if you struggle with this too because pretty much everyone does, whether or not they choose to admit it, and whether or not they actually take the time to pay attention to this class and make use of the advice that's going to be talked about. Another piece of advice that I want to give you is to look for this book. It's so important. It's called The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-timers, and the Self-employed. This book expands on many of the specifics that I'm going to talk about plus a way more good stuff. It took me a year to read this book. That was another reason that I wanted to teach this class because I wanted to speed up the process, both for myself and for you guys. It's obvious that there's a fair amount of mental gymnastics surrounding money and a fair amount of baggage that comes with it. It just occurs to me that this isn't a very efficient way to work through all of this. So I came up with this class as a better way to get through this information, and then actually getting on with the business of growing the money to begin with. So, let's get on with it. 5. Financial Habits: Priority number one, when establishing good financial habits when you work for yourself is to make sure that you have the proper number of accounts and that they're all organized separate but also connected to each other. By keeping them separate, you want to make sure that you are keeping your business, personal, and other different types of saving accounts entirely separate. There should be links to them either through your online transfers or other sorts of ways of moving money between the accounts. But you really also just want to be making sure that when you make a withdrawal or even make a purchase from this account it's coming from the right account from the right reason. These are going to be aligned with your specific financial goals, which we will talk about in a couple videos down the road. However, the first thing to do before you even deposit the check is decide how you want to break it up. Break out the calculator, break out your pen and pencil, and start dividing it into chunks, and learn to do this before you even get excited about the amount that's on the check, to begin with. It's really common and really tempting to just assume that they're all going to be that size from here on out or just assume that you can now treat yourself and take a vacation. Instead of actually taking a harder look at like maybe you actually should pay yourself some money into another investment, or make sure that you have enough to set aside for taxes, or you don't have an emergency fund or any of these other things. So, the money isn't even going to be available in your account anyway, immediately. So, that's why it's important to do this even before it clears in any account period. The first thing to think about is it's really okay to just start small. If your checks are pretty thin or you're really concerned about breaking it up into all these different areas. Generally, people who don't have a good habit of saving are going to feel pretty uncomfortable allocating large percentages of their checks into separate accounts. That's totally normal. Start with 2-3 percent, that could range anywhere from $20 to $200 depending on how large your check is. So, just note that even $20 is a night owl for some people. So, the fact that you can even to set that much aside is really amazing. So, the first challenge is to start small and stick to that for 3-4 months and then go back and look at what you've actually been able to allocate in 3-4 months and you might actually be surprised at how much money that's in there. Being able to stick to that habit for a short period of time like that is going to give you so much confidence and eventually you will able to up your percentages as your business grows and as you become more comfortable. Also, if you need to dip into these savings account, if you have a dry period before you have enough emergency money set aside, that's also very common. It's part of the learning curve in growing a business. I'm not going to say it doesn't suck because it sucks. But, just know that you're not alone in that. But the first account that you want to focus on building is your Oh shit account aka emergency fund. This one is the primary and most important because; A, a lot of people don't have this and also anyone can experience emergencies. This is true whether or not you're a freelancer. Also, freelancers are more likely to experience financial distress than regular employed folks. So, having an Oh shit account keeps you off credit cards whenever possible so that you can use that money to supplement your income without having to go into debt and paying lots of insane interests on purchases like food. So, first and foremost, if you're able to set any money aside, this is where you want to put it in an entirely separate emergency fund. Again, start with three percent of your checks until you have at least six months partition aside. Some experts even recommend working up to 12 months of expenses. The good thing about that is that once you have that money in there, you can leave it alone. You don't have to keep contributing to it unless, of course, you need to make a deduction from it in which case give yourself a loan, give yourself a time period to pay it back. The next one after this is fairly obvious. This is going to be your primary business account. This is where all of your main deposits will go and from there, you will channel them into your various other accounts. Use this for your specific expenses that are related to the business. I prefer online banks for setting up these accounts because they're more quickly. You can set it up in 10 minutes and have a new account ready to go. Then all you have to do is set up the link between these various accounts so you can move money in between them. Also, the nice thing about online banks is that usually, they have slightly higher interest rates and not as frequent access to ATMs. So, you're less tempted to pull some cash out of there in a pinch. So, just simply by having separate accounts and putting money in there really drastically reduces your likelihood of spending that money on things that you shouldn't be spending the money on. After that is the dreaded tax account. Ideally, you want to work up to 30 percent of your checks here. Again, it's okay if you can't save that much immediately but that's going to be the goal is 30 percent into this separate tax account that's simply for tax purposes. It's also not the end of the world if you can't save enough for taxes when it comes time to pay your taxes. The IRS does offer payment plans. Their interest rates are much lower than credit cards. However, obviously that's a slippery slope into debt and it will increase at the longer your business is functioning. So, if you've already had to dip into your tax savings because you were paid too thin you probably want to work up to saving even more than 30 percent just to simply offset that and start paying down your debt aggressively. Rank your credit card debt by interest rate and focus on the ones with the highest interest rate first. So, that will take priority over tax debt, that will take priority over your student loans, any other debts that you might have simply because credit cards usually have the worst fees and the worst interest rate. Personal accounts is next. That one is also pretty straightforward. That's what you use for food, non-work expenses, life expenses, also dispensable income goes in here things like booze, shopping, vacations, etc. The next one is what I like to call the Shangri-La account. Retirement is a word that people sort of tended to now because it seems like it's a million years away and it's not really relevant especially if you're just starting your career out and you have a lot of student debt or credit cards to have to work on before you can even start to think about saving for retirement. But the upside of being a freelancer is that you have a lot more control than you might think about planning these accounts and the flexibility to actually really think about what you want to do with your time when it comes to this point. We'll get into this a little more specifically at the end of this class. But the important thing to note is that freelancers actually have more investment options than most regular employed people who, for the most part, we'll just use their company's 401K as their only way of saving with a higher interest rate. So, there is something called a SEP IRA, which most freelancers used because it's an individual plan that you can sign up for in 15 minutes through the government and it's really the best way of saving if you're a one-person business. There are a few other more flexible options. SEP IRA, for example, isn't ideal if you have employees and you probably want to just set up a company-wide for 401K also pretty much the head honchos out of all of these is a Roth IRA, which you may have heard of. It's helpful to talk about the benefits of these with your tax professional with a financial planner to really understand when the deposits get made. Usually, what happens is that you will save for these in a separate account and then put that money into the higher interest account once or twice a year, or quarterly, or what have you. So, they vary a little bit in their specifics and it's definitely great to do your research but it's really empowering to know that there is actually more options out there and that you don't have to stop at one if you don't want. Who's to say you can't come up with another account for, I don't know, a kayak trip, or sabbatical, or whatever it is that you want to do with your life and just like really chip away at it. Making use of some of these accounts that have much higher interest rates is a great way of speeding up that process as opposed to just a regular savings account, which you might get a little bit of interest but we can do better. 6. Your Budget: All right. So, the next important part of managing your money is the dreaded budget and how to stick to it. Maybe you even tried this before and have not stuff to it. I think that walking through this process is going to be really helpful to try again and find a better system that's going to work for you. So, the first step is to work out what your fixed costs are. This class comes with some worksheets that will help you brainstorm for the various types of fixed costs and expenses that can happen with self-employed people. Everything from big things like health insurance or credit card debt to small things like Dropbox fees or Cloud storage or other sorts of online purchases that you may need that seem really small but really add up to a sizable amount of money. One of my favorite tools to also help with this, is a app called You Need A Budget or YNAB. This goes hand in hand with getting some professional help to work through this, I can't overstate how great it is to have an accountant at the very least. Doing taxes yourself is great at least for understanding how to do it and what goes into that. However, it's really just going to save you money in the end to someone whose job it is to make sure that all of the interest rates and that year's tax numbers are exactly right. Also, if you use a tax professional, you have a much lower chance of being audited as a self-employed person simply because the government will see a professional's name on your return and automatically understand that you have a much more organized attack plan for your financials. So, get some professional help, also use some software. There are some other options that I think are more fun and more creative and a little more exciting to use. These will help you do things like manage your expenses, keep your seats organized and tracking how you're actually doing on your budget and allowing you to be flexible with your budget if you do need to shift things at all. So, here's a few examples of the best financial software out there. You Need A Budget as I mentioned, is great for just giving you an overall picture. Their spreadsheet tool is really easy in terms of helping you determine the different ways of breaking up the money that you already have. FreshBooks is very common and I think probably one of the most used tools among freelancers. It helps with billing and time-tracking and invoices and also expense managing the all-in-one one. The same is with QuickBooks which is what I use. QuickBooks is basically the biggest most powerful financial billing, time-tracking software out there, it's also the most expensive. It's good for people who think that they might want to grow their business and have multiple employees or selling a lot of inventory in products simply because it's more powerful than FreshBooks. is another free service which I highly recommend. It can gamifies financial planning which I had never thought would be fun. It took me five minutes to sign up for that, plug-in my account information, and already I had learned some new things about how I was spending my money. also comes with free credit score which is really great for just giving you a bigger picture on how you're doing with your credit card debt if you have any. Motiv and Pancake or similar tools which I have not used but I've heard other people using for other reasons. Taking advantage of using these, doing research on what makes sense in terms of price level and plans that are offered by these different options will be really a good use of your time. The best thing about using financial software as opposed to tracking your seats manually and storing them in a shoebox somewhere is that they all come with very powerful analytics that will help you sort and recategorize things that you just simply can't do with paper when you're sitting in front of it. Another thing about tracking your expenses with software is that you don't have to worry about saving all of your seats which to me is gold. Because it's all managed digitally through the Cloud or through the various apps and software, so less paper to have to manage, obviously receipts can get lost, that's just another reason to use software for this. I really can't overstate how important that's going to be in terms of helping manage all of this. The next step once you have figured out your fixed costs, are what your discretionary and personal income is. This is not something that can be determined immediately, if your income fluctuates, this data isn't fixed. Every month is going to be a little different, so it takes several months, at least six months or more to get enough data and purchase tracking to understand what this equation is going to look like. This is also where you want to watch out for habitual purchases, like "I always buy x when I do y, I always buy coffee on Thursdays," or whatever the little, small spending triggers that you have, you can watch how they play out in real time and get a sense of where you can trim stuff. So, an example of this is to just start by taking the income that you made last year or up until this point wherever we are in the year and divide it by 12 or whatever months we're in and then subtract your monthly expenses by that, and that equals your average discretionary income. So, average means that you might not necessarily have all of that discretionary income that month if you've had a slower months but knowing that you have at least a general number that you can work within is going to be really helpful. So, just a real life example, let say Sally made $43,000 last year. Great. That's pretty decent. Her fixed monthly expenses are $2,365 which means that her average discretionary income is $1256 which there's some money to work within there, I think in terms of either reinvesting it back into the business, using it for personal expenses. If Sally hasn't been tracking her expenses at this point, it probably doesn't feel like she has much discretionary income, however, it's just been hiding and been revealed by this. Also, this exercise can understand how much you are overspending your budget. You Need A Budget and Mint are really great for alerting you if you've had an extra visit to a restaurant and maybe you need to move money from your gas, the expenses and ride your bike an extra day to offset the cost of that for whatever examples. We can discover that Sally on average over spends her budget by about $500 month. So, it seems like a lot, but limiting spending across a couple of categories will help bring that number back down to stay within budget. Then being able to focus on a couple of different categories is actually easier because then you don't have to gouge out of one so specifically. So, if you say I'm going to go out to eat one last time, I'm going to buy one last bottle of wine and I'm going to not shop for just a short period of time, and see how much money and how far that actually gets to you in terms of getting back in within your budget. More often than you expect, you're not going to notice anything's missing in the first first. So, it's really actually feels amazing to cut back and knowing that you're saying within your budget and not even noticing necessarily, so reserve the possibility that can be really empowering for you. A couple of other things to look out for are cashflow pitfalls, so kinks in the hose. For example, you know you have the money, it's coming but it's just in the wrong spot, it's in the wrong account, your rent is due and the transfer didn't come through in time, that kind of thing. So, here's a few things to watch out for to help minimize these gaps in between the money pipeline. Sometime if a client pays you by electronic check, first time that can take up to ten days to clear. Unexpected credit card fees, if you accept credit card payments from clients and online deposits take anywhere between three and seven to clear. That's obviously can be a large range in time, that can really make a difference in when you can pay your bills. Some banks only allow a certain percentage of funds to be released right away, they need to make sure that the check is good before they give you all the money. Some banks have a cap on how much you can deposit online everyday. Things like moving and your check-outs and to the old address, clients pay a few days late. All these things. So, the tighter you are with managing your budget and keeping your money in the right spot, will help take off a lot of the stress when these sorts of kinks happen. A lot of it is just unpredictable. Having a little bit of patting in these extra accounts and saving your three percent and your four percent or however much you're able to save, is really going to take a lot of the pressure off when these sorts of delays happen. It's not always possible but at least you can always avoid this stuff in the future once you have experienced it the first time. 7. Thinking Tall Thoughts: Here we are. So, the fun part, I told you there was one. This is where you get to think about going from a little to a lot and what that's going to do for you. So, I like to call this thinking tall thoughts. This is a phrase that I stole from my dad who would really just encouraged me as a kid to think in the bigger picture, even though I would reluctantly drag my feet because it wasn't practical, or why think about a pipe dream, or why plan bigger than what you can imagine right now simply because it seems unattainable. However, you can't actually grow anything larger for yourself until you actually do this. You have to think it in your head before you can actually figure out whether or not it's doable. Some people call this also vision boarding which it's a woo-woo term. Making a collage of all the things that represent what you want to do with your life and how you want your life to be, is actually really gratifying and really helpful. You have to believe yourself entitled to make your tall thoughts first in your head and that you can actually work on making them happen. So, thinking in your head and then slowly translating it to onto paper, slowly making it more specific, slowly attaching a dollar sign to it, and slowly attaching a timeframe onto it. So, make a list of everything that you can think of that you want for yourself. Don't worry if it's too small, don't worry if it's too big, anything from things that you need now to things that you know that you will like in the future. You want to go wide and then we can focus on categorizing, prioritizing and narrowing things down later. Maybe an hour even, that's all you really need. Here's some examples, I want to pay off my credit card debt, I want to take one nice vacation every year, I want health insurance, I want to not work until I die and have enough money to live on, I want new clothes, I want a house, I want my business to support X number of employees, et cetera. So, really go wide here. Then, once you feel like you've got enough ideas to work with, then we'll start to notice that some of these things fall into general categories things like material goods, security, health, family, education, public service, any of these overarching, a title that you can associate and group them by category type. From there, you'll rank them on what priority level they are to you. Things from, need to happen soon versus things that need to happen later. Then, it's time to research the costs and time frames associated with making these goals happen and making them more specific and translating them to things, I want new clothes, as opposed to I want three new outfits in the space of one year and I want to spend less than $500 on this. You can understand how you can make that much more specific and give yourself an actual budget based on that amount. Also, things like I'd like to have 500k in a Roth IRA and another account by the time I'm 60 years old. I will need to set aside x amount of money per month, at x interest rate, in order to achieve this goal. Putting it, being able to associate dollar amounts and time-frames is really the next step into actually translating it into real life and really allowing yourself to start working towards this goal. Also, you can revise your tall thoughts too. It's definitely a little intimidating to feel like you're planning the rest of your life and in an hour of brainstorming. Also, sometimes your taste and your circumstances are going to change. So, check in with your tall thoughts every so often just to see if they're still feeling right and that's where you think you want ahead. Even if you totally changed directions and decide that you want to whole other life for yourself, you will still have been saving and working towards goals that you can then translate towards whatever your new thinking is. It's also okay if you don't have a clear picture of what your tall thoughts are for now. It's perfectly acceptable to focus on some more shorter term goals and then as you work on achieving those goals, you'll get more confidence and be able to start thinking more bigger picture. Pick an area to tackle to begin with. Go back to video number two to start small if you need to and it doesn't really matter which goal you choose to pick first. As long as you pick one and start working towards it, people tend to shy away from this inherently because it's just easier to think of these things as dreams and much more difficult to actually put that into practice. It's just so much easier just to assume that they'll just happen someday on your own, or assume that they are already unrealistic and out of your hands forever. A few final suggestions, I mentioned,I'm going to say it again, get an accountant. Also, I didn't mention this, keeping a record of invoices in time sheets is important to know, what's outstanding and what's incoming, and when you think you're going to get that money. At the end of all of this, you've made it this far, I really encourage you to resist the urge to write off a piece of financial advice if it doesn't apply to you 100 percent. This is really common, just assume that because it doesn't match your life or your lifestyle exactly, that there's no good advice at all, which is faulty. The underlying thinking behind that advice is still good, you just need to adapt it to your own use. This is the same for health insurance or any sorts of other highly specific life situations. There really isn't going to be an example that perfectly works for you. So, you're already creative enough and you already started this business for yourself, so this is just another thing that you can continue to work on too. Use the budget worksheets to develop your own budget and then share what you've learned from that exercise, and maybe what you can trim or not, what other financial hurdles that you see for yourself that you maybe want to get some class feedback on. Also, the worksheet about finding your tall thoughts and brainstorming what you do want to do with your money when you have it, it's always really fun to see the kinds of different ideas that people come up with and what they want to do with their lives. So in conclusion, starts small, take things one thing at a time and continue to chip away at this. I encourage you to make use of the resources, read the books and the other resources that I've shared, and definitely feel free to ask any questions that you want. I'm sure you have some, this is obviously really complicated and I've given you a lot of information to sift through. Just know that you're not alone and we all have to go through this together. 8. Client Management: This class is about working with clients, managing their feedback, keeping projects in scope and on time and on budget, and making sure that everyone leaves the project feeling good. People should take this class to get some more ideas in terms of managing client feedback or if they don't have much experience working with clients, it's a really great way to understand properly and work with them to make sure that you're getting the feedback that you need and the work that you want to produce is on-par with everyone's vision. It'll definitely improve your client relationships for sure which will in turn improve your referral rate. It'll also help manage stress because you will be able to separate your own emotional reactions to their feedback and their critiques, and keep it separate from being able to take that personally or not so that you will be happier in general to work with them and happy to fulfill their requests whatever they might be. 9. Working with Clients: So, step one in managing clients is that you want to look for the best clients that you can. So, what does best mean or better mean? Obviously, this answer is going to vary person to person but you want people who fit with you and your personality type who have similar outlook on the world and are attracted to similar things. So, it helps to have some cultural commonalities outside of, could you see yourself being friends with this person? Do you appreciate their approach to business what it is they're doing? Then if you've had some successful client interactions in the past, what do those interactions have in common with each other in terms of communication pattern, project flow, other types of feedback that you might have gotten way from them that you can then pull into future work? Also it's a really great idea to go back and ask your successful clients for some specific feedback on the things that they appreciated about working with you or if they have any other criticism for ways that the working relationship could be improved. Look for specific industries and types of niches to see if that can help you determine a better client fit for you. For example, I like to work with newer teachers or other people who are invested in the business of improving their self-care because they appreciate what it means to prioritize my self-care over their client work and are very just very zen and laid back about the whole project and are going to require a lot of extra explanation if something especially a website or something like that doesn't quite go exactly as we originally thought or takes a little bit longer to sort out a bug for example. How do you find his people though? That's a pretty big question. The first place to start is always going to be word of mouth, begin with the people that you already know, the people that you already like in your life. Chances are they have friends that you will also like if you like those people who can turn into potential clients. Obviously, social media has a really great way of streamlining this. Also go to events related in your fields. I mean that's a no brainer but go to events that aren't in your field or out of your comfort zone entirely simply because you will come away from that with new connections and a new way of thinking about things and probably a new ideas for bringing creative new solutions to your work that you would have never thought of just by hanging around the same old people in the same faces that you see at those usual events. Cold emailing people is also never not going to be a great way of reaching out. It's awkward. It's always awkward. I like to rip off the band-aid by beginning the email by complementing that person with something specific about their works that I appreciate and why that's relating to the reason I'm writing to them briefly of course because people like short emails. Then, yeah, how else can you make yourself stand out and make yourself more attractive to the good clients? This, the best way I think of, is to do it through just the best customer service that you can master. I just firmly believe that it's not just the work that brings in more work it's the personality and the relationship with a client. If they leave happy with you and the project, they are going to speak so much more praise for you and it's going to mean more to people coming from their mouths as opposed to your mouth. So, that's just such a really great priority for me in terms of wanting to get the best out of it and also making it as fun as possible. Not every every client or every project is going to be ideal. Even people that you know that you like working with, sometimes there will be delays or just problems with a work or printer issues or what have you, so always these represent learning opportunities for next time. For the most part, finding the clients that they will be understanding people and flexible and respectful of your approach to sort of fix the problem or at least address that it happened and commit to improving for next time. You have to really get really good at interviewing your clients and really sort of like honing your bullshit detectors to sort of figure out who's a serious candidate, who's actually just maybe not a great fit. In the class resources, there are several links to general questionnaires for starting this conversation with clients. However, I usually just use those as a starting point to entering the conversation and then just have the conversation on the phone or in person or video chat or what have you simply because the written questionnaire doesn't always provide the whole story. Talking to someone is just the best way to understand their communication style and because of the natural sort of evolution and the way the conversation will even flow, you'll probably find out additional information that you wouldn't have even thought to ask in the first place. So, I like to be a little bit flexible with those and then also just try and get as much bigger picture and background context as I can get from them in terms of what's fueling the project, why they're coming to me, what I can specifically offer and other things like what their internal workflow is like, who's going to be making decisions on the project, trying to sort of gauge a little bit on where they're coming from a little bit more with some open-ended questions that may not necessarily have much, they indirectly affect the logistics of the project. Yeah. So, just talking to the people I mean the best analogy that I can come up with is most people wouldn't agree to date someone exclusively based on what they wrote on their online profile. So, just the whole chemistry of meeting with someone in real life is the same. It applies here just like it does in dating. I put together a list of some red flags that I've experienced. These aren't necessarily deal breakers, they can be deal breakers however it's important to just take a case-by-case and sort of try and see if you can understand where the red flag is coming from and seeing how you can work around it as opposed to immediately pumping the brakes. So, things like disorganization on the client's part like either by failing to respond to some of your questions or being evasive in their answers. You can tell that there's something else going on that they just might not be comfortable saying, not replying to your communication requests, moving meetings, rescheduling meetings, not being proactive or giving notice when they have to do this, canceling several times at the last minute. People who interrupt you. The client who comes to you with a vision that they need you to execute is usually kind of a difficult thing to talk through. Too many people on the project, I mean, cooks in the kitchen, we've all had that issue. Unexpected last-minute feedback from another source, constantly trying to chip away at the budget. That can be pretty stressful to work around at some other potential red flag they want to trim or sort of cut out more steps in the project because they've already sort of completed them or they've sort of half cooked an idea that they want you to sort of bring to completion. That can be a little tricky. Mentions a previous bad experience with someone who did your job or your role before you came along, that's important to know the context behind that. Someone who wants it done yesterday probably isn't going to respect to your time and you're sort of planning in advance and managing the rest of your clients in a sense that you do have other people and a life that you're beholden to. People who are really overly concerned with the way that you deliver things when they on their end aren't very timely in the resources and feedback that they need to give you in return. Changes in strategy or thinking halfway through the project can be a red flag that they just have some internal business conflicts that they're working through that don't necessarily have to do with you as a person but can often mean extra visions or out of scope work or an opportunity to sort of increase your financial takeaway. Then the last one is questioning the value of your services. You're too expensive or they're not really sure where the money is coming in or why did someone else quoted at a different rate. A lot of times that's an indication that you maybe just aren't the right fit because they were talking to someone who had a different experience level than you. I mean there's various ways to kind of address that but probably you'll come across these in various phrases at some point or another. 10. Client Feedback: So, the next step then is trying to decide how you respond to this. Sometimes it can take a couple of passes to really understand how someone communicates, sort of their particular word choice or flow or maybe they prefer to speak or maybe they prefer to write emails or however you want to navigate that. Which is why it's great to have revisions because it can take a couple passes to make sure that that's right where it needs to be. I like to just do a quick skim of the feedback. It's helpful for me to have client send it via email when possible, simply because it functions as a to-do list where I can pick out what I need to deliver based on that. However, skim the feedback before you have to respond to it. So, several hours minimum or at least a day before you have to make the changes. If possible just allows the message to digest and think through it, and are these requests reasonable? Are they in scope? Can I come up with a great way of delivering this that isn't going to be super time consuming? It's sometimes hard to tell if there's a tone or something else going on that maybe sort of doesn't read correctly. Often, busy people come across as brief. Taking a little time to let that dissipate so you can really focus on what the real message is, and then get to work from there. One thing that happens frequently and specifically to designers, but I think that this is a pretty universal to anyone who does creative work is the client who comes back with a real specific to-do list of change this, fix that, make that bigger, make that smaller, let's write this instead, make this photo look this way et cetera. So, the first step when these happen is to try and understand what problem these requests are trying to solve. Sometimes the client simply has no other way of articulating this. They just don't have the vocabulary for it especially if they're not a visual person. They're not going to and had any art school critiques, so they just don't know how to phrase it. So, sometimes it's just a matter of relating it back to them just to make sure that I'm understanding that this is what this is about. Whatever the sort of concern that they're trying to solve with this prescriptive feedback. Occasionally though, that's not the case at all. Sometimes they just have a picture in their head that they want you to make. Obviously, that's not ideal because you know no one else lives in their head besides them. Them translating that into words, translating that into my brain and then back out into the revisions is obviously several steps and things can get lost in translation. Most designers hate this way of working simply because there's no problem-solving left. You don't really get to come up with your own solution and you're being attracted by someone who usually has no formal design training. Responding to this depends on the client and how nice they are about their request. How far along the project is and what the specific request is, if it's very small and quick, we're near the end, this is just going to speed things along, great happy to do it. Sometimes it's just easier to let them drive than fight it. That's honestly by far the most common outcome. If a client comes up with the idea that they really like and I just think it's ugly or not a great idea for whatever reason, I'll still execute their request but then also supplement it with my own translation of it and explain why I think that one is also a viable option. Of course, nine times out of 10, they'll still pick their idea over mine and that's fine. They're free to do that. I can still put the work that I did, a version of it in my portfolio if I want to. So, weigh that out it's sort of a case by case scenario. If however the feedback starts to become unhelpful or there's definitely some signs that there is some other feelings or emotions in the email, just pick up the phone. It's going to be a really long ridiculous complicated email to try and understand that. It's just so much faster and more efficient to hear the tone of someone's voice and reestablish that you're both people and you're on the same page and you're working as a team as opposed to the miscommunication that might be causing some frustration. It's also just helpful to understand that there really, hasn't or has there something serious that's gone wrong or upsetting and obviously, addressing that as quickly as possible is just a smart customer service move. Then if it's just a miscommunication or general feedback, verbally interpreting their feedback on the phone models for them how the feedback should be phrased so then usually they will learn and take that with them the next time they have to tell you some critiques. Pushing back and being flexible. Again, this is also very much a case by case basis. Relates to the same response with prescriptive feedback on where are we in the project? How outrageous the request is, is it even in scope? What else has informed thus far helps gauge the response altogether. Everyone's a little response give me a little difference, that's always something to way out and go back to the beginning goals of the project to really understand if that's something you can deliver or not. If after all of that has happened and you're still feeling like you want to put your foot down, it's usually because something more serious has also occurred. A larger communication breakdown or a sign that that's just not a good match. 11. Balancing Life, Schedules and Health: This class is about your work schedule and balancing your work schedule with your life schedule, with your health and not going crazy. It's frustrating to talk about this class because it's so open to interpretation, and it's so based on everyone's unique approach to what they want to do and what they want to get out of their life. It's also a question that's never fixed. It's how do you want to be alive? How do you want to live your life? How do you want to schedule it? What do you want to be doing and when? Making grand generalizations to try and apply them to someone else's situation can be really helpful, but it can also just be really another way of procrastinating because here you are thinking about how you're spending your time, and how you want to work instead of just doing the work. You'll come away with this feeling a little bit better about the stuff that you're already doing and then hopefully inspired to take it to the next level. Anyone who feels overwhelmed, anyone who feels like they worked too much, anyone who has struggled with their health because of work,anyone who has struggled with stress because of work, anyone who basically doesn't feel like they are giving themselves the personal care and attention that they need to be their best self. Everyone can learn a little bit from how other people manage it, but it's also just very therapeutic and very productive for your own health and well-being to sit down and have a really solid look at this, and put together a plan that seems like it's going to work the best for you, that's also flexible enough that you can adjust it when you need to. 12. Scheduling Your Freelance Career: All right. So, to kick off this class, we're going to start talking about schedules. This is particularly important for people who are newer to freelance and are struggling with vast blocks of unscheduled time. I definitely can relate to that feeling of getting excited and thinking you have so much time to do stuff and then all of a sudden you have no time to do anything. The assumption is, especially by clients too, is that having no schedule means that you can do anything you want and you can take it out every day and you don't have to wear pants and hygiene goes out the window and do all this. However, for anyone who is more experienced as a freelancer, all of this is just perfectly untrue. It's fine to have the occasional day like that if you can or if you're feeling particularly burnt out to just play hockey, but by and large that's like definitely a rarity simply because making the most of your time is simply just good business and it's just cost-effective. You probably already have a rough idea even before you start your day of what needs to get done that day and when it needs to get done by and what other things that might happen have to happen like social requirements or health requirements that you need to take care of. Even just thinking about that loosely in your brain is the first step to understanding what works best for you because your head is already kind of plan out that schedule for you. So, for me for example, I do like a split scheduled day. I usually don't start working until about 10:00, 10:30 in the morning and I work pretty consistently until mid to late afternoon. At that point, I'm just like, need a break. That's a clue that I need to be doing something else, anything else. So, using that time for self-care, socialize, make dinner, have a life for a little while that's when most of my friends who have a 9 to 5 jobs are going to be most available so it makes sense for me to structure my time around when other people are going to be available to socialize to. Then usually that starts to wind down nine O'clock, 10 O'clock and at that point I crack open the laptop for another check-in and plan the next day and maybe write an email or two and go to bed around midnight or one. That's the really the best part about working for yourself is that you can take a long hard look at what your already existing patterns are like and work within that. People struggle with when starting out and figuring out how to even attack their day and keep their day productive is again just like where to start? So, it can seem really overwhelming if you have a lot of tasks that all seem really important, health insurance, or client request, or another phone call, or a friend, or a family member, all sorts of these things are competing for your attention. So, I put together a little bit of a priority list that helps me figure out what to do first when I'm getting down to starting my day. So, first thing I do when I get up in the morning is look at my phone like most people do, just to get a sense of what's going on in the world and in my social media world at least and then check email to get a sense of what's come in overnight, what's come in the morning and then prioritize first friends, closest family, anything that can be a quick response that you can think of what you want to say immediately type it out and send it and we're talking like five minutes or less. Usually, family and friends are pretty quick requests at least in terms of being able to understand what they are, whether or not you can respond accordingly or filing those things away for later like Boomerang and Gmail Boomerang is a really great tool for recent, you can schedule an email to reappear later, mailbox app does this as well. There's another tool called followup then which is really great for clearing your inbox and then having things return to you when you are ready to address them finally. After your friends and family are current clients. Those are the people who are paying your bills right now so that they maintain a high level priority. This usually involves me actually doing the work that I'm supposed to do for them as well so that I can respond to their request with the work that's due. Then after that new work leads. Take care of the people you have first and then work on who you want to add into the mix after that and then after that anything that's like less time sensitive, free request, advice questions, professional development, newsletters, any sort of informational email or content that isn't going to necessarily require you to act on it that day. In sort of keeping with self-care and balance, it's really easy to get sucked into a lot of work especially when it seems like the Internet never goes to sleep, it seems like there's so many people in creative fields who are just insanely productive and who never seem like they take a break. As a freelancer, we are only responsible for our health and our work and if we're sick and we're not I'm taking care of ourselves then we can't do the work. So, therefore, self-care and managing your life outside of your business as keeping it as much of a priority is actually going to be a stronger business investment. I understood that intellectually and then it wasn't until it took me six months to a year to actually solely adopt to this habit and now, I find out that I sleep better at night when I'm physically worn out from an activity that's not just sitting in a chair in front of a glowing box and I found out that because I'm sleeping better, I have less anxiety, profoundly less anxiety so that I can focus better. I'm less stressed about work and that just comes across in my whole persona and the way that I'm presenting myself in the world. It definitely took work and it's worth it but I can see myself as a better person, stronger person physically and mentally because of this work that I've done for myself. So, again, just like everything, start small and go from there piece by piece. Starting freelance is really about taking apart your whole life and putting it back together again. So if you're already doing all this house keeping with the financial side of things and working with clients and working on a product and also managing to take care of yourself at the same time, is definitely a tall order, but putting all these pieces together and assembling them all slowly, Rubik's Cube style, will actually be a really great use of your time and I hope you find it as worth it as I do. 13. Your Project Assignment: While the expense management cashflow setup and account management are definitely huge parts of this class, and will be huge parts of setting up your business. The part of the assignment that I want for you to share with us today is the roadmap, which is a business planning tool that will help you find the direction to focus on or help you determine the direction if you haven't already figured this out for yourself. This worksheet doesn't need to be perfect, but give yourself at least 30 minutes to brainstorm here, and once you're done, you can use this information to create an "about" paragraph or "mission statement" for your business, and aside from that, it's really fun to think about the big picture collectively and brainstorm around what other people's tall thoughts are. So, now that you have your business plan and your expenses plotted and have your basic cashflow setup, you can start thinking about what else you can do with this capital that you're building. That's where the tall thoughts come in, so either a Pinterest board list that you write down on a piece of paper, a specific text document or file that you might have on your computer, any of these things will do to help you capture your tall thoughts, so they don't just fly away into the ether. We can share them and get ideas and collectively help each other figure out even more tall thoughts for where we can take our businesses.