Being self-employed can often feel like you are living the dream. You can take a day off whenever you like, choose your own working hours, do your job from anywhere you want, and go on holiday at the drop of a hat without having to book time off. On top of that, you’re not tied to a salary and if you want to earn more money, all you need to do is put your prices up or do more work. However, being self-employed isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It can also be quite challenging, especially when dealing with issues such as unpaid invoices, unclear instructions, or clients who can’t respect that you actually finish work at a certain time and have a personal life. To be successful in self-employment, it’s important to have firm boundaries.
Payments are one of the most important things to be firm about when you are self-employed. You have worked for this money, so it’s down to you to set your terms when it comes to how you want to be paid.
Depending on the type of clients that you work for, this might be flexible – for example, if you’re doing ongoing, long-term work for a certain client it might be easier for them to pay you on a certain day of the week or month. But if you’re doing work for various clients and receiving pay per job, you will usually get to request how you are paid.
Be firm with this, whether you prefer to be paid directly into your bank or through the Ria Money Transfer App, and be clear about how long clients have to pay. Perhaps you want immediate payment when you have completed the work, maybe you need to take a deposit before you start working, or maybe you’ll give clients a few days to make the payment – it’s up to you but stay in charge of it since unpaid invoices can become a nightmare.
Setting boundaries around your workload is key when you are self-employed, mostly for your own health and wellbeing. One of the perks of being self-employed is that you can earn more by simply working more. But this can quickly turn into a disadvantage if all you do is work and end up burning yourself out.
It’s important to be firm with yourself and your clients when it comes to the amount of work that you want to do. Don’t overstretch yourself or agree to projects that you probably won’t have the time or energy to complete since this will only cause problems like missed deadlines and harm your reputation as a self-employed worker over time. Set working hours for yourself each day, and make sure that you’re clear about which days you are taking off.
Client contact is another area where you’ll need to set firm boundaries right from the start. You might find that most clients are quite respectful and won’t bother you outside of normal business hours. On the other hand, some clients can be quite incessant when it comes to bothering you about where the work is, if you have any updates, and trying to micromanage you – which is not what you need or want, especially if micromanaging bosses are one of the main reasons you decided to set up on your own in the first place.
When taking on a new client, it’s a good idea to be firm from the start about the hours that you can be reached. Put this on your website and in the footer of your emails. Turn on an ‘out of office’ response for your emails outside of your working hours, so any clients who want to email you at midnight asking for an update on your work will quickly get the message. Tell your clients when they can expect updates and deliver as expected, to reduce the likelihood of them questioning you all day.
How you communicate with your clients and the channels that you use will be mainly up to you. Some people prefer a video call where they can talk face to face with their clients and discuss the work, while others will prefer audio calling. Many prefer not to talk at all and stick to email or instant messaging apps, which are often easier to manage while working at the same time. Make sure that your new clients know how and where you prefer to be reached when you first start working for them. While it might be necessary to sometimes jump on a video conference or a conference call depending on the client or the work that you’re doing, stick to your preferences when it comes to how you prefer to communicate – after all, you are not an employee.
Unpaid work can become a bit of a problem for self-employed people, especially if you are working on something like web design or graphic design where clients often have no idea what they want until they see your work and suddenly are really clear about what they would prefer.
When you are dealing with clients like this, there’s a big risk of them having you do revisions over and over again for free of charge if you let them. When you first start out you might be worried that you’ll lose your client if you charge them for revisions or stop before they’re 100% satisfied, but the truth is that they could end up having you do hours and hours of unpaid work.
It’s reasonable to expect clients to want some revisions with this kind of work, but you should always set a limit. For example, if you offer web design, tell your clients upfront that you offer two free revisions before they will need to start paying extra for edits. You can also reduce the risk of this happening by keeping your client in the loop throughout the process, so they can ask for changes during, rather than afterwards.
Being self-employed offers a lot of freedom but comes with its own set of challenges. Sticking to these firm boundaries will keep your stress levels down and help you build stronger, professional relationships with your clients.