Being (becomming) independant

From time to time I have friends who become independent and ask questions about what they should learn as an independent. I became independent in 1998, and created my current company at the start of 1999.  I still remember the feeling. The thrill, the excitement and the fear.

Here is the advice I wrote earlier this year:

Start by adding everyone you know in linkedin. I don’t think that can be wrong.
(I actually hope you have already done that, you did not need to be an independent to do that.)
Update your LinkedIn profile and add you are now freelance, add your phone number visible, so people can contact you directly.
Start giving recommendations on LinkedIn to everyone you can give a real recommendation to. (No fake cheesy ones, people see that) Everyone means your former colleagues too. (Who else can you give recommendations to?)
I assume you now know a lot about the work you do, so this year, only read about the business part.
This is new, give yourself the time to learn.
Make sure you have a coach someone who has a similar business as yours for a few years that you respect and ask her to coach you.  yes, I think everyone should have a coach and especially if your job is coach.
Now as for payment , you can’t afford to pay a coach yet as you did not make any money. You can do the opposite as I do. (which is the same)  offer an hour for an hour.
You help your coach with one hour of other work in return of one hour of coaching.
The only way to get rich or even survive financially, is to spend less then you earn.
That is true also (or even more) as an independent.
As an independent, cash flow is important. As a result, I don’t spend money if I don’t have it on my bank account. Even if I send out a big invoice today and I need something urgently, I’ll wait till the money is on my account to buy that urgent thing. (You’ll quickly find out, it was not that urgent or even needed.)
Probably your employer gave you a car, laptop, cellphone and whatever:
Don’t rush of buying them all new.
See if you can work a while without them: aka that old computer you have, might work for a while .
Most larger clients want you to work on their computer anyhow. Use that to your advantage.
Same for cellphone,  you don’t need that shiny new iPhone Galaxy 69
A car might be harder if you don’t have any. When I went I depended I bought a very cheap second hand car. Drove around with that for a year or two.

(And the better one I finally bought, we kept for 21 years, we sold it after new rules made it illegal to use it our city)
Times have changed since I originally wrote this post, today if I would restart today, I would see if I really need my own car, I would start with a combination like bikes, public transport, sharing services (Degage and Cambio) etc…
Although we have three kids and both a demanding job, we now only have one car anymore and the full family does their commute with bicycles and public transport.

This does not mean you should not invest in yourself. yet every time, ask yourself, is this a real investment or just a fancy way to show off. Do you really need that expensive car to score a job. And if you do, is that the job you want?

I have no idea what the taxes are in your country, yet make sure you set the right % aside the moment you get your invoices paid. Yes aside means a separate account. Or if it’s VAT, you might pay that directly. I don’t like to prepay my country, yet I prefer this over not having the money around when I need to.

Set aside a % of your income as safety money.
If you can live of 100%, you can live of 90%.
As you have never learned to live of this kind of income , I would advice to set aside a bigger %.
My company, has never set less than 30% aside every month. Not even when I had cheap paying clients. There were event moment my company was setting aside 50% of it’s income.
And that is 30% of revenu after I set aside the tax money.
I set the money on an account I can access, and it’s tempting to use it, especially when the amount becomes large, yet limit the reasons for taking money out of that account.
My main reason (to take money out of that account) is, when I say no to uninteresting jobs. This buffer, helps me to stay honest to myself and my values. And yes, on already 2 occasions that money was almost reduced to zero. As I really wanted another job.
In both occasions I was right. On both times I got that job I was waiting for and on both times it was the right job for me at the time.
This has two advantages:
1) You learn to spend less on your business.
2) You set aside a larger amount for a safety buffer when you will be between jobs.
yes, I said when not if.
Yes there will be moments in between. And that is fine. That is ok, I would even say that is great.
Yet you can only enjoy these months when you have a buffer aside. I prefer to have a buffer of at least 6 months to a year. I wanted to write: learning to spend more is easier than learning to spend less: as I struggle with the first part, it’s probably about as hard, yet I prefer my struggle, it’s less risky for my business
==> the last three subjects are about money one way or another, I learned these from the many books I read about money

Tell everyone you know, that you are now independent.
Think of something you can send to people to tell them.
The old clients, for who you have not worked in 5 years (eg those you can safely contact without hurting your ex-employer) and whom you would love to work with again?
Send them a book or something else valuable. Show them you still care about them (again only if you do)
(I personally send books on a lot of occasions, even to people I think I will never work for. It’s my way of telling them I like what they are doing. And I ask them to thank me by paying it forward and sending a book to someone else.)
Thirdparty connectors
For some clients, you will need to go through third parties.
Find the good ones in your area. (avoid being hooked up with the bad ones)
Get into the databases of all these good ones.
After that I raise/teach/ give them feedback, so they understand how we can help each other.
  • When they propose me a bad role, I tell them once and then I ignore the other mails about that same subject, it seems they don’t update their database so they show me, that they are not a kind of recruiter I like working with.
  • I also give them feedback on the jobs I do like. Every mail I get from a recruiter that proposes me a function/role that would be great for me, I tell them, even when I’m not available. That part I keep doing, I like spending energy on the functions roles I would love to take.
  • I do give feedback on job/role/function descriptions. How can we make them better, I do this both for the roles I no longer want to do, yet I have an opinion on and the ones I do like to do. (and yes I do this more frequently for the latter ones)
    Especially if it would be a role I would love to do, yet I noticed that the job advert contains red flags. I will tell the good recruiters about these red flags. At a moment I don’t need a job, it’s much easier to do so. It helps friends who would take this job and it helps building the relation with recruiters and clients.
  • Sometimes I see a recruiter reposting a job description from a company, that I assume that is not working with them. (After 20 years in the industry, I think I know that kind of stuff) so I contact friends at the company and check my assumptions. Usually, these companies appreciate that kind of info. The bad recruiters hate it, but hey I don’t want to work with these bad recruiters anyway. The good recruiters appreciate it.
For me, it took a few years before all of that actually paid off. So start this ASAP. Also, talk to other independent about the recruiters they like to work with.
You might be tempted to think that bad recruiters can also score you a job. I’m convinced they actually do the opposite. In many cases, companies also have an idea of god and bad recruiters, and guess what, if you are proposed by a bad recruiter, they will just ignore your candidacy.
What area are you looking to work in?
The better you know what you want, the better your network can help you.
Threat the looking for a client as a job:
Work normal hours, make a personal Kanban board with everything you want to do, and prioritize…
Decide how you will stay up to date.
Yes have a training strategy for yourself. Now only you are responsible for growing. without a strategy, you will forget about that. And you will only notice when it’s too late.
You will probably create a spreadsheet with the days you work for clients. Make sure you add holidays and training to that. So that you can look back later and see how you are doing.
That’s a lessons I learned the hard way, I was only tracking the days I was working, yet I realized at some point, that I was doing +40 days on training and conferences that was not in my numbers, no wonder I hardly took real holidays.
I hope you will share your knowledge with your community (or create your own communities, like I do)
And most of all enjoy. If you don’t enjoy what your doing. Find a way how you could enjoy it.