the first leaves start turning yellow, many of us who are well past our
school days can’t help getting into a ‘back to school’ mindset. For a
kid, this time of year might mean buying some new clothes or a fresh
knapsack; sometimes it involves digging out books or notes from the
previous year, picking courses, or figuring out a route to a new school.
Often these activities are accompanied by a combination of dread and
excitement. Dread because the more carefree days of summer are quickly
fading into the past, and excitement because a new school year is a
chance to learn new things, make new friends, and get a fresh start.
is also great time for freelancers to step back and take a clear-eyed
look at how you’re doing. It lets you head into the next season tuned up
and ready to go. Traditionally September to early December is a busy
time of year, so when better than these last hazy weeks of August to
take stock of your life as a freelancer and make some changes to help
you make the most of the new season?
This checklist may look
daunting. Our goal is to surface the range of areas you should consider
re-evaluating. Not all of these will need your attention, so it’s up to
you to focus on the ones that will have the most impact.
- Review Your Finances.
Have you collected all money owing to you? Are you saving enough? Have
you put enough away for taxes? Are you capturing all your expenses to
minimize your tax bill? If not, set aside some time and get this done.
You’ll thank yourself next March when you’re completing your taxes.
- Tools Update.
Are you taking advantage of some of the new apps out there? Are you
effectively using your tools or have you developed inefficient
workarounds? Have you downloaded the latest versions? If you’re on the
go a lot, do you use mobile apps that will move things more quickly
and/or help your organize your workload? Are there email lists you
should unsubscribe from? (Unless they’re very good, at best newsletters
can be a productivity suck and at worst they can add noise and clutter
to your inbox).
- Review Your Client List.
Who have you worked for in the last 18 months? What are they paying
you? Who are your repeaters? Who haven’t you been in touch with that
might be worth connecting with? Who are you charging rates from 3 years
ago that you need to flag for an update?
- Review Your Work.
Take a look at your last 6-12 months of work. A hard look. Are you
still doing work you can be proud of? Is any of it getting stale?
Repetitive? Uninspired? Get a trusted colleague to give you feedback. Be
your own critic and try to figure out what you need to do to get back
to producing the kind of work you want to be known for.
- Professional Development.
Are there skills you’ve been meaning to learn? Courses you’ve wanted to
enroll in but haven’t found the time? Books you’ve wanted to read? If
you find conferences beneficial, have you checked out what’s coming up
so you can plan to attend? Professional development takes time, whether
self-taught or through a third party. Identify what you what to learn so
you can plan for the time and money it takes to actually do it.
- Consider Your Marketing. Are
you happy with your use of social tools? Does your
portfolio/website/Facebook page need a refresh? Have you checked the
analytics tools to review where your traffic is coming from? Does your
brand need an update? When was the last time you met some new people?
What else can you do to draw more attention or land new clients?
- Social Supports.
Are you happy with where you work? Are there alternatives you’ve been
meaning to explore, such a co-working spaces, a local library or others –
but haven’t had the time? Do you have enough social interaction during
the workweek or is it time to join a meetup for freelancers? Are there
people you’ve been meaning to get to know, either because you like their
work or you think they can offer advice or insight about freelancing?
Find a friend in common who can introduce you to them or send them a
message. If you don’t have their email, try to contact them through
LinkedIn. Most people are generous if you don’t waste their time.
tune up is defined as “a general adjustment to insure operation at peak
efficiency” or “a process in which small changes are made to something
(such as an engine) in order to make it work better.”
of us who are happy and successful freelancers can benefit from a little
tune up every now and again. Although it takes self-discipline and
valuable time, it can help you gain better control of your life as a
freelancer and fulfill the freelance promise – to make a decent living,
do great work and get professional and personal satisfaction from your
“Freelancers’ Fall Checklist” was originally published on livingfreelance.org in September, 2015.