I have been freelancing for 10 years this year. These are the rules I live by. Some I made up, some were taught to me, all are subjective depending on a number of variables BUT none are to be ignored.
1. Never drive a car nicer than your client. THIS RULE IS #1 FOR A REASON. When you pull up to a shoot in a car nicer than your client, what message do you think you are sending? You are screaming at the top of your lungs "YOU ARE PAYING ME TOO MUCH!" It does not matter the actual circumstances surrounding how or why you are driving what you drive...if you pull up in a Benz and your client is driving a beater Toyota Camry it isn't going to end well for you.
2. Freelance is a lifestyle. This ain't no 9-to-5...if you aren't actually "working" then you should be prospecting for the next project. If you aren't prospecting you should be invoicing. If you aren't invoicing....see where I am going with this? To be a successful freelancer, you need to make the conscious decision to live your work. **Note: I am not talking in an unhealthy way. You CAN still have a work/life balance. It just isn't going to be encapsulated in a I-only-have-to-work-when-everyone-else-is-working kinda box.
3. Find someone else to do your taxes. You. Aren't. Good. At. Taxes. Almost invariably you didn't keep as good of records as you should have as well. Don't waste the time trying to prep and file your own taxes. You will do it wrong. **If you are local to the Twin Cities and need recommendations of people to help you with your bookkeeping or tax prep/filing just email me.
4. Word-of-mouth isn't a marketing plan. It is fantastic you have garnered some or maybe most of your projects by word-of-mouth. But that is not marketing. That is not advertising. It is a "system" if we can call it that, with an end date. Eventually you will need to do more than sit back and wait for the next project to just magically appear. May as well start when you aren't desperate for work.
Stay tuned for the next installment of "10 Rules for Freelancers to Live By!"