I started working from home seven years ago. I have no other source of income. Writing, editing, and SEO is what I do to support myself and my family. Over the course of the last seven years, I’ve learned a lot. Here are seven key lessons in no particular order.
If You Hire Family, Learn to Separate Business from Family
If you can’t do this, don’t hire them. And understand that even if you can manage to separate the two doesn’t mean that others can do it. These relationships don’t always work out. It doesn’t matter if you hire family members as employees or contractors, either. Your business should never get in the way of your family relationships. I’ve hired family members as contractors. It did not work out. We are still on good terms. They went on to do their own thing. Also, you are not required to hire your family members. People will try to convince you otherwise “because you’re family.” You’re also not required to complete projects for family members for free or for a discount or for your regular price. If you don’t want to work with or for them, you’re under no obligation to do so no matter how often they call you, how busy you are, or for any other reason.
If You Work with Your Spouse, Understand the Power of Your Words
I’m a single-member LLC. I own the LLC. Legally, it is my business. From that perspective, I do not have a partner.
With that said, I understand the power of my words. My husband works with me. He does not work for me. Does he ask me questions about projects? Yes. Do I make the final decisions if one needs to be made? Yes because it’s my name and my business associated. However, he is not my subordinate. He is not beneath me. We work together.
You Do Not Have to Say Yes to Every Project or Proposal
In fact, saying yes to everything is a great way to fuck up your business and your life. Now, initially, I said yes to most everything within my wheelhouse as long as I felt like I could (a) get the job done and (b) get along with the client. I wanted to accomplish two things:
- Get feedback on Upwork (then known as oDesk)
- Fill my schedule
I think that, initially, most freelancers do this, especially those of us using freelance platforms. We need that feedback because it shows other clients that someone has taken a chance on us and we did a good job. We all start with the fear of “Why would anyone hire me? There are all of these other experienced people on the platform…” It’s hard to think that anyone would want to act as a guinea pig for someone inexperienced on the platform.
The problem with saying yes to every project or proposal is that you eventually become overworked and underpaid. You miss out on projects you want to do. Learn to say no. Learn to pick and choose as time goes on.
Related: Upwork Client Training 101
Self-Discipline & Time Management Are Keys to Success
This is something that never wins me any friends. If you have no self-discipline and no time management, you will not be successful. At anything. The good news is that you can build these skills if you are willing to practice them. They are habits. However, if you sit around and tell yourself that you cannot do it, then you’re right. Like anything else, if you practice them daily and build on them, you can do it.
Get off social media. Turn off the TV. Put that time to better use. I know it is hard. Your brain also knows it is hard. Your brain is addicted to the scrolling and the colors flashing. Set a schedule. Stick to it. Stick to it even when it is hard. Do a time study and learn just how much time you are wasting on absolute bullshit. Start weaning yourself off of it. Use that time to work on your business instead. Most of you will not do a time study because you’re absolutely afraid to see how you waste your time.
No One Has to Hire You, Just Like You Don’t Have to Buy from Any One Store
I’ve never understood, in my seven years of doing this, why so many freelancers bitch about how no one wants to hire them…like it’s a giant fucking conspiracy theory or something. No one is out to get you or to keep you from being successful. No one has to hire you, just like you are not forced to buy your goods from any one particular store. Just because you decide to go into business for yourself doesn’t guarantee success. So, if something doesn’t seem to be successful, change how you’re doing it.
- Your profile probably needs to be optimized. I spent a lot of time in the past reviewing profiles for free and providing suggestions on how to optimize them for potential clients. The response from freelancers? “I don’t want to rewrite my profile. Why should I have to do that?”
- You need to write your profile in a way that speaks to the potential clients and to their needs…not in a way that talks about how awesome you are. Yes, I know how awesome you think you are. I think I’m awesome, too. Clients don’t care about “I” language. They get that shit in resumes all the time.
- You need to change how you write your proposals. I’ve written about that, too. I’ve told freelancers that and sent them personalized suggestions. They write me back about how they “tried it.” I ask to see what they sent…they send me what they send out and they never change what they originally send. I point that out and their response is how they don’t think they should have to change. Well, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
If you want people to hire you, think about what people would need to do if you were hiring. That, friend, is how you write. It is how you interact with them. You wouldn’t want people writing HIRE ME NOW. PLEASE HIRE ME. I AM THE BEST. Hell no. You’d go the other way (if you’re smart).
Basic Courtesy Opens a Lot of Doors
I’ve said this probably a dozen times here and probably a million times on Twitter. Basic courtesy will take you to a lot of places. I can’t tell you how many times just being nice gets me hired or establishes a relationship (on Twitter) that eventually results in either a new client or a referral. I answer questions from lawyers (my main demographic) about social media, SEO, writing, whatever even if they don’t pay me because eventually, they will hire me or refer someone to me. Could I charge them? Sure. I’m sure I could. I’ve reached that level over the last seven years, but this method has worked so incredibly well that I’d be an idiot to change it.
Don’t Be a Douche on Social Media
As a writer, I get some liberty to be really weird and opinionated on social media. But a quick aside: terms of service are terms of service. Don’t get it twisted with 1A. 1A protects you from the government, not from terms of service. Even I got hit by Facebook and had my fan page taken down. Please like the new one. You agree to terms of service when you sign up with whatever social media provider you use. So did I. So, even for me, it was what it was. It sucked…but whatever. I still have this site. I still have Twitter, Instagram, my podcast, YouTube (that I barely use, ha), etc. Right? Anyway….
It is okay to be opinionated. As a business owner, don’t be a douche. You can like or dislike whatever you want. I have friends on both sides of the political spectrum. I have many friends on each side that on some issues, we agree to disagree. Some, we discuss certain topics and we may still need to stop after awhile. On Twitter, some of us just don’t engage one another on certain topics. We just don’t. More importantly, you know what I don’t do and what they don’t do or I would not be friends with them on Twitter. A couple of them…we’ve helped each other get through some rough spots involving our elderly parents over the last couple of years.
Name calling regular folks is a no-no. Do I care if people make fun of politicians or name call them? I can’t say I care. I’ve even read some good jokes and memes on both sides. I’m burned out on politics, frankly, and have been for a while. I used to love to do political talks (funny ones) online. But…when it gets to name calling of any kind, no. You know what I will do? Defend others if necessary, but never name calling. I’ll use logic, though. If I have a particularly strong opinion, I will turn off the ability to reply. I’m not there to fight. You don’t have to fight, either. Ignore. State your opinion and move on. Don’t attend every fight you’re invited to attend.
Always keep in mind that regardless of your opinion, you will attract and repel potential clients. I’m sure I do as well. Just be as nice as you can while still being you. I’m an asshole, but I don’t go out of my way to be an asshole to others because of their personal beliefs or preferences unless their beliefs or preferences include being hateful to others.
There You Have It: My 7 Lessons in 7 Years
I hope you enjoyed it. Do me a favor. Subscribe here to the blog. Go like my new FB page. Follow me on the bird. Subscribe on Google Podcasts or Spotify or Anchor. or Wherever you listen to podcasts. And listen. Share this post. Save it to Pinterest. Do all the things. It helps the site grow, but more importantly it helps others who want or need to work from home (I needed to make it work) have the ability to do so. Look, there are a lot of expensive courses out there for freelancers. And good for those folks making money. I have a premium community, sure, but look at all the great free content here. I am planning a course but guess what? It’ll be available as a pay what you can…or a tip jar basis. I haven’t quite figured out how to do it yet which is why it isn’t up. It’ll be hosted on my other site or here once I move it to GoDaddy. I’m a big believer in the WFH model but, you know, I need everyone who wants to do it to understand that it isn’t to be romanticized. And if you want to support this site financially, click an ad or two or visit the Anchor site and donate. You can also go buy my book.