The Death of a Freelancer

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll notice that I’ve been talking about redoing the way I run my business for a long time. I feel like that time has finally come, especially as things have gotten much more complicated since I moved to London.

I’ve been freelancing for well over two years now and over the years I’ve continued to raise my rates to offset my schedule, but it seems I’m still having issues with over-scheduling myself. I’ve now started sending work off as referrals, as well as managing projects with subcontractors, which isn’t something wanted to deal with.

Scheduling

I’ve always scheduled projects in week long blocks and have gone from one client a week to two, to three and now to four or more. Normally only half the clients I’d schedule in for the week would actually be ready to start work, so it always worked out well – until I moved to London. I’m pretty sure it’s the combination of over-scheduling and not being productive in my first month or two of my move, but suddenly things have gotten out of hand. I’ve been working 13 hour days and have given away half my work and I still haven’t been able to catch up. Now it’s halfway into week 1 of my holiday and guess what? Yep, I’m working full days.

From now on, I’m going back to work with 1 client a week. I’ll still schedule in week blocks, which means I’ll most likely end up working on revisions of the previous week’s work while starting a new project, but it should free up a lot of time and make things less stressful. More free time means more time I can spend learning new development practices and finally being able to enjoy England. I’d also like to be able to spend more one-on-one and in-person time with clients.

New Rates

Reducing my workload means I’ll need to raise my rates. Project/weekly rates will now start at $2,000. If you’re thinking about doing the same, all you need to do is figure out how much you need to charge with the new amount of client work to make the same as you do now. Don’t forget to subtract some weeks for taking holiday as well.

Charging a bit more will give me more time to spend on the client, producing better code and in turn, producing a better website. Especially since responsive development and mobile testing now take up a lot of time. I’m also hoping it will help to filter out undesirable projects and clients and leave space for the really enjoyable ones.

What I Want To Do

I’ve realized that I’m no longer excited about the work I do anymore. I wake up and groan and have to drag myself to my office. I’ve realized that I haven’t been as picky as I should be when selecting projects and instead having been taking projects solely based on price. The majority of the designs I work with aren’t good enough for my portfolio, or exciting. This has to change in order to avoid burning out. This means I’ll most likely end up losing a lot of my current client base, but I feel it’s for the best. I feel like I can’t give my best work if I’m not excited about the project.

I’ve recently gotten contacted for doing work for several large brands and this is an avenue I’d like to pursue more. They normally have bigger budgets, which means better designers and sites that are more fun to code. Another perk to freeing up my schedule is allowing time to focus on these clients and to ensure I can get them scheduled when they need it.

I also want to work on more industry projects with some of my favorite designers and developers. I’ve already signed up to talk at a couple of conferences and am excited to move into this stage of my career. I’ve been thinking about setting up a co-op in London to team up with others. I’ve already got a great list of developers and designers I work with daily, it would be great if we could all rent office space together and continuing referring work to each other. But this is more in the future.

What I’m Looking For

My niche has always been working with designers and agencies only. I love this niche and want to continue in this field, but I also want to work on some projects that fall in my range of hobbies, especially for knitting, interior design and reading. I know I would love to be able to wake up in the morning and stare at photos of beautiful books and yarn all day! I’ve already got a large author focused client, but this is a niche I’m probably going to have to actively get out and find work in.

I no longer want to manage subcontractors. I’ve never been a good project manager anyways. Instead I’ll simply send all of the projects I don’t want to other developers and let them take over.

Death of a Freelancer

I love being self-employed. It allows me to make the kind of money and control the projects and schedule that I could never have working for someone else. But it’s time to graduate from freelance 101 and move into something more refined and more permanent. While I definitely don’t want to lose that personal feeling of my business, I no longer want to act like the typical ‘freelancer’ who works all day and night, taking every project possible. I want something more focused and more enjoyable for both me and my client. I want a professional business.