Emotions Unfelt In 22 Years of Home-Based Entrepreneurship: Seven Tips to Smart Soloing

Commentary PictureIn the 22 years I’ve been a home-based freelance writer, I’ve experienced two economic slumps (around 1992 and the dotcom bomb in 1999) – and one full-blown, butt-kickin’ recession.

And I’ve never feared the pink slip.

I never went scrambling to the Want Ads, and only once filled out a job application – for a contract gig with a freelance creative network.

For home-based entrepreneurs, this is the subtle, often overlooked, perk of soloing. Home-based entrepreneurs don’t fear being fired, at least in the traditional sense.

That’s not to say I’ve breezed through 22 years of business cycles with the detached aloofness of an obtuse, unsympathetic oaf. I’ve freelanced for media who’ve shed the jobs of friends too numerous to count. I’ve had clients fail, or worried as their Accounts Payable Department coffers have run dry.

I even had one client’s tab tear at my gut as it approached $15,000. Through thoughtful negotiations, understanding and patience, I watched as he paid me off – in full – over the next three years. I still work with him today (COD, thanks).

But I’ve never feared the summary termination or a budget ax that would leave me wondering where my next check would come from. (Truth be told, it helps that my wife is a nurse practitioner – a rock-solid career in a job market hungry for health care practitioners).

How can a freelancer keep a sane mind and healthy stable of clients – even as clients themselves pull back or close shop?

– Build that network and hone your brand. These are time-tested attributes in worrisome times. Through in-person meetings, online alliances and my social network via LinkedIn, my Facebook fan page (and the Twitter it feeds), people know me.

– Do damn good work. Every time.

– Ask for testimonials regarding that work product. Then post them generously, on your website, your blog, your fan page or Twitter feed. It ain’t bragging if it’s true.

– Be a professional. Beyond the work, carry yourself like a mature, market savvy expert. Don’t quibble or whine with clients. Set reasonable – even slightly higher than market rate – fees. And deliver the goods on time, every time – even early, if possible.

– Constantly learn and expand your offerings. Hone your skills, build on your own qualifications and always seek to offer more. Once just a writer, now I’m a “communicator” who provides social media and WordPress capabilities.

– Save for slow times. Slow-paying customers, belly-up clients, expenses that invariably exceed income (a maxim in business and life) – you’ll get hit by them all. Smart is the business owner who saves, both for retirement, and the rainy day.

Sure, entrepreneurship as a soloist is no guarantee of stability. Clients come and go. Receivables grow large and vexing. Sometimes you’ll get more nervous than you ever hoped you’d be.

But stay the course. Remain optimistic. And strive to retain your independence – and distance from the job application.

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