Here’s a great list of ten tips for starting and running a small business that also apply to freelance creators. Remember, freelancers are small business people. No matter how iconoclastic you are in your art, it doesn’t hurt to exercise some discipline when it comes to your studio.

At the top of the list, is Set Work hours and Stick to Them. I used to be a lot more disciplined about time management myself. Nowadays, I’ve been working 6 hours one day, and 14 hours the next. Not so good. I pulled out all of my time management training tapes and motivational tapes, and have been a lot more disciplined since January. But last year was a very disruptive one and I eroded my time management and personal discipline skills. So, it’s back to boot camp for me!

A rule I used to break all the time: Even when you really need the money, don’t take just any assignment. While I thoroughly reject the psuedo-mystical explanation provided in the article that “…the universe will take cues from your behavior and provide for you accordingly”, the Occam’s Razor explanation is simply that taking any old job for a buck is depressing, demoralizing, and likely to lead to more bad jobs simply because you won’t do your best work, and the best clients won’t see the work of which you are capable. If people only see second-rate work from you, then you will get second-rate jobs.

The longer you can keep your expenses low, you will be able to afford to take jobs that inspire you until you are on your feet and self supporting. Moving out on your own or getting a nice studio is great, but hold off on acquiring the trappings of success as long as you can. Keep your surroundings modest and try to only take work that allows you to do your best.

This is a REALLY important one: Communicate with clients to keep them happy, even when you mess up. When you are running behind schedule, or overbooked, or your cat died, it’s important to let your clients know if you are going to screw the pooch. They need to know where the project stands, so they can make other arrangements. Editors aren’t ogres. Many of them can squeeze a few extra days (or even weeks) out of a deadline, if you really need it.

What they can’t stand is the freelancer who simply drops out of sight, or, worse yet, the freelancer who treats them as if they are some kind of confession booth. Your editor is not your friend, they are not a psychiatrist. Don’t share every problem and setback. Just let them know you need more time.

If you are too open with your personal problems, the editor will begin to see YOU as the problem. Don’t run to your editor with every little thing: your annoying neighbor, the flu, the car had a flat, etc. These are things that happen in the normal course of everyone’s life, but when that is ALL the editor ever hears from you, they will eventually hear your name and think, “What is up with that loser, now?”

I used to be a lot more chatty about minor personal problems with my editors (and even online) but people have long memories, and they often remember only the bad stuff.

For example, sometime in 1994 or so, I had an accident and got chemical burns in my eyes. I am blind as a bat and picked up swimmers ear medication thinking it was my contact lens drops. The problem cleared up in about three months and there was no lasting damage. However, last year, an editor with whom I have never worked inquired about it, wondering if a twelve-year-old injury might impede my ability to get a job done! I had almost forgotten about it, but 12 years later, that editor had not.

And last year when I postponed a meeting with an editor by one day so I could get over a migraine, the editor’s first question was “Do you get those a lot?” Well, actually, no, but an editor is going to want to know if you have a lot of health problems or personal problems that will make meeting deadlines difficult.

Don’t tell your editor anything about yourself they don’t really need to know. If it’s not relevant to the job, it probably isn’t any of their business.

Editors can be great people, they may even be friends, but in the end, they are talking to you on company time on company matters. Behave accordingly.

Reposted and updated from the old blog. Hope it’s of use.

c