Freelancing always booms in times of adversity or uncertainty

İpek Tüzün
İpek Tüzün

Meet Ben Taylor who is the Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com. As well as running the site, he is a freelance writer and IT consultant and provides coaching for new freelancers via his Freelance Kickstarter course. Ben lives in the UK with his wife and two sons, and runs a self-improvement blog called TinyLittleChanges.com in his spare time. Check out our interview with Ben to learn more about his opinions on freelancing and entrepreneurship.

1- Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your job.

I’m Ben Taylor, and I’m the Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com, a site that provides ideas and advice to remote workers and freelancers.

I’ve been a freelancer myself since way back in 2004. I’m a big fan of the lifestyle and work/life balance it can give you.

I started HomeWorkingClub in 2017 to provide honest and realistic advice about all aspects of home working and freelancing. There are a LOT of sites on the subject (especially now!) but few focus on sharing the good AND the bad. I guess that’s my “USP:” I like to tell it like it is and not sugar-coat things for the sake of selling products and courses.

In terms of my job, it splits into two parts: I’m still a freelancer myself, so on some days I’m writing articles for clients or doing IT consultancy jobs. But the bulk of my time these days is spent on the site, creating product reviews and guides, recording episodes of my podcast, replying to LOTS of reader emails asking for freelancing advice, and many other site-related tasks.

I know a lot of people think that maintaining a blog is all about writing, but that’s probably only 20% of it.

2- What are the most significant pain points of freelancers? What are the ways to solve these problems?

The first one I always mention is “feast and famine” – the fact that work tends to come in fits and starts. You’re often either drowning in work or wondering where the next contract is coming from.

There’s no easy answer to it. You need to get used to living with that uncertainty. Thankfully it gets easier over time. You learn that you can have faith that the boom times usually return. Unfortunately, that often tends to happen one day before or after you’ve reached the end of your tether!

Late payment is another pain point. I have a bit of a controversial view on this: Even though late payment is a big problem for freelancers, many don’t help themselves. It’s crucial to get invoices out efficiently and ensure that they’re detailed and accurate. Staying on top of credit control, which basically means chasing payment the moment it’s overdue, is also very important.

I don’t deny there is an industry-wide issue with late payment, but freelancers who send vague and non-specific invoices at random points in the month aren’t entirely blameless.

3- You have worked as a freelancer, and now you are an entrepreneur. How did you make this transition? What do you recommend for freelancers who are now planning to grow their businesses?

The first step I’d suggest is to work out how you can move away from a model where you’re purely selling your time. However high your hourly or daily rate, you’re capping your earning potential if you’re selling hours or days.

I still do freelance work myself, but wherever possible I try to work on a “job and finish” basis for each project. This can be as simple as a writer quoting per article or per word, rather than having to justify every minute spent on a project.

Moving further forward than that, you need to think about what you can build that you actually own. When you’re selling freelance services the money stops when you stop doing the work. In contrast, if you start a site of your own or start selling products, that’s YOURS. Not only is there the potential for passive income, but you’re also creating a sellable asset.

That’s broadly how I’ve done it myself, and it’s involved plenty of periods where I’ve had to tweak the balance. Sometimes circumstances allow me to concentrate solely on my own projects, but at others, it’s been more prudent to jump on a freelance opportunity for the guaranteed income.

The wonderful thing for freelancers is that you CAN do this. With time and effort, a part-time side gig can eclipse your freelance income, and your need to earn it.

Another big thing I’d recommend is hiring a freelancer yourself. What could you outsource to free up more of your own time? Either for your own projects or simply to free up time to take on more work.

3- As remote work is becoming more common among companies, how do you think it will impact the future of work? Do you think the freelance economy will grow faster in the future?

Freelancing always booms in times of adversity or uncertainty. Companies still need things doing, and hiring freelancers instead of full-time staff eliminates a huge amount of risk and commitment for their businesses.

On the other side of the equation, you have people who have moved into freelance work – perhaps initially because it seemed like there was no other option. In my experience, once people get a taste for the lifestyle, they’re reluctant to return to having a boss and a fixed schedule.

The freelance marketplace is growing and will continue to grow. I have no doubt about that.

4- After COVID-19 lockdowns, many professionals have started to work remotely and started freelancing as a side-gig. What’s your opinion on this? How do you think this will impact the classical employee-employer organization?

I’m not entirely sure this is that new. What has changed is that progressive businesses seem more willing to accept it. They’re starting to understand that a side project could give staff more ideas and experiences.

However, for each individual, there likely comes a point where they have to decide which path to take. A senior position in a company won’t leave much time for meaningful freelance work. That said, ramping up a freelance business while you have the certainty of some income from a traditional job is a valid strategy for many.

5- Do you have any suggestions for freelancers who are working with corporate companies and teams?

Find out who you need to phone in the finance department if your invoice needs paying!

Joking aside, although that’s not entirely a joke, it’s important to learn about the company’s culture and what makes it tick. Try to understand the company as a whole, and not just what you need to know to do the work you’re being paid for.

If you comprehend the bigger picture, you’re in a better position both to suggest things and to add flair to your work. That usually leads to more work. Find out what problems the client has and work out ways to solve them. That’s the way to build a long-term partnership.

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İpek Tüzün

İpek Tüzün is a human being, digital marketing person, writer, researcher on the future of work, and sci-fi fan based on earth.