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Building your small business of one

Being a freelancer may seem worlds away from being a small business owner, but the truth is, they are two peas in a pod.

Sure, writing an article for an online publication at a per-word rate may feel very different from opening your own restaurant. The truth is, though, when you break it down, most freelancers operate as a tiny business with just one crucial employee — themselves.

With that entrepreneurial connection in mind, here are a few unique lessons that apply to both freelancers and their small business counterparts.

Always Be Learning

All professionals must maintain a growth mindset in the ever-evolving modern world. This is a lesson that business owners and entrepreneurs use to maintain cutting-edge knowledge of their industry and business operations. This allows them to not just survive, but thrive as they stand out against the competition.

For a freelancer with literally thousands of competitors in nearly every field, the importance of continuing education cannot be overstated. It doesn’t matter if you’re learning about a new collaborative tech platform, researching a recent case study in your niche, or following an industry authority to help you adapt and thrive during changes — learning new things is always important for success.

One of the key ways to do this, both for small businesses and freelancers, is to find ways to track and manage your growth. Regardless of the work you do, it’s important to cultivate this critical small business attitude that you should always be ready to take the next step in your professional evolution.

This especially applies to the COVID-19 crisis currently unfolding. Eighty-eight percent of small business owners have reported that the pandemic has affected their business operations. Many freelancers have had similar struggles as work has dried up and countless unemployed or furloughed individuals have flocked to the freelance market. While the challenges are real, disruption on this level tends to create countless opportunities to stand out from the competition, especially for those who are willing to stay positive, growth-oriented, and forward-thinking in their mindset.

Strive to Balance Administration, Passion, and Work

Both freelancing and entrepreneurship have suffered from a romanticism that has painted the lifestyles in rose-tinted light. However, the truth is that running your own business takes a lot of grit, tenacity, and willingness to do the dirty work that no one else wants to do.

For instance, a business owner who opens up a coffee shop is aware of the fact that while they may be able to indulge their personal interests by sourcing beans, training baristas, and having access to unlimited cappuccinos, they also must be willing to roll up their sleeves and tend to a host of other responsibilities. They must tend to everything from accounting and marketing to cleaning their shop, whether they want to or not.

Similarly, a freelancer must be ready to balance their passions, their workload, and their administrative duties. A freelance writer, for instance, will likely enjoy the freedom to creatively write regularly. However, they must also be ready to market themselves, pursue new gigs, and even regularly edit and proofread their own writing.

Additionally, they must be ready to tend to dull administrative tasks on every level. Just a few examples include:

● Regularly invoicing clients

● Keeping track of taxes and paying them on time

● Reading and understanding contracts, regulations, and other legalese

A willingness to tend to the nitty-gritty work of running your own business (even a business of one) is critical for small business owners and freelancers alike.

Remember that the Buck Stops with You

Finally, a small business owner knows that the buck stops with them. They aren’t afraid to take calculated risks and assume responsibility as they look for ways to answer daily challenges and build a successful enterprise over time.

This willingness to lead and be decisive is easier to maintain when you know that everything in your business depends on you. As a freelancer, though, this critical level of responsibility can often be missing. This can be both because you’re working with clients who share responsibilities with you, as well as a steady turnover in clientele. This apathy can make it easier to shift into the mindset of an employee rather than a boss.

However, if you want to succeed over the long-term, you must assume responsibility and take chances when necessary. Meet deadlines, communicate with clients, and remember that you and you alone are the face of your company.

Building a Freelance Business

If you’re a freelancer, you’re also a small business owner. As the leader of an army of one, you must operate with the boldness, balance, and eagerness of any entrepreneur. Always be ready to learn and grow, don’t procrastinate on the boring and undesirable work, and, above all, remember that the buck really does stop with you.

Noah Rue Noah Rue is a journalist and a digital nomad fascinated with the intersection between global health and modern technology.