How To Manage Your Freelance Small Business and Master Freelancing in 2024

Author: Veruska Anconitano, freelancing since 2001Author information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is an experienced Multilingual SEO and Localization Manager and Consultant who has been freelancing for over two decades, making her well-versed in the field. Along with being a renowned journalist, she is also recognized for her contributions and has received numerous accolades. In addition to being an enthusiast of outdoor activities and food travel, Veruska co-owns several websites that cater to a global audience.
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Embarking on a freelance journey is like setting sail on an ocean that’s as rewarding as it is demanding, where each wave signifies novel opportunities for growth, understanding, and self-realization. Speaking from my seasoned experience of navigating these waters as a freelancer, I’ve plotted the vast coordinates of this terrain, gathering invaluable insights, wisdom, and a series of victories to celebrate.

Today, I bring you a meticulously curated guide that encapsulates all my experiences, learnings, and strategies to empower you to manage your freelance small business with confidence and expertise. This comprehensive guide is a compilation of suggestions and a roadmap formulated through years of hands-on experience, persistent efforts, and numerous triumphs. It stands as a testament to the countless hurdles faced and surmounted and the profound learnings derived from each

By distilling my freelancing journey into this guide, I seek to equip you with an arsenal of tested tools, practical tips, and robust strategies that you can employ to chart your course in the freelance landscape. The goal is not only to help you survive but to enable you to thrive, growing from strength to strength, from one victory to another. 

So whether you’re standing at the precipice of your freelance journey or looking for ways to enhance your existing freelance small business, this guide is designed to help you navigate the complex terrain with greater confidence, increased competence, and an enriched understanding of the freelance realm. With this guide as your compass, I invite you to embark on your freelance journey, ready to conquer challenges, seize opportunities, and celebrate every milestone.

Why It’s Important to Treat Your Freelancing Business Like a Small Business

Understanding the importance of treating your freelance work as a small business can open the door to opportunities and successes that may otherwise seem out of reach. This mindset shift, while seemingly simple, carries significant implications and potential benefits for your freelance career.

Seeing your freelance endeavor as a small business first changes your perspective, turning it from an individual gig or a series of separate projects into a unified, ongoing venture. This outlook encourages long-term thinking and strategic planning. You’re not just thinking about the project at hand but also about how it fits into your larger business plan, contributes to your portfolio, and builds your brand. You start setting long-term goals, identifying your target market, and branding your services to distinguish you from other freelancers.

Treating your freelancing as a small business also necessitates adopting key business practices, such as systematic financial management. As a freelancer, dealing with inconsistent income, tax implications, and budgeting can be a significant challenge. However, when viewing your freelance work as a business, you’ll likely invest more time and resources into managing your finances effectively. You’ll track income and expenses meticulously, budget for lean times, save for taxes, and maybe even seek professional financial advice – practices that lend themselves to financial stability and success.

Small business

In terms of client relations, this mindset shift is equally transformative. As a small business owner, you recognize the value of building strong, long-term client relationships. You understand that each client is not just a one-off project but potentially a repeat customer, a source of referrals, and a building block for your business’s reputation. You become more proactive in communicating, setting clear expectations, delivering high-quality work, and following up – all of which contribute to client satisfaction and retention.

Moreover, operating as a small business owner elevates your professional demeanor. You must present yourself professionally in every interaction on your website, social media, or direct communications. You understand that everything you put out contributes to your business image, reputation, and leadership skills.

Lastly, adopting the mindset of a small business owner can have profound effects on your personal job satisfaction and sense of achievement. You’re no longer just completing client tasks; you’re growing a business, building a brand, and contributing to your career in meaningful, lasting ways. You become more invested in your work, driving productivity and a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

In conclusion, treating your freelancing as a small business isn’t just a beneficial approach; it’s a game-changer. It has the potential to revolutionize your freelance operations, leading to long-term sustainability, growth, and success in your freelance career.

Time Management: The Cornerstone of Freelancing

In the realm of freelancing, time stands as an invaluable asset. As the sole commander of your ship, you possess the liberty to determine your working hours, an advantage that many yearn for but few truly enjoy.

Yet, the absence of a conventional 9-5 structure, a double-edged sword in its own right, can often propel you into the turbulent seas of inefficient time management, leaving you either drowning in an ocean of tasks or drifting aimlessly in periods of unproductivity. Hence, mastering the art and science of time management becomes pivotal to not just staying afloat but to charting a successful course in your freelancing journey.

In order to take the reins of your time and steer it effectively, consider adopting these strategies:

  • Forge a Schedule: Creating a defined work schedule is an anchor, offering stability to your otherwise fluid workday. Pinpoint the hours when your energy and productivity levels are at their zenith, and schedule your most demanding tasks during this window. Consistency is your compass, guiding you towards productive habits and reliable routines.
  • Hone your Prioritization Skills: When navigating the freelance waters, you will encounter a barrage of tasks, each demanding your attention. Here, a tool like the Eisenhower Box becomes an indispensable navigational aid. By classifying tasks based on their urgency and significance, this matrix allows you to focus your efforts where they are needed most, ensuring you stay busy and productive. Productivity apps are saviors, with Notion and SmartSuite topping the list of the best.
  • Maintain Laser-Sharp Focus: The allure of multitasking can often be beguiling, with many presuming it to be a productivity enhancer. However, studies suggest that by splitting your focus, you’re more likely to compromise the quality and efficiency of your work. Instead, practicing mono-tasking, concentrating wholeheartedly on one task at a time, can help you substantially improve your output and performance.
  • Utilize Time Management Tools: In the age of digitalization, an array of tools is at your disposal, waiting to be harnessed to augment your time management efforts. Platforms like Toggl and RescueTime can provide insights into your work patterns, enabling you to identify and minimize time-wasting activities. On the other hand, tools like Google Calendar can assist in keeping track of deadlines, setting reminders, and planning tasks effectively. Our list of the best time-tracking apps for freelancers includes many suggestions and products worth trying, two of which are Clockify and the all-in-one suite Freshbooks.

In the vast and often unpredictable ocean of freelancing, time management stands as your trusted lighthouse, guiding you toward your goals while helping you avoid potential pitfalls. By adhering to a defined schedule, prioritizing effectively, maintaining focus, and leveraging digital tools, you can navigate your freelance journey with a firm grip on your most precious resource – time.

Financial Management: Building a Solid Financial Foundation

While liberating, the journey of freelancing can often mirror the precarious balance of tightrope walking when it comes to finances.

The sporadic nature of income, the absence of employer-provided benefits, and the responsibility of tax management can transform financial management from a simple task into an intimidating challenge. However, with meticulous planning, structured organization, and strategic execution, you can lay the groundwork for a robust financial structure for your freelance small business.

To help you balance your books and thrive financially, here are some strategic pointers:

  • Maintain a Comprehensive Record of Income and Expenses: A key to effective financial management is keeping an accurate and detailed record of every cent entering and exiting your business. This gives you a clear overview of your financial health and aids in making informed financial decisions. Digital tools like Bonsai, Quickbooks, and FreshBooks can serve as your virtual accountants, automating the tracking of your finances and ensuring you always have a real-time snapshot of your economic landscape at your fingertips. Read our comprehensive guide on managing your finances while freelancing.
  • Budget with Foresight: Budgeting is a potent tool that, when wielded correctly, can significantly contribute to maintaining financial discipline. By setting aside specific funds for different business and personal expenses, you develop a roadmap for your spending. However, creating a budget is only the beginning; adhering to this financial blueprint is the real challenge. It might require self-discipline and strategic decision-making, but financial stability and growth benefits are well worth the effort. Learn how to save as a freelancer.
  • Prepare for Tax Obligations: As a freelancer, the baton of calculating and paying taxes rests in your hands. This responsibility might appear daunting, but with proactive planning, it becomes manageable. One practical step is explicitly setting aside a certain percentage of your income for tax purposes. By doing so, you avoid a last-minute scramble to meet your tax obligations and ensure you’re always prepared for tax season. Bonsai, Quickbooks, and FreshBooks are your alliances for keeping track of taxes and invoices, but if you’re looking for more suggestions, look at our guide to freelance invoicing.
  • Safeguard Your Future with Insurance: The freelance landscape is filled with unforeseen events that can lead to potential financial roadblocks. Therefore, investing in suitable insurance plans – whether health insurance protects against medical emergencies, life insurance to provide for your family, or professional liability insurance to guard against work-related claims – is a strategic move. These insurance policies can offer a safety net, shielding you from unexpected financial burdens and ensuring your business can weather any storm.
  • Build an Emergency Fund: Given the irregular income cycles often associated with freelancing, having a financial cushion to fall back on during lean periods is invaluable. An emergency fund can help you navigate periods of low income without jeopardizing your financial stability. Aim to save enough to cover at least three to six months of living expenses, giving you peace of mind and the freedom to focus on your work without the constant worry of an unexpected financial downturn.

By tracking your income and expenses meticulously, budgeting wisely, preparing for tax obligations, investing in insurance, and building an emergency fund, you can maintain your financial balance as you traverse the thrilling highwire of freelancing, ensuring you not only stay afloat but thrive in your freelance small business journey.

Tools and Resources: Harnessing Technology for Your Benefit

In the golden age of technology, we are graced with a myriad of tools and resources that can streamline and enhance our freelance business operations.

From simplifying task management to facilitating seamless communication, the digital world offers a vast toolkit that can be harnessed to optimize your freelancing practices:

  • Project Management Tools: The management of tasks can often be a juggling act. However, with the advent of project management platforms like Asana, ClickUp, Monday, and Bonsai, this complex act is transformed into a well-choreographed routine. These tools offer intuitive interfaces that allow you to organize, prioritize, and track the progress of your tasks. Their features include task assignment, scheduling, status updates, and even visualization of project timelines. These tools can boost your productivity and ensure you stay on top of your projects by offering a bird’s eye view of your tasks.
  • Communication Tools: In the world of freelancing, communication is a lifeline, connecting you to clients scattered across the globe. Tools like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams act as digital bridges, facilitating seamless and efficient communication and collaboration. Slack offers organized chat rooms and direct messaging, Zoom enables high-quality video conferencing, and Microsoft Teams combines chats, meetings, and file collaboration into a unified platform. These tools can enhance client relationships and project collaboration by breaking geographical barriers and fostering instant communication.
  • File Sharing Platforms: Sharing files – documents, images, or presentations – is critical to any freelance project. Platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive have simplified this process, offering secure and quick file sharing. With cloud storage, these platforms allow you to access your files from any device, anywhere, anytime. Furthermore, they enable multiple people to collaborate on a document in real time, making collaborative projects a breeze.
  • Time Tracking and Invoice Management Tools: One of the challenges of freelancing is managing your time and finances effectively. Tools like Clockify and ClickUp offer valuable insights into your work habits, helping you optimize your productivity. On the financial front, Bonsai, Quickbooks, and FreshBooks serve as comprehensive solutions, assisting with everything from tracking income and expenses to generating professional invoices and managing taxes. By automating these processes, these tools free up your time, allowing you to focus on what you do best – your freelance work.
  • Contract and Proposal Software: As a freelancer, you’ll frequently need to create and send proposals, and once a project is agreed upon, you’ll need a legal contract. Tools like Bonsai and can streamline this process, offering customizable proposal and contract templates that save you time and ensure you’re legally protected.

By leveraging these tech tools and resources, you’re simplifying your freelance operations and enhancing your efficiency, productivity, and professional image. They offer a helping hand, a guiding light, and even a lifeline, shaping your path in the dynamic world of freelancing and contributing to your freelance small business success.

Client Management: Cultivating Strong Professional Relationships

An integral cornerstone in the construction of a thriving freelance business is the art of effective client management.

The delicate dance of managing clients proficiently can lead to an influx of opportunities, word-of-mouth referrals, and a stable flow of income – essential elements in the composition of a successful freelance small business.

To orchestrate a flawless client management performance, consider these guidelines:

  • Foster Open and Regular Communication: Open lines of communication serve as the connective tissue in the body of any professional relationship. Regular updates, transparent discussions, and prompt responses build trust and a foundation for lasting professional partnerships. Clear and concise communication removes room for misunderstandings and ensures that you and your client are always on the same page.
  • Master the Art of Reading Client Expectations: A pivotal step in managing your clients effectively is understanding their needs, desires, and expectations. This understanding, akin to a compass, can guide your work toward a destination that meets and surpasses your clients’ expectations. To achieve this, listen actively to your clients, ask clarifying questions, and ensure you align with their vision from the project’s onset.
  • Leverage the Power of CRM Systems: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, like HubSpot or Zoho, serve as invaluable allies in managing client interactions. These digital platforms allow you to track correspondence, schedule follow-ups, and provide insightful data on your relationship with each client. With these systems, managing your expanding client base becomes less daunting and more strategic, enabling you to offer personalized service to each client.
  • Don’t Shy Away from Refining Your Client Base: Freelancing does not mean every client you work with will be the perfect fit. Situations may arise where you need to ‘fire’ a client. This could be due to numerous factors like mismatched expectations, late payments, or lack of respect for your boundaries. Recognize that it’s okay to part ways with clients who drain your time, energy, and resources. Prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to your client base. Learn when and how to fire a client politely but firmly.
  • Cultivate Long-term Relationships: While hunting for new clients is part of the freelance journey, don’t overlook the importance of nurturing long-term relationships with existing clients. Repeat clients can offer a steadier income and reduce the time spent onboarding new clients. Always over-deliver, maintain professional behavior, and show appreciation to your clients. 
  • Seek Client Feedback: To improve and grow, actively seek feedback from your clients. This shows that you value their opinion and offers insights into areas where you can enhance your services. Constructive criticism, though occasionally hard to swallow, can be the ingredient that propels your freelance business to new heights.

You can orchestrate a masterful performance in client management by communicating regularly, understanding client expectations, leveraging CRM systems, refining your client base, cultivating long-term relationships, and seeking feedback. This, in turn, can amplify your reputation, enhance your client relationships, and pave the way to a prosperous freelance small business journey.

Useful Products: Enhancing Your Productivity

Investing in products that bolster your productivity and foster a conducive work environment can act as a strategic move, planting seeds that yield a bountiful harvest of benefits in your freelancing journey.

Based on personal experience and careful research, I have curated a list of products that can be potent game-changers in your freelance small business:

  • Ergonomic Desks and Standing Desks: These ergonomic masterpieces allow alternate between sitting and standing postures, promoting movement and flexibility during work. Scientific studies have lauded standing desks for their ability to improve posture and alleviate back and neck pain, combating the sedentary pitfalls of desk jobs. Brands like Flexispot and Vivo offer a range of standing desks with adjustable heights and ample workspace.
  • Noise-Canceling Headphones: Maintaining focus can often be challenging in the bustling symphony of life. Noise-canceling headphones emerge as your sanctuary of serenity amidst the chaos. With brands like Sony and Bose offering advanced noise cancellation technology, these headphones can create a focused work environment at a bustling cafe or in your lively home office.
  • Portable Laptop Stands: Freelancing often goes hand-in-hand with mobility. Portable laptop stands cater to this need, offering a mobile ergonomic solution for your workstation. Lightweight yet sturdy, these stands elevate your laptop to eye level, encouraging good posture and reducing strain on your neck and shoulders. Brands like Nulaxy and Avantree offer compact, foldable laptop stands, perfect for working on the go but you can find more brands and products in our dedicated guide to laptop stands.
  • External Monitors: An external monitor can drastically enhance your workspace, offering a larger screen real estate for your tasks. This can be particularly useful when working on projects that require multiple open windows or intricate details. Dell and LG offer a range of high-quality monitors catering to different needs and budgets.
  • Quality Webcam and Microphone: As a freelancer, much of your communication with clients may be over video calls. Investing in a quality webcam and microphone can ensure you present yourself professionally. Brands like Logitech offer high-resolution webcams and microphones with clear, crisp sound quality.
  • Comfortable Office Chair: Long hours of work require a comfortable seat. An ergonomic office chair can support your back, ensuring comfort and reducing the risk of developing chronic pains. Brands like Herman Miller and Steelcase offer various chairs designed for prolonged usage.
  • Adjustable Lighting: Good lighting is often overlooked in a conducive work environment. Adjustable desk lamps can provide the optimal lighting required for your work while reducing eye strain. Brands like Wellwerks offer adjustable color and brightness controls, ensuring you have the perfect light for every scenario. We’ve found the best lights for the home office to consider for your working environment.
  • Coffee Maker: The significance of a quality coffee maker in establishing a productive workspace is often undervalued. Coffee makers with adjustable settings offer the flexibility to customize your brew strength and size, ensuring the perfect cup every time. Brands like Cusinart, De’Longhi and Mr Coffee provide coffee makers that allow precise control over the grind size, water temperature, and brew amount, giving you the ultimate coffee experience catered to your taste and need. Check our guide for the best coffee makers to buy for a home office.
  • Purifier: Investing in a good quality air purifier can significantly improve the air quality in your workspace, which can, in turn, impact your health, well-being, and overall productivity. Our favorite one is the Levoit Purifier with HEPA filtration, adjustable settings, and quiet operation, ensuring you have the cleanest air for every situation. Read our guide on the best purifiers for more information on how these devices can remove common pollutants and allergens, promoting a better environment and enhancing your work performance.

Investing in these products and even more work-from-home products and accessories optimizes your workspace and prioritizes your health and productivity. Remember, as a freelancer, you are the backbone of your business. Investing in your well-being and efficiency directly invests in your freelance small business’s success.

Stress Management: Balancing Work and Well-being

The often thrilling but unpredictable ride of freelancing can, at times, paint a stressful landscape. Tight deadlines, challenging clients, and the ceaseless hunt for fresh opportunities can create a whirlwind of stress and potential burnout.

That’s why understanding stress management is an essential aspect of running your freelance small business, as vital as your expertise in your chosen field. The lens through which you view stress can empower or ensnare you. So, how can you constructively manage stress and harness it to propel you forward? 

  • Embrace Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity is like opening a pressure valve to release stress. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, often touted as the body’s ‘feel-good hormones’, which act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Whether it’s an invigorating morning run, a midday yoga session, or a calming evening walk, find a form of exercise you enjoy and weave it into your daily routine. 
  • Incorporate Mindfulness Practices: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can serve as tranquil oases amidst the desert of stress. These practices foster a state of mindfulness, training your mind to focus on the present moment, thereby reducing anxiety and enhancing mental clarity. Apps like Headspace and Calm offer guided mindfulness practices suitable for both beginners and seasoned practitioners.
  • Adopt Regular Breaks: The fuel of productivity isn’t ceaseless labor but balanced effort. Interspersing your work with short, regular breaks can prevent burnout, re-energize your mind, and enhance overall productivity. Techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, which advocates for a five-minute break after 25 minutes of focused work, can be an effective method to structure your workday.
  • Establish a Dedicated Workspace: Creating a dedicated workspace is like building a tangible boundary between your work life and personal life. This separation can minimize stress by preventing work from encroaching upon your relaxation and personal time. Your workspace should be a place that fosters focus and productivity, stocked with all the necessary tools and devoid of unnecessary distractions.
  • Practice Positive Self-Talk: Your inner dialogue has a profound impact on your emotional well-being. During challenging times, remind yourself of your accomplishments and capabilities. Positive affirmations can boost your self-esteem and provide the motivation needed to overcome stress. 
  • Seek Support When Needed: Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. Whether confiding in a trusted friend, discussing challenges with a mentor, or seeking professional help from a therapist, expressing your concerns can provide a fresh perspective and actionable advice. Connecting and seeking mental support is the best way to avoid freelancing isolation. Mental health platforms like BetterHelp and Talkspace offer online counseling services, making professional help accessible from the comfort of your home.
  • Invest Time in Leisure Activities: Hobbies and leisure activities are like vitamins for your mental health, offering the necessary nutrients to boost your mood and alleviate stress. Whether reading a book, painting, gardening, or playing a musical instrument, find an activity you love and commit to spending time on it regularly.

By weaving these stress management techniques into the fabric of your freelance journey, you arm yourself with strategies to combat stress and cultivate a balanced lifestyle that promotes mental wellness. Remember, stress is merely one note in the grand symphony of freelancing. With the right approach, you can orchestrate a harmonious balance, making your freelance small business a journey of both professional and personal fulfillment.

Embrace the Voyage and Reap the Rewards of Freelance Small Business

Freelancing is far more than just a profession or a way to earn a living. It’s an adventurous, enriching voyage of continuous learning and expansive personal and professional growth. The terrain can undeniably be challenging, even daunting at times. Still, armed with the right set of tools, equipped with robust strategies, and driven by a growth-oriented mindset, you can deftly navigate the labyrinth of freelancing, steering your freelance small business towards success.

Each facet of this adventure plays a cardinal role in shaping your freelance experience. Time management, akin to the command of the ship’s wheel, directs the voyage, ensuring you stay on course amidst the waves of tasks and deadlines. Financial management acts as the compass, guiding your decisions and ensuring the sustainability and growth of your freelance small business. 

The arsenal of digital tools and resources serves as your navigational aids, simplifying complex processes, and saving you precious time and energy. Effective client management is the wind in your sails, powering your journey forward with a steady stream of work, positive referrals, and rewarding professional relationships.

Investment in useful products creates a conducive environment, a safe harbor that promotes productivity, comfort, and well-being. Mindful stress management practices act as anchors, grounding you amidst the occasional storm, preserving your well-being, and maintaining the balance necessary to keep your journey enjoyable and sustainable.

Each of these components interlinks, contributing to the intricate tapestry of the freelance small business journey. They invite you to dive into the experience, to embrace the journey with its ebbs and flows, and relish in the unique freedom and fulfillment that freelancing offers. 

Remember, each challenge is not a roadblock but an invitation for growth, a stepping-stone to greater resilience and capability. Each success you celebrate is not just a destination reached but a testament to your resilience, determination, and progress on this incredible journey.

So fuel your passion, commit to the voyage, and watch as you chart a unique path through the exhilarating world of freelancing. Embrace the adventure of running a freelance small business, cherishing every lesson learned, every milestone achieved, and every dream brought to life. Because, at the end of the day, the journey itself is the true reward.

Manage Your Freelance Business: FAQs

What is the first step in starting a freelance small business?

The first step is identifying your skillset and the services you intend to offer, then creating a business plan outlining your target audience, pricing, and marketing strategy.

How can I effectively manage my time as a freelancer?

Effective time management can be achieved by setting a regular work schedule, prioritizing tasks, staying focused on one task at a time, and leveraging tools like Clockify and ClickUp.

How should I handle financial management as a freelancer?

To manage your finances effectively, you should track your income and expenses, budget wisely, save for taxes, and consider insurance options to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances. Bonsai, Quickbooks, and FreshBooks can help you in managing your finances and invoices.

What tools and resources can assist in managing my freelance business?

Various tools can assist you, from project management tools like ClickUp, Monday, and Bonsai, to communication tools like Slack and Zoom, file-sharing platforms like Dropbox, and financial management tools like Bonsai, Quickbooks, and FreshBooks.

How can I effectively manage my clients as a freelancer?

Effective client management involves regular and clear communication, understanding client expectations, and using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) like Zoho system to streamline client interactions.

What products can enhance my productivity as a freelancer?

Investing in products like standing desks, noise-canceling headphones, portable laptop stands, and ergonomic chairs can increase your comfort and productivity.

How can I manage stress while freelancing?

Stress management can be achieved through regular exercise, mindfulness practices, taking regular breaks during work, positive self-talk, seeking support when needed, and investing time in leisure activities.

How can I ensure a steady income as a freelancer?

A steady income can be ensured by diversifying your client base, consistently marketing your services, maintaining good relationships with existing clients, and periodically reviewing and adjusting your rates.

Do I need to register my freelance work as a small business?

This largely depends on your local business laws. In many places, if you’re operating under your own name and reporting all freelance income on your taxes, you may not need to register as a business. It’s best to consult with a legal or tax professional.

How do I market my freelance small business?

Marketing strategies can include developing a professional website with a blog, leveraging social media platforms, networking with potential clients, and employing SEO strategies to enhance online visibility.

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