What you have there is a very important question... One which I asked myself many years ago...
Unlike Scott, I
DO worry about it to be honest.
However like others, I didn't want my answer to be so long but then once I started typing, I couldn't stop...
There are mainly two types of freelancers.
- Part time
- Full time
The main source of income for
Part time freelancer doesn't come from freelancing. They have some other source for monthly income. Be it 9 - 5 job, Or other
Part time jobs. I used to fall in this category earlier.
Full time freelancer on the other hand have no other option for their monthly source of income other than freelancing.
The answer to your question will depend on what kind of freelancer are you and what are your plans with freelancing as a career.
Before we visit both of them, here are some common points which are applicable to both of them. I call them
my 10 commandments :)
- Keep On Learning
- Time management
- Good Communication Skills
- Meet Deadlines
- Self Motivated
- Attention to details
- Strong Work Ethic
- Under Commit, Over Deliver
You have to be very disciplined about these 10 commandments to be a successful freelancer. I have explained them at the end of the post.
Not sure what you meant by email in your question but having an email as mentioned is not a part of being disciplined. Replying to emails of clients/vendors/peers/bosses etc on time is though a part of being disciplined.
Now let's understand what Part/Full time freelancing is. This is important so that you understand how and on what you need to discipline yourself.
Part time freelancing
If you are into
Part time freelancing then you have two more questions which will decide what kind of discipline, you need to follow besides the
- Do you just want to
Part time freelance?
- Do you want to finally move from
Part time to
Full time freelancing?
Based on the above two questions, the answer to your question may vary.
If you just want to be a
Part time freelancer then your focus would be slightly different. You set your expectations with your clients in a different way. The clients know that you will not be available for a specific period of time... be it specific hours in a day or specific days in a week and so on. So you have the liberty/luxury to play around with the time that you have. Please note that this is not the same as
Time management from the above 10 commandments. In such a case, it's very rare that you commit a specific date and time for delivering the project. You will always give approximate date and time. And if you do commit then that is the biggest mistake that you would be making. I agree that most of the time you would be able to deliver. But remember, this is
NOT your main source of income. You never know what might impact your freelancing and affect your deliverables. A reputation once lost is almost impossible to regain.
If you want to finally move from
Part time freelancer to
Full time freelancer, then you need to start behaving like one. And that means you start taking the 10 commandments very seriously. Set specific hours in a day that no matter matter what, you will dedicate to freelancing. Now it is not necessary that you will have a project during those specific hours. So what do you do? You plan! You hone your skills! You Learn! And this is where the commitment from the 10
commandments come into play.
Full time freelancing
What I suggest/mention below is what I do... is what I follow...
Full time freelancers have no where else to go to. Freelancing is the only thing that they know and which will bring
dinner to the table. Once you understand this fact then you really don't
NEED to worry about
discipline! It will automatically come... Trust Me!
A full time freelancer follows the 10 commandments
religiously. And that is the discipline he/she needs.
Explanation of 10 Commandments in detail
Commitment is not to be confused with meeting deadlines. Commitment is your pledge towards the cause of freelancing. It should be your religion! Your faith! There should be no scope of any lax towards your commitment
Keep On Learning
The career field is constantly changing. The worst thing that you can do is assume that you’ve know everything. I once learned from someone that
“You are never too old to learn and you are never too young too teach“
And if you want to remain in the competition or eventually grow then you have to constantly be in the process of
This plays a very important role. With me serving over 145 clients in 7 continents (Yes, including Antarctica!), it becomes essential that you plan your time to cater to all different timezones in the most effective possible. If you won't then someone else will...
Good Communication Skills
Fortunately, English is almost globally accepted. Ensure that your English is good or at least easily understandable. You should be able to communicate and exchange ideas effectively. It's good for building a healthier relationship for the future. Please remember that you are not only aiming at just one project but all future projects. Be humorous. Most of the time this breaks the ice. One of my favorite lines as mentioned here
Please remember I am not only aiming at your current project but all your future projects ;-) Humorously put; I want to take all your money :)
Missing a deadline is unpardonable if you want to take freelancing seriously. I understand that there could be moments when you might miss the deadlines. In such a scenario, update the concerned party immediately and re-set your expectations. There is nothing worse than missing a deadline and not informing.
There would be moments when you won't have a project. Don't get disheartened. Simply utilize your time to perhaps improve on your sales pitch... or creating new business opportunities... or simply revisit the current strategies and improve on them. Be innovative in whatever you do.
Attention to details
Ask questions if you do not understand. Ensure that you understand the requirements correctly. This will not only help you achieve your target of completing the project but also delivering over and above what was asked for. In many scenarios, I came up with suggestions which were not part of the project. This only ended up helping me building up my credibility as a consultant and not to mention client paying me some unexpected handsome bonuses.
This doesn't need explaining, I hope? Be honest to yourself. Don't take the client for a ride. You can easily loose the client.
Strong Work Ethic
No matter what anyone says, never bill for hours which you didn't toil for. If you worked for 10 hours then only bill for 10 hours! Maintain a strong work ethic.
Under Commit, Over Deliver
When you makes ambitious claims and promises and then fail to live up to them, you end up with irate and disappointed clients. There is nothing better than a client who ends up pleasantly surprised after hiring you. Exceeding customer/client expectations is awesome and good for business.