I am not usually a huge fan of Chinese proverbs, but there are one or two exceptions to this rule. Take the notion that even when you have made it 90% of the way down a chosen path, you are still only halfway towards achieving your goals. This underlines just how difficult it is to accomplish anything tangible or worthwhile, and taming the last 10% requires stamina, mental strength and a degree of critical thinking no matter what you are attempting to achieve.
Whether you are looking to forge an investment career or mount an attempt to rival the career of sports stars such as Lionel Messi, the right mind-set will help you to bridge the gap between good and great.
Understanding the Importance of Mind-set
Given the challenging nature of Complex investment concepts such as ETF trading, investors offer an excellent example of this. After all, successful traders often work alone but are renowned for their wealth of knowledge, intuition and ability to think strategically, which just so happens the core attributes that are showcased by ambitious entrepreneurs. By aligning their mind-set with that of an entrepreneur, independent investors are able to introduce structure and forward planning into their work and steal a march on their rivals.
The same principle can be applied to a sole trader or freelancer. This individual is in charge of their own destiny, but a fundamental lack of resources places instant restrictions on their ability to maximise their potential. This is unless they begin to think like a business-owner, however, and determine creative ways of scaling their efforts and income over time.
Before you start burning the midnight oil in a bid to come with up with some ideas or adopt Donald Trump’s abrasive style of interaction, however, here are some practical ways in which you can begin to think like a business-owner (and a look at the main benefits of this).
1. Optimise The Value of Your Time
Most freelancers lose themselves in a meld of hysteria and disbelief when they see what can be earned when working on a contractual basis. While this is understandable, thinking in terms of income alone can actually place a low value on your time depending on what you are actually charging for.
Let’s take freelance writers, for example, who according to Econsultancy were the most in-demand demographic of contractors as recently as 2013.Many freelancers in this market are inclined to charge per word and this represents the mother of all false economies, however, and one that thinking like a business-owner can help you to negate.
Rather than thinking narrowly in terms of income and a specific rate per individual action, for example, a business-owner would make decisions based on profit and loss. More specifically, they would consider every element required to execute a specific task and generate a viable return, factoring in costs such as time and materials alongside labour, ensuring that a fair price is set for all.
From a freelancers’ perspective, the lesson is clear. Making the commitment to broaden your strategy and incorporate the idea of being profitable as a freelancer can have a huge impact on your earnings, as it empowers you to value your time rather than a single action. In simple terms, this means charging for every hour of your time and setting deadlines based on multiple job elements, including any research that needs to be undertaken and the time consumed by meeting with clients.
2. Don't Take The Word 'Sole' Literally
As a sole trader and freelancer, it is easy to consider yourself as a lone wolf with a sense of independence that can be both empowering and isolating in equal measure.
If you were to think like a business-owner, however, you would consider your freelance career from an entirely different perspective. While you would still assume responsibility for your strategy and the quality of the work that you deliver, for example, you would look to delegate technical or operational tasks that have the potential to detract from your everyday schedule.
Let’s start with the need for an accountant, as while the basics of freelance accounting (such as National Insurance contributions and VAT repayments for those who earn in excess of £82,000 per annum) are well-known, there are other complexities to consider. You must also have an infrastructure that enables you to retain at least 20% of your income for tax purposes. This requires the skills of an experienced accountant, who can manage your income in a compliant way and optimise your earnings over time!
3. Be Your Brand and Market Yourself Aggressively
If you are familiar with the modern concept of App Store Optimization (ASO), you will know that there are now a number of tools dedicated to improving the online visibility of branded applications. This adds yet another dimension to the constantly evolving concept of business marketing, as brands and entrepreneurs compete to earn their marker share!
Now, compare this level of attention to detail with your own marketing efforts as a freelancer. Other than the occasional venture onto LinkedIn and a sporadic outreach to referral clients, how many of you have the time or desire to establish a vibrant personal brand or market your skills aggressively?
It is crucial that you align your mind-set with that of a business-owner, who understands the importance of marketing and the development of a consistent and affirmative brand. By investing time (and perhaps even some money) into these endeavours, you can optimise your reach as a freelancer and even drive a higher volume of repeat business.
You should kick-start this process by defining your personal brand with a number of values and emotional attributes, which can underpin your marketing efforts and help you to identify the unique value proposition that you offer to clients. This will bleed into every marketing technique that you use, as you look to deliver a consistent message and target clients who have a demand for your service.
So, what are your thoughts on this topic? Are you a freelancer struggling to make the most of your time, or do you already treat your career like a small business? Either way, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below!