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Five years ago this week, I left my agency job, and hung up my own shingle. I had been freelancing on the side for years, but this time, my income was all me. I had to show up and grow up. I made it this far, and this is a little of what I learned.

Know how fast you work, and when you work best. Keep track of the time that you work. Have a place to go and do work — and keep the work there. Don’t work during family time. Work to live, not vice versa.

This is a business. Know a lawyer. Write and enforce your contracts. Get insurance. Get paid. Pay your vendors and taxes on time.

But don’t use business-talk. Communicate openly. Don’t be a jerk. When people hire you, they don’t want to feel dumb for doing it, so don’t make them feel dumb. Be pleasant to deal with, inexpensive, and deliver on time. (Pick two.) Don’t make your email signature too long.

Trust your gut. There’s no link for that one.

Money, honey. Know what you’re worth. You get what you pay for. If you don’t feel at least a little bit bad about the estimate you’re sending to someone, you’re probably not charging enough.

You’re only as stressed as you want to be. You’re not saving lives, here. Realize that in the grand scheme of things, this campaign or website or ad is just going to be a distant memory of electrons in a few years.

Get to know your brain. Write things down to remember them now, not remember them later. Keep lists. Make stuff.

Things could be a lot worse. Know that you’re privileged to do the work that you do. Encourage others to do the same.

Here’s to the next five. Or fifteen. Or fifty.

Posted November 19, 2012. Tagged: ,


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