The flexibility that comes with freelancing often overshadows the hard work that comes with being one's own boss. Often, working for yourself also means answering the phone yourself, tirelessly promoting your service, and keeping your own books on top of delivering the job that you promised.
While you should always work towards your bottomline, it can't be denied that you also need to perform administrative and housekeeping duties to keep your gears moving efficiently. Of course, you will find a way to delegate those tasks once you have become big enough to hire others, but in the meantime, your freelance business is a one-man show. So whether you are cut out for it or not, you will have to do the math and the attendant tasks that go with keeping the money flowing into your coffers. There's plenty of must-dos, but first you need to keep grounded with the basics.
Survey the market rate to determine yours
Your prices need to be aligned with others who offer the same service as you do. Of course, you can go above or below the prevailing rates, but the difference should be negligible (from the client's point of view) lest you scare potential clients who might think you are way too expensive, or attract clients looking for excellent work at cheap prices. You also have to be clear whether you will do the project on an hourly or fixed-price basis. That way, your client would be able to approximate how much you will charge them and keep surprises of the bill to a minimum.
Be clear with your collection policies
Freelancers often lose out big even on paltry projects because they often assume, incorrectly, that after a work has been done and there is no feedback coming from the client, they can expect to be paid within a reasonable amount of time. But it is risky to assume these things. First, how long is a reasonable amount of time? Second, does no feedback translate to a satisfied client? To be clear about this process, it is essential that you agree with the client beforehand what constitutes satisfactory work and how long can you expect to be paid when work has been completed to the client's satisfaction. (It's also important to establish whether you should accept checks or payment by credit card.) Without clear rules regarding project completion and collection, it can be a needless back-and-forth to repeatedly remind delinquent clients.
Leave a (paper) trail
High-tech does not always mean paperless. In technology-driven Japan where toilets flush themselves, businesses still go the paper route because most of those in key positions grew up before the advent of the digital, paperless age. This is also true if you are dealing with clients who are comfortable leaving a paper trail. That said, you need to choose the kind of invoice that best reflects the services you render. It would help if you can order a stack of invoices that you can customize as your business needs, or personal preference, change. It's one less thing to worry about.
Respond to invoice questions promptly
Often, invoicing is an uncomplicated affair; it just gets potentially messy when you are dealing with multiple clients and facing multiple deadlines. It is important, however, that you deal with invoice issues as they arise as your clients have their own financial timelines to follow. Failure to do so might lead to delays which you cannot hold against the client.
Getting paid for a completed project can be hassle-free if you have given thought and taken the time to establish your invoicing policy. Many freelancers are often excited at the thought of getting paid at the end of it all that they forget to have their collection rules straightened out before they rolled their service off the delivery floor.