I started Dirt and Rust back up at the end of July 2011 and it’s been an amazing learning experience. The key factor I’ve found that is going to make my business grow is speed, how fast can I get work done and how fast can I communicate to get what I need to get that work done.
Of course you first need to care about what you’re doing. Merlin Mann says it best:
Before you sweat the logistics of focus: first, care. Care intensely.
My top priority is building things that help people. In order to help I have to care and to care I must do quality work.
The systems I use to do quality work are:
Basecamp is quite simply better than email for storing and then searching for communications about a project. Emails you send through it are stored in it and threaded by subject for easy reference. Can’t remember if you sent a proof to your client? Check Basecamp to make sure. Add multiple stakeholders to a project and even work with external contractors all at once and tailor each message to the appropriate parties.
HarvestApp is awesome estimate/invoice software, and it will be a world beater once it gets Xero integration. For now it does great timetracking through the Mac desktop widget and you can report on your time spent per project or multiple project for almost any timeframe; helps me understand where my inefficiencies are.
Skype. I love Skype. It allows me to work with clients who aren’t in Auckland but gives me the connection I need with the client to build trust. Trust makes projects go so much better.
The biggest stressor for any business is cashflow and I’m not going to lie, I’m a “self-funded” business so I’m in the red much of the time.
Recurring billing of clients helps bolster this so I highly recommend finding clients that want to put you on retainer (benefits them so they know how much they spend with you each month) and clients that want to give you regular work.
I know, easier said than done, but I’ve found being available on Twitter has brought me the most clients. My next step is to actually approach medium sized companies for recurring billing arrangements and to “systemise” my services a bit more so projects are repeatable instead of unique. This helps with estimating as well.
In general, the first 100 days have been about trying to get it all in – Sales, Marketing, and even redesigning this website so it sells my services better. It’s a constant process and I’m not nearly done yet, but I’m looking forward to getting into a groove in the next 100 days.
What has your experience been as a freelancer/entrepreneur? Tell me about your business in the comments. I want to learn from you!