Follow these 10 Rules to Successfully Become Your Own Boss

Hint: You need structure to be a successful freelancer

Digital nomads are essentially mobile freelancers with an extra set of skills. So how do you set the foundation to become a profitable freelancer?

TLDR; — it takes structure and practice.

It is definitely NOT a gift given from the gods, or a personality you just have to be born into. Like all things in life — it’s something that, if you want it enough and are willing to put in the time, you can 100% become your own boss (and be profitable doing it ;).

The first thing I suggest doing is creating a structure for yourself. Whether you're someone who needs it or not — planning and preparation will always help rather than hurt you.

So follow these 10 Rules and you’ll be off to a good start with your freelancing career:

1. Create a Schedule

I understand — you quit your 9–5 so you didn’t have to adhere to a schedule. But, you’re still going to want to set up a schedule to handle your work-life balance.

One way I manage it is using a smart calendar software called Fantastical. You can easily set up reminders and tasks to sync to both your computer and phone. That way there’s no running away from your work.

That being said — you don’t want your tasks to be overflowing into your ‘off-time’ so make sure you set time off and stick to it!

Planning is key to becoming your own boss.

2. Prioritize Your Tasks

I like to think of this as a ‘calendar within your calendar’.

To elaborate — your calendar serves as your schedule. It tells you the days you should work on topics — maybe general things like Monday you bill clients, Friday’s are personal project days, and Saturday’s are days you grab a beer with friends and erase the word ‘work’ from your vocabulary.

Tasks are the SPECIFIC things you need to accomplish within a given calendar day. For example — say you’ve marked off Monday through Wednesday to work on a new website design for a client. Things can get pretty disorganized if that’s all you do to keep yourself in check. That’s why I use another software like Trello or Asana to list out the tasks on specific projects.

Therefore, my calendar tells me my timeline — like when are things due and what I should be working on for the day. And my Trello board tells me the actual tasks I need to get done on a specific project. With this flow, it’s easy to pop in and out of work and not spend so much time stressing on what you need to get done today.

3. Get Comfortable with Saying — NO

When you first start freelancing — you think you need to get as much work as possible, so you start accepting every job that comes your way.

But you shouldn’t accept so quickly!

Bad clients can linger for months or even years! You need to do your due-diligence on the client as much as they’re doing on you and your services.

Ask questions, trust your gut, and don’t ever let a client walk all over you (especially in the beginning). The early stages of dealing with a client will set the tone for how your interactions will be for the duration of your working relationship.

…which brings me to my next point:

4. NEVER Start a Project Without a Contract

Don’t say I didn’t tell you so!

Inevitably — everyone will do this. You will get burned, by someone not knowing how much you were charging, the client doesn’t have enough money, the work isn’t up to their standards, you thought they were reliable, etc. etc. etc.

No matter if it’s your BEST FRIEND you ALWAYS need to have a contract…and even better a scope of work document.

I use services like Prospero for proposals which serve as a mini-contract and then something like Bonsai for a more formal contract. They are super easy to make and will save you so much time and headache (not to mention money) from miscommunications.

5. Take Responsibility for EVERYTHING

You are responsible for all of the successes AND failures of your business.

I’ve met a lot of freelancers that tend to be the ‘victim’ types. They’re always getting screwed over by clients, or they never have enough work — something just always seems to be going wrong for them.

The problem is themselves.

When you become a freelancer, you’re saying that it’s time you want to work for yourself. And if you’ve never been a boss/leader before in your life, you’re going to have to learn quickly that you can’t blame the rest of the world for your failures. Even when things go wrong — it’s how you respond and react to them that will decide whether you’re successful or not.

If you continue to blame outside events you’ll create a vicious cycle of unhealthy work patterns.

There’s nobody responsible for helping or pushing you and all of the successes and failures that come to you are based on YOU.

6. Allocate Time for YOU

Often times, when your business first gets rolling — you’ll spend every waking moment of your day working or thinking about your work.

This can be a quick path to burnout and you’ll begin to wonder why you chose to freelance in the first place.

So it’s important to remember when scheduling — don’t forget to make time for yourself.

This doesn’t mean time to forget about work, but time to invest in yourself and work on personal projects.

I like to spend one day a week working on a personal project and 1 day a week investing in my own skills. This is EXTREMELY important. If you’re not keeping up with whatever industry you’re in — you’ll quickly fall behind!

7. Always Create Your Best

Can create your next best portfolio piece with this project?

This is a great rule of thumb when deciding whether to accept your next client. If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t be working on the project. Your freelance career should be a constant upwards trend of continuing to push your work into better and new territories.

8. Find Your Rhythm

Getting into a groove in anything in life makes everything seem effortless.

Finding your rhythm as your own boss is no different. It may take a few years of practice, but once you’ve got it down you’ll know — just know you shouldn’t feel as if your constantly in battle with your work flow.

Change things if they don’t feel right.

The important thing to note here is do it YOUR way. YOU chose to be your own boss so work the way YOU want. You don’t have to work 9–5, Monday-Friday, in a city, etc. Find the places and times that make you feel most comfortable and where you feel you can create great work.

If you’re a night-owl, then work nights.

If you work great in your bed, then work in your bed.

If you need a co-working space to motivate you, then be sure to go into work everyday.

Take suggestions from the outside world — but make your own decisions.

9. Treat Your Finances With as Much Care as Your Profession

Becoming your own boss is much much more than just getting work for whatever service you are providing.

It requires handling sales, marketing, customer service, finances, etc.

And your finances are maybe the most important. They are the fuel of your business and lifestyle. You need to give them the attention they deserve by creating financial plans and budgets for yourself.

10. Get in Tune with Your Intuition

Last but not least — follow your instinct. Over the past 5+ years of freelancing, I’ve gained enough experience to understand my workflow and to spot any red flags.

After you gain experience, you’ll begin to spot bad clients, know when you're slacking with work, what you should or shouldn’t do financially — and it will all be very obvious.

Now that you’ve got the 10 rule to becoming your own boss — get out there and start crushing it!

And if you still need some skills, sign up for my Complete Travel Developer Course to learn how to become a traveling web designer and developer…

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