My 3 Biggest Challenges as a Self-Employed Creative and How I Approach Them

There are some things about being your own boss that prove challenging. As a creative, I've tended to not want to get in the weeds. Now I have to! Here's how I approach it.

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With only 24 hours in a day, I have to organize my time to stay on top of my projects. When I'm tempted to create strict schedules, I remind myself that as long as I'm intentional, there's no reason to try to fit into someone else's mold.

I work great in early morning and late night hours (huh, not typical office hours, look at that). So I plan to set aside some of those hours

every week to work on my projects. That said, I don't dawdle during the day, either. 

During the day, I tend to work better with background noise and/or non-distracting company (go figure!). I have a favorite coffee shop where I go to work sometimes, and a close friend with a similar schedule to mine who I meet up with for mutual work space other times. There's just something about having other people working around me that really keeps me grounded in the task at hand.

One way I'd like to take my time management skills to the next level this year is to plan ahead more. For example, I need to start planning blog posts. Right now I handle this in a sort of, "let's see what I think of as I think of it" way, and that's just not sustainable!

So stay tuned for more on that.

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I have learned SO MUCH about pricing and saving money since I started my business.

First off, taxes. Oh man. I'm getting professional help with my taxes this year, and gladly! But there are still things I need to know to keep up with this cost throughout the year.

Self-employed individuals are "double-taxed." Because we work for ourselves, we are taxed as employers and as employees. I didn't realize this until late in the game. Womp womp. Now that I know, I work this cost into my pricing quotes. 

Pricing itself has come with a learning curve. On the one hand, it's important to me that my services are accessible. I want to be able to provide high-quality services to nonprofits, small businesses and individuals both young and wise, just starting and well established, tight-budgeted and big-budgeted.

I also want my clients to understand the value of the services that I provide. And I want to value my own work appropriately!

I know that the prices of my services set a tone for how I perceive the value of my work, as well as for how accessible my clients perceive my services to be for them.

So I often approach pricing by asking myself these questions:

"How much do I spend each month? What do I need to earn to pay my bills, eat, save, etc.?" 

"What do I need to be saving for? What do I want to save for to grow my business / take care of myself this year?"

"What are the industry standards for this service? What are the lows and highs?" 

"How should my experience level/skill level impact my pricing?"

"What would I be able to pay, if I were in my client's shoes? Now? When I started my business?"

"How can I make this [service] cost more manageable?"

In asking myself these questions I feel like I walk this odd tightrope of confidence and humility, with a dash of self-discipline.

Direction from questions like these have led me to raise my prices since I started my business. Meanwhile my commitment to accessibility has led me to provide payment plans and offer discounted services on a case-by-case basis.

Firm personal budgeting makes a huge impact on my pricing, too. If I were a big spender (or didn't keep track of my spending), I wouldn't be able to offer my prices. As a side note, I use an app called Digit to save a little everyday and I LOVE IT! Every little bit certainly counts.

Overall, my hope is that as I continue to work, I'll cultivate a business presence and culture that people know as high-quality, high-value, people-minded and approachable.

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Word of mouth was the name of the game for pretty much my first 9 months of being a true business entity (huh, 9 months, I guess this month is sort of my business birth month - too corny?).

When I started my LLC, I had a community of people who knew me, believed in me, and happily hired me (especially at my super low "I'm brand new" prices!). I'm truly grateful to each of them for the priceless support, and the opportunities to use and grow my skills.

Now that I'm approaching my first full year of business, word of mouth advertising isn't enough to grow my client base. So I lean on these items/practices to promote growth.

My Website. This website and blog are major ways I showcase my work and get connected to people who are interested in hiring me (maybe you're even one of them, how exciting!).

Social Media. I'm on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and e'rything. I created an official business account for Facebook, but for

everything else I mesh my business and my personal life together. This is an intentional choice that I made, because who I am is a part of my business brand. It's a package deal, people!

Paid Advertising. I don't do much, but I do some, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. This is an area in which I'm still very much learning and exploring. And I look forward to having some lessons to share this year!

Diversifying. As I'm sure you're aware, I'm not a "do just one thing" type of person. I'm a doula and a designer, and right now I nanny to make sure ends meet, too. As I look ahead, I want to narrow my scope so that doula work and designing are the only items on my plate.

That said, I've gotten some design clients out of the doula world, and some doula clients out of design clients! So having my hand in a few pots certainly hasn't hurt!

Networking. The fancy way of saying "meeting other people." This is another area in which knowing myself is really important.

I'm an introvert with a deep aversion to mingling. So I don't attend large networking events often (in fact, I usually avoid them).

However, I do reach out to other professionals in and outside of my area. Not only have I learned a lot this way, I've made some really great friends, too!

That's it for this week! Do you have something in your business toolbox that can help address any of these challenges? Tell me about it below!