In my first week of college, the Freshman Composition professor asked the class to take out sheets of paper and write honest critiques of our own writing styles. Being a complete smartass, I started my essay with, “I use more clichés than you can shake a stick at!” My classmates and I had a good laugh about it because we all knew clichés are the crutch of a lazy writer.

Or are they? Let’s be honest, there are times when nothing makes a point more succinctly than a good old-fashioned cliché. Lately, I’ve found myself resorting to these time-worn truisms again and again when young freelancers ask for advice on running their businesses. So, here’s some business advice you can take with a grain of salt:

Make hay while the sun shines – This may be the single most common aphorism I have heard small business owners utter in the past 25 years…because it’s true! You’re going to have times when writing assignments come at you faster than you can keep up and other times when they just dribble in. But the problem is you never know which to expect. Make it a point to jump on a writing project as soon as you get it and finish it before it’s due, if possible. This may mean working harder and longer than you planned that week, but it will increase the odds your plate will be clear when that next job comes in.

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched – Every freelancer I know has made this mistake at least once. It usually takes the form of starting a lucrative project before the work agreement has been officially signed. Much to your dismay, the verbal go-ahead you received wasn’t enough, the deal doesn’t get approved, and you’ve just wasted several hours – or days of work. Been there, done that. The moral of the story – Don’t get started until you have a signed document in hand.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – Related in some ways to the situation described above, this is a trap that many a freelancer falls into. A prospect (or current client) tells you to clear your schedule next week or next month for a big assignment that is sure to get approved any day now. Against your better judgement, you comply…because this future project will pay really well. By the time you realize the job isn’t coming through, you’ve lost hours, maybe even days, you could have spent on projects you already had lined up. Never put off guaranteed work to make way for verbal promises.

Time is money – Allow me to take the liberty of amending this simple statement we’ve all been hearing since we were kids. Every business owner quickly learns time isn’t just money…time is your money. Act accordingly.

Kevin Corbley

Want to know more about what it takes to be a successful freelancer? I recently recorded a class that I’ve presented to local writers’ groups for the past couple years, and you can watch it for free online. Check it out – Six-Figure Freelancing: Three Keys to Success.


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