Now, this is one of the most common challenges. It is the one I took myself years ago. How to become a distributed business, primarily a company, after you had a successful freelancing career.
IT IS A TRANSITION
The most common misunderstanding is not viewing this as a transition and seeing it more as a milestone. It is unique when you have a point, which you have reached and suddenly you are not a freelancer anymore but an owner of a company. It is not like that – it is much smoother. I know many startup founders and solopreneurs who have companies – successful ones but at an early stage – but still do some freelancing. It keeps them fresh, and it pays the bills. If you are a successful freelancer, why would you want to throw away the opportunity to have a decent income while you are building your distributed business?
However, you have to approach the distributed business model somewhat the same as a startup. You have to reclaim your freelancing hours and substitute it with employees. If you are a freelance designer and bill out 8 hours per day and you want to build a distributed business for your designer agency, hire your first employee on part-time and transfer half of your current workload there. Slow steps and once you are free from actual billable freelance hours of yours, you can start to act as a company and build it further.
THE HIRED GUN MISTAKE
Avoid the hired gun mistake though. From day one, start to build a distributed work culture and establish clear responsibilities and accountability within your team. Hiring other freelancers and your freelancer friends is risky, you can end up in tricky situations. Make sure you are building a business – and not a group of freelancers. I will talk about the hired gun mistake later on in this book.
ACT LIKE A COMPANY
Once you did the first small steps in hiring, try to change your contracts with clients. Transition away from per-hour work to monthly retainers and fixed priced projects. The secret is to offer more than ‘just’ your expertise. A freelancer is an expert whom can be hired to do a job. A business, however, is a business in which you employ to deliver a service. Part of this service is the expertise, but it is only a piece of the mix.
There is one great relieving news: for a freelancer, no matter where you are based, distributed business is the way to go. You don’t need to evaluate, pivot or test the approach, and you need to go with the flow and slowly to build up the distributed business for yourself.