1. Booking: Be very wary about booking yourself on a project in advance. I often turn down work in expectation of these projects, yet it seams that the majority don’t pan out for whatever reason. If you do commit to a project, try and get some money upfront.
  2. Downtime: If you are used to working 7 days a week all hours of the day and don’t have much down time, when you get some down time, try your best not to worry about the lack of work. Do yourself a favor and grab a vacation while you can! If you don’t feel like relaxing or vacationing, invest in learning new software. I have a subscription to digital tutors. I can watch it almost anywhere on any device. Lastly, do a small personal project to keep the creative juices flowing.
  3. Portfolio Work: If you find yourself stuck in doing work you don’t enjoy, consider deleting all of that type of work from your portfolio site. You will only get the type of work that you show in your portfolio.
  4. Family: Family and friends will never respect your work hours because to them you don’t have a “real job”. My wife works 1 day a week, and usually it’s on a Sunday. We attend church on Sunday and I get grief from my wife if I have to work, but if she has to work her “real job” she has a free pass ?
  5. Employees: To be avoided. Freelancers are usually freelancers for a reason!
  6. Abuse: Clients will treat you as you let them treat you. If you are fast and turn things around same day, they will usually expect and demand things the same day.
  7. Taxes: You will most likely suck at taxes, paperwork, etc so you are best off finding an accountant. Expect to pay nearly $1000 a year just to get your taxes done. I find using a simple spreadsheet for keeping track of all my projects is the most efficient way to go. You don’t need quickbooks, etc.
  8. Incorporating has some nice advantages for paying a bit less in taxes, but there are fees and lots of paperwork to consider and your taxes have to be done for the corporation and you as an individual. I probably would not incorporate again.
  9. Healthcare: There is no simple solution to healthcare that I know of. I have a Health Savings Account (HSA). You pay about the same each year as you would under a typical health plan, however if you don’t go to the doc much, 70% of that money you can invest tax free. For me, I pay $5000 into an HSA account each year, which I use throughout the year for all medical expenses (for my entire family). You also have to carry a high deductible insurance plan (about $250 a month for my family). whatever is left over of the $5000 at the end of the year is yours to invest. Again, this is only good if you are fairly healthy and can afford dropping 5k a year into an account.
  10. Budgets: Clients will almost never give you a budget on a project.
  11. Freelance vs Studio: Even when I had employees, a studio, and was incorporated I was still considered a freelancer. I blame this on myself.
  12. Account Managers: Consider hiring or utilizing a project manager or an account manager for really large accounts. I was Nike’s #1 vendor for 3d work for 4 years straight, only to allow it to end over a contract negotiation. An account manager will be able to shield you from yourself.
  13. Studio vs Company: Shoot for direct client relationships over working with studios. More profitable (if a good sized company) and will last longer. Studio’s will filter through different people regularly. Studio’s will always find somebody cheaper or hire someone to replace the need for you.
  14. Boring Work: The projects that bring in the most money tend to be the least creative. Realize that even the most amazing studio’s live on a good % of non-creative work. I’ve tried to quit certain types of projects with very little luck.
  15. Accounting: Find yourself a good Bank that has online banking with built in quicken type functionality. I use Onpoint Credit Union which uses an Intuit based interface. I can categorize everything and never have to recreate my books in quicken or quickbooks.
  16. Cashflow: The larger the client you have the longer they will take to pay you.
  17. Paying: Pay your freelancers as soon as you can. I pay immediately and I think people appreciate that.
  18. Twitter: Careful about tweeting something bad about a client, potential client, or freelancer. You would be surprised who is reading your tweets. I’ve learned this the hard way.
  19. Facebook: If possible, don’t befriend your contractors or clients on Facebook. Demanding clients don’t need to know when you take an occasional day off.
  20. The End: Don’t expect a client relationship to last forever. Almost every client relationship you have will end or decrease at some point.