Freelancing or embracing the self-employed lifestyle where you are offering your expertise to multiple clients is an exciting change of direction when you choose to do it. It’s a big and often welcome change to the restrictions of being employed.
Launching and marketing your new service as a freelancer or independent contractor brings with it all the ups and downs and learning that come hand-in-hand with the entrepreneurial journey.
So where does self-advocacy – the art of standing in your truth without falling over – come into play when you decide to be a freelancer.
In reality, self-advocacy starts from day one and comes into play in almost every aspect of your business building. Self advocacy is needed from when you are:
- developing your service,
- on-boarding new clients,
- showcasing your work,
- maintaining and managing clients,
- working with coaches and consultants,
- managing your business finances,
…among many more.
At every stage of business you need some self-advocacy skills so that you can build the business YOU want to operate and work the way you wish to work.
Developing your core services
As a freelancer starting up in business, you will be bombarded with people offering the same service that you dream of providing and appear to be offering and delivering their services very successfully and profitably.
Self-Advocacy Tip 1: Stop comparing and swim in your own lane.
This is YOUR beautiful new business. The service you are crafting is designed to showcase your strengths and expertise and how you price, deliver and design your systems and processes must suit your values, personality, preferences, lifestyle and budget.
Trust me, there is nothing wrong in making this your baseline or framework for a successful business.
Onboarding New Clients
Self-Advocacy Tip 2 – Have our own contract or Terms of Engagement
Your terms of engagement or client agreement is your best self advocacy tool, teaching your client the best way to work with you and to educate them about your preferred processes and system.
If you have terms of engagement in place you are self-advocating from the outset as your agreement provides you with a framework of negotiation that has been designed by YOU. It also advocates for your processes, expectations, and sets the foundations for each business relationship.
Self-Advocacy Tip 3 – State your terms of payment
Clearly state your terms of payment (preferably pre-paid, progress payments or retainers) in your terms of engagement, client agreement, your invoices or your booking calendar.
Self- advocate to ensure payments are made on time and in full. Use your legals to set yourself up for the best chances of obtain immediate payment, or as a solid reference for negotiating refunds or disagreements.
Showcasing your work
Self-Advocacy Tip 4 – Negotiate to showcase work you have created.
Your contract allows you to negotiate to use the amazing work you have produced for your client as part of your own portfolio. Your freelance contract should also protect your right to display or reuse any designs or ideas that you present to the client that are not used in the final delivery.
Without self-advocating for this, you forever lose the right to showcase work that you have produced for clients as an example of your expertise.
Maintaining client relationships
Self-Advocacy Tip 5 – Enforce your boundaries
You can enforce boundaries gently and graciously by referring to your terms of engagement or client agreement.
This legal document is crafted for your unique service and belongs to you. You can enforce it, set it aside, waive any particular clause, vary it or use it as a starting point for negotiations.
Growing your freelancing business
Self-Advocacy Tip 6 – Look within
Know your own business, your limitations, and identify the level of support you need.
Self advocacy is the art of asking the right questions so that you obtain the advice and direction you need for your business.
Self-Advocacy Tip 7 – Know the difference between need and want.
Recognising a need in your business is a considered decision.
A want is an impulsive decision that is likely to cost you rather than support your business.
Just because someone selling you a so called “magic solution” and says you need to buy it doesn’t make it a need or a good business decision.
As a freelancer your personal finances are likely to be closely linked to your business. Advocate for your family and household and ensure the advice you take on allows you to grow but does not compromise your ability to feed your family or meet your basic needs.
Working with business coaches and marketing consultants
Self-Advocacy Tip 8 – Request terms from service providers
Self advocate by asking for business terms and conditions from business coaches, marketing consultants and any other provider you are paying money to for a service or an outcome.
Ensure that the agreement you are entering into is in alignment with your needs, operations and expectations. Read the terms to make sure you are protecting yourself, your finances, and your business interests, now and into the future.
If the service provider has an agreement and its long, difficult to read, convoluted, give it back and ask for a simpler, clearer version. If something appears unreasonable, bring it to their attention and offer your version of a fairer term.
And Finally, The Main Tip
Self-Advocacy Tip 9 – Ask Questions!
Don’t be afraid to ask a question, request a change or take the time to consider a decision that is for YOUR higher good.
This final act of considering a decision from a position of what serves your higher good will also serve the best interests of your business.
Lawyer, Contract Specialist, Speaker & Advocate for Women in Business.
Drawing on more than 15 years’ experience as a lawyer and a woman in business, Shalini Nandan-Singh helps Australian service-based entrepreneurs protect their businesses and their bottom lines with empowered legal advice and contracts.
Encouraging listeners to #loveyourlegals, Shalini firmly believes that business legals should be an authentic extension of your business. Her goal is to educate audiences that, rather than confusing legalese, business legals should be an authentic extension of your business, creating positive business boundaries that support you in working with your clients with compassion and understanding.
Disclaimer: This blog is written to support business owners to consider legal requirements and issues that may arise in business. The information provided is for general and educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice for your individual circumstances. Please consult your lawyer for advice specific to you and your business.