Freelancing is a career path that seems to offer up more questions than answers: How do I estimate my taxes? What’s the best way to keep track of my invoices? What steps should I be taking to drum up new business?
The beauty of being self-employed is that you can captain your own ship, but sometimes it’s helpful to have additional resources along the way. In addition to news outlets and magazines like this one, crowdsourced message boards can be extremely valuable if you’re looking to gather credible feedback and wisdom from people in-the-know.
One great place to get lost is Quora, the question-and-answer community founded by two ex-Facebook employees. Similar to a Reddit thread, users on Quora can up-vote responses, surfacing the best and most well-supported responses to public questions.
Here are ten super-relevant Quora threads for self-employed workers in particular:
Quora says: It really depends on how you define “work.” One commenter even created an entire elaborate spreadsheet to track his time and see just how many hours he spent truly working. For freelancers, the key is to understand that how many hours you work in a day is mostly up to you, but there is some great advice in this thread for how to improve efficiency. For example, taking frequent breaks—one study found that taking a 17 minute break to every 52 minutes of work was the ideal ratio—is the critical to maintaining a focused and productive workflow.
“When should a freelancer ask for upfront payment, before submitting a project proposal or after approval?”
Quora says: The general consensus here seems to be that most clients want to see something concrete before making any sort of payment. If you don’t have an already stellar, well-known reputation as a freelancer or consultant in your field, asking for upfront payment may be difficult. As many freelancers experience, getting paid at the end of the project can feel like risky business. That’s why last October New York City passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, designed to protect self-employed workers from, well, getting stiffed.
Quora says: One of the top-rated responders argues that freelancers who don’t “make it” oftentimes fail to see the importance of having a business mindset. Freelancers cannot just focus on the creative or artistic aspects of their career; they must also understand they are running a business—which means marketing, paperwork, selling yourself, and all of the other tasks you probably didn’t have to do in your traditional 9-to-5 type job. (Pssssst! You can get AND CO’s complete guide to “going freelance” here.)
Quora says: If you could boil down this discussion to one element, it would be that life as a freelance programmer is more self-directed. But with freedom, of course, comes more responsibility—you have to manage yourself, set your own goals, develop your people skills, and so much more in order to sustain yourself.
Quora says: Many of the commenters here immediately reframed the question: Should you even charge an hourly rate, or are there better ways to bill for your services? Thankfully, many of the commenters also provided links to great resources—entire books have been written on the subject of how freelancers can negotiate for better rates.
Quora says: Not surprisingly, there are an almost infinite amount of answers to this question—from learning to invest to traveling to learning to meditate to developing an exercise regimen. No one can do it all, and as a freelancer you wouldn’t have time to, so the takeaway here is that you should examine what is important to you and focus on those things with long-term, sustained effort.
Quora says: Responders noted that successful entrepreneurs always seem to be learning, reading, experiencing, and striving—they don’t settle for an average life. They are oftentimes early risers, though studies show there are benefits to staying up late, too. As a freelancer, is your goal to just pay the bills, or is it to reinvest in yourself, your education, and in your stock portfolio? The answer to that question should ultimately influence the way you live your life.
Quora says: Many commenters here question whether this is even the right question—if most wealth is inherited, then how can you know that the wealthy 10 percent know anything different than anyone else? That being said, there is a lot of advice that freelancers can take to heart—from learning how to best manage money to examining your motivations for working better and smarter.
Quora says: The ideas shared here are incredibly varied: From decreasing sugar consumption to better ways to handle recycling or recharging your cell phone, the number of problems worth tackling is staggering. Freelancers, of course, can build this into their everyday work by taking on projects that align with their political or personal goals. For more intrepid entrepreneurs, this thread serves as excellent brain candy for perhaps what will be your next Big Idea.
Quora says: Of course, there is no clear answer to this question, but if you’re looking for some inspiration, there are many people on this list who are worth learning from, and many of them have had books written about them. Take some time to research their lives—learn from their successes and, even better, from their failures.
Taking a short break from your day-to-day work to dig into some of these discussions, to read, to learn and to grow are crucial aspects of bettering yourself as a freelancer. Just don’t let yourself go too far down the rabbit hole—you still have to snap back to reality and meet your deadlines, don’t you?
Which burning questions did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.