Advice for Freelancers: On Being an Owner

Ownership is simply the idea that something belongs to someone. In the case of your freelance business, you own it. It belongs to you. You are the possessor of your own business and all that concerns it. Owners are wholly responsible for what they possess. Every decision they make has an affect on their business both now and in the future.

I have owned my independent creative business for over 35 years. I have not always made the best decisions, but I have managed to keep going, expand and increase. One significant thing I’ve learned is that ownership is a whole-life issue. What I do with my business has consequences for my whole life. And to sustain my business, I need to steward all of my life effectively. We talk about balancing work and personal life, but the reality is that they are not separate things.

Business is what enables the rest of life to happen. It is where our funding comes from. We generate wealth to pay the rent, keep the car maintained, buy groceries, and take a road trip. We provide for our families and do good through our work.

When I choose to own my business rather than working at someone else’s, I can’t leave my job and go home. My work is always with me. I work from home, but even if I kept an office or storefront, my work would come home and hang out with me. I’d be thinking about it — how to grow, expand, improve on it. It’s the nature of things when you’re an owner.

All this is to say that ownership is a very different mindset from being an employee. Freelancers leaving a job can stumble over that difference rather quickly. You cannot act like an employee when you are responsible for the business. Being an owner means:

You are mission-driven. You have a solid understanding of what you want to accomplish and why. You set your goals and schedule your calendar to further your mission. You accept projects that fit your mission and reject those that don’t.

You are focus-driven. You refuse to take on commitments that don’t fit your mission or engage in actions that pull you off track. You are single-minded in your purpose.

You are service-driven. Your business ultimate goal is to help people do something, ease their pain, reduce their difficulties, solve their problems.

You live a disciplined life. You exercise self-control and control over your time and activities. You do not allow the business to take over your home life, even if you work from home. You do not neglect the business in favor of doing personal or household stuff.

If you work from these principles, you will not waste time doing things that don’t fit. You won’t allow others to define your business or how you serve your clients. You will not resent being at work when you want to be at home, and vice versa. You will find a way to blend work and personal aspects into one amazingly creative, productive and satisfying life.