爱思英语编者按:要成为成功的自由职业者,就得像企业一样经营自己的工作。

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When I started freelancing more than a decade ago, I was determined not to become one of “those” freelancers. I woke up early, showered and dressed, and sat dutifully at my desk. When I wasn’t working on an assignment, I forced myself to pitch new ideas and contact new editors.

Today, I’m reaping the benefits of that early diligence and, thankfully, letting myself enjoy the perks of being a free agent. I get some of my best work done in the early hours, in pajamas. I carve out time for long runs in the middle of the day, even if it means working later at night or on the weekend. When I have a lull, I relish the down time.

Delve into the “business models” of successful freelancers and they seem to have the best of both worlds—autonomy, flexibility and a steady paycheck. The secret: They run their freelance careers like a business, even if that business happens to be headquartered at the kitchen table. Here are seven habits I’ve adopted or picked up from my growing network of freelancer friends.

1) Perfect your elevator pitch: Entrepreneurs know how to succinctly describe what they do and where they add value. As a freelancer, you need to take a similar approach, if only for your own sanity. Years ago, I realized that simply saying I was a freelancer connoted that I spent my days passing time in coffee shops or dabbled in writing between spin classes. “Well, some of us have to go to work” was a common response. Now when people ask what I do, I say I’m a financial writer. Specificity adds credibility—and makes it easier for would-be clients to identify you on LinkedIn.

2) Have a pricing strategy: For early freelancers this can be tricky. On the one hand, you want to build your book of business, and that may require working for less than fair market value. Consider it your start-up costs. Once you have enough work in your pipeline, however, you need to set parameters, both on an hourly and project basis.

3) Make calculated exceptions: That said, there are times when you should be willing to negotiate, whether it’s under the banner of employee morale (your own) or business development. If a project opens doors, takes you in a new direction that interests you, or benefits a cause you care about—think of it as your personal social giving campaign—there is additional value, beyond the fee.

4) Write a mission statement: OK, so maybe you left your j-o-b precisely because of mission statements and TPS reports. Still, there is something to be said for understanding why you go to work, so to speak, and do what you do. In a corporate setting, your managers help you think about career development. In the freelance world, it’s up to you to set goals and chart your path.

5) Pay yourself a salary: Managing cash flow is probably the biggest challenge for freelancers. For me, the solution came when a freelance friend, a video producer, mentioned her maternity leave. “How did you swing that as a freelancer?” I asked. Her strategy is to treat herself as an employee of her sole proprietorship. She pays herself the same salary every two weeks, rain or shine. In good months, she builds up reserves so she can still earn a steady salary when things are slow. A regular paycheck not only makes it easier to pay bills and plan, it makes it harder to treat big checks as a license to splurge.

6) Create a virtual water cooler: Unless your work regularly takes you outside the home office, isolation is a risk. Even the most self-sufficient members of the gig economy need confidantes to brainstorm ideas or talk through dilemmas. What about your spouse or partner? Unless he or she knows your industry and can offer truly unbiased advice—easier said than done—it’s no substitute for a network of peers. My network includes colleagues in my field, many of whom are in full-time jobs, as well as an eclectic mix of freelancers.

7) Don’t try to do it all: Founders of start-up companies often talk about how, in the early days, they do everything from develop the product to take out the trash. In time, though, they staff up and focus on the areas where they add the most value. Freelancers can also benefit from this evolution. “Focus on what you’re good at,” says my friend Martin, a freelance photographer who has assembled a small team of experts to help him with everything from bookkeeping to production. He’s also learned to pass on jobs that aren’t a good fit. “Have a network of other freelancers close at hand for the things that seem to be your road blocks or time sucks,” he says. “It makes it a lot easier to say no.”

十几年前刚开始自己单干时,我就下决心不做传统意义上的自由职业者。我每天早早起床,洗澡换衣服,然后在桌前认真工作。没有工作的时候,我就强迫自己想想新点子,认识新编辑等等。

而今,一开始建立的好习惯让我受益匪浅,我真正享受到从事自由职业的快乐。清晨,我穿着睡衣完成一些最耗脑子的工作。白天抽时间长跑,即使要把工作推后到深夜或者周末才能完成。工作间歇时,我就好好享受闲暇时光。

深入了解成功自由职业者的“商业模式”就会发现,他们似乎拥有两全其美的生活:高度自治且灵活,又有稳定的收入。秘诀在于:他们像管理企业一样经营自由职业,只是企业总部可能是在厨房餐桌上。以下七个习惯有的是我学来的,有的来自我越来越广的自由职业者朋友圈子。

1)学会用最短的时间给别人好印象。企业家知道如何用最简练的语言描述自己的事业,以及核心价值在哪。自由职业者也一样,哪怕只是为了帮自己想清楚也好。几年前我发现,告诉别人我是自由职业者等于在暗示,我每天在咖啡馆无所事事,或是踩动感单车的间隙玩票似的写点东西。对方一般会这样回应:“唉,我们还得去上班。”现在别人问我在做什么,我会说是财经领域撰稿人。表明专业领域不但能提高可信度,也让潜在客户更容易在LinkedIn上认出你。

2)有一套定价策略。对自由职业的新手来说,学会定价有点难。拓展业务时,要价可能得比市场价格低一些。不妨把低价当作创业的成本。一旦手头的工作够多,就要想清楚定价策略了,一般是按每小时收多少,或是每个项目收多少计算。

3)学会算大账。这就是说,无论是为了维持员工(你自己)士气还是为了开拓业务,有时在报价上都应留有余地。如果有个项目能开阔视野,带你走上感兴趣的新路,或者对你关心的事业——比如个人回馈社会有帮助,那么项目就有附加值,不能只看能赚多少钱。

4)明确个人目标。或许你辞去之前的工作正是受够了写个人目标和测试流程规范(TPS)报告。不过,适当写写能帮助你想清楚上班的意义,也就是说你要明白为什么要做手上的工作。在企业里,领导会帮你考虑职业发展问题。干上自由职业,你就得学会自己设定目标,规划职业道路。

5)给自己发薪。管理现金流可能是自由职业者最大的挑战。有一次,一位做视频的自由职业朋友说给自己放产假,我发现她的办法很好。我问她:“你做自由职业,怎么给自己放假?”她的策略是,把自己看作个人企业的员工,每两周发一次薪水,不管生意好坏数目都不变。生意好的时候,她将结余存起来,不景气的时候再贴补。定期支薪后,应付开销、制定收支计划时会从容许多,赚到一大笔时也不会肆意挥霍。

6)要注意维持社交圈子。如果你的工作不用经常外出见人,要小心与世隔绝的风险。即便再能自给自足,也需要三两知己聊聊天出出主意,遇到难事也有人倾诉。找伴侣或是爱人说?除非他或者她了解你的行业,能给出中正客观的建议——说来容易做来难,排忧解难最好还是找圈子里的同行。我的朋友圈里就有不少从事相同领域的同事,许多人做全职工作,也有些自由职业者。

7)尽量别大包大揽。初创公司的创始人经常会谈到公司刚起步时,从开发产品到扔垃圾什么都做过。但过段时间有新员工加入后,就会把专注创造价值。自由职业者也可以学习这种重心的转化。我的朋友马丁就说过:“要做你最擅长的事。”马丁是自由摄影师,他组建了一个小型专家团队,帮忙处理从记账到制作等各方面事务。他现在还会把不方便做的工作转出去。“要跟自由职业者圈子保持紧密联系,做起来有困难或是时间不合适的工作就可以推荐给别人,”马丁说,“这样推掉工作就容易多了。”