You're a freelancer. You have perseverance, get-up-and-go and an independent ability to get the job done. And the better you are as a freelancer -- whether you're a writer, designer, programmer, producer or all-around task monkey -- the more you have in common with a small business, with all its joys, victories and headaches.
Successful small businesses are run by disciplined, patient people with a talent for adapting quickly to change. The same is true for freelancers, because to be successful you need to cover all the operations that a business does. In other words, you must function as your own accounts payable, human resources, administration and marketing departments.
"When you see that you're starting to make enough money that your freelancing is becoming a viable career, it's time to start putting the business building blocks in place that will ensure that you -- and your clients -- take your business seriously. That means going beyond ordering hot-looking business cards," writes Andrea C. Poe on www.entrepreneur.com.
Taking your freelance business seriously means finding the right career resources to help you find, produce, manage and track work -- and to ensure that you get paid for your efforts.
Here are four indispensable career resources for freelancers:
1. The basics
Join a professional association in your field or a support organization such as the Freelancers Union. Not only do these groups plan great networking events where you can meet your peers and share job information, they also offer support ranging from health insurance plans to retirement benefits to tax and invoicing workshops.
-- See average salaries for freelance writers.
2. Job boards
When you're looking for work beyond your established and word-of-mouth clients, job boards provide a great marketplace for buyers (clients) and sellers (you) to connect. Some job boards have a narrow focus in a particular field such as information technology, like SlashDot. Others like Guru are broader-based and offer gig possibilities in a number of fields such as legal, business, tech and creative arts.
-- See average salaries for freelance photographers.
3. Web tools
All you need to know here is one word: Mashable. This online guide to social media is one of world's top 10 blogs, and it's devoted to users looking to make sense of the online realm. "What will you find here? Step-by-step guides to using popular websites, reviews of mobile applications, breaking news about what's happening on the web, the best viral videos, tips for marketing your businesses online and much much more!" says Mashable on its home page. For example, Mashable's "Freelancers' Toolbox" post on 30-plus online freelance resources offers a wealth of information that will keep you so stickily embedded in its links and lists that you'll risk missing your current gig's deadline. You have been warned.
-- See average salaries for freelance medical transcriptionists.
4. The"back office" side of your business
Whether you're deep in the creative process of a current job or hustling for your next gig, the last thing you want to busy yourself with is the "back office" side of your business -- invoicing, accounting, taxes and all those other nitty-gritty details. Intuit QuickBooks has a small-business program that costs $179.95 for the latest edition and requires some time spent learning the system. But you can buy a used edition of QuickBooks; and once you've learned it, you'll really have a good handle on how to organize and manage your freelance career.