Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone. Chris Brown is the founder of Venture Legal where he represents startups, freelancers, and small businesses. This column — originally published by Venture Legal and part of a limited series on freelance entrepreneurism — is intended to be general in detail and does not constitute legal advice. Click here to read the previous columns in this series.
Freelance work doesn’t necessarily mean a life of solitude. Today we’ll explore popular places to work, how to improve your skills, and why you might want to hire subcontractors when you need extra hands or someone to compliment your skills.
Where to work
Freelancers get to choose where they work: from home, an office, or from coffee shops. There are pros and cons to each. For example, it’s difficult to work full-time out of coffee shops. And often, freelancers don’t want to meet clients at their home (or use their home address as their business address).
For that reason, many freelancers join coworking offices. These environments are more than just an office. By joining a coworking office, you can “surround yourself with potential clients and collaborators,” according to Erik Wullschleger, the Midwest portfolio director for WeWork.
In most cities, you can find both local options and national (or even global) options. Most of them offer different kinds of membership — drop-in memberships (where you get access to the space, but not a dedicated desk or office) all the way up to private offices for one to dozens of people.
How to improve your skills
As a freelancer, it is important that you actively seek ways to improve your skills because you won’t have a typical boss, or even typical coworkers from which to learn.
You must constantly seek learning opportunities, according to Julie Cortés, a “Freelance Rockstar” and founder of The Freelance Exchange.
These opportunities can come in many forms: books, online webinars, and other classes, to events hosted by freelance support groups. For example, both The Freelance Exchange and WeWork host regular events in Kansas City where speakers talk about a range of topics that can help you hone your skills.
Also, you should never underestimate the value of finding mentors and serving as a mentor yourself. Most successful freelancers are more than happy to share tips and tricks with you over coffee or lunch. And strangely, when you do the same for someone with less experience with you, you’ll walk away with new ideas or at least a new perspective on your service or industry.
At some point, you will hopefully have more work than you can handle. Or, more often, you will find that a client needs some of your services and also some service you don’t provide. In those situations, you might find it helpful to hire subcontractors.
But be careful: When hiring subcontractors, make sure the person you hire is, in fact, a contractor and not an employee. Although you might call them a contractor, the IRS may reclassify them as an employee if they operate like an employee, according to Dan Schmidt, founder of EBCFO.
Although there are many factors to consider here, the general idea is the more control you exert over the worker, the more likely they will be deemed an employee. While the less control you exert, the more likely they will be deemed a contractor.
When hiring a subcontractor, it is important to use a written contractor agreement with them. Much like your client agreement, you need to make sure your contractor agreement covers (at a minimum) these topics:
- Party identification (if you have an LLC, use your LLC name, not your name);
- The services they will perform;
- How much (and when) you will pay them;
- Who will own the resulting work product and intellectual property (and in this case, make sure you obtain ownership if you plan to assign it to your client);
- Whether any confidential information needs to be protected;
- If there are any restrictions on the contractor providing services to your client without going through you; and
- How (if at all) you and/or the contractor can terminate the contract early.
Hopefully these practical tips provide you with a roadmap to starting your own successful freelance business.
I’ve been self-employed for the past six years and without a doubt, it’s been one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever had. Every day I provide substantial value to my clients and help them do what they love. And at the same time, I have greater flexibility to spend time with my family. If you have questions about freelancing, I’d be happy to chat.
Chris Brown is the founder of Venture Legal where he represents startups, freelancers, and small businesses. He also co-founded Contract Canvas, a digital contract platform for freelancers. www.venturelegalkc.com // @CSBCounsel