Welcome to the 3rd episode in the reboot of this podcast. The focus of this podcast is now Advanced Freelancing. If you haven’t gotten caught up on this change then jump back two episodes and find out why I rebranded this podcast and what you can expect from it. Now let’s get into today’s episode.
Today’s episode is all about the freelancer’s guide to working with startups. There are so many businesses that start up daily. There are lots of businesses that also close within the first year of starting up. And even business that make it 2-3 years in business still aren’t guaranteed to stand the test of time. There of millions of startups that are out there and some are successful but a lot of them aren’t. So...as a freelancer should you work with startups?
As a freelance writer, I have been contracted and contacted by LOTS of startups. I always go in a little bit cynical. Why is that? Because sometimes the excitement of the startup fades over time which ultimately leads to the end of the business.
“The problem with startups is that they haven’t fully tested whether or not their company is going to be successful.”-Laura Briggs
Let’s go through some things that I have learned through the process of working with startups and some things to keep in mind when you are contacted by a startup OR if you are thinking about pitching to one.
- Startups are more likely to post on job boards like Indeed. This is particularly true if they have a lot of funding and are trying to bring on employees quickly. In order to scale quickly they have to bring on a lot of employees quickly. Here’s the thing...THEY PROBABLY DON'T HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY A FULL TIME PERSON. A lot of people are wary of working with startups because of the possibility of the doors closing in 6 months. So this might put you, the freelancer, in a good position to pitch yourself as a freelancer because they might have challenges attracting traditional employees.
- There is a big difference between revenue and funding. When you are working with people who have secured funding from venture capitalists or even put their own money into the startup you do have the possibility of getting paid. When you start talking about venture capital it’s easy to get excited because you start seeing all these big numbers. BUT… that isn’t revenue. That is money put up by people who believe this company can make it. That doesn’t mean that this startup will actually be able to generate revenue or better yet profit. Never equate the startup funding as revenue. Never count on these types of projects as a sure thing.
- Management in startups. Some startups are completely mismanaged. They may start with great funding but if it’s mismanaged the company could close up shop in 6 months. I have seen this happen more than once. If they don’t have enough funding to make it work will almost certainly try to get more bang for their buck. Occasionally, you can convince them that your work is worth more than they are willing to pay, but it’s not likely.
- Ask for a piece of the company. This is absolutely worthless if the company never goes anywhere. If it’s something you really believe in, this is a good way to get additional money from a client who doesn’t have the money to pay you upfront. Negotiations are always an option when dealing with a startup.
- Hustle mentality present with startups. People who are starting up a business often have the mindset of it’s all hands on deck. That mentality might not be the best thing to step into as a freelancer. Be mindful of how this could easily take over your business. Be mindful of being treated as a contractor vs. employee. If they are treating you like an employee then it opens up certain protections under federal law.
- Energy and excitement with the founders. Most times the founders are in various levels of distress. Knowing how to interact with them can help you be more effective as a freelancer. Be upfront about how you run your business. Set boundaries and expectations are really crucial to communicating with someone who has a lot of responsibility on their plate.
- As a freelancer, YOU ARE AN ENTREPRENEUR. Even if you don’t “own” that title, you are an entrepreneur because you have started your own business. If you have your own way of doing things, it can sometimes be hard to step into an environment where the startup might or might not have their own way of doing things. They might be so entrenched in something that the founders are bringing over from their previous life in business and it might not be something that jives with your personal mindset. This is something you need to pay attention to. It’s a good idea to have a call with the founders and find out why they created this business, what is their vision for the future, and how they see you as a freelancer fitting in to that.
- Sometimes they like to hire people who are a jack of all trades. They might hire you to do content writing but in that all hands on deck mentality they might expect you do jump in and do something else. As a freelancer, you have to speak up and tell them when something isn’t working.
These are just a few of the many things you will need to take into consideration before you decide to start working with a startup. You need to make sure that your 10 hours a week doesn’t quickly become 40 hours a week and drowning out your other clients. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a startup so be wise in the decisions you make regarding your freelancing business.
If you have worked with startups before, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I might feature you on a future show.