How to Get Set Up As a Free Agent
by Chris King

Congratulations! You have decided to become a "free agent" - also known as an independent professional and a freelancer. You have many decisions to make now that you have made the first big one. Depending upon how you plan to handle your freelance lifestyle, you will need to establish how, where, when and with whom you will work. In this article, I offer some suggestions, ask some questions, and, hopefully, get you started on your new and exciting lifestyle. If you are already on your way, I hope these ideas might fill in some of the gaps.

Make a plan and set some long and short-term goals. Determine what you want to do, who you want for clients, what contacts have you already established, what do you need to learn, and what are the initial steps you need to take to get set up? I also suggest that you read the following emerging free agent credo that I found in Daniel Pink's book Free Agent Nation: How America's New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live: "Working hard for a far-off reward is often a valuable exercise, but the act of work itself should produce its own intrinsic rewards. And since no position is permanent - but other positions are usually available and destitution is not around the bend - you might as well enjoy what you do. Produce quality work that's a genuine reflection of who you are. Use your freedom to accept responsibility for your work. Decide for yourself what constitutes success. And if you're not having fun - at least some of the time - you're doing something wrong."

Decide where you will do the bulk of your work, and, if at home, set up an attractive, comfortable, and usable space. There are as many choices of the direction to take as there are free agents. Some work part-time at home and part-time at their client's office. Some work at the library, some in the park, or at a nearby coffeehouse. You may have an extra room or a space in the dining room, bedroom, or den. The important consideration here is to make your work space as fresh and inviting as possible, so that you will look forward to being there. Add meaningful photos, books, plants, paintings, crafts, and anything else that delights you. I am a firm believer in the power of Feng Shui and suggest getting Karen Rauch Carter's book Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. She tells you how to use Feng Shui to get love, money, respect, and happiness.

Purchase the necessary tools of your trade and set them up in an organized fashion. These will include a computer, supplies, phone with an answering service, fax, files, a back-saver chair, reference library, and any other time and space-saving devices you will need. Even though the initial purchasing and setting up will take time, the more efficiently you organize everything, the more smoothly your life and business will function. Having easy access to supplies and projects will save you an untold amount of time every day. I love those new, colorful plastic cases that come with handles and divider pockets. I have one for each large project and fill them with colored and labeled file folders that I slip in and out easily when needed. It makes filing easy and fun besides. Then, when I am meeting with the client, I can just carry the whole case with me, so that I have everything I need.

Another option is setting up a workspace with others. I mentioned in an earlier article how easy it is as a free agent to experience loneliness. One solution is to set up an office with other freelancers or small business people, even though you still work on your own, you can share equipment, a receptionist, a conference room, and a small kitchen area. There are many establishments and organizations that offer these facilities, but you may find renting a small space along with some others may prove to be more cost effective.

Even though I am a strong proponent of flexibility, I feel it is imperative that we have a routine. If I don't set certain tasks and goals for the day, I find that I don't get as much accomplished as I want and need to. Each of us has optimum working times, and yet let ourselves become distracted by phone calls, watering the plants, running errands, and frittering away our valuable working hours. It is important to take short breaks, and I do exercise daily by teaching fitness classes. In upcoming articles, I am going to discuss some of the time management tools that have been helpful to me and also ideas on how to achieve some semblance of balance in our lives, so that we follow our credo of having fun. Why work otherwise?

Remember the sooner you get the initial setting up completed, the sooner you will get started on the important stuff - your new and exciting career!

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