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Freelance Interview Series – Investing In Your Freelance Business

Rochi Zalani is a freelance writer who helps SaaS companies grow their business through long-form content. She has worked with well-known brands like Zapier, Buffer, and more.

Here’s her take on why and how you should be investing in your freelance business.

"As a freelancer, time is money, and you want to use it wisely."

Why should freelancers prioritize investing in their business?

For me, it came down to efficiency. I was using 12+ software tools to manage my business — which resulted in a lot of admin management and context-switching.

As a freelancer, time is money, and you want to use it wisely. It’s more than worth it to invest in courses that help you improve your skills, software (like Harlow!) that decreases your mental load, and even a virtual assistant to take some tasks off your to-do list. The return on investment is huge.

How has the way you’ve invested in your business shifted as it’s grown?

In the beginning, I stuck to free tools. That often meant going the extra mile to research good software/courses with a free version and trying many different platforms to find the one that fit my needs best. It was a lot of work, but at the time, my top priority was keeping my expenses to a minimum.

As my business has grown, my needs have evolved. I’ve devoted a budget to business expenses like software and courses that help me scale and optimize my processes or improve my skills. And I use it as I see fit. Some expenses are recurring (like my Harlow subscription), while others are one-off (like courses).

When do you recommend small business owners begin investing in their businesses?

Ideally, as soon as you get your business off the ground. Migrating to a new tool later on can be a huge hassle. And, as they say, you have to spend (at least a little) money to make money.

You don’t have to start with multiple paid tools, but you do have to start somewhere. This could mean:
– Taking reputable courses that round out your resume
– Devoting one day every month to learning a new software or platform
– Trying the business tools other freelancers in your community use and love

You could be stuck in grunt-working methods for years, trying to cobble together a bunch of free tools. Or, you could invest in the right ones early on and watch them scale with you.

Talk to us about the tools you invest in for your business and why you chose them.

Software-wise, I used to invest in a time-tracker tool, an invoicing software, and a project management platform. Harlow has replaced all of these for me now. It has been one of the best investments I’ve made because it simplifies my admin work by leaps and bounds. I can keep track of invoices, deadlines, and time all under one tab. It’s become a tradition for me to open Harlow every morning and see what I have in store for the day.

Apart from Harlow, I still rely on Trello a little bit for client work. And I use Notion to keep track of email templates, interesting examples in my industry, and other valuable info. For scheduling my social media posts, I use Buffer. I also use Grammarly and Hemingway Editor to ensure correct grammar and easy-to-read sentences.

(Out of all the tools above, I only use the paid versions of Harlow and Grammarly.)

In 2023, I also bought Marijana Kay’s project planner and data vault. The former is immensely helpful for capacity planning and tracking my income. The latter is useful for finding the latest studies on various topics in my industry.

I’ve also invested in many free and paid writing-related courses over the years — like Steph Smith’s Doing Content Right (paid) and Tommy Walker’s The Cutting Room (free). I vet any course I do thoroughly — primarily relying on reviews and ensuring it’s taught by industry experts who have walked the walk. These courses help me stay sharp, relevant, and skilled in the economy. No one has ever “learned it all.”

For solopreneurs who want to begin investing in their businesses but don’t have much extra income, where do you recommend they start?

Find the free tools and free trials and experiment with them. They might get only 50–75% of the job done, but they will still help you become more efficient.

You might have to test many before finding one that fits your needs. I tried around five different social media scheduling tools before deciding Buffer is the best of them all. Notion has a bit of a learning curve — meaning it took some time before I could get the most out of it.

I began investing by snooping around in other freelancers’ workflows, and I’d suggest you do the same. Ask your community which tools they love, and you’ll have a solid list to work from.

If you haven’t picked up any courses in a while, I recommend dedicating two hours of your weekend (or Fridays) to learning. Again, you don’t have to find paid courses. There are free YouTube lessons and valuable articles for nearly every topic. You just might have to do the extra legwork of needling together many different sources of information.

And keep in mind: Time is money too. You might decide that the time you’re devoting to researching and jerry-rigging free tools would be better spent on client work. This is why investing in paid tools can be better than free tools if they help you optimize your workflow. They save you time, which is a valuable commodity in our industry — and that’s more than worth it in the long run.

About the AuthorSamantha is co-founder of Harlow. Previously she was a marketing and demand gen freelancer. She enjoys traveling, connecting with new people, spending time with her dog Karl, and throwing back an extra dirty martini every now and then.

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