Why every freelancer needs a ‘money mind’
By Tom Albrighton
So, you’ve gone freelance. And you’re making a living. But have you made yourself a life?
There’s no doubt about it. Freelancing can be a wonderful way to work.
You can break free of the nine-to-five. You can get out from under the thumb of a controlling boss. You can create your own workspace, prioritise your own workload and manage your own time.
It should be liberating. But for some freelancers, it’s more like a prison sentence.
They’ve got the skills, they’ve got the work and they’ve got the clients. But their freelance life still doesn’t add up. For them, it seems there isn’t that much ‘free’ in freelancing after all.
The reason? They simply don’t make enough money.
What is true wealth?
We all want to do work we love. But however much you enjoy your work, you still wouldn’t do it for fun. At the end of the day, you work to get money. You only have so many hours to spend on this earth, and if you choose to spend them working, you should be well rewarded for doing so.
At the most basic level, you need money to live. Beyond that threshold, you want money so you can buy and do more of the things you like, and avoid the things you don’t. In this sense, more money makes you happier.
However, life isn’t just about money, and merely having money will never bring you true happiness. What will truly make you happy is wealth.
Money represents power and potential. But it doesn’t mean anything until you actually use it. You can use it positively, to create the life you want. Or you can use it negatively – for example, by accumulating and hoarding cash for its own sake, or spending it ostentatiously, purely to prove a point to others.
While money is just a number on a screen, true wealth is a state of being. It’s about using money to buy the experiences that bring pleasure and meaning to your life. Those experiences are different for everyone. But for most of us, they’re in areas like travel, home, spirit, nature, sport or culture, and they often involve spending time with family, friends or loved ones.
From this perspective, you can see that wealth doesn’t necessarily mean having loads of money, because the things you want might not even be that expensive. You might ‘pay’ for them in time or commitment, as well as cash.
But whatever your goals are, none of them can happen unless you have the time and opportunity to pursue them. And money gives you that choice. When you have it, you can reclaim your time from work, so you can spend it doing other things that have more value for you.
To sum up so far: the more money you make, the more time you can spend doing the things you love. And that is the true meaning of wealth.
So, ask yourself – and answer honestly. Is your freelance work bringing you the wealth you want?
If not, it’s time to make a change.
Money mind, and why you need it
When you go freelance, you begin selling your skills on the open market. So whatever abilities you have – and I’m sure you have plenty – you must also know how to turn those abilities into cash. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good you are; your talent will wither on the vine.
Every business exists to create and capture value. Firms create value for their customers in the form of products and services. And they also capture value for themselves, mainly in the form of money. As long as a firm can continue to create and capture value, it’s a going concern.
Freelancing is just the same. You need to create value for your clients with your skills, and you need to capture value in return. As long as you can do that, you’ve got a viable freelance business.
However, unlike a large corporation, you don’t have a production department and a sales department. You don’t even have an operations director and a marketing director. You’re just one person, making all the decisions on your own. And yet, you must still ensure that your freelance business can create and capture value.
That’s why you need a ‘money mind’ to sit alongside your ‘work mind’. In other words, you need a part of yourself – call it a mindset, an attitude or whatever – that’s completely focused on the commercial side of your freelancing.
Work mind is about creating value, while money mind is about capturing it. While your work mind is busy serving in the shop out front, your money mind is taking care of business in the back office. Together, they make sure your freelance business is doing everything that it should.
Your money mind is active rather than passive; conscious rather than unconscious. With your money mind, you take full responsibility for your freelance business, and make purposeful choices to develop it in new and profitable ways. It’s the missing link from your work to your wealth.
Money mind is not about making a big resolution, a grand gesture or a one-off effort. It’s something you cultivate over time. It’s about making many small decisions, every day, so you can take every opportunity to increase your wealth.
Often, money mind is about breaking habits that you may have learned long ago, and continue to follow without even being aware of them. You may even regard them as immutable character traits, although you’re always free to change them. Money mind opens the door to a different path. It gets in between your work and your habitual reactions to speak up on behalf of your wallet.
As you break old habits, so you can create new ones. The more money-mind decisions you make, the easier it is to make more decisions along the same lines. And the more you practise your new habits, the more natural they will feel.
Work is not enough
Freelancers run into money problems when they don’t have their work mind and money mind in balance. That might be because they focus too much on work mind, or because they neglect money mind, or both. Let’s consider why that happens.
For some freelancers, it’s all about the work. They just want to spend as much time as possible doing the activity they most enjoy. They didn’t go freelance to think about money all day, or to tie themselves up in red tape. In fact, they probably started freelancing precisely so they could get away from corporate suits and the bean-counters from accounting.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Yes, it would be wonderful if you could focus on doing the work you love, and money just magically appeared. Maybe it really does work out that way, for a few lucky freelancers. But for the rest of us, wealth is not like sunshine, which will surely appear if you wait long enough. Instead, it’s something you have to make happen for yourself.
That’s why merely being good at what you do is not enough. It’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient. It will get you on the road, but it won’t take you all the way to your destination.
‘Just do the work’ is the motto of an employee – and a naïve one at that. It’s what people tell themselves when they’re hoping that their boss will notice what they do and reward them with a pay rise. It’s not the mindset of someone who creates, owns and manages a business for themselves.
Two minds, one purpose
The important thing to remember is that your money mind and your work mind are not enemies. They work in harmony, not opposition. Cultivating your money mind doesn’t take anything away from your work mind. In fact, they reinforce each other.
Consider what happens if you neglect money mind and focus purely on the work. The only way to earn more is to work more. You may feel you have to take every job, or spend all your time working, or cut corners on one job so you can squeeze in another. That means you wind up doing lower-quality work, and probably burning yourself out too. You are in a race to the bottom, in every sense.
Now see how things change when money mind enters the picture. You make a conscious effort to bring in better-paying clients, generate higher fees and explore new ways to develop your business. You’re still working hard in your business, but you’re working hard on your business too.
As your earnings grow, you can be more selective about which jobs you take on. Then you can take your time to deliver high-quality work on every job, and for every client. And you can make sure you stay physically and mentally healthy, so you can sustain your success into the future.
So while doing great work brings you more money, earning more money also enables you to do great work. Money mind and work mind combine to improve your freelancing life in every aspect: the work you do, the money you make and the wealth you enjoy. It’s a positive – and profitable – feedback loop.
You don’t have to stop being you
Now, you might already be thinking that you don’t like the sound of money mind. Maybe it sounds like someone you wouldn’t really warm to, if you met them.
That’s why some freelancers shy away from the whole idea of money mind. They feel it’s just not them, or that money mind is incompatible with their character.
Other freelancers might avoid money mind because they feel it doesn’t fit with their values. They see money mind as something acquisitive, materialistic or entrepreneurial, and they’re just not that kind of person. So to them, focusing on money just doesn’t feel right. They’d rather someone else took care of all that.
But cultivating a money mind doesn’t mean becoming a different person. Whatever you choose to do in your freelance business, you are still you.
You don’t have to transform your personality overnight, or force yourself to think and act in some alien way. You don’t have to toss your principles overboard or torch your values. You just have to think certain thoughts and take certain actions at certain times, so you can step on to a different path. That’s all.
Think of money mind as a pair of glasses that you put on to do a certain job, then take off again when you’re done. You need your money perspective at certain times, but that doesn’t mean you have to permanently change the way you see the world.
That goes for me too! I’m not a pushy or aggressive person, either in my business or in any other part of my life. I’ve even written a whole book about freelancing as an introvert.
Actually, having that sort of personality was the cue for me to change my thinking about money. I realised that if I relied on my natural character to guide me in every aspect of my work, I’d end up being paid less than I was worth. So I decided to cultivate my own money mind. And as a result, I got to work the way I want and do the things I enjoy.
Just as money mind stands guard over the quality of your work, so it also protects the core of your character. You step into money mind to sort out your money, and you come out again to do everything else. You take care of your business so it can take care of you – but it still stays in its box, and it doesn’t spread into every area of your life.
What are you afraid of?
That may sound like a taunt or a challenge, but it’s not. It’s a constructive suggestion to take an honest look at what’s going on inside your head.
Task focus, innate character and firm principles may all sound like plausible reasons for avoiding money mind. But maybe they all boil down to something far deeper and more powerful.
When we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of our reasons for not acting are really fears disguised as character traits, values or ideas. And whatever tale we tell ourselves, it’s actually the fear that came first. Our rationalisations are just words that we piled on top of our negative emotions so we didn’t have to feel them any more.
For freelancers, there could be several different types of fear at play.
First of all, we all feel anxious about change. That’s completely natural. It’s only human to prefer the known and familiar to the unknown and the strange. If money mind feels alien to you, taking on these new ways of thinking can be unnerving.
But if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll just get more of what you’ve always got. So if what you have now isn’t working for you, you have to look for something new – even if it brings you some discomfort in the short term.
Other freelancers might be anxious that their clients will be upset or offended by higher rates. They might even feel that by asking for more money, they’re somehow taking advantage of their clients.
If you think this, remember that money mind is only about getting paid what you’re worth. It’s not about extorting or blackmailing money out of innocent victims. It’s about getting the money that is already due to you – money that you’ve been leaving on the table until now.
What’s more, clients only use you because they want to. Every business deal is freely entered into by both parties. You are absolutely free to set your terms, and your clients are free to take them or leave them, as they wish. All you’re going to do is decide what you want, say it out loud and wait for an answer.
Another important lesson is that actions have consequences. If you want to make more money from freelancing, you have to accept that some clients might move on, or that you won’t necessarily win every job. Selecting clients can be just as important as attracting them. Achieving wealth isn’t just about ‘more’ – it’s about ‘different’ and ‘better’ too.
Finally, some freelancers might worry about what other people will think of them if they suddenly start acting like a boss. But in my experience, your friends and family are more likely to be impressed, if not actually envious. Besides, most of your money dealings remain completely private, between you and the client alone. No one need ever know what a badass you’ve become.
If you’re feeling any of these fears, try thinking of it this way. You can have what you want, or you can have your reasons for not having it. The choice is yours.
Time to choose
When you go freelance, your fate is in your hands, and yours alone. No one is coming to the rescue. Very few clients will offer you more money than you ask for, no matter how deeply they value what you do. So if you want rewards, you have to hustle for them. That is an unchangeable truth of freelance life.
Basically, if you’re doing tons of great work for loads of great clients, but your freelance life still isn’t coming together, money mind is the missing piece of the puzzle. It will bring you the freelance life you’ve always wanted, and knew was out there somewhere, but still could never quite reach.
About the author
Tom is a freelance writer and editor, an original co-founder of ProCopywriters and the author of four books, including Copywriting Made Simple and How to Write Clearly.
This is an edited extract from his book Cash Money Freelancing: 76 bright ideas to make more money from your freelance business. Get your copy in paperback, hardback, ebook or audio from Amazon.