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It’s been just over nine years since I started my business. I had three children (still do) – but they were all under the age of four. I had no choice but to start my own business, because I needed money – and I couldn’t afford to pay a babysitter for my little hooligans and work outside our house.

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of all inventions – but it’s also the driving force behind many other things – like freelance business.

Sometimes you start a business because you’ve got a great idea. And sometimes it’s because you’ve got great skills, and you are tired of working for someone else. And sometimes it’s because you are up to your neck in debt and the little jobs you were doing before weren’t cutting it.

That last one was me.

And believe me when I say that it was not then, nor is it now, an easy thing to do. You have to get up and be willing to do the work every single day. You have to maintain focus. You have to stay organized. And you have to be good at communicating with people, even when they are driving you crazy.

Even if you aren’t a naturally ambitious and driven person, you can still do it. Here are my top 5 things to do to keep your freelance business running smoothly:

1. Write (or type) down everything. 

I mean everything. There was a time in my life when I didn’t have to write things down, because I would remember them. That was before I had kids. Now, there are just too many things to remember. For you, typing it might work. It doesn’t for me. I have to have an actual write-in-it planner, because writing it down not only gets it in the schedule, but it also better embeds it in my head.

2. Take Days Off

This is especially hard for me. Because I happen to love what I do. I would work every day, multiple hours a day. But sometimes, you have to take a day or two off. It helps stimulate creativity and just generally makes you a happier person. And don’t wait until all the projects are done, because that is something that never happens.

3. Make Friends with Other People Who Do What You Do.

Thank the Lord for the couple of Facebook Groups I am in of designers and developers. Those people have saved my butt more than once by offering ideas when I’m stuck, giving words of encouragement and just being great people. Plus it gives you a private place to lament bad clients and warn people you like about bad apples that are out there.

4. Talk to People Who Aren’t In Your Business About Your Business

They have fresh ideas. They look at things in ways you haven’t thought of. It’s refreshing and often enlightening. You don’t have to take all of their advice – but often, it’s best if you take a lot of it.

5. Always Be Learning

It is easy to get set in your ways. You learned your craft, you got where you are on your skills…but everything gets old and stale after awhile. Listen to podcasts. Watch TedX talks. Join Creative Mornings. Take classes. Don’t get too set in your ways.

Running your own business isn’t easy. It requires hustle. And it requires dedication. And though these are by no means the keys to success, I have found that they are vital to keeping your business going. (Believe me, I have to revisit them all the time.)

Oh, and I promised the one thing that will kill your business every time…

Stagnation

If you let yourself and your business become one thing, and refuse to change or grow, your business will die.

My business is in no way the same thing that it was when I started it nine years ago. It has morphed into something completely different. Different goals. Different focus. Different set of skills I bring to the table. If you remain where you start, you will go nowhere.