Daniel Jach: My tips and tools for being self-employed
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Hi Daniel, please introduce yourself and tell us why you became a freelancer.
Hi, I’m Daniel, I live in Berlin and I’m a freelancer for about a year now. The past 6 years I worked for different digital startups (CHERRISK, Spy-Fy, Freachly etc.) and international consulting firms (ECOVIS, Deloitte). This experience and my background in central- and east Europe together with my network there got me in contact with many companies from the Balkan states. Over time, I had more and more requests to help with entering the market of German-speaking countries as a freelancer. I thought, why not?
In the beginning I did this work next to my full-time job. But after a few month I had so many requests that I decided to focus on this niche full-time. At this time I wanted to start my own business or find a job with more responsibilities anyway. Therefore the timing was just right and I’m very happy about this decision. My clients are mostly international companies with whom I can work completely remote and in different languages.
What do you like about your work?
What I like most about my work is the diversity and flexibility of it. As a person, I like constant changes and new experiences – with my work, as well as with my place of work. A traditional 9-to-5 job in a huge office where I just wait for the weekend isn’t the right thing for me. As a freelancer I don’t just need to concentrate on one project, but I can also decide, with whom I want to work and in what form, meaning, I can also say “no”. Also, I can do this type of work from everywhere in the world where I have an internet connection.
This way I already spent several month in Bali and Japan, living as a ‘digital nomad’, while still making an income. What’s also very important to me is my personal responsibility. As freelancer I’m my own boss and represent my work with my own name. That’s very motivating, because it’s in my own interest to deliver good work. Also, at work I enjoy being in contact with so many different people and business-cultures.
What is your next challenge as a freelancer?
With more flexibility comes also a lot of risk and uncertainty. Because I myself am always in charge of my finances, contracts, tax returns and lots more. No-one can do this for me and I need to keep an overview at all times. Being the boss of my own enterprise means having several jobs – I’m an accountant, marketing manager, sales person and so on.
It’s difficult to really disconnect for a time. Because every minute an ‘important’ message could land in my inbox that I need to answer right away. This transparency and fast communication is also expected nowadays. That’s why it’s difficult for me to find a healthy work-life-balance and to set borders for my work. My professional and personal life intermingle a lot. Not everyone has the managing skills and discipline to master and keep on going with a successful freelance business. There are times when I have so many requests that I need to manage several projects at the same time. But the working hours vary a lot, sometimes it can be 80 hours per week (including the weekend) and sometimes it’s just 1o hours, depending on the number of projects.
A huge challenge for me, as for most people, not only for freelancers but also for employees, is the Corona pandemic. I lost my biggest orders from one day to the next, when the virus started spreading in Europe. As I was not prepared I had not enough financial savings and there was a time, when it really threatened my business. Most companies stop their projects with freelancers first, when their business is not going well. Luckily my business survived this difficult time and is doing better again.
Why do you work as a freelancer and not as employee?
I purposely decided against being employed in a company. As a freelancer my work is much more diverse and I’m not bound to one specific task. I also have a stronger motivation and work more effectively as I generally have a lot of fun at my job. Then, I have no boss or executive and therefore no top-down work-structure which often cuts all creativity. This way, I’m seen as an equal business partner. As CEO of my own company I’m in a different, stronger position during discussions with clients, meetings and other business situations.
I can decide independently, when and where I work and fulfill my obligations. Wether it’s at home, in a co-working space or at the beach. When talking about income, as a freelancer there’s much more potential and own responsibility, I have more influence on my income. Also, I don’t have to wait for my monthly paycheck, which always is the same, regardless of my efforts.
What tools do you use for your work?
I’m actually a real tool-geek and love testing new solutions for freelancers and digital work in general. However, I need to remind myself that I don’t focus on them too much and make enough time for my core business. Because all my clients work with individual project-management tools, I use a lot of them already. My favorites are Mondays und Trello, because they have many features but are still intuitive and I like the Knaben-format.
For communication inside the different teams I prefer Slack and Microsoft Teams, even though WhatsApp and E-Mail are still very popular. I try to use different tools however, in order to stronger separate my professional and private life. Because I often work from different countries and with public Wifi, a VPN-client is essential, I recommend NordVPN, for example. That’s also why I try to avoid post and letters in paper format and get it all digitalized and send via email by CAYA.
For sales and client acquisition good options are Hubspot, Pipedrive and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. For me, LinkedIn functions as my website and portfolio, so my presence here is very important to me. Because I often record webinars and offer online-courses I installed the Loom Web-App. A proper cloud system for my documents is DropBox or Google Drive.
One of the few apps that I use almost daily is the Accountable app because I can do all my accounting digitally and can send different invoices to my clients fast and easy. This is crucial for my core business and therefore the app functions as my main bank-account for my business.