Freelancing Tips

The Qualities Of Successful Small Business Owners

A great many big businesses started as small ones. In fact, I would say that most did. From Steve Jobs beginning his career building products in his parent’s garage, to Starbucks being founded by two teachers pooling their money for the initial investment. Our own company, Motiv, is a small startup made up of freelancers.

But for every small business that takes off, another ten go bankrupt before they ever get off the ground. Many of which are sparked by some truly great ideas. So, if it isn’t the concepts behind the products that are at fault, what is?

The truth is that the driving force of a successful small business is not the idea that started it all, but the qualities of the owner. Some traits seem to be present in all of the founders that make it.


No matter how in demand your product or service may be, it isn’t going to take off at once. As freelancers, we know this perhaps better than anyone because what we have to offer isn’t quite as tangible. While that has benefits as far as manufacturing and overhead is concerned, it can be a struggle to show the fruits of what we do.

That is beginning to change as more people choose to work for themselves, and more companies seek out freelance services as a result. But going from point a, to point b, to point c can take time. Most of us have to build our business (and so our returned profits) from the ground up.

Don’t get disheartened when things don’t go your way immediately. You have to look at the long game, and consider the beginning steps of your business as an investment for the future. Be patient, and work towards your goal one bit at a time.

Inspiring Quote: “Always invest for the long term.” Warren Buffet


Out of all of the people I have tried to get involved in freelancing, only a couple have continued to pursue it beyond an initial project, or two. At first, I thought this was a matter of consistency. I thought they were impatient, and just didn’t see results right away, so quit.

I was wrong. It turns out these people, while they had many skills, lacked one important one: organization. That isn’t just organizing on a basic level, like keeping track of files and payments. It was on a deeper on, where they could not keep track of tasks they had to do, prioritize them, and maintain productivity through the month.

Organization is important from beginning to end. You have to be able to break your day down into tasks, and complete those tasks. Otherwise, it piles on top of you and you get lost.

Inspiring Quote: “An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.” Scott Belsky


One month, you make a great profit. The next, you are barely able to cover your bills. So is the life of most small business owners, and definitely all freelancers. The difference is that successful small business owners adapt to this (and other) issues.

From a sudden change in funding, to an expense that wasn’t planned, problems are going to creep up. Or maybe new opportunities will come knocking, and you have to adapt to take advantage of them. For example, you could be called on to do a project in a totally new field.

While survival of the fittest might be a description of a very different nature, the general concept remains. You have to mold yourself to your environment, or die…in a manner of speaking.

Inspiring Quote: “Set patterns, incapable of adaptability, of pliability, only offer a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns.” Bruce Lee

Willingness To Fail

A certain amount of bravery and recklessness is necessary in this business. You have to be ready to face rejection, and fear of the unknown. Quite often I will tell people what I do, and they will tell me that they would be way too frightened to work without the safety net that traditional employment offers.

If you aren’t willing to fail, you aren’t going to make it. Yes, it is scary, especially in the beginning. I was shaking through my entire first five projects when I started six years ago. But if you don’t move beyond that terror and do it anyway, you will never have the chance to succeed.

Inspiring Quote: “There is no such thing as high returns without risk.” Gerry Schwartz


Drudgery is a part of the process. You will have whole weeks where you just feel burnt out, and don’t want to do anything anymore.  It is the reason that everyone who has a business should be willing to take a break every once in awhile.

In spite of this, you have to be dedicated to the growth and future of your business. No matter how bad it gets, how tired you are, how bored, you have set out to reach a goal. Keep your eye on that goal, and wait out the period of dissatisfaction. Or make changes to eliminate it entirely.

You have to dedicate yourself to your business, because no one else is going to do it for you.

Inspiring Quote: I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” Estee Lauder


You have to always be willing to open yourself up to new experiences, and never get too set in your ways. Think outside the box, and try to provide something completely new. Even if it is only new to your clients, and not as a general concept. That is what innovation is all about.

The most successful small businesses don’t follow by a set mold. They shift and wriggle into new shapes as exciting ideas are presented. They plant seeds for new concepts, and then they urge them to sprout.

Never settle, and always be looking to be an innovator, not a follower.

Inspiring Quote: “Be open to new thoughts, to new people, to new principles, to new ideas, to new experiences. ‘New’ makes us grow.” Rossana Condoleo


Finally, you just have to stick to it. Half of the battle is just getting started, and the other half is making it to the finish line. Sounds easy enough, right?

Inspiring Quotes: I don’t even want to think about the worst case. I provide the discipline and stick-to-it-iveness.” Jenny Craig

A Successful Small Business Starts With You

You are the final and most important element in the success of your business. As a freelancer, you are not just working for yourself, but to create something based entirely around your own skills and future.

Do you have what it takes?

Photo Credit: Flazingo Photos

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  • Dori Anderson

    Me?? Unorganized??? Yeah- a true obstacle to overcome in personal and business. Good article!

  • Steve Mark

    Steve MarkSteve Mark

    Author Reply

    Really inspirational article for freelance designers and developers. I would like to see more post from you. Keep sharing.