Sandip Das

8:10 PM, 16th Mar 2018

How To Become A Successful Freelancer ?


What Is Freelancing?

Going right back to the beginning, the term ‘freelance’ was first coined in 1820 by Sir Walter Scott. He used it to refer to a mercenary, literally a free lance, or a soldier that wasn’t allied to a particular monarch.

Today’s definition of freelancing is blurry. At it’s most simple, it means someone who has multiple employers.

Being a freelancer means a lot of freedom to plan your own days at work, but it also does require discipline and planning. Being your own boss, you need to be good at making the right rules to succeed. Most of these tips sound just like common sense, but actually remembering everything when it’s needed isn’t necessarily as easy as you would think.

We all react to new situations and scenarios differently, based on our backgrounds, ability to adapt, and numerous other factors that make up who we are. The transition from full-time work to freelancing is one of those times in a professionals life. We feel like we’ve been thrown in the deep-end of the swimming pool, without a game-plan to get out of the pool from the other end.

This question is one many freelance newbies and to be honest seasoned professionals ask of themselves during their careers. Before simply diving into freelancing, you need to determine what to expect from yourself as a freelancer should you decided to make the switch.

Different rules work for different people. Having worked as a freelancer on and off for over 4 years, I’ve found this list of best tips useful on how to succeed in freelancing business. Maybe you already use several of these or versions of them, great! Hopefully you will also find a tip or three that can help you to succeed in what you do! :)

The most important tip coming above all of this. You are in the web design industry, that changes quickly so you must be committed to never ending learning. You gotta love what you do to do this. But when you do, you will be able to offer higher end services for your clients and eventually double your freelance rates.

Business plan

This should be the first thing you do. Even though you have all the info needed in your head, putting it on paper will give many advances and definitely be worth the extra work. Not only will you that way be forced to think through important issues and possible challenges before they occur, but it can also be a lot easier for you to get the needed help from potential business partners or investors when you have a good business plan to show them. You need to know how you will find clients, you need a plan in place.

Pre-Plan Future Aspects

Allow yourself an hour or so at the beginning of each work week, or the last hour of the previous week to plan the upcoming week. Then it’ll be easier for you to plan how to spend your hours to reach the deadlines you have upcoming. The more ongoing projects you have, the more important this is.

Use Free Tools

Starting up as a freelancer can be challenging economically, and by choosing from all available and good free software you can save a lot of costs without necessarily having to give up a lot of functionality. Free doesn’t have to mean it’s not good software, there are more and more options available every day so make sure you check out what can be used related to your business. When you buy a computer, camera, tablet or printer make sure to check out the software that comes with it as well. You may be in for a positive surprise.

Use eye-catching logo

To look professional and catch those potential clients in a tight market, requires hard work when it comes to branding yourself. Creating an eye-catching logo (or getting someone to do that for you if you lack the skills yourself) can make you seem more professional and easier to see. The power of a good logo and actually using it on business cards, websites and such will give you that professional look which could be the extra inch needed to catch the attention of a new client.

Learn to say NO!

If you don’t have the time for another client at the moment, it’s important to be able to realize it and say no. It is the most fair thing to yourself, your existing client and the new ones that knock on your door. Worst case scenario is saying yes to too many and it having consequences for existing clients. You always want to make sure you have enough time to give your current clients the best service you can. A client too many could be the thing that lowers the quality of  all your work.

Make your own blog/website

In this Internet age that we are, having a website of your own can mean a whole lot. Not only does it make you look more professional but it is also a gateway to new clients. Many do surf the net to find people for their next projects and if they can’t find you online they won’t know you’re there.

Note: if you have basic web skills I strongly suggest use wordpress , if you want it to be build by someone else and you are not able to find anyone good , get in touch with me I will sure connect with someone good. 

Update your website regularly

Do you already have a website or blog? – great! But to maximize its value to you it’s very important to update it regularly. If new clients visit your site and see that you haven’t updated the content for a very long time, that might just be the reason for them to choose someone else instead. Updating regularly will require an hour of your time every now and then but can pay back multiple times rewarding you with new clients.

Give your online visitors something free

Giving something extra to the visitors on your website always is a good thing. If you work as a designer you can for example consider putting up some free textures or buttons. This will give your site more visitors and potentially more clients for you. Or how about offering every visitor a percentage off on their first order with you? Again, this could be the extra thing needed to stand out to new clients.

Use social media

Social media is where many relationships are made these days. No matter which country you live in, using social media can connect you to potential clients and partners all over the world. Twitter is a must, and you should consider Facebook and also forums related to your business. If you are a designer consider having a look at deviantArt and YouTube as well. In several of these media you can advertise for your own business as long as you make sure to not spam it too much.

Get allies

Having allies can mean everything. Connecting with people through social media or even spreading the word of your business through friends and family can get you just that word out there that you need. Also making relations with people who can do things for the clients that you can’t can help, you give the clients a more complete package of what they need. One day you are the one sending a client to an ally that can offer a more suitable service in that case, the next day you could be the one having clients sent your way

 

Do More Savings

Even though your business may go really well, there can and probably will come a bad month or two every now and then. Being a freelancer is being vulnerable to changes in the market. My advice would be to save up a little bit of your income each month, save it in an own savings account so that you have it as a safety buffer for when times get rough. You sure wont regret doing that. It would be a shame if a couple of small bills would ruin everything for you in a bad month.

Be creative

There are many ways to be creative, to get new clients or to make better use of equipment and office space. Some examples can be to upgrade an existing computer if you can’t afford a new one, redecorate a spare room if you can’t afford the rent for an office outside of your home. Add a new product or service to your current list or ask friends or family if they know anyone that may be in need of your services. The options are many, all you need is to try think a bit out of the box

Reward loyal customers

If the market is tight you need to do what you can to have your customers back a second and third time. Being friendly and service minded is always a must, but what about giving them a discount the second time? Or sending them special offers of various kinds. Use your fantasy and implement these things into your business plan. Make customers want to come back and you will have the best possible chance to survive.

Treat every client as if he is the only one

Giving existing customers good offers as mentioned in the previous tip is important. But remember to be service minded. If a customer feels important that will make him more loyal as well. Use positive language when you talk or write to him. Don’t be afraid to say that you will go out of your way to make sure he is satisfied with the product/service he is getting. And remember to let him know that feedback is appreciated. That way you can keep making your services more and more attractive and get happier clients. Don’t forget that existing clients can be the best advertising you ever get!

Work when you are at work

If you have decided to work from lets say 8am to 4pm every day, then do so. If you have errands to run, private mail accounts to check, private phone calls to make and so on, these will quickly eat of your much-needed work time. Make a promise to yourself to only do this when you are not supposed to work, as in before or after work or during your lunch break. It may not seem that much to you, but I’ve seen several great freelancers getting their days completely messed up because they were not good enough at managing their time properly.

Know when to start and stop

Just as important as actually working when you are at work, is starting when you should and stopping when you should. You may have to prepare yourself for working extra hours every now and then to keep your business alive, but it is very important that you have free time too. You need to recover and get your mind filled with other things or you will get burned out and ruin things for yourself. The more hours you work at once, the less productive you get. So remember to follow your own rules on when to start and stop the day at work.

Keep Your Finances Tidy

Keeping your finances tidy probably sounds easy, and it can be – as long as you keep an eye on them regularly. No matter how small a business you are running you will run into trouble if you only spend time on billing and accounting once or twice a year. Set up dates for when you pay your bills, when you send out invoices to clients and to make monthly budgets. Not only will this make it easier for you throughout the whole year but you will be able to fix errors quicker, do adjustments if needed and so on.

Get out of the house occasionally (especially if you work from home)

If you have a home based office it’s important to get some fresh air. Book some of your meetings somewhere else, meet business partners for lunch, or spend an hour or two working from a library or coffee shop with your laptop if you can. The change of scenery may boost your energy level/creativity and give you a lot back.

Find Inspiration In What You Are Doing

Rough days come and rough days go. Simple as it may sound, having something around you to remind you of why you are working this hard can be what you need to get some extra energy on that one difficult day. Make your own inspirational string! Take a piece of string or use a cork board/whiteboard, whichever you have available. Add a picture of your kids, of the vacation spot you are saving to go to, or maybe a car you hope to be able to buy. Add some of your favourite inspirational quotes or pictures, whatever inspires you really. And there you go, your own inspirational string! Taking a look at it when you are close to giving up or when a day is extra stressful can work wonders for you. You should give it a try :)

Work Hard and Stay Humble

No one is born an expert or world champion. If things go well or you feel on top of things it can be easy to get a little bit too confident, which can be bad for your reputation and bad for the quality of your work. You should always aim to be humble, listen to your clients on what they want. Give them your professional opinion when needed but in the end it is the client that generates your paycheck. Also remember to willingly take advice from colleagues or others who have been in the market for a while.

Look professional, in every way possible

You have the logo, the website and so on and things are starting to look pretty good. Remember to also meet clients with respect, look presentable and be polite. Being your own boss doesn’t mean you can talk or act in any way and still keep your clients. Remember that.

Ask for feedback

Not only should you have comments enabled on your website but you should also ask your friends/family/allies for feedback on your work. And most important of all, after you have finished your project – ask the client what he thinks. Not only do you get a great chance to improve but the client also feels important. Getting someone else’s opinion is always good and this will help you to become even more successful.

Always Carry A Notebook Around With You

It being a normal notebook, your iPhone / I-Pad / Mac or any other digital form of “notebook” you should carry it with you and remember to take notes. This is for many reasons. Not only can you unexpectedly run into a potential client or an existing one, but you may come up with valuable ideas when you are on the bus, on the plane or basically anywhere else. Several times have I had amazing ideas, not had a notebook, forgotten the ideas and seen them used somewhere else a year later.

Take the time you need!

This is so important, it can’t be mentioned enough. Same as with the tip about learning to say no. Once you have said yes to a project you need to make sure that you take the time needed to do the best you can do. Handing over a project that is half done will not only give you a client who won’t come back, but it can give you a bad reputation. Your clients are your best references to show in the future and no one want a freelancer who leaves the work half-finished.

Working Time-zones

As is the nature of the freelancing game, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with employers from all corners of the globe. This of course means that you’ll get fantastic experiences, dealing with new clients and a whole range of culture sets different to that of your own.

However it also means that to do so, you’re going to have to deal with clients across various timezones completely estranged from your own. The way most freelancers handle this is with common sense planning.

A Compromise

There’s no point getting up at 3 a.m. to discuss a project with a client, you and the client must discuss the project at a time which falls somewhere accessible by both of you. If it’s 8 a.m. your time, and 5 p.m. the client’s time, then this is still a workable time frame. A mutual compromise on timezone management is the best way to get things done in this scenario.

However if this all just seems too hard for you, focusing your marketing efforts on a handful of timezones that fall around yours can also work. By servicing a distinct array of countries which form the majority of your client base, this is not only more comfortable for you, but helpful due to the familiarity your clients are likely to have with your portfolio of previous work.

I recommend this option if you feel you need to get your feet wet, or want to build a strong semi-local client base.

Different Currencies

As you’re going to be dealing with multiple locales, you might expect that you may have to deal with multiple currencies, right? Not necessarily. In the freelancing world, the U.S dollar is widely accepted as a transaction constant for many clients, and is something you can utilize to your advantage depending on which location you’re based.

However keep a close eye on currency rates, because there’s significant financially instability across many nations at the moment, and you need to look at what the USD actually converts to in your local currency. Sometimes you may see a variance of up to 10%, which on larger projects can really hurt your bottom line.

Financial Management

Freelancing, like small businesses, operates in waves of ups and downs. Sometimes it rains dollars, other times you will be lucky to get a drop. But in the event that you are cashed up, don’t head straight to the shops and buy that fancy watch or piece of jewelry… at least not initially.

Most seasoned freelancers will advise that it’s a good idea (see: rule) to keep some backup cash in an account to manage the drier periods. The first chance you get to do this, you should take it up. Even if it’s only a few thousand dollars, this can really last you for a long time when nothing else is coming in. And to be perfectly honest, almost all freelancers experience this at some time, no matter how long they have been in the business.

Watch The Cash Flow

By ensuring you keep a watchful eye on your incoming cash flow, and don’t get tempted to spend your windfalls each time they come in, you’re going to be much better off. That’s not to say you should never spend them, but I recommend only doing so a few times a year so that you’re sure you have that backup in place to protect your well-being.

The unfortunate reality of fancy watches or jewelry is that they look great, feel great, and should be something you strive to reward yourself with (if that’s your vice), but they don’t buy groceries. So play it sensible, try to put it in income-generating investments (including yourself), and you’ll be OK.

Think like A Business Person

As a freelancer, you need to be able to deliver top-notch work, manage financials, marketing and client interaction, and you need to do this efficiently. The best way to become a great freelance boss is to take a good hard look at your strengths, your business, and what you can achieve in the available time you have.

Because you’ve most likely got commitments with friends, family, you have to be realistic that freelancing isn’t necessarily a job for one person. Connect with your professional network, outsource a bookkeeper, subcontract freelancers so you can bid on larger projects, hire a freelancer with marketing skills on a semi-regular basis, and free up your time to focus on delivering great client work.

It may take some time to get the balance right, but by doing so, you’ll avoid burnout, and deliver better service for your clients.

Maintain work-life balance

It’s very commonplace that freelancers will isolate themselves, work too hard and forget to keep a balance in their lives. If this is you, don’t worry, you just have to be actively aware you’re doing this, and take a couple of simple steps to fix the issue.

For example, if you work from home, have a change of scenery by working in a coworking space, public library, or even a suitable coffee shop to change things up. If you’re most likely going to be mobile, work somewhere near a friend’s workplace so you can meet them for lunch.

Go for a run in the mornings before work, cook yourself a really fantastic lunch at home, or walk down the road to the local coffee shop to break up your day.

Make Real-World Connections For Business

As a freelancer you have to be actively aware that you need to start reaching out. Although there are tremendous opportunities online for freelancers, you need to balance that with real-world interactions.

By taking the time to balance your freelancing life, you’re also much more likely to meet new clients (especially in places like co-working spaces), develop a whole new subset of friends, and really expand your horizons. Most freelancers don’t realize the fantastic opportunity they’ve been given via their flexibility, so take the chance to really work it!

Don’t make your bedroom your office

This is one of the advice advice I heard when I started freelancing. No matter what you do, don’t have your office in your bedroom.
Forget an office, I didn’t even have a desk when I started freelancing. I’d work in bed or on the dining table. When I did get a table a month later, it was placed in my bedroom.

The reasoning behind the advice is sound. Working in bed is bad for your posture, and it doesn’t make for a healthy work environment. After a couple of hours of working from your bed, you just feel like lazing about – absolutely not productive.

But when they are starting out, many freelancers don’t have the funds or the room to have a separate home office. So the advice is actually redundant. It’s impossible to follow advice you can’t afford.

If you’re working in your bedroom, make sure you sit up straight and have a breakfast table to put your laptop. Get up every half hour to stretch to avoid feeling drowsy or lazy.

If you have a desk in your room, try to set it near a window. If you don’t have a window, make sure you set the table so that your back faces the bed when you’re working. Add an easy to maintain, real plant on your desk and keep it clean. The aesthetics are important when one is strapped for space.

If at all possible, avoid working in the bedroom. Instead, choose the dining room or the kitchen table. It’s closer to the coffee!

Don’t work for free

New freelancers don’t always have a portfolio. To have one, they need clients who’ll give them work and to get work, they need to find clients. It’s a vicious chicken-and-egg thing. The only way out of it seems to be to work for free in the beginning – at least for the first couple of clients!

But popular freelancing advice says that you should never work for free as it undervalues your talent and sets a precedent for future compensation. What’s a freelancer to do? How are you going to build your portfolio?

Instead of working for free, create your own samples. Better yet, volunteer your services to a non-profit organization. Not only will it look good on your resume, the organization would be eternally grateful to you and when you ask for testimonials, they’ll be offering glowing examples.

Always take a deposit

How many of you took deposits from clients when you started out? Me neither. In fact, this is something I still don’t do unless the project is a substantial one.

Yes, I got stiffed once and yes, I should ideally take a deposit before starting work. But clients don’t always agree to that and it also really depends on how you do business. Granted, chances of you not being paid are high if you don’t take a deposit but it’s not always feasible to pass over a client just because they don’t pay an initial deposit.

For me, this advice only works with big projects. I simply explain to the client why it’s a big risk for me to start work when a big amount is involved. They usually understand and send over a 20% deposit (at least) or whichever amount we’ve agreed upon.

Never hand over a finished project. Always hold something back. If it’s a design project, put your watermark on it. If it’s a website theme/template send them screenshots and if it’s a writing project, ask them for the payment after the draft has been approved.

Whatever kind of work you do, find a way to either put your mark on it or hold something back until you receive the full payment.

But I would also love to specify that if you completely believe your client or you are working for same client for a very long time taking deposit is not required , I personally don't take deposit if I completely trust the Client or I am working a long time for them. 

Have A Freelancing Contract

Every freelancer, freelance blog and business book out there says the same thing: Working without a contract is inviting disaster to dinner. Yet there are countless freelancers who work without a contract. I know because I was one too. Legal mumbo jumbo scares the best of us.

As new freelancers, we’re eager to get started. "What’s the point of a contract until I have clients?" you think. And then suddenly, you have a client and you’re so excited you forget all about the contract.

Or maybe you’re scared to bring up the topic of a contract. You’re uncomfortable bringing it up when everything seems to be going smoothly. Just because this advice is popular doesn’t meant it’s not right. It just doesn’t work with a big percentage of freelancers.

Always communicate via email or written chat or Project Management tools (Comment’s section). Even when you’ve talked to the client over the phone, send them an email recapping your chat and ask them if you’ve missed anything. An email exchange might not be a contract but it’s the next best thing.

Should you come up with any problems, you can always refer to the emails and tell the client that this was what was decided and agreed upon about the rates, scope, payment terms. Better yet, once all the details have been finalized, send your client all the details in an email recapping the entire deal.

Charge what you’re worth

Freelancers either charge what they’re worth or they don’t. Most often, they don’t.

The internet is riddled with advice on charging what you’re worth. We’re told that the kind of clients we attract is directly related to our rates – and it’s true.

Unfortunately it’s very rare for a new freelancers to even know what the going rate is in his niche, let alone, his worth. This knowledge comes with time and confidence in your work.

Charging what you’re worth might be stretching it a bit. Stick with charging the going rates. Use Twitter and LinkedIn to find other freelancers in your niche. Check out their websites to see if they’ve listed their rates.

While not all freelancer list their rates, a few do which is enough to give you a general idea. If you’re still unsure, email the ones who don’t have them listed and ask them. Some won’t reply because they guard their rates but there are plenty of freelancers who will.

Online forums are also a great source of information. If there’s a freelancing forum you frequent, ask about the going rates there. You’re guaranteed to get plenty of help!

Reflection

The beautiful thing about being a freelancer is that we’re adaptable folks. If something doesn’t work we either work around it, or find a way to make the best of the situation, without being taken advantage of. Have you ever been given advice about freelancing that didn’t work for you?

Freelancing offers unparalleled flexibility but also comes with the risk of not having enough work and not knowing where your next paycheck will come from.

Many freelancers work from home, have multiple bosses, and have to juggle multiple projects at once.

That makes staying on top of everything especially challenging. Here are seven field-tested tips for freelancers to stay organized:

Keep A Regular Daily Schedule

Because freelancers often work from home and manage several projects at once, "it's really easy to feel like you don't have a life," says Goodman. Whether you're a morning person, a night person, or someone in between, giving yourself structure that you stick to will help you define the separation between your personal and professional lives.

Don't commit to more jobs than you can realistically handle

Back in past I used to take multiple freelancing assignments , but sometimes I found I lost myself in that much jobs which being overloaded , and then I decided take that much work I will take which I can handle by myself . In this way you can make greater products and make client's much more happy otherwise you will make unhappy clients and in near future no work due to bad reputation .

Keep all your ideas in one place

When you're juggling multiple assignments, it can be easy for all of your scribbled ideas and Post-It notes to get lost in a chaotic jumble. Goodman likes to keep a physical idea notebook as a single deposit for all of her thoughts on different projects.

There are also plenty of programs to arrange your notes digitally, like Evernote. Holly Reisem Hanna, founder of the site The Work at Home Woman, recommends using customer relationship management software like Trello, which is free.

Set aside some personal time

Because you're scheduling your projects months ahead of time to maintain a steady income, it can be easy to forget that you could be burning yourself out, says Goodman. If you schedule a vacation well in advance, it helps you maintain your productivity and ensures you won't be scrambling to fit in last-minute breaks.

Reply to important emails immediately

Email is hard enough to manage when you have one steady gig, but keeping track of all your correspondences with potential and current clients can become overwhelming for an active freelancer. To make sense of it all, you could keep separate folders for each task you're working on. The downside of that strategy, however, is you'll have to spend time sorting every email you get.

Goodman says that no matter how you organize your inbox, make sure you reply to your bosses and clients as soon as possible. The junk can wait; your sources of income must not.

Use more than just a spreadsheet to keep track of your finances

Freelancers don't have the luxury of a company's accounting team or HR department, so it's especially important that they stay on top of their personal finances. Dedicating a block of time each week to making sure your finances are up-to-date.

Using a simple Excel spreadsheet to track your finances can lead to unnecessary headaches. She recommends GoDaddy's bookkeeping services ($9.99 per month) or Intuit's Quick Books (starting at $18.86 per month). These programs can help you keep track of your income and expenditures, as well as calculate how much you owe in quarterly self-employment taxes. If you don't keep detailed track of your finances, you could get hit with a bigger tax bill than you anticipated.

Have steady clients and an anchor gig

No matter what your profession, prioritize jobs that are more than one-time deals, and build relationships with bosses or clients that are easy to work with. Try to acquire an "anchor gig," a part-time job that will serve as a reliable source of monthly income. This will help you avoid a desperate scramble for jobs to pay the bills, giving you some peace of mind.

Be entrepreneurial

When you’re a freelancer, you are much more of a small business owner than you are an employee without social benefits. Thinking that I am the CEO of my own little company helped me to understand my areas of action and to focus my energy on what ultimately matters most for a business: to create value and to generate revenue. As a freelancer you’re responsible for the whole value chain from lead generation and sales, to accounting and operations, to customer support and overall strategic direction of the business. Letting one of the areas slip your attention for too long can lead you into a critical situation that impacts your whole existence. That is both the beauty and the difficulty of being a freelancer.

Customer acquisition is crucial to keep your pipeline of projects filled. When you start out as a freelancer (or better before!), spend 80-90% of your time approaching potential clients. A potential client is everybody in your network that could buy your services or somebody that might know somebody that could buy your services. Approach them via email, via social networks (no, not only Facebook but LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, your blog, Medium and others) or at networking events. Talking to people about you and what you do is crucial. For freelancers, a random chat with a new client can turn struggle, self-doubt and existential fear into an awesome opportunity. I try to spend at the very least one day every week on customer acquisition.

Be Smart

Since you’re now competing with millions of freelancers on the open market, you need to be at the cutting edge and tap into your creative spirit. As a freelancer, this should come naturally, since your specific skill set is already unique. Your creative task already starts with defining your profile and your services. Don’t try to copy the webpages of other freelancers. You should, however, study your competitors carefully, try to understand how your offering is different and work on your unique selling points. As an independent worker, there is no boss to dictate what you should do, and there are no brand guidelines that determine the style of your presentation. It’s all about your talents, your brains and your ability to utilize them. Take a piece of paper and draw out the concept of your service, the value you’re creating for your clients and how you can communicate that in everything you do.

When looking for new projects, try to approach the task from a different perspective. Instead of thinking of how you can find companies that want to work with a freelancer, approach companies that are already looking for somebody to take on tasks. They’re just not aware yet that their best choice is a freelancer – you!

Be Determined

All the romance of working from home with the cat on your lap aside, by now it probably occurred to you that being a freelancer is primarily running a small business with you being the CEO, COO, CTO, CMO, CFO and all interns. There is probably one principle that all freelancers would agree on: You need to hustle. Just as running a startup with multiple people filling several roles, running your freelance business is a marathon with euphoric moments and stretches of despair and helplessness. And when the latter come, you need to be prepared. Before making the decision to freelance, think carefully about why you want to do it and analyze how functional your motivation is. Personally, I don’t believe one should freelance for any other reason than personal and/or professional growth (which can also mean financial improvement of course, but statistically speaking it usually means the opposite, at least in the beginning).

Growth mindset is a good tool that I found very useful when running behind leads for days without closing even one of them. Although the financial aspect of rough patches in a freelancer’s life is very troublesome, the hardest of all can be the psychological effects of the rejection. Don’t take a “no” as the evaluation of your skills and self-worth. Carol Dweck’s theory of fixed vs. growth mindsets helped me to understand the motivational losses I was experiencing when facing long phases of without success. I developed a healthier approach to challenging situations and saw them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Don’t isolate yourself

As I already mentioned before, you are part of a globally growing group of people that face similar challenges. Connect with this group. Other freelancers know the challenges you’re going through, because they’ve been there and know a couple of war tricks that you might use for your own battles. So, put your party hat on and befriend some freelancers. Furthermore, just as with every other challenging situation, one of the most important resources to keep you going is friends and family. Although they might not understand all of your challenges, they will support you no matter what.

A good reputation travels further than your work

There's nothing more important than to show there's a real person behind the name. For example, I provide help and advice to a few creatives, giving them honest advice on how to proceed with their careers. You want to be approachable and friendly when you give opinion on other people's work. A good reputation travels further than the campaign that's history six months later.

You'll work with surprising clients

My most memorable highlights involve meeting amazing people and clients. Everyone has a different story to tell and every project is different.

Rotate your clients

When you stop working for a regular client, you think it's the end of the world. You need to find a replacement – it could be a bit anxious at first. However, you need to rotate your clients to make sure you keep producing good work. New clients always come.

 Look after your health

A big lesson I've learned is to look after your health and wellbeing. I'm an all-or-nothing person and I could easily spend my whole seven-day week working 18 hours a day. Sooner or later you'll crack and need twice the time to fully recover. 

The goal posts are moving…

I believe any creative person – especially those in charge of steering the projects – has to be a lot more versatile than ever before. We need extra skills that go beyond the job title, as well as unparalleled knowledge to make a project and its final outcome bulletproof.

Be ready to evolve – fast

You need to be prepared to be versatile and ready to evolve at great speed. I've seen people fresh out of uni with a single undeveloped illustration style wondering why they need a second job at a coffee shop. Styles and trends come and go. You need to be compatible – but without losing your soul.

Be transparent with your clients

As a freelancer, your business is just you running it inside out. That’s something you must be proud of, so don’t hide behind a façade. Be the name and face of your business, because your business is you.

From a client’s perspective, if I were to hire you to provide a service, I would want to know who I’m giving my money to. So be sure to inject who you are into your brand. You can shape that however you’d like, but the key is to be personable.

Also, when a client is interested in working with you, be transparent in conversing with them. If they’re going to hire you, explain to them how your process works. Show your interest in them and their business, then break down what they can expect by working with you step-by-step. This helps build trust and confidence, and can be what seals the deal in a proposed project.

Write, write, write

This is the most important tip I can give you to take your freelancing to the next level – and that’s to write. I don’t care if you don’t think you’re a good writer. Writing is the doorway to getting your name out there, having clients find you, and to truly grow yourself as an individual and freelancer.

I personally don’t think I’m a great writer, and you can only imagine how I felt about my writing a year ago. It comes with practice. I owe everything I’ve accomplished this past year to my writing.

Focus on the now

Watch your feet so you don’t trip while looking at the end goal. You know where you want to be one day, so focus on what you can do now to end up there. Too many freelancers get hung up on envying those they aspire to be.

If you wish to have a reliable client base, a product that can help supplement your income, or if you don’t want to have to rely on a single client to make a living, then what are you doing today to make that happen?

Make a daily to-do list with small tasks that you can easily complete by the end of the day. Progress is progress, and if you start taking it one step at a time towards your long term goals, the sooner you’ll get there.

Split your income for taxes and savings

If you’re serious about freelancing, then start separating your income and save. For every dollar I make that’s business related, I split it up like this:

  • 12% to Business (for business related expenses)
  • 16% to Business Taxes (this will save my butt when it comes tax time)
  • 12% to Personal Savings
  • What’s left over goes into my personal checking for living expenses

I’m not saying this is the way to handle and split your finances, but it’s what works for me. What’s important here is putting a minimum of 16% of every dollar earned towards taxes. It’s the same concept of an employer taking taxes out of your paycheck. Once it comes tax time, you’ll then use this savings to pay what’s due. (I recommend paying quarterly, so you’re not dealt one large payment in April.)

Financial insecurity

As a freelancer there is no monthly paycheque, unless you’re on a long term contract. This can make it very difficult to plan your business and personal finances. Also, try applying for a mortgage! Smoothing out the typical boom and bust payment structure is essential.

Raise your rates

I once met a potential client who, after agreeing to hire me, said, “I nearly didn’t call you, you’re too cheap to be really good at what you do.” That bit of rare honesty had a big effect on me. How much potential business had I lost this way?

‘Raise your rates’ is advice that you’ll hear a lot, but it can be hard to put this into action. The understandable fear is that you’ll price yourself out of potential work. You will. But there are two things to consider here:

  1. Will raising your rates actually bring you more enquiries?
  2. Is the work that you’ll miss out on the type of work that you want?

I would suggest the answers are yes and no. In my experience, every time that I’ve raised my rates I’ve noticed a drop off in the total number of enquiries, but an increase in the number of higher quality leads. This means that I spend less time on the ‘can you build me Facebook for $500’ enquiries and more time on the serious projects with sensible budgets.

If you are competing on price alone, then everybody loses. You’ll end up being stressed and resentful of the tiny budget, and your client will be disappointed by the rushed job. Also, your portfolio will never have anything decent in it, therefore making it difficult to attract the better clients.

You’re now an expert in your niche, so your rates should reflect that. After all, people know that if you pay peanuts you’re probably eating horse.

Think about how much you should earn as an expert and work out your rates from there.

Don’t feed the monster

Crap, low-budget work leads to more crap, low-budget work. O touched on this vicious cycle earlier. There’s a bit more to it though.

The idea behind this was that you would never get to the stage where you had to take on work. You’ll have been there before. The end of your current project is approaching and you have nothing lined up. A job appears in your inbox. The budget is tight and the project isn’t well thought out, but you have bills to pay so you accept it.

The job turns out to be worse than you imagined. It drags on and you have long since lost any kind of profit. To make matters worse, while you’re in the middle of it your dream client calls with a project starting next week. You have to turn it down.

If you could have held out for a week or two, with no work, you could have taken that dream job.

OK, so maybe your dream job wouldn’t have come along. The point is though that it pays to be picky. You won’t win great work with crap stuff in your portfolio.

 

The client isn’t always wrong

 

This ‘clients are always wrong’ mindset is a dangerous one to fall into. The client blaming culture in our industry is getting out of control. I think that it’s time to take some responsibility for when projects go bad.

YOU are the web Development / design (or other industry) expert. YOU need to be leading the process . This includes structuring the project in a way that the client ‘buys in’ to the decisions, and controlling the type of feedback that you receive.

 

Conclusion

 

Freelancing is a great way to follow your passion and earn a living, but there are major differences between freelancing full-time and working for private enterprises. The great news is that many have walked in your footsteps before, and there is a great deal of information out there on how to become a successful freelancer – plus what you can do to get the most out of yourself.

As a freelancer there is a lot of advice out there, especially in the web industry. You’ll probably have heard some of these tips before, some might be new. They’re not necessarily the best, or most important, they are just the ones that have made a positive difference in my  career. I hope they can work for you too.

By recognizing the common areas that freelancers tend to find challenging, and developing solutions that help you overcome these obstacles, you’re going to really help yourself dive into the pool as a freelance professional and come out ahead.

Above tips aren’t the end-all and be-all for freelancing, but honestly, I wish I knew these when I was getting started. Since I’ve put these tips into my work process, I’ve seen some major growth, and I hope you were able to pick some value from them.

 

Thanks for reading!

Did you find any of these tips useful? Do you have your own variation of one of these tips? Like , comment and share your freelance insight in the comments below!


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