Freelancing can be one of the most enjoyable careers, as it allows you to decide when, where, and how you work… well, in terms of taking projects, at least. The word “free” is embedded in there, after all. With this power comes great responsibility, though (sorry, had to). You’re running your own business in a sense, and you need to run it well. If you’re just entering the freelancer world and are floundering a bit, we can help. Read on for tips on how to excel at a freelancing career.
Be Financially Responsible
Very few people enjoy being in charge of the money, but with the perks of freelancing, it’s a pretty good tradeoff. Make sure you’ve got a contract going into each job so you know exactly how much money to expect for budgeting purposes. If they don’t send you a contract, send them one yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and you can find samples online. Just make sure something is in place so they can’t walk away from paying you when the project is completed. If you’re being paid by the hour and are on the “honor system,” be as vigilant as possible. Ideally, you should get a 50 percent deposit before you even begin a project regardless of payment structure.
Hold Yourself Accountable
When you’re on your own schedule, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole. That five minute break you allowed yourself to check Facebook? Yeah, that turned into a half hour spent looking through wedding photos of someone you don’t even know. Hey, it happens. As long as you are aware of the pitfalls, you can avoid them. Stay off all unnecessary social media outlets during your business hours. And speaking of those, you should try and set regular hours, even when you don’t need to. It helps set a routine, which will help you stay consistent. It’s okay to stay in your PJs and work from bed now and then, but research has shown that you’re more productive when you dress in work clothes… or at least non-pajama pants. Set yourself up for success in an office-like space with resources such as 2 in 1 laptops to maximize productivity.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
If work has ever been slow for you and you’re worried about your next paycheck, this could be your hardest “assignment”. However, it’s a necessary one, especially if things have picked back up. You can’t blindly say “yes” to everything out of loyalty or worry that you won’t get asked to work for said company again. By doing so, you could miss deadlines, which will pretty much assure you’re dead in the water anyway. Examine your workload, make the assessment, and politely turn it down if you think it could get you in more trouble than it’s worth.
Know Your Value
This is a touchy one, as you really need to strike a delicate balance to be successful. If you overcharge, you won’t get work. If you undercharge, you’ll get work but you’ll need too many assignments to make it worthwhile. It’s simply a matter researching what people in your position are typically paid. If you’re in networking groups, you can ask around in those, too. You’ll surely find the right balance and then you can stick with it and/or increase your rate once you get more experience.
Find Your Specialty
Being a Jack of All Trades, Master of Nothing won’t pay off as a freelancer. It’s a Catch 22: you might get a lot of work if you know how to market yourself, but what do you do when a project is way out of your scope because you over-sold yourself? Hone in on one or two things, research them, take classes in them, and become proficient. More importantly, make these niches the skills you enjoy and are most excited to showcase in your portfolio.
Be Transparent as Possible With Your Clients
Yes, sometimes this means basically shooting straight from the hip and being honest. Have a trip coming up? Don’t try to work while you’re traveling the streets of Italy. That won’t work for anyone. Let them know that you’re available for the project but for one week (or so), and let them decide if that works for them. Besides, you deserve time off and will return refreshed and ready to work, just like a full time employee would. Market yourself honestly, representing yourself as truthfully as possible.
“I’m FREE!” you exclaim. And as long as you use these tips for freelancing, you should be successful, too.