Freelancing is a difficult career path where you might not see the stability and opportunities that other careers offer.
Successful freelancers must prepare themselves for the challenges they can face before they start because once they have started, it becomes much harder to learn these lessons.
What do you need to know in order to become a successful freelancer?
Starting right here is a good idea.
Learn Additional Skills
Your core skills are the ones that bring in income. The job-related skills.
To become a successful freelancer, however, one should also acquire other skills that help with organizing your business, finding new leads, and managing clients.
You are your own advocate and salesperson, especially in the beginning. When you are first starting out, it is you who will be soliciting clients for your business. Improve your skills in order to be successful.
Basic Website Management
Starting a website is essential for freelancers if they're ever serious about getting enough clients. Though you can get by with nothing more than a free site, in the beginning, it's much better to have your own website.
Regardless of the type of website you create, the responsibility for your business website lies with you. You should learn a few skills so that you can maintain them. Learn to post good-looking content, identify keywords related to the kind of audience you want to reach, and keep your site up-to-date.
Although social media presence is not strictly required to succeed as a freelancer, it can be a big asset when it comes to finding clients. More and more of your target audience is on social media networks these days, so you'll have better luck finding clients if you go where they already are. For instance, you can meet customers on Facebook very successfully.
Another great way that social media can help is to display your work. In your industry, some types of professions would not benefit as much from certain networks but for photographers, designers, and any freelancers in visual-oriented fields, it's worth the time to learn how to remain active on the most popular platforms.
One of the biggest challenges you will face working for yourself is managing your own time. You have to take responsibility for setting goals and fulfilling them on your own without an external force keeping tabs on you.
It is your responsibility to complete your work by the deadline. Set up a proper schedule, and make time for the things you need to do each week.
When you have a complicated schedule, it is important to find time management tactics that work for you and stick with them. This means you may need to find an app that helps with scheduling, or a calendar to help with organization. It might also mean the hiring of a virtual assistant for more time management. You must be willing to stay on top of your workload and organization skills too.
Form lasting connections
As a freelancer, you have to network heavily in order to maintain a good client flow and grow your personal brand. On a basic level, networking is universal. However, it may be necessary to use different strategies in order to form connections that will be useful for you.
For freelancers, networking is essential to generate work and get new leads. But what are the best methods?
The first step is to identify what it is that you want.
Know what you want to accomplish
Building a professional network takes time and effort, but it's important to have some long-term goals so that your efforts don't go to waste. Without clear goals, you will struggle in developing a solid strategy for networking.
You don’t need to have a lofty or complicated goal when starting to network. Simply decide what you want out of networking and plan accordingly.
Looking for referrals for new clients?
Do you want to find some great long-term projects that might interest you?
Do you need a mentor that can give you industry knowledge?
Are you seeking collaborations with other businesses in your industry?
Nurture your own interests so you know how networking can help you achieve them and plan accordingly.
Plan and Execute
Don't rely on chance to strike up conversations. It might work if you're good at connecting with people, but it can also be a waste of potential opportunities by striking up conversations last minute. Instead of planning unplanned chance meetings, plan ahead and do your research.
- Give others the opportunity to discover more about you
How can you be approached by someone who is interested in what you do? How can someone reach out to stay connected with you or learn more about your professional work outside of your social media posts and press releases? Always prepare for this.
People are always more willing to connect when they meet in person, so it’s a good idea to invest a few dollars in business cards. Make sure you have one with your contact information or your name printed on it.
For networking online, you need a destination point to reach out to. Having your own website is a great way to introduce to people what you do - but even LinkedIn is sufficient! It is important that the social media platforms you use are ones relevant to your profession. Avoid social media platforms if it doesn't make sense in your field (you don't have a job that makes sense for that platform).
To make your own website, you need a basic hosting package, a WordPress automated content management system (WP), and a template. You can set up a functional beginner site for less than $100 with just a few hours of work.
This kind of basic website is a good solution for someone just starting out, but as you advance in your career, it might be time to invest in a more professional and well-established website.
- Keep in touch
It’s difficult to develop a strong network if you don’t put any effort in. Networking doesn’t have to be an all-consuming task, but it would benefit you to dedicate some of your time each day or every few days to better focus on networking and producing relationships that will allow for growth.
Aim to reach out on a daily basis to someone from your network. Every day, contact a new person in your network to maintain strong connections with everyone. Make a habit of regularly connecting to different people in your network by sending an email, text message, or calling.
Reach out to people when you have something of value to offer, but not just because you want a favor. Niceness is more valuable than an occasional hand-out. Don’t reach out only when you need something. It's uncomfortable for the person on the other end and it won't create a long-term relationship with them.
- Find like-minded people
Advice for freelancers cannot be carried over from professions in many situations. Professionals may suggest that you go to meetings, events, and conventions, but this might not always be possible when working on your own.
Instead of looking for groups on your own, it is quicker and easier to search online. There are communities in all industries that may already exist for freelancers like yourself. Check online forums, Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, or even TikTok. Like-minded people are everywhere online; you just need to find them!
- Develop a one-liner title for your work.
What should you say when people ask what you do?
If you’re a freelancer, it can be hard to get people to take the importance of your work seriously. For instance, while freelance work is becoming less marginalized in most professional industries today, it’s still not taken as seriously.
People often consider freelancers to be temporary or unprofessional, but this perception is slowly becoming less common. Some industries take it more seriously when you refer to yourself as a copywriter, photographer, or social media specialist rather than simply a "freelancer".
The work that you are doing is freelance. It's not your title.
Prepare a succinct but powerful introduction to your work that you can give off the cuff to anyone. Practice your short, concise description of what you do. Consider a catchphrase for your work that doesn’t include the word “freelance.”
- Don't underestimate the power of your existing contacts
When you start freelancing it can be helpful to reach out to people in your network. You may know other professionals with similar skills or be able to hire them on short notice for a contract, and having connections through LinkedIn is always useful as well.
Though you'll undoubtedly need to create your own network of connections, relying on existing networks already in place can expedite the process and make it easier than starting from scratch.
You can start generating leads by reaching out to people you already know. Alternatively, connecting with experienced professionals and leveraging the strength of their networks will also put you in a strong position.
Invest in the right tools
One way to make your job easier is by using a variety of online tools. You don’t want to invest too much time and money in the process, but some investments may be worthwhile.
Be sure to make the right choice.
There are a lot of tools to mention here, including apps every freelancer should install, but you can at least get an idea for some of the types you may want to explore.
As a freelancer, you'll be making and spending cash on your own time. Accounting tools will help keep track of the money coming in and out of your account so that you won't spend too much when it's not necessary or end up without enough to meet those pesky payroll duties.
These tools are mainly aimed at increasing your efficiency. Everything from time tracking and invoicing software to planners, project management tools, visual aids, and cloud storage are readily available to help you stay on top of your work.
Communication & Collaboration Tools
The freelance world is shifting and it requires freelancers to be versatile. To work with clients, you need a communication platform they are using or the ability to switch platforms in order to communicate from their system of choice. You can use a client portal platform for instant and more effective communication with clients.
In addition, many business tools that offer collaboration can also be used for tracking activity so progress and information exchanges are seamless across both parties involved.
Content Management Tools
You will want to use different content tools depending on your needs. Common content management tools include grammar and spell checkers, curation tools, as well as formatting and graphic design tools.
What content tools you need are largely influenced by what you are doing, who manages your website, and for what purposes.
Business Development Tools
Once you have more than a handful of clients, managing them can become difficult. That's where business development tools come in to help smooth your workflow.
Business development tools are useful for staying on top of all your clients, leads, and projects and helping streamline the whole process.
Website Management Tools
To ensure your website operates efficiently and stays up-to-date, you need tools. Hosting, content management, web design, and plugins are just a few of the things that help keep websites in good form with little effort.
Financial considerations are vital
The misconception that freelancing is only about getting paid and not having costs to worry about couldn't be further from the truth.
Tools are not the only expense. There are costs to everything you use and every service you provide which is up to you to track.
Some freelancers are not as mindful of their finances. To address this, here is a closer look at some key aspects to think about when you freelance:
Depending on your location, you may be responsible for paying taxes on freelance earnings.
For example, if you are self-employed as a freelance worker in the United States you will need to pay taxes for your income. This means that freelancers in the US will be subjected to federal and state income tax obligations. Freelancers may find themselves with a similar requirement in other countries, as well.
Consider making annual payments over four quarterly estimates, as well as filing the proper paperwork.
To ensure you are paying the appropriate taxes, it is important to understand your state and federal tax laws.
Freelancers may work alone, but it is also common for freelancers to collaborate with other freelancers or contract people to do simple services for them. It's their responsibility to make sure the people they do business with are fairly compensated and have the necessary resources available as well.
While insurance might not be necessary for freelance writers in most cases, photographers or cameramen need to insure their gear. If you have specific expensive items that you depend on for your livelihood, then a form of insurance would also benefit you.
You can also get insurance if you regularly hire others to do things for you. Namely, those who could potentially be injured while on the job are liable in your eyes.
Full-time employees in the US are eligible for work insurance, but freelancers don’t have that benefit, so it’s good to think about providing yourself with personal insurance.
Operating expenses is a broad term for the financial outlay. What does it take to provide service and benefits from beginning to end?
The list includes:
· Tools & Services
· Travel Expenses
· Office Rent
These and other expenses are going to reduce your income. You need to know what your operating costs are when quoting for new clients, but you also need to be aware of any business-related tax deductions that might apply at the end of the financial year.
Boundaries should be established from the start
Freelancing can lead to some serious dissatisfaction. There are certain clients who will take advantage of you, and know where they get off. Make boundaries clear with your clients so that they don't slack on the work without expecting anything in return and taking more than their share of the credit.
Establish set work hours and stick to them. The more you take your business seriously, the more clients will as well.
Come to an agreement about what you’re willing to do and what is off-limits for your clients. Layout your schedule and the plan for projects so that they know when you can be working on a project. It’s not really up to the client whether or not you work, rather it’s up to both of you. As long as you can complete your assignments by the time they’re due, it’s not really up to your client when you work and when you take downtime.
You might want to inform your client that you won't be able to respond if they contact you outside work hours. If they do try to contact you, it's best if you don't reply until the morning and kindly tell them when the office reopens.
Unfortunately, it's not just the clients who try to make you work too much. As a freelancer, your money will depend on how many jobs you get. You might feel pressure to take on as many jobs as possible in order to make more money.
You may be the one that chooses to overwork yourself, even when your clients are reasonable.
Boundaries are essential for you and your clients.
Know your value
If you want to be successful in your freelance work, you have to learn how to value your work and yourself.
It’s easy for people who are working as freelancers to undervalue themselves. They do so by setting low expectations and then managing their time better because they're constantly juggling more projects than they can handle.
However, creating a broadcasting call and low standards means you are going to attract bad clients who pay poorly. Never undervalue what you do.
How to Estimate Your Fees
Pricing your work is all about balancing the value of what you offer and your client’s willingness to spend it.
Your services may be valuable, but it won't matter if they can't afford them or aren't willing to pay for what you're asking. Finding this balance involves examining market rates and testing the waters.
When you establish an acceptable range for what your service should cost, it’s good to have a starting point. However, rates are not necessarily indicative of the value of your work—so don’t rely on that number too heavily.
Doing your research is key when undertaking any type of project, so it stands to reason that freelancers should do the same when looking for work.
When considering the next step in your career, review a few resources:
· Online forums for industry professionals
· Freelance job sites where employers post jobs that are shared by the general public
· ORPG websites such as Quora and Social Media Platforms
Prospective clients react differently to price quotes. Figure out what your commercial customers want and try different prices, starting low but creeping up on them until you find the one that interests them most.
You’re not always going to be able to make these an exact science, but you can begin making assumptions when working with enough different clients.
A fair price for your services is important to the success of your career as a freelancer. If someone sends a problem with payment, do you want this person to be working with you?
Fixed or Hourly?
Be sure to know your worth and be confident in your abilities. You shouldn’t hesitate when negotiating with clients - charge hourly if it is the way you work or set a fixed price.
If you’re in a creative field for your freelance work, it may be best not to charge an hourly rate. If what you do is more complicated or completely different from the people who type at computers all day, just charge per project rates.
Most work is not about how long the work takes. Work is about values. If you make a website in just one hour, does that mean it should be worth less?
Even if you charge $100 per hour, a single site may only bring in $500 for your hard work. Good sites of this caliber don't come cheap - they usually start at around $1000 and increase after that. If you bill by the hours rather than what is provided to you, then most likely you are leaving money on the table.
While freelancing can be challenging at first, it is worth it in the long run for those seeking greater control over their career and life.
Being a freelancer has its challenges.
Double-check your current methods and see how you could improve them to achieve the kind of success you’ve been hoping for.
About the Contributor
Georgi Todorov is the founder of ThriveMyWay, a place for online entrepreneurs, bloggers, SEO specialists, and freelancers to find success in their own way.