Some of these tips are going to appear as common sense, but they may be the reminder you need to refine your work process.
Becoming a freelancer can be liberating; and also a little terrifying. Where do you even begin? What processes and structures do you need to have in place? How do you find clients? And how do you know how much to charge?
One of the biggest misconceptions about freelancing is that you sit at home and work comes to you. When the reality is you have to fight for it, and fight hard.
However, there are some simple secrets to becoming a successful freelancer:
1. Reach out to your existing network: A robust network is a freelancer’s best friend. The goal is to start your business with a group of people who really care about you and who are ready to support you along the way. Reach out to the people closest to you to let them know what you’re doing. This doesn’t have to feel like you’re begging for work though. You’re just making clear the kind of work you’re doing now and that you’re available to help anyone who might need it. Being in touch with your network isn’t just important at the beginning. It’s crucial to build time into your schedule going forward to continue networking.
2. Don’t be afraid to say “no”: Saying no is hard; you’re generous and want people to feel happy working with you. You don’t want to disappoint anyone, so you offer to help any way you can, not really considering the strenuous load it’ll put on you. No matter what you do, you’ll disappoint someone. Whether it be the client because you’re unable to deliver halfway through the project, your family because you’re working long hours, or yourself because you’re so stressed with the work you’ve chosen to take on. So you must get comfortable with turning down work if it’s ultimately not for you or your availability.
3. Determine your fee: Knowing how much to charge is one of the things your network can help you with right away. Ask your fellow freelancers what the market is like for your skills and what their rates are. Don’t make the mistake of basing your fees on what you need to earn. This isn’t about your expenses, so don’t add up your mortgage payment and your other costs of livings to figure out your hourly rate.
4. Successful freelancers present well: To be a successful freelancer, you need to look like a professional. You may write in ripped jeans or pajamas, but your work should be immaculate. Your queries should be well-written, clean and perfectly formatted. Your finished products should be of equally high-quality. Every time the client deals with you, the client should feel as if that they are dealing with a professional who will deliver a professional product. Nothing you ever show the client should look rushed or casual.
5. Familiarize yourself with the legal issues: While you don’t necessarily need a lawyer to help you set up an LLC, it’s good to have someone you can turn to for legal advice, especially at the beginning. You should look for someone who is “business-minded, not legally-minded.” Have this person help you understand the basics of a nondisclosure agreement and an independent contractor agreement.
6. Write/design every day: Many freelancers are drawn to their particular career because they love it. They love to write, design, draw; whatever it is, they would do it for free. Once they decide to freelance full time, most work at it every day. They write articles, design sites, doodle illustrations, etc. In other words, they don’t stop working on their craft just because there is no paying client.