Freedom to do what we want to, and in a way we want to, lies at the heart of freelancing. But all aspiring freelancers must understand — you’ll have to hustle in this journey where clear vision, meticulous planning, networking, patience and good old hard work will be your main weapons.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in! Here are 8 helpful tips aspiring freelancers should take note of.
1. Get clarity on whether you REALLY want to become a freelancer
Let’s face it: you either want to become a freelancer or you do not. There’s no middle path. And freelancing will involve its share of struggles, at least in the initial phases, and you should be ready to take them head on!
Initially, finding work will be a challenge, money would be hard to come by, stress and instability may be your companions. But then, if you hold your ground, things will eventually get sorted. So it’s imperative you make up your mind, feel the passion and start planning well in advance (read months or years) before you actually take the plunge.
Many experts feel that it’s not necessary for you to quit your job to become a freelancer. Rather, start working on your projects on weekend offs or other spare time to test the waters — whether your manager likes it or not is a different question altogether.
2. Narrow down to specific skills
Many aspiring freelancers must’ve already decided what service they want to offer. But you need to first assess what’s the demand for your offer, and then try to figure out what’s going to be your Unique Selling Point to beat the competition.
You may even want to upgrade some of your skills or learn new ones through additional studies, online courses, etc.
Once you’ve selected your skills, try to narrow them down. Generally, niche skills help to filter in meaningful clients. For example, if you’re a designer, see whether you can narrow it down to logo designing.
3. Expand your network as much as you can
This is important. The more you expand your network, the better are your chances of bagging work. Reach out to your friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, and also request them to talk about your venture to their friends.
Additionally, participate actively in relevant online forums, pertinent seminars, workshops or any such gathering of similar professionals.
And don’t hesitate to meet up a potential client for a cup of coffee.
Also, make it a point to reach out to your competitors. It’s not necessary that every competitor will be curt and unfriendly, and you stand a chance of getting priceless inputs from them.
4. Create your brand
To start with, build a website that’s attractive but uncluttered, and most importantly, smartly represents you and your work. Ensure that your portfolio or website represents the best of your work and full of client reviews and testimonials. It’s a no-brainer that nothing boosts your professional credibility (read your brand) like an unbiased review.
If you’re not a fan of social media, guess you’ll have to change your approach and put in a lot of effort. Update your LinkedIn profile (click here for helpful tips), create a separate Facebook page for your work or keep your personal profile abreast with work-related posts. Being active on Twitter or answering questions on Quora are some other suggestions.
And you’ll be smart to create a profile on Upwork and other similar forums that can fetch you projects.
Remember, as a freelancer, you define your brand. So be likeable and pleasant in all your interactions, both online and offline. A bad reputation can seriously jeopardise the flow of future work.
5. Set your goals
Setting smart, specific, doable goals and sticking to them is another key to decide how you’ll fare in the world of freelancing. Set goals for every facet of your work, just like how you set your Key Result Areas in your job.
For example, set specific goals on how many people you’ll reach out to in a day/week/month/quarter, how much money you’ll require, how much time you’ll take to complete a project, so on and so forth.
6. Manage the money
Financial planning for an aspiring freelancer should begin months in advance, and an emergency fund must be set aside (read our blog on how to build an emergency fund here).
You should target to boost your savings considerably — apart from your emergency fund — to sustain yourself in the initial months as hardly any money could come your way.
Now comes a question that baffles many freelancers: How much to charge for your projects?
The answer also lies in comprehensive financial planning. The money you’ll charge should pay for your expenses and meet your savings targets on a monthly basis. Once you’ve finalised a number, try to figure out how you should calibrate your work in order to raise that amount — you’ll then get clarity on how much you should charge either per project or per hour to meet that target.
Having said that, you must keep in mind that the amount you’ll charge shouldn’t exceed the industry standards for similar work (which you’ll know with research) unless you reach a point where you can defend your charge with your credentials and work experience.
Another common sticking point is that some clients delay payments. One way to address this is to stress on a particular portion to be paid as an advance payment before you start working on a project.
You can also consider handing out some discounts for returning customers — it works!
Also, do the taxes yourself if you’re good with numbers, or seek help.
7. Get a contract for your projects
Yes, this is extremely crucial to safeguard your interests. Put some effort to draw out at least a basic contract for your projects to start with.
Your contract may include points on copyright issues, terms of payments, terms on how a contract can terminate, etc. You can seek some legal help or research online for this.
8. Lastly, don’t ignore your personal life and family
Freelancing can be strenuous and time-consuming, but you must keep in mind that you are not just defined by your professional commitments.
Don’t compromise your health and with the things that keep you happy and motivated. Strike a balance so that you always have time for your family — remember, they are your biggest support.
A key suggestion would be to maintain a daily timetable so that you earmark time for your work, for yourself and your family members.
Bonus tip: Research, research, research!
Trends and technologies change rapidly in this modern world, and staying updated is critical. So leave no stone unturned to make sure you are well aware of the changing demands of your sector and remodel your work accordingly.
Bottom line being, don’t ever get complacent about your skills and offerings, and research constantly.
You may also like: