Becoming a successful freelancer is by no means easy. It takes a great deal of persistence and hard work, and the right attitude and approach. We’ve put together this 11 tips to help you strategically map out a plan – and achieve your goals.
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Becoming a freelancer is a wonderful career path, one that over 50% of earning Gen-Z members have chosen. Since the onset of COVID, individuals across virtually all generations have made the switch to freelancing.
Sold on the idea of becoming a freelancer?
Here are 10 essential tips to do just that – and quickly.
1. Put your face out there
There’s nothing like being able to put a face to a name. It adds a human element to your interactions, as potential clients can see who they’re talking to.
Make sure to use a good picture, too – one that’s well-lit and suitable for interacting with clients. Whether you choose a casual or professional dress style is left entirely up to you.
2. Invest in a good high-quality webcam
Clients commonly want to meet via Zoom or Skype ‘face-to-face’ before taking freelancers on. It’s far from every client you will encounter, but it’s pretty common.
A faceless profile leads to a mental distance from the client you’re working for. It’s easier to see you as another human when they can see and hear you, instead of being a faceless voice in video meetings.
This is why it’s a good idea investing in a high-quality webcam. Here are some of the best options on the market:
3. Learn to frame your experience
One of the most common struggles that freelancers are faced with is ‘impostor syndrome’, which is characterised by a constant fear of feeling like you’re not successful and that you’re just fooling everyone around you. Sometimes, that feeling goes away as you complete more contracts, but it’s not always easy to get rid of.
You can set yourself up to prevent impostor syndrome while also improving your odds of closing clients. Look inside yourself and take the time to feel through which skills you’ve developed expertise in rather than those you only have experience with.
Expertise doesn’t mean you’re a master at using that skillset. It just means you’ve dedicated a notable chunk of time to learning and practising that skill and the surrounding information.
4. Choose which skills you master (and what they’re worth)
As a freelancer, you’ll quickly learn that your skills usually aren’t what you sell. You’re selling the fruits of your labour – whatever you make using your skills, you’re selling a solution to your client’s problems, fulfilment for their needs or satisfaction for their wants.
You, as a freelancer, get to choose what you want to do. If you wish to serve as a remote call centre technician, an accountant or an architectural engineer, you can be a freelancer. Because you have chosen what skills to master, you can also set your price. Sometimes, higher rates can mean fewer customers overall but, other times, higher rates can also secure higher quality customers.
Niche skills bring more to the table than general experience. Ultimately, our most limited resource is time. You’ll need to keep learning, refining and reskilling – but stick to one or two areas of expertise to avoid spreading yourself too thin.
You determine what your time is worth. People need your services, so offer them on terms that work for you.
Upgrade your freelance career with a course!
We’ve scoured the internet for the best courses that will help you start and succeed as a freelancer, whatever your expertise:
5. Use tools to make your life easier
When you decide to make the switch to freelancing, you’re going to have a lot of work coming at you from every direction. Keeping up client relationships, building new client relationships, managing deadlines for every project, keeping track of finished works that you need to deliver, invoicing clients to ensure you get paid, negotiating contracts and many other tasks fall on your shoulders.
There are tools for basically every task a freelancer may need to do, and include:
- Communication tools, which help you ensure you have a reliable way to keep your clients up to date and often keep a log of what tasks, deliverables, revisions or other promises you’ve made.
- Project management tools, which help you keep all your clients’ projects on track for completion. They also help you ensure work is delivered on schedule.
- Bookkeeping or invoicing tools, which help you track what money you’re owed, manage payments, and provide a clear record of your income and expenses.
That said, don’t overburden yourself with tools, as each one takes time to manage. Choose the most efficient ones for you.
6. Be your boss, even when it’s not fun
You have to be your boss. Sounds fun, right? It is! At least until you’re hit with a deadline out of nowhere. You’ll work diligently to keep your deadlines straight, but sometimes we forget, mislabel, misplace or otherwise lose sight of a deadline. Being your boss means making sure you put in the right amount of time to close out each job correctly.
Being your boss is demanding. There may be nobody to remind you about your to-do list. You may struggle to stay away from that ‘just-one-more-episode’ Netflix series. But it’s important to remember that you’re the only person who can keep you on track – it does get easier as you flex your discipline muscles, though.
7. Find the right freelance platform
Some freelance platforms are better suited than others to specific skillsets.
If you’re a programmer, for example, you’ll probably have better luck at platforms specifically targeted at developers, along with including a link to something like a Github profile. For more corporate or networking-based professions, though, a profile on LinkedIn may be a better fit.
8. Build an attractive profile
Your profile is very likely to be looked at by any potential client. Beyond having your real name and face on your profile, you should include as much other information as possible. Social media links, references and basic bio information are expected, but it’s also your chance to display a bit of your personality.
Wear as much of your personality on your sleeve as you feel comfortable. For freelancers, it’s often about standing out from the crowd, so don’t be afraid to show off a bit of the other side of yourself when you’re not working.
9. Compile a portfolio
Your portfolio will need to include everything relevant to your profession that a prospective client would expect to see. It’s highly dependent on your career. For developers, this will often include links to completed projects or Github profiles with code samples. For artists and other creatives, this will consist of a portfolio of your work.
Try to select your very best examples to show off on your profile. These are the works that you should be proud of, and which display what you can do for your potential clients. Try to provide various examples that showcase as many of your skills as possible.
10. Market your service
Getting work and being found all comes down to how your market yourself.
Nobody else is going to toot your horn for you, so it’s up to you to market yourself. It can be easy to feel anxious or self-conscious about putting yourself out there, especially if you’re starting as a freelancer. However, the expression ‘fake it till you make it’ has a lot of truth to it. Many freelancers learn on the job; after all, it’s the only way you’ll ever gain experience.
Don’t be shy or reluctant and do your best to network with people and make connections. You never know when somebody will need your services, and the more people who know about you, the better chances are of finding work.
11. Be prompt in your replies to close an offer
Once you receive some offers, it’s essential to know how to close them. Particularly early on, when your profile doesn’t have much feedback to rely on, giving clients confidence in hiring you is crucial. Act confident but also stand firm on the nature of the contract. Be sure to be clear in what is expected of you and all other relevant information such as project milestones and deadlines.
Be sure to respond promptly to all client inquiries and be clear about how much you will charge for your services. Not only does it help both you and the client fully understand what is expected of both parties but being professional and efficient in your communication also helps provide the client with confidence.
Becoming a successful freelancer is all about being an expert in your field (a content writer, for example, who can’t write won’t get far), and being able to learn on your feet and willing to try new things to get ahead.
It’s also about finding the right balance between planning and flexibility, and the connections you make and the reputation you build.
These tips will all come in handy in helping you not only plan out your freelance career but also reach – and exceed – your goals.
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Got any tips for succeeding as a freelancer or have a question about how to make it big? Drop us a comment below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 9 June 2017.