Made the decision to be a freelancer? Well there’re many things for you to cross off! Here are 50 actionable tips for you to carve out a successful freelance career!
Open the windows and holler at the top of your lungs: I’M A FREELANCER!
You are now your biggest asset. So make sure you’ve adequate insurance.
Sign up a new email account, because a username like ‘hunkylover2858’ no longer cuts it. Setting up a business account? I’d recommend Gmail For Work. Many email servers experience downtime — and technical help is only available during office hours — and have limitations like 10mb emails (really?!).
Make sure you have all the software programmes and tools you need.
Set up a PO Box address — this helps protect your privacy and you don’t have to divulge your home address. Don’t want ’em obsessive and besotted clients knockin’ on your door, do ya?
Decorate your home office. Scented candles, diffusers, ergonomic chairs, and what have you. Mine is a Tolkien / Lord of the Rings man cave. You will be spending a lot of time in it, so make it lovely!
Connect with moguls who are more experienced than you are. Or freelancers who have been in the field longer than you have. Find a mentor — the mentorship doesn’t have to be official. These folks can really expand your horizons.
Play nice. If you’re not a nice person by nature, act nice. There’s no way around it.
Being nice does not equate to being a pushover. Master the art of tactfully but firmly saying ‘no’ to a ridiculous request.
Set a realistic financial goal. A six-digital income is not out of the question, but are you able to achieve it in your first year?
Based on your financial goal, determine your hourly rate.
Determine your rates for different project types.
Decide if you want to be paid upfront — in full or partially — or upon project completion.
Create a quote template.
Create an invoice template. Or you can consider cloud accounting platforms like Due, FreshBooks, or Zoho. These subscription-based platforms can help streamline your processes.
Set up a separate business account, preferably one that allows you to issue cheques. As a spendthrift who’s terrible with his money, I can vouch for the effectiveness of having your money be out of sight, out of mind.
On that note, save your money! Pay your taxes!
Set up a PayPal account — this makes it easy for international clients to pay you.
Start tracking your work-related expenses and payments. Know what is tax deductible and what isn’t.
New Year, new resolutions, new you, new fees. Up your fees at the start of every year. With long-term accounts, review and adjust your billings periodically.
Create a professional name card. Stand out by being creative!
Update your résumé. Include your references and testimonials if you have them.
Update your LinkedIn profile.
Create a portfolio comprising your best original works. If you’re a neophyte, then create spec work to showcase your skill sets.
Create a boilerplate template for a pitch letter. Then, tweak the content to suit the agency / client you’re targeting. Once done, start sending out (positive thoughts and) your collaterals.
Set up a website. An online presence makes it easier for your clients to find you; and with a bit of fairy dust you can reach international clients!
It’s not enough to create a stagnant website. You need content to drive traffic to it. So set up a blog and share your expertise!
Consider advertising your services on classified pages. Online medium works better than print, as your online ad has a longer life span.
Understand more about non-disclosure agreements.
Understand more about non-solicitation clauses.
Know your copyright clauses.
Determine your terms and conditions. What are the payment stipulations? What are the payment methods? Insert these terms and conditions in your contract or quote.
Include the payment due date on your invoice.
Do it. Insert a late payment clause. Just do it. It will send shivers down your spine but that feeling too shall pass.
Always have a contract or have your quote signed by the correspondent before you begin work.
Scour the recruitment sites for freelance opportunities. If you come across big agencies that are seeking new hires — even if they’re looking for full-timers — drop them a note too.
Reach out to agencies that are not in your field. There are design agencies that don’t have an in-house copywriter. Editorial companies need designers, web programmers, always.
Attend networking events or related seminars. Be ready to hand out your name card like it’s candy on Halloween.
Head over to sites like Guru, Freelancer.com, Upwork, Elance. It’s slim pickings on these sites, BUT once in a while you do get a gem of a project. More important, many local clients turn to these sites to source for freelancers. Create a profile to get noticed.
See a newsletter that’s poorly designed? Feel the urge to gorge your eyes out because a website’s replete with grammatical errors? These are your opportunities! Reach out to the businesses and offer your services.
Know of a non-profit organisation whose cause is close to your heart? Strike up a partnership and offer your services pro-bono. Non-profit organisations are always happy to give you credit, and your work will be seen by their members and even their high-powered sponsors.
Get in touch with your ex colleagues and let them know you’re happy to offer your services. That’s right, going freelance doesn’t mean you can start burning your bridges. It’s not the zombie apocalypse, yet!
Keep to a healthy diet.
Be active. Pencil in a walk, a run or a gym session.
It’s going to be hard, but make time for social gatherings. If you find yourself cancelling on your friends, it’s time to pull back — a little — on the work!
If things get too hectic, start farming out your projects piecemeal. This gives you more bandwidth to undertake even bigger projects. Slowly but surely, you’ve turned your freelance career into a business.
A freelancer I know heads into the office of an agency she works with even though she’s not required to. It’s for her own “sanity” she says. It’s nice to be around people, sometimes. You also need to cultivate your relationships and not take them for granted.
If a client is causing you distress, and is the reason for your drastic hair or weight loss, weed him out.
Take time out to see the world. You’ll come back feeling rejuvenated and inspired!
At the end of every year, do a review. What have you learnt this year? Did you step out of your comfort zone? In what ways did you fall short? Remember, this is going to be your lifelong career: you cannot be stuck in the same humdrum or you will not go far!