With an increasing number of businesses shedding in-house workers in favor of a more streamlined business model, the freelance workforce is growing.
Yours truly is a freelance writer, in fact. Because I have been working in the trenches of the freelance marketplace for a few years now, I have uncovered some helpful resources and glean a bit of advice for you freelancers (and aspiring freelancers) out there, which I am sharing with you here.
Along the way, I have met many cynical, underpaid, and overworked freelancers. As you can imagine, this has meant that I have seen many leave their freelance careers (before they really got started) and return to the traditional workforce.
It is with that in mind that I have put this together for all you freelancing, entrepreneurial Quote Rollers out there.
Here are ten freelance tips to help you grow your business this year (and beyond).
Freelance Tip #1: Be paid, well
There is nothing “free” about being a freelancer.
Carefully evaluate your rates on a regular basis. Does a particular job make you feel a little shortchanged every time an invoice is paid? Do you put in overtime work, for part-timer pay, just to appease an insatiable client?
Nothing will derail your career as a freelancer like allowing your morale to suffer due to a disjointed client/contractor relationship. Of course, carefully considering pricing is something you should do in your initial business proposal or quote, but do not feel obligated to remain locked into a certain price, unless you are contractually bound to do so. Even then, upon the completion of a project, re-assess your pricing before accepting another one.
More businesses than ever are turning to the freelance workforce to complete tasks that are essential to the mechanics of their businesses. As a freelancer, you owe it to yourself to be paid, well, for the essential services you provide to your clients.
Freelance Tip #2: Keep growing your business
A wise freelancer is always looking for his or her next job. That does not mean that you are going to lose an existing client in unpleasant circumstances. Continual growth means continual work.
Ask yourself, “When was the last time I submitted a business proposal?”
Has it been too long? Have you been keeping all of your eggs in one basket long enough to feel uneasy about it?
As a freelancer, you want to avoid feeling that way. Your next job does not have to take the place of an existing one; it can be an addition to your existing workload. Taking on small, add-on projects is not only a great way to build your freelance business, but it is also a way to add extra income. You never know when a small, add-on customer will turn into a major source of income.
If you are already a working freelancer, you might be interested in some tips we recently offered on the subject of uncovering new business opportunities.
Freelance Tip #3: Early to bed, early to rise
…Will make a freelancer healthy, wealthy, and wise (to paraphrase Ben Franklin).
Freelancing can be conducive to a great work-life balance. Once you hit your stride in your work, you may find yourself getting up earlier in the mornings, as a result. Having perfected time management, you will surely find the time to do more things in a day.
This is important, because one of the biggest challenges you face as a freelancer is the tendency to allow your rather high level of autonomy to make you prone to distraction. That can lead to procrastination, missed deadlines, and failed projects – all the bad-for-business stuff that you will obviously want to avoid.
Rising early gives you extra time to eat breakfast, catch up on reading, or watch the news. By the time your “working hours” come around (at eight or nine in the morning), you will have had enough of those distractions, and will be keen to get to work.
You can also use the early morning hours to catch up on all the latest trending news headlines in your niche, which helps you keep a finger on the pulse of your business, and stay one step ahead of the competition (who are probably still asleep) as such.
Freelance Tip #4: Do not force yourself to work
As a busy freelancer, you have probably had an occasion to force yourself to work on a project. That is perfectly understandable, too. After all, freelancers often operate without the same sense of security that traditional workers enjoy. The result is we tend to push ourselves to our respective limits.
One of the biggest revelations I have ever had as a freelancer is this:
My customers will appreciate my work more if I am writing it without force. I should, therefore, avoid forcing myself to write.
Some days, I am just not coming up with a good idea. At other times, I might have a headache and really cannot bear staring at a computer screen for a few hours. At others still, the phone rings and I need to take it. At times like those, I step away and allow myself the time I need to get my head back in the game.
The challenge in this line of thinking comes through the temptation to find every excuse not to work. You do not want to write yourself a proverbial permission slip to goof off – otherwise, you simply are not working. You have to cultivate discipline to be able to balance taking a step back as needed, yet never missing a deadline.
You may be a freelance graphic designer, web developer, or something else, but the same logic undoubtedly applies to your job. If your work is forced, it shows.
Freelance Tip #5: Be mindful of your health and wellness
The freelance lifestyle, particularly for those of us who use our computers daily, for hours on end, can take a toll on your body.
You have to be conscious of this, for the sake of your health and your sanity. Here are the best practices I have discovered:
Go outside every couple of hours (walk, jog, run, walk your dog, check your mailbox)
Work standing up (they even make standing desks)
Eat right (lay off the Twinkies, they go nowhere when you sit for prolonged periods)
Set working hours and stick to them
When you are “off,” be off, even if you have to ignore your email
Get social – go out, call a friend or relative (loneliness can creep in, if you let it!)
Failures in these areas often result from shortcomings in other areas. If you are fatigued from not treating your body right, you are all the more likely to force yourself to work, which can affect your performance.
Make sure you are ever mindful of health and wellness. Your customers will thank you for it.
Freelance Tip #6: Establish clear goals
When I first started freelance writing, my initial goal was “make more money than I do at my day job. Then quit my day job.” I accomplished that goal in less than three months, but I made another goal, “make more income from writing.” That happened too, given the benefit of time.
Your freelance occupation is a business. That means you need to engage in goal setting just like any other business. In fact, you might say that everything that applies to a typical startup, with the exception of capital investment and a few other points, is relevant to your freelance career.
You need to evaluate the costs involved in running your freelance business, account for the time it takes to complete a project, and how much income you generate on a daily basis.
You need a plan, up front. How much income does it take to sustain our lifestyle and meet your financial obligations? How much would you like to profit, to put back for savings?
You need to answer these questions and shape a freelance strategy around the answers. Simply put, these are your goals and they help you assess your success as a freelancer.
Freelance Tip #7: Keep it positive, no matter what
There will certainly be good days and bad ones, when it comes to freelancing.
You will run into woefully difficult customers. They will at times burst your bubble. You will encounter challenges within yourself, too. You will work on some particular project until you want to pull your hair out. It will happen.
You know what, though? Each day that you wake up and get to work performing your craft is a day you do not have to worry about employment. The worst day at freelancing is better than the best day in the bread line (do not tell anyone, but it may just be better than the best day at the average 9-to-5!). No matter what your career in freelance throws at you, maintain a positive attitude about your work.
Keeping it positive has another added benefit. Customers do not want to deal with a negative person. You will retain more repeat customers and sustain your freelance career as a result, by staying positive, and brushing briskly past the negative.
Most importantly, do not give up!
Freelance Tip #8: Be an accountant, or hire one
You need to keep records of all incoming invoices paid to you by clients. Since you do not receive a Form W2 for freelance jobs, you have to keep track of all of your income yourself.
You also have to keep track of all your business expenditures. The short and simple advice: save your receipts – all of them!
You might be surprised to discover what you can write-off (in the USA) on your taxes. Some of the things that a freelancer can usually write-off include:
Home office space
Computers (allowing for depreciation)
Payment processing fees
You can write-off much more. If you have any doubt about doing your own taxes, the best advice is to consult with a tax professional. They will only be able to help you with your tax write-offs if you have the receipts to prove it all, of course. Save everything.
Freelance Tip #9: Be smart with social media
When you start working as a freelancer, it becomes hard to separate your work life from your personal life. This is a bad idea.
You should maintain separate social media profiles for business and personal matters as much as possible. You may want to say something to your friends that you would never want to say o your customers – even if it is not offensive. You may simply want to share some fun pictures of your kids on Instagram. If you post work-related images on Instagram, do it on an account dedicated to that purpose.
These days, many social sites (especially Facebook) are taking action to prevent people from having redundant personal accounts (for a variety of reasons), so make sure you choose to have a business account or page when possible, just to keep everything on the up and up.
Freelance Tip #10: For the hopefuls…
This tip is especially for all you freelance hopefuls out there considering taking the plunge into the freelance marketplace.
The best piece of advice I can offer you is this:
There has never been a better time than right now to get started with freelancing. With economic recovery purportedly underway in many parts of the globe, why wait?
You will never know if freelancing is truly the right path for you if you do not try it out. Get started at a place like Elance.com or Freelancer.com, or any one of the other freelance hiring marketplaces on the Web. Make sure you fully complete your profile. From there, simply pick a job that fits your skill set, and give it a go.
Are you a successful (or a struggling) freelancer? How about an aspiring one? We would love to hear your take on the advice here. Feel free to join the discussion in the comment spaces below.