There’s the common misconception that freelancing is relatively easy and the majority of freelancers sit around in their comfy PJs and favorite pair of slippers. While it’s true that people who work at home can wear their favorite pair of pajamas, it’s not true that freelancing is easy. Freelancing can make calm people want to tear their hair out.
If you’ve recently dumped your job or decided to take a plunge into the freelance world, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but if you put a lot of work into it, you can succeed. It’s time to fight for work and fight hard.
It’s Going to be Challenging
As we just mentioned, freelancing won't always be easy. In fact, Creative Boom says that you will have to learn how to juggle multiple clients and figure out how to incorporate everyone. You will also have to spend a lot, and we mean a lot of time working. It’ll pay off in the end though as long as you stick with it and be patient with yourself, especially when you’re just starting a freelance business.
“Freelancing isn’t a walk in the park. Certainly not during those early days. If you go into this new way of working fully aware of what to expect and prepared for the worse case scenario, you’ll have more chance of surviving and thriving. The following aspects are things you’re going to have to accept:
It’s going to take time to get up and running
Your biggest challenge in those first 12 months is getting established and having regular work come in. In fact, I’ll be honest (and you won’t want to hear this), it’ll probably take two years before you’re well and truly stable.
You’ll work long hours, like… really long
Yes, you’ve gone freelance to enjoy more freedom. Yes, you’ve quit your job to embrace more downtime. But unfortunately, it’s not going to be so easy in those early months. If you want to make it work, you’re going to have to put in the graft. You’ll have to work through lunch breaks, evenings, weekends, etc. But be assured of this – the more work you put in now, the more things will pay off in future.”
Say No and Set Boundaries
Bustle reminds freelancers that it’s okay to say no, especially if you’re already overbooked. Don’t be afraid to tell companies what you’re not comfortable doing. If they keep pushing then perhaps they’re not the right fit for you.
“Freelancing is a hustle, but that doesn't mean you have to say “Yes!” to everything. Once you get the ball rolling with a writing gig or two, you can be a little more discerning. If you're already over-scheduled, be honest. If you don't feel comfortable writing adult content, say so. If someone wants you to help them get published, or wants you to write for “exposure,” it's OK to laugh wildly in their face and then politely decline.”
UpWork also reminds us why it’s so important to say no:
In the beginning, most of us take on any project for experience and to build our portfolio. That’s understandable. But if you take on less than optimal projects just to stay in business, it could backfire on you. Because no matter what the situation, these projects often end up stressful, physically exhausting, and unfulfilling. What’s more, while your time is committed to those projects, you may have to pass up more fulfilling ones when they appear.
And then there’s that word that we’ve all become too familiar with… boundaries. Yes, they’re essential to set because with them you can lose all sense of control. When that happens, watch out!
“Part 2 of saying NO: boundaries are your friend. Clarifying due dates and pay schedules will save everyone a huge headache later (asking for a contract in writing is both reasonable and sexy). If a client is openly rude to you, drop 'em. And be clear about your hours with clients, employers, and friends and family. Otherwise your family will confuse “freelance writer” with “unemployed,” and then ask you to help them move a wardrobe at 2pm on a Wednesday.”
Know Your Hourly Rate
Not charging an hourly rate? Sometimes charging per project works, but if it ends up taking too much time or a client expect something to be delivered a lot sooner than agreed upon, not having an hourly rate in mind can backfire. Agree on a set amount from the beginning and also don’t get caught up on an hourly rate; instead, The International Freelancer says it’s vital to work hard and be a valuable freelancer.
I believe that you should know your hourly rate. You should be able to calculate your minimums so that you can figure out what to charge in order to make a survivable income. To succeed as a freelancer this is surely a bare minimum.
Never charge by the hour. That’s because an hourly rate often works against you as you gain more experience and expertise.
When possible, calculate your hourly rate and then quote a project fee in total. It shouldn’t—and often doesn’t—matter to the client how long it took you to do the work; only the value that you provided.
Manage All Your Work
Business Town says to survive as a freelancer you have to not only learn how to wear all of the hats, but also manage your time, finances, and everything else that goes with it. You are in charge of your business, so it’s up to you to follow through and get things done.
For project management, there are so many different things that you have to deal with. Like I said before, you wear all the hats. You just have to manage your time, use good resources, and keep track of your company progress. Schedule time for yourself, whether it’s weekly or monthly, to go through the list of your expenses, income, profits and losses.
There’s something we call “feast and famine.” Some months you’re super busy and other times you have no paid work. Of course, you should plan for that through constant marketing. And in the times that you’re super busy, you have a decision to make. Depending on the opportunity, you might not want to turn it down. You could ask your client to hold off for a week or two, or you could outsource to another contractor.
When I first started my business, I had lost my job like many freelancers in the advertising and marketing community. Honestly, I didn’t have time to look for another job. I decided to continue freelancing until I had more time, but I never found a job that I liked. That’s when I decided to become serious with my own business. I realized that I won’t have to “work for the man,” but I also didn’t have anyone else: it was just me. Honestly, money is a huge motivating factor, which is why I include it in my monthly goals. You work hard and you’ll get something in return. There will be highs and lows, but just power through. At the end of the day, remember what your mission is and you’ll be successful in the long run.
If you’re feeling burned out and not getting enough business, perhaps you need to put more time into marketing yourself and as Forbes recommends, networking. It’s easy to forget to connect with peers, but maybe if you make the time to do it, you’ll find yourself getting a lot more business than you ever imagined.
Usually, the most important quality that a client seeks from a contractor or freelancer is trust. When you are just starting out, it may be a challenge to convince a stranger to put that trust in your work and credibility. A great way to begin is by networking – a friend, family member or former colleague will understand your work ethic and likely be happy to bring business to you to meet their needs. In addition, a referral from a friend or family member goes a long way. Notify your network of your new endeavor to see if you can be of assistance to them or someone in their network. Once you have built a client base, it will be much easier to expand to new clients.
As well as networking on the web, The International Freelancer mentions how important it is to network in person. Yes, asking friends and family for referrals is a great idea, but it’s just as relevant, if not more important, that you make time to meet people in the flesh and see if there are any opportunities there.
This is advice you’ll read on Gen X and Baby Boomer blogs, but no millennial in their right mind will tell you that the only way to get work is through face-to-face networking.
I’ve been a successful freelancer for years. I did it mostly from New Delhi, India. I now live in England and most of my clients are still in the US. I’ll hit six-figures in income this year and yet I’ve never, not once, been to a conference, writing or otherwise.
I still get work. I make a fantastic income. I do network with people. I just do it over Skype and e-mail like most people of my generation.
I’m not saying networking and face-to-face interaction isn’t important. It is. It helps you get to know people on a deeper level. But it’s not crucial to your success as a freelancer and it’s entirely possible to achieve a fair level of intimacy with people over the phone and Skype as well.
Don’t Forget to Market Yourself
Creative Boom also recommends marketing yourself so that you can establish yourself on the web. You should be known as the person who is the social media maven, go-to virtual assistant, or experienced digital designer. Whatever your freelance skills may be, use them to your advantage to score the type of work you want.
“Once you’ve got your brand, value proposition, target customer and online presence established – it’s time to start throwing yourself out there to show potential clients the quality of your work and your availability. How you do that varies greatly – from basic SEO and ensuring you’re found by people searching for your services in the search engines, to clever techniques that will get your name in front of the right people.
One key point is that you need to be present across many channels these days. It’s not just a case of relying on one type of marketing – you have to hit your potential customers at different times of the day and via different means. So be active on social media, get your work published on one of the many great art and design blogs, go to all your local networking events, work on your SEO, get into your local newspaper or business magazine, exhibit your work locally – do anything and everything to build your profile.”
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