If you’ve recently gone freelance or are about to launch your freelance career, here are our six tips to help you survive that first year of freelancing.
Generally, introverts don’t make good freelancers. You have to be a little bold to hustle for work, communicate with strangers and promote your services and abilities, so chances are, if you’re reading this, you are a little bold. But boldness and that desire to please, earn and achieve can lead you down a dangerous path.
Be realistic about your abilities, your available time, the achievability of suggested deadlines and the amount and complexity of work you’re asked – or you offer – to do. If you’re not sure you can complete a project to standard without further training and experience, don’t pitch or quote for it.
You don’t want to begin your career with your reputation in tatters, or your physical or mental health wrecked, because you took on the impossible.
Set Realistic Rates
Whether you prefer to work at a per hour rate (maybe adapting it for different services you offer) or prefer to price up projects individually, think carefully before setting your rate or fee. Consider all the costs involved in the project, as well as potential time spent, and don’t be tempted to underestimate the time needed just to bring in a quote at a rock-bottom price.
Undercutting all your competitors will make you look desperate and leave you with very little money. You should compete on quality and reliability, not just price; any client worth their salt will value these things too.
Ease Back on Expenditure
The first year of freelancing is not the year to buy hugely expensive equipment that you might need if x happens, y calls and z needs to be done. Keep both your personal and business expenditure as low as you can, reducing your stress as you work towards establishing a more regular and healthy income stream.
Remember you’re a Business
Be professional and polite in all your dealings with clients, and make it clear you expect them to be so too. Remember, you’re not doing favours; your skills and services have transformed you into a one-person business, the primary aim of which is to make enough money for you to live on comfortably.
Make sure others understand that you have work to do, and that even though your working week may now be a little more flexible, that flexibility is there to work for you – not to make it easier for you to pick up their children, their newly-MoT’d car, their parcel or their aunt, or to talk on the phone for three hours.
Remember you’re a Boss
Don’t go any easier on yourself than you would on any employee, but on the other hand, take responsibility for your ‘employee-self’ as a boss would. This means ensuring you don’t allow yourself to shirk and miss deadlines – it’s not break time, so why are you on Facebook? – and taking care of your employee self too, ensuring that your working environment is safe, healthy and pleasant and that you don’t make unrealistic demands.
Remember you’re an Employee
You have work to do and you need to show up and do it. You’re the best and only employee of a business that needs to succeed, and I hear the boss is tough. You may have chosen freelancing for its flexibility, but let things get too bendy and they’ll never get back into shape.
Feeling poorly? Yes, the settee is just there, and Orange Is the New Black awaits you on Netflix. But if you were an employee, would you have taken today off – or would you have dosed yourself up and carried on?
Taking the morning to go and see your daughter’s play, knowing you can work a couple of extra hours this that evening, is a welcome and allowable perk. Procrastinating about work and opting to do the ironing in front of the TV is not.
You need to have the same discipline and responsibility as any other hard-working employee. Be honest – if you had the choice, would you employ you – or give the job to your friend Kath, who works from home but never appears on social media until the clock strikes 5?
I can’t guarantee that these six tips will make your freelance career a roaring success; only you can do that. However, by following them, you do give yourself a better chance of emerging from your first freelance year relatively sane and successful.
That’s all we can ask, right?
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