If you have decided that you want to start freelancing work? Then this article is for you.
We know better than most that freelancing isn’t as easy as industry influencers would like you to believe. We’re here to share the good, the bad, and the awkward when it comes to freelancing for beginners as well as giving you our best tips to succeed as a freelancer.
Don’t quit your day job (yet)
We’ve all had that recurring fantasy about quitting our job. You know, the one where your boss makes another ridiculous request and you decide it’s the perfect opportunity to tell them how you really feel, before you storm out as your coworkers look on with something between admiration and jealousy…
However, the smooth slide into freelancing is rarely the case. To be completely honest, we all have bills to pay and quitting the stability of a stable job needs to be worth while. We suggest first-time freelancers to consider if they can financially support themselves before dramatically walking out on your boss for the final time!
Start freelancing work with an open mind
The vast majority of the freelancing tips for beginners articles that you’ll read will tell you that you should find your niche right from the start. That means that you should know exactly what kind of clients you’re targeting, and what type of services you’re going to offer them, right from the start of your freelance career.
This is great advice for freelancers in general. By niching down into a specific category, you’ll be able to charge a lot more than you can as a freelancer who offers a little bit of everything to everyone. But I personally experimented with different industries and niches while I was still relatively new to the freelancing game. This helped me to find out what area I wanted to then niche down into later on!
Start looking for clients by using freelance platforms
Freelancing platforms are always marketed as magical places for new freelancers to go when they’re trying to figure out how to find freelancing jobs. Freelancing platforms can be a great place to go to find work, especially when you’re brand new. But freelancing platforms can also be where… cheap companies go to exploit the time and talent of inexperienced freelancers!
But don’t let these warnings dissuade you from giving freelancer platforms a try! Just remember to do your homework on pricing and project scope so you don’t get ripped off, be firm with boundaries, and trust your intuition.
Build confidence with potential freelance clients by creating a portfolio
If you’re a new freelancer, clients are going to want to see what you bring to the table before they decide to take a chance on you. However, remember that this doesn’t mean that you need to have a world-class website full of award-winning work to show to prospective clients!
Clients just need to do their due diligence to confirm that you can do the job they’re hiring you to do. In the beginning, this can mean nothing more than a simple Google Drive folder or a Powerpoint Presentation.
There will be plenty of time to create that world-class website but when you start out a simple portfolio is fine!
No work experience? Prove what you can do with a ‘passion’ project
Another tip on showcasing your work as a first-time freelancer. No one said it has to be a ‘real’, paid project.
Just be sure to be up-front with the client by letting them know, “This is a ‘passion project’ of mine that I created to give you a better idea of what I can do.”
Find the right prices for your freelance services
Here’s another subject that can instantly overwhelm new freelancers. You don’t want to scare off the client by charging too much, but you also want to be fairly compensated for your work. It’s extremely difficult to find this middle-ground between undercharging and overcharging, especially when you’ve never done the work before.
So here’s one of our best tips for first-time freelancers: when you’re first starting out, agree to an hourly rate that you and the client both feel is fair.
From there, track the time you spend on each stage of the project. Before long, you’ll have a better idea of how much time a project takes and you’ll have the data to back it up, should you choose to use a project-based pricing structure in the future. That will help you feel much more confident when creating project proposals for prospective clients.
Learn how to negotiate like a pro as a freelancer
Negotiating as a freelancer is difficult. While there are some clients who will accept your proposal no questions asked, there are others that will be looking for a discount through any means necessary.
For this reason, it’s important to do your research. Freelancer communities can be your best friend when it comes to figuring out rates in your industry/niche. It’s also important to conduct yourself like the confident, competent professional that you are from the very beginning of the interaction to prove that you’re worth every penny.
Create a great client onboarding experience
As a freelancer, you’ll soon learn that each client has their own style when it comes to collaborating on projects. We have first-hand experience with how tempting it can be, as a first-time freelancer, to let the client take the lead from start of the project. Less opportunity for them to see how inexperienced you are, right?
Actually, wrong. There are a lot of great reasons to have a bullet-proof client onboarding process: it eliminates unnecessary back and forth, reduces the chances that the client will be expecting you to do more than initially agreed, and work more efficiently. With an onboarding process, you immediately establish that you’re a professional who knows what they’re doing.
Make sure you’re legally compliant
When it comes to mistakes new freelancers make, this one’s a big one. Even though you’re just one person, you’re still operating a business by offering your services in exchange for payment. As you grow into your new role as a freelancer, you’ll want to do some research about what type of legislative options there are for you to structure your business with.
A freelancer contract
Not having a contract is another one of the most common mistakes new freelancers make — thinking they can just skip the contract and pray that everything turns out ok. We’re here to tell you that there are all kinds of ways for things to go wrong when there’s a partnership without a contract. And without a contract, it’s basically impossible to do anything about it.
Need a contract template? Here’s one that I have created in collaboration with a legal expert!
Set yourself up for success by getting organised
Believe it or not, people assume that freelancers sleep until noon, do a few hours of work, and call it a day by 4pm. But it’s just not possible to start out with this lack of structure and expect to make enough of an income to live on when you’re first starting out.
Don’t use this lack of structure as an excuse to adopt bad habits in the beginning. Treat freelancing as you would any other job. Have a set time you open and close your laptop every day. Set goals. Create a framework that works for you.
It’s easy to think you’re being productive when you spend the entire day passively engaging with the content in your LinkedIn feed. Be honest with what is actually creating value (bringing in clients and/or making you money) and where you’re just procrastinating!
Automate and outsource with the right tools
As a freelancer, you’ll soon learn that your to-do list will always be longer than the amount of hours in a day. As a business owner, one of the most important things you can do is pinpoint what activities are creating the most value for your business, and which ones you should outsource.
Keep in mind that in any and every freelancer forum, there will be freelancers that swear by a certain app or platform. But it’s important to find the right one for you. Every freelancer is different, and it takes some experimenting to learn which one is for you!
Join an online freelancer community
One of the mistakes we see new freelancers make is not reaching out to fellow freelancers in their industry. While it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing them as competition, or being hesitant to engage because it triggers your imposter syndrome, the fact is that these people are your people. No one else will be able to understand the highs and lows of freelancing like your fellow freelancers.
Never stop up-skilling as a freelancer
No matter how confident you are in your skills, the reality is that way the world works is evolving at lightning speed!
By choosing to earn a living as a freelancer in today’s competitive landscape, you’re committing to life as student of your chosen craft. And while courses can be a great way of staying up-to-date, it comes down to retaining your sense of curiosity.
Finally, enjoy it! If you’re a new freelancer, feel free to reach out to me here on my website or over on my social channels!