If you intend joining the ever-increasing number of freelancers out there, chasing their dreams doing what they love, and being their own boss, here is an ultimate guide of tips you can trust to get you success.
#Always Start with a Contract
Yes, even for “small” jobs.
A contract protects you and your client and lays out necessary deliverables, expectations, payables, and your work process.
But unless you work over an online portal or freelance website which typically does all the office work and transactions for you, there is another more subtle use to using contracts before you begin any collaboration: it presents you as a professional who is serious about their work and doing it properly.
A client is going to hold you and your operation in higher regard and will be much more at ease with doing business with you when they see professional staples like contracts.
Further down the line when you have the budget for it, you can increase your professional posture by getting your own website and, by hiring another freelancer, a logo.
Your contract does not have to be complicated either; just make sure it covers the following:
- It should make it clear that your work is original.
- It should clarify payment terms.
- It should guarantee the safety of the client’s proprietary information.
- It should make it clear that both parties can terminate the services, and what that would mean for both parties should it happen.
Once you draft something up, you are good to go.
#Insist on Having a Down Payment
Go into freelancing with your eyes open.
The last thing you want is to finish a job not knowing when you are going to receive a dime because the client is sorry they will have to pay late–this is not as painful as having a client stiff you altogether, but it still hurts.
The only way to protect yourself and your business is to insist on a down payment (typically 40%-50%) upfront, as in before you ever do anything.
Make this requirement clear to the client at the very beginning. If they have any issue with it, then consider that a red flag.
Once you’ve gotten your contract signed and your down payment paid you can begin work. After you finish working on the project, don’t deliver the full product until the client has completed the remaining 50% of payment! Send some samples, but no more.
That way, the client does not have the leeway to cancel the project and run away.
#Narrow Your Focus
No matter your field of expertise, there are bound to be many sub-branches, some of which you are really good at and others which you are not so good at.
Narrow down your focus and offer any one or two branches you are good at and enjoy doing your services, rather than trying your hand at everything.
There are two key advantages of doing this:
- Your brand identity will become clearer as you make it clear exactly what you do.
- Landing paying clients will become easier for your chosen fields because people are more eager to pay for the services of a specialist.
- Think about it, if you had a heart problem, who would you rather have in your case: a general practitioner or a cardiologist?
#Grow Your Network
The popular wisdom says “Your network is your net worth”; as a freelancer, this takes on even more importance. How many people know about your service? How easy is it to reach you? How quickly can you get in the know about a new opportunity that lies right up your alley?
The depth and strength of your network determine how far your journey into freelancing will take you.
Tell everyone you know about the services you offer, and let them know you will be happy to receive offers.
Attend industry-relevant events and build relationships with other freelancers and future prospects. Your network is something you will continuously have to build and grow.
Social media can also come in handy in this respect. After all, for every one person you meet offline, you can meet 100 online on any of the social networks.
Social networks like Twitter, Google+, and Facebook make it so easy to gather a following and showcase thought leadership in your field, making them vitally important to your success as a freelancer.
#Don’t be Afraid to Say ‘No’ to Jobs that Do Not Fit
With your services niched down, you will find that you sometimes have to turn down work offers that are not a good fit. Don’t shy away from saying a polite “No” should you ever need to.
Other situations that could warrant passing over involve low paying gigs which hurt your brand more than anything, clients who have a history for being unpleasant, and jobs that come at a time when you already have your hands full with work or other commitments.
It will be a pain if you find yourself bogged down with the wrong commitments, those that add nothing positive your business and experience as a freelancer as a whole.
It gets even worse when you have to turn away the right opportunities because of previous wrong commitments you agreed to.
#Work on Building a Portfolio
Your portfolio is the proof of your skills, you want to build one as fast as possible, so that you have something to show should a client ask for it.
But you don’t want to build just any sort of portfolio, build a portfolio that showcases the kind of services which you want to offer as a freelancer.
Many freelancers fail to niche down their portfolios enough and as a result, fail to showcase themselves as elite specialists.
For example, if you are a specialist at writing whitepapers, you want your portfolio to show only whitepapers, and the same goes for any other skills you decide to focus on.
#You are running a Business: Know Your Numbers
Nobody likes looking at the numbers, but there is no way around doing so if your business must thrive.
You may not be willing to go as far as some freelancers who seek out the services of an accountant, but at the very least you want to be aware of numbers like:
● How much revenue the business brings in
● How much revenue do you need your business to generate in order to be comfortable
● The cost of running the business