10 Tips to Become a Successful Freelancer
Being a freelancer means a lot of freedom to plan your own days at work. But how to become a freelancer that is successful? It also does requires discipline and planning. Being your own boss, you need to be good at making the right rules to succeed. Here is the collection of some great tips, scroll to your interest!
Use a contract on every project
Too many freelancers get caught up in the details of contracts, and it’s ultimately wasting a lot of time that should be spent making money.
In its simplest form, your contract terms should cover:
- the work that you produce is original and not plagiarized.
- the client’s proprietary information stays confidential.
- your payments terms. (How much you’ll get paid and when during the process.)
- that once the client accepts the completed work, they accept full responsibility for any further processes in which the work is used (e.g. printing, putting logo to use, etc.)
- you and the client has the right to terminate the services, and what that entails for you both.
Having some basic terms in place for every project will help protect you, but more importantly, will help inform the client of how you work.
Always get a down payment
To guarantee payment 100% of the time, you must require a down payment. If the client has an issue with this, then that should raise a red flag. Also, by requiring a down payment, the project doesn’t progress without it, so you’ll never risk a late payment again. Once you have received the contract signed and down payment, you are good to go on starting the work. Then before you deliver any workable files, take the final 50% payment. This way the client doesn’t take what I’ve created, cancel the project, and run. So before you’ve fully been paid, don’t send any master files or designs in full resolution.
Don’t be afraid to say “no”
No matter what you do, you’ll disappoint someone. Whether it be the client because you’re unable to deliver halfway through the project, your family because you’re working long hours, or yourself because you’re so stressed with the work you’ve chosen to take on. To help determine if you should take on a project, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I specialize in the work that’s needed by this client?
- Why am I taking this project on? Is it a commitment I should be making?
- Why am I adding that project onto my plate?
The worst thing about taking on everything that comes your way is that your plate may end up full, but with all of the wrong commitments. You’re stressed, anxious, and the worst part, now you’re left with no room to take on that golden opportunity. You can’t say yes to your ideal client if you never say no to the wrong ones.
Focus on your freelance business
By focusing on your brand identity and the type of projects you take on, it’ll make everything much easier for you—from marketing to doing the actual design work.
Pick one or two services to specialize in, and only take on work that falls into those categories. Then turn down the rest.
Once you’ve decided on the services you now specialize in, be sure to translate that in your brand. Reword everything on your website to those keywords and phrases, only showcase that type of work in your freelance portfolio, and start producing content around those services to prove your expertise. All of this is a byproduct of marketing, which in turn will drive traffic and new freelance projects your way.
Showcase the work you want to take on
Many freelancers make the mistake of filling their portfolio with work just to show that they have some sort of skill in design. But most often, the work just comes off as all over the place, and will only do your portfolio a disservice.
Your freelance portfolio should only contain the work you specialize in and want to continue accepting via client work. The work can consist of past client work or even personal work.
Let’s say you specialize in logo design—if that’s what you want to be known for then you should only showcase logo projects in your freelance portfolio. That’ll be what attracts and helps future clients decide to go with you over another freelance designer whose portfolio might be all over the place.
Be transparent with your clients
As a freelancer, your business is just you running it inside out. That’s something you must be proud of, so don’t hide behind a facade. Be the name and face of your business, because your business is you.
From a client’s perspective, if I were to hire you to provide a service, I would want to know who I’m giving my money to. So be sure to inject who you are into your brand. You can shape that however you’d like, but the key is to be personable.
Also, when a client is interested in working with you, be transparent in conversing with them. If they’re going to hire you, explain to them how your process works. Show your interest in them and their business, then break down what they can expect by working with you step-by-step. This helps build trust and confidence, and can be what seals the deal in a proposed project.
Write, write, write
Writing is the doorway to getting your name out there, having clients find you, and to truly grow yourself as an individual and freelancer. It comes with practice.
If you want a complete rundown on why writing is imperative to your freelancing, then it is recommended that you watch this video by Sean McCabe: seanwes tv 039: It All Starts With Writing. Hopefully after reading this post you’ll check out Sean’s video and be convinced that you need to start writing immediately.
Focus on the now
Watch your feet so you don’t trip while looking at the end goal. You know where you want to be one day, so focus on what you can do now to end up there. Too many freelancers get hung up on envying those they aspire to be. If you wish to have a reliable client base, a product that can help supplement your income, or if you don’t want to have to rely on a single client to make a living, then what are you doing today to make that happen? Make a daily to-do list with small tasks that you can easily complete by the end of the day. Progress is progress, and if you start taking it one step at a time towards your long term goals, the sooner you’ll get there.
Know your numbers
Your freelancing efforts must be treated like a business, and as a business, you need to know your numbers. Such as:
- Business revenue (How much do you need to make per month to live?)
- Site traffic (Where is it coming from? What’s your most popular content?)
- Link conversion rates and content interactivity (What calls-to-action are working? What pages aren’t getting views and need removed altogether?)
Knowing these numbers will shed light on the areas that are working for you and what areas need improvement. For example, take a look at your monthly revenue. Find out where your business income is coming from (what clients, type of projects, passive income), and focus more on those areas that are producing the most results. See where most of your traffic is coming from or what type of content is most popular, then do more of that. For example, if you’re getting a lot of traffic from a guest post you wrote, reach out and write another guest post.
Split your income for taxes and savings
If you’re serious about freelancing, then start separating your income and save. For every dollar that’s business related, you can split it up like this:
- 12% to Business (for business related expenses)
- 16% to Business Taxes (this will save my butt when it comes tax time)
- 12% to Personal Savings
- What’s left over goes into my personal checking for living expenses
I’m not saying this is the way to handle and split your finances, but it’s what works for me. What’s important here is putting a minimum of 16% of every dollar earned towards taxes. It’s the same concept of an employer taking taxes out of your paycheck. Once it comes tax time, you’ll then use this savings to pay what’s due.
If done right, freelancing can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying career, even though getting started can feel overwhelming. Take your time and build your business while supporting yourself through other means until you have enough ongoing business to make it your full-time profession. If you stick to it through the ups and downs, you can create a career that centers around your life and your interests, and what’s better than loving what you do?