Besides online, how many full-time freelancers do you know?
In 3 years of working as a freelance writer, I’ve met one.
Ever wondered why we’re so few?
It could be because we work remotely in far-off locations. Well, that’s my reason.
Or to become a successful freelancer takes a particular type of person with specific skills. Not to mention a dung beetle’s determination. Hey, they push 200 times their weight for miles!
So, you bring determination, and I’ll give you the 9 tips to become a successful freelancer.
And perhaps we’ll meet someday!
What is a freelancer?
Freelancers are self-employed individuals who provide services to clients on a project-by-project basis.
We can work in various fields, such as writing, design, marketing, and programming. And depending on our client’s needs and chosen niche, either remotely or in a traditional office setting. We don’t get sick leave, healthcare, or bonuses, and handle our taxes.
That’s a dictionary-correct description, but it doesn’t tell you the complete story.
I’ll do that next:
Why become a freelancer anyway?
Before I list the benefits of freelancing, let me answer the question by telling you about my day as a freelance writer.
It’s 06.30, and I’m writing this post from bed. I’ll stop soon to make my son’s (Luca) breakfast, then take him to school.
Afterward, I’ll run on a remote beach with the sunrise. Home by 09.30, shower, 2nd coffee, and work again from 10.00 to 16.00.
Pick Luca up, and stop by our local beach to play and swim together. Home by 18.00, homework, dinner, and relaxation for the evening.
Weekends are free, and I can arrange my schedule to suit my son’s school holidays. Depending on our needs and travel plans, I can take on more work or reduce it. And all the while living our simple lives between Spain and Italy.
But here’s what you need to know. We aren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. That’s the beauty of freelancing; you design and live life on your terms.
Okay, me and Luca aside, here are 9 excellent reasons to become a freelancer:
You can schedule your work around your home life and choose projects that suit your financial needs, perfect for parents and anyone who wants to travel.
You control your work environment and the clients you partner with, empowering you to create a work situation tailored to your needs and preferences.
Freelancers can work remotely, which is convenient and allows you to choose where you want to spend your life.
You can take on more significant projects and work with different clients, leading to new learning opportunities and personal growth.
Potential for higher income
Often, freelancers can earn more than traditional employees, especially as they gain experience and build a strong portfolio.
Greater control over career development
You can control your career development and take on projects that align with your goals and interests.
And being free to decide your career path is hugely rewarding for anyone who values freedom.
The modern business world relies on freelancers to fill short-term or specialized roles, increasing demand for our services.
Sounds fantastic, right?
Let’s look at how to become a freelancer so you can do it too.
How to become a freelancer
The 9 tips to becoming a freelancer are in the order that works but they’re not set in stone, you can change them to suit your circumstances.
For example, I had no experience when I wrote my first post apart from writing the content for my holiday company website. Then Covid hit, I lost my business and got a one-off gig from a friend. 3 years later I`m still writing!
So, I didn’t choose my freelancing field; it chose me. However, the rest of the tips helped me turn the opportunity into a full-time hustle.
1. Choose a freelancing field
Freelancing is challenging, and there’s plenty of competition. So choose a field you have expertise in and can see yourself doing 24/7 while you build your reputation.
Tips on how to choose your freelancing field:
- Consider your skills and experience-Choose a field you are knowledgeable about to increase your chances of success. For instance, I mostly write about how to start a business because I’ve had several!
- Evaluate your interests-Choose a field that inspires you to increase your motivation and enjoyment, as that’s what gets you up at 05.00 am to meet a deadline.
- Validate the demand-Look into the demand for your services in your area and consider the competition. This is important because you need a freelance niche you can earn a living from.
- Test the waters-Consider starting by taking on minor projects or working part-time in your chosen field to see if it is a good fit. Great advice if you have a full-time job; if not, do what I did and dive into the deep end.
- Seek advice-Talk to other freelancers or professionals in your field to get their perspectives and advice, but don’t let another person’s experience put you off.
- Be brave and try something new-While it’s essential to consider your skills and experience, don’t fear branching out and trying something new if it interests you.
Niche in hand, goals are next:
2. Set clear goals and work towards achieving them
Legendary football coach Bill Copeland summed up why setting goals is crucial when he said:
“The trouble with not having a goal is you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”
Goals empower you to achieve your dreams by ensuring you take those small necessary steps daily.
How to set clear goals and work towards achieving them:
- Define your goals-Determine what you want to accomplish as a freelancer and what steps you need to take.
- Make a plan-Create a roadmap for achieving your goals by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Set deadlines-Establish deadlines for completing each task and hold yourself accountable for meeting them.
- Track your progress-Assess your progress and adjust your plan to stay on track.
- Stay focused-Avoid distractions and focus on your goals to ensure progress.
- Celebrate your achievements-Take time to celebrate your accomplishments to keep yourself motivated and on track.
3. Build a portfolio
Your portfolio showcases your skills and capabilities to potential clients. Don’t worry when starting if yours is a little light; your goal is to build it over time.
How to build a portfolio:
- Gather your best work-Select a variety of your best work, then categorize it to the clients and projects you are targeting.
- Organize your work-Arrange your work, so it’s logically and visually appealing, grouping similar pieces together and showcasing your best projects first.
- Write descriptions-Provide descriptions for each piece of work in your portfolio, explaining the context and purpose of the project and your role in it.
- Choose an appropriate format-Decide a form for your portfolio, such as a website, PDF document, or physical portfolio, and create it using a design tool or portfolio builder.
- Update-Keep your portfolio updated by adding new and removing old projects.
- Seek feedback-Ask for feedback from colleagues, friends, and potential clients to ensure that your portfolio showcases your skills and capabilities.
4. Set your rates
Setting your rates as a new freelancer is always tricky. Charge too much, and you won’t land clients; too little, and you’ll go hungry!
The easiest way to find the right balance is to research your industry rates to get an average. Then consider your experience and education, as those affect what people will pay you.
Try these steps when setting your rates:
- Research industry rates-Look into the going rates for your services by talking to other freelancers online, checking job boards, and reviewing industry surveys and reports.
- Consider your experience and education-Consider your level of experience and education when setting your rates, as more experienced and educated freelancers can often charge more.
- Be competitive-Make sure your rates compete with other freelancers while valuing your time and expertise.
- Negotiate-Be willing to negotiate your rates with clients, but be prepared to justify your fee and the value you bring to the project.
- Flexibility is crucial-Offer different rate structures, such as an hourly or flat rate for projects, to meet the needs of various clients.
Niche chosen, your portfolio built, and goals and rates set; all you need now are clients!
5. Network and market yourself to potential clients
Most freelancers market themselves using a website and social media platform like LinkedIn or Instagram. But those only work if clients know to look for you, and you’re ranking where people can find you.
The truth is, people won’t look for you at first. You must look for them and have your marketing platforms and portfolio in place so they can review what you offer.
The most effective way to network and market yourself to potential clients is to combine strategies like:
- Social media-Use social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, to promote your services and connect with potential clients.
- Join professional organizations-Join professional organizations or groups related to your field to connect with other professionals, get referrals, and find new clients.
- Take part in online communities-Join online communities or forums related to your field and take part in discussions to showcase your expertise.
- Use job boards-Look for freelance opportunities on job boards, such as Upwork and Freelancer, and apply for relevant projects.
- Promote your work-Share your successes on your social media accounts and website to showcase your skills and attract potential clients.
- Create a professional website-Build your website to promote your portfolio and provide information about your services and fees.
- Offer value-Add value to your network, such as sharing relevant articles or offering free advice.
When you land your first clients, the next thing you need is reliable channels of communication.
6. Learn how to communicate with clients
Keeping clients is far easier than finding new ones. Besides providing quality work, clients want reliable freelancers who are easy to communicate, as it removes misunderstandings and ensures both parties are happy with the outcome.
Some tips for communicating with clients:
- Be clear and concise-Articulate your thoughts and ideas and avoid using industry jargon or technical terms your client may not understand.
- Listen-Pay attention to what your client wants and ask questions to ensure you understand their needs and expectations.
- Use positive language-Use positive language and avoid negativity or criticism when communicating with them.
- Communicate-Keep the lines of communication open and check in with clients to provide updates and address any concerns they may have.
- Stay available-Respond to clients immediately to show professionalism and maintain good working relationships.
- Use different communication methods-Many clients use different ways to communicate with freelancers. Ensure you’re available via email, phone, Zoom, or in-person meetings.
The first 6 steps were getting your freelance business up and running. The last 3 are how you maintain it and go from part-time side hustle to a full-time gig.
7. Develop a flexible schedule and stick to it
Flexibility is why many of us choose to become freelancers.
But all too often, freelancers take every gig available because saying no after you’ve worked hard to find clients seems counterproductive.
The result is burnout; trust me, I know!
So, whether you’re like me and work around your child, daily duties, and fitness goals, or you’re young and single with lots of free time. Developing a flexible schedule is crucial for maintaining a healthy life/work balance.
Here’s how you do it:
- Determine your availability-Put your other commitments, such as family or personal obligations, first, and choose the days and times you’re available to work.
- Set working hours-Set specific working hours and stick to them as closely as possible to create a sense of structure and balance.
- Use a calendar-Use a calendar to schedule your work and other commitments to stay organized and avoid overbooking yourself.
- Create a to-do list-List the tasks you must complete each day or week to stay on track and prioritize your time.
- Take breaks-Schedule breaks to rest and recharge to avoid burnout and maintain productivity.
- Be flexible-Be open to adjusting your schedule when necessary, such as for client meetings or deadlines, but try to maintain your set schedule as much as possible.
- Stay focused-Avoid distractions, like your phone and social media, and focus on your work during your designated working hours to make the most of your time.
The next tip is how you keep your clients happy and make life easier for yourself, so don’t skip it!
8. Organize and keep detailed records of your work
Most freelancers work with several clients, often simultaneously, so we need a system that ensures we hit every deadline and give each client what they expect.
Here`s where keeping detailed records of your work and regular updates come into play.
For example, my posts are on Google Drive, as are my clients, so everything I write is available to review and update as required. I also receive my briefs this way and use multiple folders for different clients which I can access anytime, anywhere.
Try these organizational strategies to maintain a smooth workflow and positive client relationships:
- Keep track of your work-Use a project management tool or create a system for tracking your work, including the tasks you complete and the time you spend on them.
- Document conversations-Keep a record of any discussions or communication with clients, including emails and phone calls, to ensure a clear history of the terms relating to projects and any changes made.
- Manage deadlines-Agree on and record any deadlines, deliverables, and potential roadblocks to ensure you know what gigs are due and when.
My last tip is about you and improving your chances of becoming a successful freelancer:
9. Educate yourself
Freelancing is a competitive game, and many of us apply for the same gigs. Those who land the best-paying ones are often freelancers with up-to-date skills in industry trends.
Devote yourself to learning and improving your skills; that way, you’ll become the go-to freelancer in your niche and charge more for your services.
For me, that meant taking online writing courses to learn about various elements like keyword and competitor research. And government courses on business entities, tax liabilities, permits, and licenses.
For you, any or all of the following could help:
- Follow industry news and publications-Follow industry news and publications to stay informed about recent developments and trends in your field.
- Take part in professional development opportunities-Use workshops, conferences, and online courses to learn new skills and stay current in your field.
- Seek mentorship-Consider seeking a mentor or joining a mentorship program to gain valuable insights and guidance from more experienced professionals.
- Network with colleagues-Build relationships with other professionals in your field and stay in touch to learn from their experiences.
- Experiment with new technologies-Stay current on new technologies and tools related to your niche, and consider experimenting with them to expand your skill set.
- Keep an open mind-Stay open to learning new things and trying alternative approaches to keep your skills sharp.
Before I go, I want to tell you this.
Believe in yourself and don’t give up because to become a successful freelancer takes time, grit, and a never say die attitude.
Sure, if it were easy, everyone would do it, wouldn’t they?
I’ll do that next: