Whether I like it or not, I am a true-blooded millennial. No, I will not disclose when I was born, but let’s just say I’m part of the “older” millennials.
After finishing university, I did what I was trained to do for a couple of years while pursuing higher studies, only to feel disillusioned and burned out, on top of being broke, too. I was not happy with the current situation I was in. I decided to switch lanes and go corporate, thinking it was going to help my current financial situation – and it did. But the corporate life quickly sucked the life out of me, so I started saving up, and slowly transitioned to freelance work.
How did I do it? Here are my 10 freelancing tips I wish to share with you.
No, getting into freelance work does not require seed money or a capital. But you do have needs, bills to pay. What worked for me is knowing I do not have to worry about my immediate needs and I can focus on growing my portfolio, and hopefully, landing a client.
You can’t venture into freelance work if you are looking for an instant payday because it takes time. I mean, you don’t get paid right away in conventional work once you sign the contract, right? I made sure that before I quit my job, I had enough money to cover my rent, bills, food, utilities, and other unforeseen expenses for the next 6 months. I even bought health care insurance for the next year just to be on the safe side. You have to make sure that you are going to be all right because freelance work can be unpredictable. Projects can fall through, clients can back out on the last minute – this is the difficult reality of freelancing.
Establish connections, ask friends who do freelancing, search for freelancing websites, join Facebook groups for freelancers. Networking is very important because you will never know who can connect you to someone who might need your services. I landed my first client through an innocuous suggestion on a Facebook group about a certain website for freelancers. It was a shot made in the dark because I had never heard of the website. But because I was new to the scene, I decided to take a chance and sign up. Within a few days, I was able to line up interview after interview, and eventually landed a client. In freelancing, networking is crucial, so always be nice.
Some of you might raise your brows as this has always been a sensitive topic, but while I was starting out, I already expected that I was not going to get paid as much as I used to in the corporate setting. It also helped that my mindset as I began my freelance journey was not centered first on how much I should earn, but rather how much I should learn.
Yes, you may have years of this and that experience under your belt, but what freelancing requires may be different from what you used to do. Also, freelance clients rely heavily on your portfolio to see what you are capable of doing. Being a freelancer does not mean you should be cheap – it just means you should have the skill set and output to back it up. No, you should not do your work for free. Tell your client what you think you deserve realistically speaking, and as you gain more experience and grow your portfolio, so shall your fees.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” These words always stuck with me. No matter what you do, always make sure its integrity will not be questioned. Freelancing means you have little to no supervision, and most of the time, you even get to work from home. There will be a lot of things that can distract you and compromise the work you do. Remember, you are either paid by the hour or by project, but it will always be based on the work you do. Do not ever break your client’s trust because it will be difficult to bounce back from that. While freelancing means you are able to work comfortably, it does not excuse you from working honestly.
Congruent to your fees relying on your portfolio, your work should also always be of the highest quality you can produce. I mean, what good is a portfolio if it is not something you can be proud of, am I right? No potential client would be impressed with a portfolio that is just mediocre or includes low-quality work samples. With everything you do, make sure that it is something you are and will be proud of. I am also a firm believer that quality and originality should go hand in hand. It is not bad to look for inspiration, so long as you don’t end up being a copycat.
When I say beggars can’t be choosers, I do not mean that you should just accept any project that comes your way. When I found a potential client, I researched his credibility, company, and other relevant information. What I like to do first is look for the company’s website; it is reassuring when you see they have an active website. Next, I research the business owner or hiring manager – definitely plus points if he has a LinkedIn account. Make sure that your client is as credible as you are. Freelancing is a two-way street.
Discuss your task description, what’s expected from you, payment arrangements, and other required details. After ironing out everything, send your client a contract detailing everything discussed and agreed on. What? A contract? I am not a lawyer! Worry not because there are plenty of apps that draw up contracts specifically for freelancers like us. If you’re on a marketplace like FreeeUp, a simple description that’s written out and agreed on in writing will suffice. Before you commence working, make sure that you have this agreement. This way, you are protected should any disputes arise.
As with any other work, do not be afraid to ask questions; but, please, please be sure to take note and remember the answers. There is no stronger sign of incompetence than asking about the same thing over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, questions are encouraged, but you have to make sure that the information you ask for has not been given yet. Remember, when you keep on asking questions that are already answered, it takes away precious time from the hours you are already supposed to be working. So, ask the right questions.
Working from home, in your jammies, in bed, and not having to wake up early or even bathe and not needing to battle the horrendous traffic – these things are the top perks of freelance work. But they can also be its greatest curse. Let’s face it, these things are the perfect precedent to lazing around all day. Many times I have heard from fellow freelancers how they thought their deadline was a week away when it turns out that they are expected to deliver in a few days. It is easy to fall prey to laziness, so be wise with your time.
Set a timeline for each project. Make sure you have daily goals in order not to be overwhelmed with the amount of work assigned to you. Taking on a new project can also give you the illusion that you have plenty of time. Remember that the deadline your client gives you is connected to their timeline, so honor it.
Do not be greedy. Do not bite off more than you can chew. When you are a freelancer, there are plenty of opportunities that await you, and it’s tempting because you can take on as many projects as you want and earn so much more. But the thing is, there is only one you. You have to learn when to say no. If you take on too many projects, you and the work you deliver will suffer. Learn how to manage the projects you accept because there is always work to be done. Work will never run out.
I also recommend working in some place other than your house. Sometimes, I find my house too comfortable. As a result, I often feel sleepy. So I go to a coffee shop, buy my favorite drink and a snack, and work there for as long as I feel I need to. Working away from the comfort of home is more conducive because you can also find inspiration there to focus and work properly.
I also want to talk about how to be wise with your money. Working freelance means you get paid almost every week (especially when you take on a lot of projects) and it’s exciting at first. I mean, payday every week?! How?! Do not get ahead of yourself. Always make sure to prioritize your bills and payables. I also cannot stress this enough, but save. Save. Remember how I always say freelance work is unpredictable? It is and so is the income. Handle your finances well because this month may be bountiful and the next month, not so much.
Never stop learning. Just because you think you are so skilled in a specific area, it does not mean you no longer have room for improvement or that you don’t need to learn anything new. No one is ever too old or too smart to learn new skills – there is always something out there to be gained. That is one of the many beauties of freelancing. You are not limited to applying only one skill, but are encouraged to discover skills you are yet to learn and rekindle what you may have learned in the past.
I understand that when you work hard for something, it is difficult not to take things personally. Keep in mind that you are in the service of your clients and their wish should be your command. I always live by this saying, “Two sets of eyes are better than one.” Remember that when clients give you less than an A+, it means that they expect something more from you because they have high regard for you and what you are capable of. They also see things differently from where you stand. Your clients know what they and their clients want, so when constructive criticism is served, take it with grace and gratitude. Grace, because you have to maintain professionalism and know they are not attacking you personally. Gratitude, because this kind of criticism is meant to build you, not tear you apart.
Breaking into the freelance industry is not an easy thing to do. There is no stable paycheck you can count on or government-mandated benefits. But if you have the skills, know where to look for opportunities, connect with the right people, and take on projects that will help you grow and compensate you properly for all the work you do, then you are well on your way. Yes, it takes time to see the fruits of your hard work, but really, what kind of work gives you instant gratification?
Freelancing can be different from the usual office work, but it most certainly should not be looked down on. It is not easier. It puts food on the table, keeps the electricity running, and sends children to school. Freelancers like myself have chosen this industry for practical reasons, and that does not make us less hardworking.
If you are looking to switching to becoming a freelancer, I hope that these freelancing tips help equip and prepare you. I wish you nothing but the best of luck as you begin your journey!
Derek Gallimore is fervently passionate about business and outsourcing and is on a mission to help others with their outsourcing journey. Derek has been in business 20 years, outsourcing six years and based in Manila, Philippines – the world’s outsourcing capital – for over four years. Derek owns Outsource Accelerator, a multi-product platform designed to educate, support and advise companies who are interested in outsourcing.
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