Essential Advice from 6 Successful Freelancers

I was reading Freelance Folder for well over a year before I had the pleasure of becoming a regular contributor for the site. In that time I was able to learn from a wealth of information that the team of writers here have had to offer.

Thankfully, this variety and quality hasn’t changed, but today I want to mix things up a bit and get advice from other sources. I have taken the time to contact some of the most successful freelancers I know and ask them for any valuable advice that they would like to pass on to other freelancers. In this post, I’ve compiled and arranged all of their advice for you.

I had originally planned to ask more people, but the advice shared here is absolutely packed with detail and value that I think more would have been entirely unnecessary. The following tips are in no specific order; everyone involved has shared some great words of wisdom.


Cyan Taeed

Who: Cyan is one of the founders of the Envato network and currently operates as the Marketplace Manager. She and her team first started with a site I’m sure you all know, Freelance Switch, and have now grown host to over 19 websites which include PSDTuts and Blog Action Day.

Wisdom: “The reality is that some, if not most clients don’t know if your work is any good. They do know how you make them feel. As a graphic designer, I realized that a lot of the time a client didn’t have much idea of the quality of my work. What they did know was that (most of the time!) I was enthused about their project, I bought them their favorite coffee when I came to see them, I was confident, and I got the project in on time. Now of course I didn’t always hit these marks, but I realized that if I ticked these boxes the client was almost always very happy, and often the actual work I produced became less important.

Now does that mean that one should not bother to do the best work possible? Of course not. You should always do the best work you possibly can and the bigger the client, the more likely they’ll know their stuff and recognize the quality of your work. You always need to do your best work because you never know who will see it and take you on for that dream project. But for your little mom and pop style client who are the bread and butter for so many of us, never underestimate the power of a positive experience. Often for them this will be far more important than the actual work your produce.”

Chris Garrett

Who: Chris hardly needs an introduction, since he has been a regular writer here at Freelance Folder. He is the co-author of ‘Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to A Six-Figure Income’ and is also a successful blogging and internet marketing consultant.

Wisdom: “It is hard to give one piece of most important advice because, as you know, there is so much involved. I would say though the most important factor in a freelancers success is the old adage “it is not WHAT you know but WHO you know”.

This translates to having an excellent network, both in terms of reach and in terms of quality. You need to be in touch with connectors, people who can refer work to you, help you when you are stuck, mentors, advocates, potential clients, marketing outlets — you name it.

Build your network before you need it. Social media is an excellent way to develop this network, so get active. Do not just go asking for stuff, be generous with your time and expertise. Give first. Create content, answer questions, do free work for people you like. Any time you do some work, get them to provide you with testimonials and referrals.

With a good quality network backed by excellent product and stellar customer service you will never be short of work.”

James Chartrand

Who: James is one of my favorite writers, sharing his words and his services via Men with Pens. He has managed to build a successful business which includes three other team members offering solutions from website design right through to copywriting.

Wisdom: “Freelancing is hard — really freakin’ hard. Sure, it offers a lifestyle of more freedom, more fulfillment and more satisfaction, but there are some tough knocks that every freelancer eventually has to take along the way.The most important advice I can give anyone – new freelancer or seasoned expert – is to be ready for them, be prepared and stay focused on your dreams. Your determination is going to be the most valuable resource that no one can take away from you, so hang onto it tight.When you’re determined, you can’t be shaken from your goals. You know where you want to be, and you have the confidence to make it. Your determination gets you past a bump in the road, a hitch along the way or maybe even around an obstacle. It’s the strength you can tap into any time you need it.

So find it, seize it… and get out there to make the life you want happen.”

Bojan Stefanovic

Who: A few of you may not be aware of Bojan, but you may have seen his work. He is one of the most talented designers I know and runs a very successful solo business, Logoholik. He also created the branding for one of my own websites which was featured in a popular, published book.

Wisdom: “Apart from usual: Be an optimist. Practice. Create. Be active. Be honest. Believe in yourself. Follow your passions. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Underpromise. Overdeliver.

I will add: use every possible way to show your potential clients that you are active in your industry. Use social media tools to find new clients (a good portfolio from past work is not always that breaking point to catch that promising new client. They love to see you in live action too!)”

Liz Strauss

Who: Liz was described by EatonWeb as one of the most influential bloggers online today. You’ll see why by spending just a few minutes on her site. She is the founder of the successful SOBCon and currently works with businesses (and individuals) to help them understand and benefit from the social web.

Wisdom:“Now, more than ever, trust is what wins the game. Great freelancers make it easy to see that work I hand over will be done with more care and expertise than I could invest myself. The best freelancers

  • Show competence. They don’t apply unless they have the skills needed to complete the work successfully.
  • Have credibility. What they say resonates with truthfulness. Great freelancers know their skills and talents and can talk about them with quiet confidence. They don’t display false humility nor do they oversell their abilities.
  • Are relational. Their discussion of past work or current projects has a generosity of spirit. They understand that being good is only half of it and that being easy to work with is just as important.
  • Are trustworthy. Great freelancers take responsibility for what they do. They do their best to understand the project goals so that they can make the same judgments and decisions the hiring manager would. A great freelancer invests in the same ways a full-time employee does.
  • See the bigger picture. In that same vein, great freelancers want to know where their piece of the project fits into the bigger picture so that they know which issues they encounter are worth reporting back and which can be ignored.

In these ways, the freelancers that win every time take the thinking and worrying about that work off my desk and let me know I can work on other things without fear of letting that part go. Even the newest, least experienced freelancers who can demonstrate they are competent, credible, relational, trustworthy, and aware of the big picture will soon be in constant demand.”

David Airey

Who: David was mentioned on a previous post of mine recently for being someone who has used blogging to really stand out in his niche. David is a successful designer who tends to focus on logo work and is currently working towards completing his first book

Wisdom: “Be humble. No-one likes a cocky git. Ask questions too. People are most comfortable when talking about themselves, so show a genuine interest and build some rapport. Remember, it’s people we do business with. Not companies.”

Over to you guys: What do you think of this type of post? Would you like to see another collection including more freelancers?

Do you have any advice to add from your freelancing experience? I’ll see you in the comments…