Of course, there are a lot of answers to that question. Maybe there are as many answers as there are freelancers…
However, I’ve come to believe that there are seven vital decisions freelancers make that play a significant role in future success or failure.
In this post, I’ve listed all seven essential professional decisions along with some suggestions about each one. At the end, I invite you to share how you’ve handled each decision.
Decision #1: When Am I Going to Work?
There are a lot of dimensions to this first key decision. Here are a few of them:
- Will I be full-time or part-time
- Will I work traditional business hours?
- Will I keep “regular” hours or just work when I feel like it?
- How many hours do I want to work per week?
As you can probably see, these dimensions are all interrelated. For example, if you are a part-time freelancer you may need to work non-traditional business hours because you have a full-time job during traditional business hours.
Freelancers who are available during traditional business hours often have an advantage when it comes to meeting with clients who expect them to be available during regular hours.
Setting regular hours for freelancing can also help you to get into the habit of working and being productive. However, many freelancers feel that if they set “regular” hours they won’t be able to enjoy the flexibility of freelancing.
Of course, this isn’t true. Just because you typically work certain hours doesn’t mean that you can’t take a day off or change your schedule when you need to. As a freelancer you don’t need to ask anyone for permission to change your schedule.
Once you’ve determined when you’re going to work, you’ll also need to decide where you’re going to work.
Decision #2: Where Am I Going to Work?
Your work environment plays a critical role in your success or failure. A good working environment is a huge asset, but a negative work environment can slow you down.
Fortunately you get to choose where you work.
Here are some of your work environment choices. You can work from:
- Home in your own office
- Home in a common area (such as the living room or kitchen)
- A co-working site
- A private office outside your home
- A mobile device
When it comes to where you do your best work, every freelancer is different. Many freelancers flourish in the middle of family activity. For them, a desk in the corner of the kitchen or living room works just fine.
Other freelancers need quiet to concentrate. They do their best work from a private home office or even from an offsite office where they can get away from it all.
Now that you know when and where you are going to work, make sure that you understand the purpose of your freelancing business.
Decision #3: What Is the Purpose of My Business?
You’ve probably already identified your freelancing field. You’re a freelance web designer, graphic artist, translator, writer, or whatever. That’s great. You definitely need to know that. :)
But there’s a little bit more to knowing the purpose of your freelancing business than that. Think about why you started freelancing and what your goals are for your business.
Are you freelancing so that you can earn a living, or do you just need a little extra cash? Are you content for your freelancing business to stay small, or do you want to grow and become a corporation?
Think about the future of your freelancing business. Where do you see yourself next year? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Understanding your answers to these questions helps you make difficult choices as a freelancer.
Decision #4: What Is My Unique Selling Proposition?
Are you different from other freelancers in your field?
Hopefully, you answered “yes” to that question because it’s the differences that make your freelancing business stand out.
The differences are known as your unique selling proposition (USP). Your USP is an important factor in your success.
If you’re not yet sure what’s different about your freelancing business, take some time to figure it out. Ask clients and colleagues if you’re not sure.
Not learning what’s unique about their freelancing business holds many freelancers back. Remember, without a USP you’re just one freelancer in a vast horde of other similar freelancers.
Decision #5: How Will I Market Myself?
Knowing USP will help you market your freelancing business effectively.
As a freelancer you there are many factors that impact your marketing, including these questions:
- How much time should I devote to marketing?
- Will I focus on offline promotions, online promotions, or a combination of both?
- How do I effectively use social media to promote my freelancing business?
- Should I have a blog, website, or both?
- Should I make cold calls?
The marketing decisions you make determine how many new clients your freelancing business gets and what type of clients they are.
The number one mistake that newbie freelancers make is not marketing their freelancing business enough (or at all). Unfortunately, not marketing can cause your freelancing business to go under.
Decision #6: How Much Will I Charge?
Speaking of income, one of the most popular topics here on Freelance Folder is freelancer rates. It’s no wonder, since rates directly impact how much we earn as freelancers.
Lots of freelancers struggle with figuring out how much to charge for their services. Of course, we’ve risen to the challenge to provide you with posts on pricing principles and methods of charging clients.
Remember that your freelancing rates are not set in stone. You can raise them if you need to. However, it can be hard to raise your rates and keep the same clients, so be careful not to undervalue yourself.
Decision #7: Where Do I Find Work?
The final question that most freelancers struggle with in their freelancing career is where to find freelancing projects.
There are basically four methods for finding freelancing work:
- Contact prospective clients directly (cold calls/direct emails).
- Answer online and print advertisements.
- Work through an intermediary such as a bidding site or being a subcontractor for an agency.
- Maintain an extensive network of potential clients and friends.
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
The highest paying clients tend to come from method number one, but you will also face a lot of rejection.
Freelancing jobs are often advertised, so it can be worth it to respond to advertisements. But you’ll face fierce competition from other freelancers who are answering the same ads.
Working through an intermediary means you don’t have to market as much, but you’ll also earn less money since the intermediary takes part of your profit. Bidding sites, in particular, can put you in a pricing war that you don’t want to be in.
Personally, I get most of my project work through a network of colleagues and friends. But it took me years to build this network.
There you have it–the seven essential decisions that can make all the difference in your freelancing career.
Did I miss anything important? How have you handled these decisions in your own freelancing business?
Share your answers in the comments.
Image by Klearchos Kapoutsis