Freelance Folder turned one about 2-3 weeks ago and, for those of you who didn’t know, we had a contest to celebrate this! I’m very happy so many people entered the contest and took the time to share their own freelancing tips! :)
Before we announce the winners I thought it would be a good idea to have everything in one place and also give a link to everyone that entered the contest! So here we go:
The Massive List Of Freelancing Tips
I strongly recommend spending the time to develop a brand strategy which outlines your branding as both an individual and also for your blog/ website if you have one associated with your efforts. This usefully takes the form of a document. If you take time to write such a document, then you find that all other aspects of your business activities flow from this.
These activities include: promotion, Social Media strategy, blog design, target audience aim, tagline creation etc. etc. The list of benefits to the freelancer setting out are immense.
Such a branding document helps focus all your business efforts as you don’t waste time or resources in pursuing goals which do not fit in with your strategy. A branding strategy document is a sure-fire way of streamlining your business activities right from the very beginning.
There are many resources (book, websites) available to assist in creating a killer brand strategy that is specific to you and your freelance offering. I hope this tip might help other new freelancers.
- Always strive to be more efficient and conquer your fears
- Understand the basic operations in the tools of your trade
- Understand the shortcuts and power commands
- Always try to improve your process
- Improving my image capture / upload process
As a part-time freelancer still stuck in an industry job, I find it invaluable to carry a U3 USB drive with Firefox and all my bookmarks on it. As long as I can find a PC with internet, I’m golden to find links to my resources, email, client management, etc. I also have a version of Edit Pad Light on the USB drive, and can do hard coding from anywhere if needed.
I got into freelancing about four years ago. And I find what has helped me is leaving myself open to a challenge. For instance, I’ve never translated a book in my life, and yet, when someone suggested I test my translation skills, I agreed. The client was happy and sent across a materia medica to translate. I’m plugging away at it now–it should keep me busy for the next two months. However, at the same time, I’ve also learnt to say no to projects that I would no longer enjoy, such as SEO copywriting.
My tip: Make marketing an integral part of your day-to-day activities.
Unless your freelance business is in marketing, most of us don’t worry about marketing until all our freelance jobs dry up. Unfortunately, that is too late! Spending a little time on marketing every day will help develop projects for your pipeline all the time. It can be as simple as writing a blog post or article, or as sophisticated as working on a print media campaign. But do something every day to market your business!
Leverage your time — Hire people and use systems that can help you with the boring and unimportant tasks. Learn to manage your business so that you get to focus on the important tasks, the stuff you enjoy doing.
Rule one for me as a freelancer is to have a website. It never ceases to amaze me; the number of people who call themselves web developers & web copy-writers with no web site to speak of. It doesn’t have to be yourname.com, but have something to show to people.
I’m a pretty green freelancer still, haven’t even made the full jump away from full-time (though I am in a month!). That being said, one of the biggest things I’ve learned so far is don’t underquote. It’s (generally) better to highball rather than lowball, because you’re just setting yourself up for trouble if you pinch hours to try and get a deal.
As a relative newbie to the freelancer game, I can only give the advice that has worked for me since I’ve started. I have to agree with Scott’s advice. Stating my purpose as a freelancer in the form of a business plan which the deadlined goals I set for myself and how I was going to accomplish them (through branding, marketing, administration and even my daily routine) has been the driving force in my early successes.
The only other advice I would give is never give up. Even if there are a few hard knocks at the beginning, keep believing in your dreams and you will be able to make it happen for yourself.
It may seem like silliness, but when funds are low, going out on the town is a bad idea. It’s hard to go from working at home to socializing at home; it feels like you’re still at work. Taking your lunch break to make your place the place to be is worth it. Alternate the twelve-hour days with the eight-hour ones that include nice meals with people you like, and you’ll be out on the town again in no time.
As a full-time designer who’s been “dabbling” in freelance for the past couple years, I have only two tips:
- Seth Godin: Read, subscribe, employ, and repeat.
- As far as the nuts and bolts are concerned: Be very clear and up front when communicating with a client. Payment terms need to be clearly laid out and agreed upon. If you are asked to do something you can’t do, can’t sub-contract someone else to do, can’t fathom the insurmountable task before thy face… sorry… then DON’T do it. The tiniest word you need to remember sometimes is ‘no.’
My best tip is invest in software that helps you run your business more time and energy efficiently.
I have been freelancing for about 4 years full time. I think the main reason I have been successful ( and by success I mean being able to pay my mortgage, and still live to a decent quality of life) is that I make sure I stick to a work routine. That means getting up at about the same time every day. take a shower – act like you are actually going to work (i work in a home office) Separate the office space as much as you can from family if they are home like my wife and 2 girls. Even if you are slow, there are always things that need to be done such as reconciling accounts, marketing, updating you web site.
As far as a small tip that has helped me dramatically…My 5 year old daughter used to come down to the basement an interrupt me working. It used to be very distracting especially while designing. So I had her make a hang tag that hung on the doorknob to the basement. One side was a STOP sign, and the other side was a GO sign. when I was working, I put it on STOP and she would know not to come down. It worked wonders and she was proud that she was able to make it and had fun.
Believe in yourself. This is the only thing that you have to fall back on as a safety net when everything goes wrong (and there will be moments like that). Believe you can, believe you will and believe that you’ll achieve success.
What i’ll say is this: first year, 35% of your time that you work is lead generation. Have so many options you can pick the low hanging fruit. Most people hate hate hate rejection. Also, get an eeepc, especially if you’re a copywriter. Saves money, makes money and is a good time all around.
What has helped me most is having friends who are writers. And I am talking “real world” friends. Guys and gals you can get together with for advice and bitching. People who understand the writer’s life.
Oh and read Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Yes it is a book about fiction writing. But I believe it will help anyone who wants or is writing for a living. “You gotta kill your darlings” is advice that any writer can use.
My tip for freelancers is that they need to learn how to write time efficient emails. Emails can be so time consuming because of a lack of clarification. The best habit to get into is writing emails that have lots of questions for the clients and give ample information so it decreases the amount of replies. That means a freelancer has to take time when writing an email to make sure everything is covered. They can’t just whip out an email and send it.
I guess freelancing requires much determination to keep going even when the going gets tough. Trust in your own abilities, continue to persevere and you’ll be fine!
Be bold and follow your heart. When you can do that, you know you can freelance full time.
- a brand – as a designer I feel this one is extremely important. How can you sell branding and marketing if you can’t bring yourself to do it?
- a purpose – every major successful company sets out with a goal, creates a plan, and then executes it. To be successful, you certainly need a purpose.
- determination – working on your own takes drive and patience, and sometimes some long hours to get you through
- good solid contracts – without these, you look unofficial
- supporters – this one seems silly, but without support, you’ve got nothing!
Smile your hiney off. not just when you first meet a client, but every time you meet with them/talk with them (smiles can be heard). The more excited you are to be doing a service for them, the more excited they are to have you perform said service.
Just starting out as a freelancer seems scary, but my tip would have to be:
Whatever your fear is, don’t worry, just work through it (believe in yourself), and you’ll find that it’s not as bad as you thought. Really! And have fun!!!
My advice: keep a log of all your daily activities. Someday you may need to look back on something you did that worked and a log will be just the trick!
I have two tips:
- Before making the jump to full-time, I worked for a couple years in addition to full-time work. Then, I went to part-time and took on more freelance work for about 9 months. Then I landed a sizable contract and made the jump to full-time freelancing.
- This one is a lesson learned – just because you are starting out, you don’t want to have your rates too low. It makes it hard to get to where you want to be, particularly if you are in a small market or have significant repeat business.
- Have a website (I know it’s been mentioned but.) with a simple name.
- Have a business card. (This points them to your website. Do you want them using Google to find you? They might find that MySpace page you don’t update and personal pics that were funny a few years ago to your friends.)
- Personal email Work email – HotDruMMer@yahoo.com. No. Just no.
- Gmail – with that website you got back on number 1, you can create a email that imports into your Gmail and helps you track all your customers emails and stay organized. Use labels!
- Google Docs – FREE! So all you need is web access to write/create presentations/create a bill from anywhere.
- Document everything. Don’t wait to update your portfolio when you need a job but when you have jobs. That goes for any job.
I have been freelancing for about 3 years and my best tip is to always meet your deadlines and communicate well during the job. This shows how reliable you are, how fast and efficiently you can turn work around and always work exactly to the brief. It has worked for me anyway!
My best tip is to pitch something else to an editor as soon as they run your initial article. I’ve done this successfully with my best clients.
As someone who is just in the infancy stages of starting to do freelance work, my number one resource has been twitter. It’s amazing the diverse group of people that are willing to freely offer their help and suggestions. I know that their are forums catering to specific area of interests no matter how obscure, but with twitter you reach them all with one message. As long as your willing to help others as well, it’s a massive resource.
Make yourself a nice workplace! You work there 10 hours or more each day and I think it is an investment to buy the computer or screen you really like or need. A better workplace makes more fun and I really like to sit at my workplace. This was one of the first investments I made when I started as a freelancer.
Freelancer for TV in hollywood, CA. Its all about who you know here! Sadly skill is secondary to favors. But this is not all bad, it gives you a good opportunity to realize that personality is a huge part of the battle no matter where you are in life.
Read, read, & read! Read everything when it comes to business, accounting, and whatever your niche happens to be. The more knowledgeable you are in your field and in the field of business, the better off you’ll be. I just started my freelance career and I feel like I’m already ahead of the curve. You won’t have to depend on anyone to get things done for you, and if you happen to give the reigns over to someone (like bookkeeping), then you’ll feel confident that you’ll still be in control. I don’t know how many times I have stumped my CPA because I knew of certain deductions that she didn’t think were possible. After she verified my research, I got those deductions. I also find myself giving business advice to people I know all the time. This all comes from knowing the game, even if I am a noob.
Bob Younce (make sure you click to read Bob’s article)
Tip: Offer discounts for publicity
Though I’ve only been freelancing for a few weeks but I came up with an idea (its probably not original) which seems to be working nicely for building a reputation. With each job you do offer a price quote, and at the end offer a small discount if they promise to recommend you to others. Though you have no assurance that they will recommend you, most of the time they are more then happy to do it and are very happy to be getting a small discount in the process.
My best tip: I use Sandy (iwantsandy.com) to remind me of everything. She can email me, tweet me, & message me on my phone, so I won’t forget anything. Better yet, I can tell HER what to remind me to do just as easily, by emailing her, tweeting her, or messaging her from my phone. She can also sync up with my calendar. I could never go back to being Sandy-less again.
I didn’t really start freelancing until my late 20s. It’s definitely part-time at the moment with only a couple of small projects under my belt, but it’s a start. What I have found helpful has been taking advantage of reconnecting to old journalism and English majors from my college. Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace are great tools for this. Some of my old friends that I lost touch with have ended up at companies that need freelance work from time to time. I’m hoping this will start to pay off over time. Good luck to all.
My Tip: Freelancing can be very difficult especially when in the famine part of the feast/famine cycle. Enter as many online contests as you can and try to win free stuff! It will raise your spirits AND maybe even the amount of free stuff you have!
My advice: Don’t be afraid to meet other freelancers and share what you’ve learned!
The exhilaration of leaping into a freelance career can, for many, lead to a “lone wolf” mentality. In 2006, when I quit my job and began working completely freelance, I could hardly find any explicit “how-to’s” or detailed advice from other freelancers. In fact, as I got more and more involved in my own freelance business, and as I learned many things the hard way, I found myself unwilling to share what I had learned and carefully, almost selfishly, guarding those lessons. What was I afraid of? Someone copying my ideas and stealing my business?
Work slowed down to a nearly nonexistent pace for me, so I suspiciously began to network with other freelancers in my area. I realized that, by talking about projects with people who had been freelancing for longer than me, I was inspired to better myself and my business. I met print designers that handed off web projects to me, and vice-versa. In fact, just by networking, I found my business growing, sometimes to the point that I couldn’t handle it all. I even designed a couple of web portfolio sites for some print designers that lacked the skills to translate their presence online.
By not insulating myself from the freelance community, I developed some incredible relationships and a support network, both personally and professionally.
My tip is to live by the principal of PPD; Patience, Perseverance and Diligence.
- You must be patient; because unless you win the lottery wealth and riches take time to accumulate.
- You must persevere; it will be hard and potentially grueling at times, but always keep in mind your dreams and goals.
- You must be diligent; every day, no matter how big or small, do something to enhance your reputation, improve your skills or expand your reach.
Remember, this is not a rehearsal. Now go out there and be a star!
Remember to keep a balance between Work and Life! I’ve been freelancing full time for a year and a half and the biggest challenge has been the onset of “hermititis”– the tendency to spend all my time in front of the computer at the expense of my Real Life. Now I make a point of scheduling vacation time during the year where I officially “close” my office, and I have a Get Outta the House Rule– I find a reason to get outside at least once every day, even if it means grabbing my laptop and working from the coffee shop.
I’ve subscribed (RSS feed to Google Reader) to relevant craigslist job categories in this and surrounding areas so I don’t have to go check out their website every day (or couple of hours) to see if someone is looking for the services I provide.
Evernote has been a lifesaver for me. It’s a great way to capture screenshots, take notes, and quickly find information whether using my work computer, a computer at another location, or PDA.
Join a local web professional group, like one of the Refreshing Cities groups, to keep in touch with others in your local community.
Dan Osmundson (click to read Dan’s post)
My big tip to anyone writing specifications for work to be done for a client is that you need to write super-explicit project details/specifications.
Never underestimate the power of referrals as a marketing strategy. Word-of-mouth through past customers is one of the best ways to generate new leads (especially if you are a new in the game and do good work).
You can get this started by offering incentives to customers who refer you. For example, $XXX off for both the person who refers you and the new client.You won’t necessarily get immediate results, but you will be surprised by how great projects can come your way in the long-run.
I write from my home office, so when I write I try to keep the office clean. For some reason, the clutter of my desk can interrupt the pounding out of sentences on the keyboard. I’ve also found it extremely useful to buy an external hard drive to backup my writing. Too many computers simply decide to die with no warning. I’d rather not lose the history of my business to a simple oversight.
As a newbie freelancer — two days and counting since I left the day job — something I want to say to others out there is “Don’t be afraid.”
Don’t worry that the clients won’t come. (You’ll find new opportunities coming from totally unexpected angles — I’ve been commissioned to do some regular proofreading by a client who originally just wanted a website creating.)
Don’t worry that all your self-discipline will evaporate overnight. (You’ll be amazed how much more productive you’ll be when you’re working for yourself, not a boss.)
Don’t fret about what your family, friends and ex-colleagues will think. (You’ll get tons of support, free advice, good luck wishes and slightly envious looks!)
If you’re hesitating because you feel the time isn’t quite right yet … it’ll never be perfect. Figure out what it takes to start freelancing (I got some regular work lined up, and saved three months’ of expenses) — then take the plunge.
Like running into the sea at the beach, the first rush might take your breath away: but after that it’s heaven!
One thing that is very important, you have to treat the project you are working on as is it yours. Don’t look at freelancing as a job but as a way to help other people, and you will be rewarded for that.
Be creative? Good, but not a killer tip. Market incessantly? Maybe. Create a mastermind group to bounce your ideas off of? That’ll do, but it won’t win. Don’t settle. Duh. Treat it like a business, not some pastime as others around you might think your endeavor might be? Fair enough.
Yet if forced to choose one, I would say…
In everything you do. Product development and project creation. Marketing and sales. Branding and business development. Being taken seriously by those around you. Collections. Collections. Collections. On Monday. On Friday. On deadline. In life.
After 19 years nine months in this marathon I call soloing, that, my friends, is the best I can come up with…
Be faster, better, more talented, smarter, and more knowledgeable. The best part about being a freelance writer is being able to learn so much through research. Eventually, all freelance writers become experts on certain topics. Choose your topics wisely. If you do not enjoy writing about cars, don’t. This distaste will show through your writing. However, when you write about something you truly enjoy your writing will reflect that love. Readers will enjoy it more. Always challenge yourself to brainstorm, write and type faster. When you do these things faster you can make more money. If you can only write one $15 article in an hour you will only make $15 per hour, not including expenses. However, if you can write four $15 articles an hour you can make $60 per hour, not including expenses. Your clients will also benefit from this speed.
Continually learn to be faster and better. Never stop learning and bettering yourself. You can make a good living as a freelance writer. You just have to be willing to ask. Have the confidence in yourself and your writing to tell your potential clients how much you really charge. If you go low because you think you won’t get a project, you will always be paid less for your work. You deserve better. Most businesses raise their fees at least once a year. Freelance writers should do the same. Analyze your writing fees and see where they can be raised. Then write out your fees in an easy to read document and send it off to your clients with the date the new fees will take place. If a few of them say they can’t work with you anymore, say goodbye. There are clients waiting for your experience and skills that will pay what you ask for.
I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for eight years now. I have found these things to contribute the most to my never-ending success!
Here is my best tip: set clear business hours and NEVER let your clients see you working outside those hours.
Many freelancers get upset when clients call us at 8pm on Sunday expecting something to be done the next day. Guess what? You set up those expectations by answering your phone on a Sunday. It is also extremely important that this rule be followed in regards to email. Clients notice when you send an email at 3 AM, and that tells them that you are available to stay up all night working on their projects. A huge benefit of being a freelancer is working whenever you want, and this doesn’t mean night owls can’t work at night: just don’t tell your clients about it. Instead of sending an email in the middle of the night just save it as a draft and hit send once normal business hours hit. If you stick to your hours your clients will never again have unrealistic expectations of your time.
I quit my job on 31st August 2001. I have never looked back since. I occasionally get a call from recruiters (I used to work in accounting) but they all get the same answer: while there’s blood in my veins, I am never going back!
The satisfaction of knowing that everything you do is down to your own planning, execution and follow-up, the flexibility to bend your work to fit around your family (my eldest was starting primary school when I went freelance), the joy of being able to do lots of different things (writing, training, speaking, consulting) rather than fit into someone else’s machine. These are the greatest things about the freelance life for me.
For anyone who’s thinking about taking the plunge – come on in the water’s lovely.
For anyone who’s going through a patch and isn’t still sure it was the right move – just spend 5 minutes remembering the frustrations you’ve had with previous bosses, and compare that with how easy it was to sort out frustrations with clients.
For anyone who’s loving it – good for you!
- Have a plan and write down your goals
- Create systems to automate as much work as possible
- Get help (find yourself a reliable, intelligent, talented and proactive virtual assistant)
- Network and partner with complimentary businesses
- Market yourself even while your busy
- Ask for referrals
I have been freelancing for a couple of years now, and I recently incorporated (in April 2008) and became a company. I think what has helped me the most is knowing that my skills that I am “selling” are not necessarily what set me apart from my competition.
What sets me apart is my attitude and level of customer service. People (and in our case, potential clients) will not do business with me if they get the impression that I will be hard to work with or if I am rude (or even abrupt) to them. Even though I may do a better job on the project than someone else, if I am not providing a level of service that surprises and excites them, then I will not get the job. It has been said before, even right here on Freelance Folder, that we as freelancers must make each client feel like they are our only client.
I work diligently to sell potential clients on the fact that I will not only be providing them video production or web design services, but that they are also getting a level of customer service that they have never before experienced. I not only get the project done for them, but I make them excited (and hopefully ecstatic) about their final product.
I’ve been freelancing for a little over 2 1/2 years now, one year as a full-timer and for me the process has been a gradual one with the build up of clients and contacts and learning the ropes. Here are my little tips for new and seasoned freelancers.
- Keep a to-do list, heck, keep several to-do lists and have them prominently placed in your work area. I have so many little things to do from calling clients to emails to just writing that I’m always forgetting something. Faithfully keeping a to do list and looking at it daily can prevent those little tasks from getting swept under the rug.
- Keep your receipts! I don’t know about you, but I was a little shocked at my income taxes after that first year of part time freelancing. We not only have income taxes, we also have to pay Self-employment taxes. Keep every single receipt you can for purchases related to your work or business because you’ll need them for deductions at the end of the year.
- Take a little risk now and then. I never would have gotten started as a freelance writer if I hadn’t taken a risk and paid for a membership on one of those subscription job boards. Plus, some of my best jobs have been in areas or working with software, techniques or skills I was unfamiliar in. They paid well and I learned quickly and picked up a new skill set while I was at it. Don’t be afraid to bid on a job that seems a little outside your comfort zone. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You’ll get it, that’s what!
I didn’t think of this myself– I read somewhere that it was Jerry Seinfeld’s technique for getting himself to write every day. But it works for every job that requires daily discipline.
Buy one of those huge wall calendar posters, one that shows every month on one side. Then get the fattest red marker you can find. Every day that you complete your task, put a big red X on that day. Pretty soon, that desire to keep your X streak going will be a great motivator.
Whether you’re Jerry Seinfeld trying to write new jokes every day, a freelance blogger trying to think up new posts every day, or a freelance designer trying to develop new leads every day, this technique will keep you motivated. It also works well if you’re just trying to stop smoking, start exercising, or motivate yourself to start/stop/keep any habit.
I think the biggest thing I have learned as a newbie is not to be shy about mentioning my latest freelancing endeavors. When I first decided to pursue this fully, I was nervous about mentioning it to friends, co-workers, past employers etc. in the event they might find the idea frivolous or far-fetched. Of course, this is really just my own overactive imagination at play.
Once I started talking about it (my website, my projects, my interviews: all of it) I found so many more opportunities right in my backyard. It seemed like every other friend had work at their company that needed to be done or was interested in passing my name on to others.
Talk yourself up! Bring up your freelancing casually into any conversation you can without being SUPER awkward!
I have two tips for freelancers:
- Treat yourself as a professional. It is easy to initially get into the thought that your business isn’t “real” until your reach a certain point (until you have an office, until you’ve landed a huge client, until you have employees, etc.). Once you change your course of thought and start thinking of yourself and your business as “real”, and referring to your business as its own entity, others will take notice and treat you that way.
- Take interest in your clients…don’t treat the work as “just a job”. If you take interest in your clients and their work, your clients will notice and will continue to come to you for work down the road. Also, they will become your biggest fan and refer others to you which is extremely valuable for any freelancer.
Erica DeWolf (click to read Erica’s blog post)
- Keep a Fund Reserve
- Keep an Emergency Fund
- Purchase an appropriate health insurance plan
- Have a plan
- Don’t be afraid to spend a small amount of marketing dollars
The web with services such as odesk.com can bring freelancers and clients together from across the world. – This can help ease the local quieter periods for freelancers. However dealing with clients in other timezones can be tricky – especially with daylight saving times coming into effect at different times in different countries.
I use a world clock to help let me know when a suitable time to call or skype a client is likely to be. For those who use MacOS 10.4+, the dashboard features allows you to load multiple clocks in different time zones. I believe Vista has a similar feature.
I’ve found it very helpful to use a combination of Rescue Time and Toggl to keep track of exactly where my time is going. As a freelancer it’s very easy to lose track of time and either spend too much or not enough time working.
What helps keep me organized in my freelance career, juggling many different clients? Get one spiral notebook and take ALL your notes in it. That way, when you’re trying to find a phone number or specs for a project, it’s in one place instead of scattered on various post-its or scraps of paper around your office. This has saved me TONS of time searching. Plus, since i use it for every client visit, i know that notes from the last meeting will be readily available in my one handy notebook.
I got an unlined notebook so i can do thumbnail sketches for the client too.
I’m just starting out in freelance writing and my tip to other new freelancers is DON’T quit and give yourself time to build up a portfolio. Set goals for yourself like I want to make this much a month in three months, six, one year. But don’t ‘try’ freelancing for one month and say it’s not working. Give your all!
Freelancing Tips Via Twitter
Some people also sent us a message via Twitter:
Jacen – Flickr here
Jonathan Harms – Radical Notion
Kyle Judkins – Lost In Technology
Tom Burke – Courtesy Copies
I’d like to thank everyone that participated, I learned quite a lot from reading your comments and blog posts. Thanks for leaving a comment, linking to us and mentionning the contest on social networking sites! Really appreciated!
Thanks to everyone who linked to us:
- How to Gain Web Design Freelance Fame
- Few Grays in Sight, But Feelin’ Kinda Old in the Home Office…
- Creative Writing Contests – Part 4
- Essential Keystrokes – Links And Notes
Ok, now I’m sure I forgot to include some people (there’s was lot!), if that’s the case, please send me a quick email via the contact form on Freelance Folder and I’ll fix that asap! :)
Winners will be announced shortly! Good luck!