How can you make a living freelancing?
Full-time, Flexible Freelancing for Fortune & Fun!
Freelancing has been a buzz-word over the past few years but as it catches on, it’s not only a buzz-word but a “buzz” lifestyle. Many people are taking up the life of a freelancer as they see the escape from the daunting 9 to 5 and to regain control over their life. The perks of freelancing are great – people are often attracted to it for a number of reasons.
The unfortunate situation comes from it being a “buzz” word right now. As most buzzes, it picks up and fades away and so does a person’s interest that took up the call. The reason is that people get caught up in the hype and extremes of what freelancing is or can be. You hear freelancers brag and talk about the good times – “I wake up late”, “I earn 2 times what I made at my full time job”, “I have no bosses”, etc.
Well, these can happen if you want them to (except for the last one – you don’t have a single boss rather you have several, as each client in turn is your boss). But it doesn’t mention the hard work and added problems that come to freelancing.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am not trying to dissuade anyone from taking up the freelancing call. I think it is great and it is my choice of employment, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, I do want to open your eyes to the reality of it so that when times get tough (and they will), you don’t back out – quitting without really putting in your full effort.
So – here are my tips for you.
You don’t just one day decide to become a freelancer and the next day have an $80,000 book of business. You have to work up to it.
The hardest part for many freelancers, is the beginning. This is probably similar to any job. You are learning your position, figuring out the do’s and don’ts, overthinking your role, then finally getting situated and working efficiently.
When you first begin freelancing you generally don’t have a client-base (unless you transition from your employment with customers – be careful of burning bridges), reputation or portfolio to show prospects. You probably also don’t have a system in place to find clients and do work at the same time. There has to be an even flow, remember.
But, as time goes on, and you are committed to your new life as a freelancer and providing quality services – your hard work will pay off. That salary goal that originally seemed so far away is now within your grasp.
Organization is the key to efficiency.
If you are organized and well planned, work will be done smoothly and without delay.
Organization comes in all shapes and sizes though. Be organized in your communication efforts (see next section). Be organized in you new-work search and current-work processing. Be organized within the individual projects themselves.
I’ve heard a dirty desk is the sign of a genius but it is equally representative of just a plain-lackluster disorganized person. Why not play it safe?
And as the world goes digital, keep your computer desktop and emails separated and organized. Set your freelance work aside. Set your personal stuff aside from your freelance work. Separate your work by clients and projects. I’ve even begun using a system of project labeling and separation using numerical priority settings and other indicators like “Notes”, “Work in Progress” and “Completed (along with date)” on my internal file naming conventions.
Effective communication is the pinnacle of a successful career in freelance. Communication in freelance comes in multiple ways – communicate to achieve new work, communicate through work and communicate after work.
Effective communication with new clients is a necessary foundation for work. It is 100% that your first impression is everything. If you make misstep when speaking with a client at first, chances are you won’t get a second chance. You may have a lot of time to spend on this part of communication at first because this will be nearly all of the communication you do. As you begin to get more work, you’ll still need a steady flow of new work coming in but will have less time to spend on it. Your best bet is to come up with a way to clearly articulate your value to clients and use enough
Freelancers are less tangible than other types of workers. Without having a 40+ hour a week presence in an office to allow your physical attendance speak for your work, you need to make sure that you are not just doing work but showing that you are. Have a plan in place to communicate what you are doing – clearly articulate your value.
The worst thing to do is to get a couple of clients and then rest on your laurels. The next thing you know is one or two of those client projects will be complete. Content written. Ad campaigns developed. Website built. Art work drawn. And so on.
Then you’ll be down a few jobs without having anything else in the pipeline. It is best to stay active and always work on your current projects, while still trying to expand your book of business. Plan your activity out so that you can get the most of it.
I always do my best to schedule out work on a calendar and inserting “Start Dates” and “End Dates”. I only ever want to work 35 hours per week (the remaining 5 is a contingency) so I put 1/35 on the size of a job each week for each hour. Once I hit all 35, I no longer fit work in there. If possible, I also try to get work to start for future dates, so if someone has second thoughts and decides “Now is not the time,” then I simply ask them when will be a better time and fit that into my future schedule. Keeping this well-documented schedule actually helps me bid on projects better and stay truer to cost and timeframe.
This should go without saying.
Be smart in all things, trust me – it pays off. Quite literally.
Use your judgment when bidding for jobs and working them. Don’t overwork yourself so you burn out – a freelance career is not a sprint. You’re a distance runner. Pace yourself so that you have a good work/life balance, that is after all one of the most significant benefits of freelancing – controlling your life.
Being smart is also about getting the jobs that are a good fit. Don’t get work, or enter into work with a client that is going to cause you grief. The headache isn’t worth it and there are some people that you can’t please. Unfortunately, some clients do go the freelance route to purposely look to take advantage of people.
You’ll quickly start to identify who these people are. And make sure going forward that you aren’t tempted to take this work just because you need it. It is a gamble at best and the odds are certainly not in your favor.