Mastering Freelancing: 17 Essential Tips to Avoid Mistakes and Succeed in Your Career
Are you considering freelancing as a career option? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that freelancing is the perfect way to achieve more freedom, make more money, and have more opportunities. However, the reality can be quite different. In this blog post, we’ll explore the personal experience of a freelancer who initially struggled to make ends meet and was unable to find stability. We’ll discuss the mistakes made, lessons learned, and strategies employed to make freelancing more enjoyable, lucrative, and fulfilling. By the end of this post, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what to expect and how to succeed as a freelancer. So, let’s get started!
1. Develop a Strong Personal Brand to Attract Better Clients
By acting like a freelancer who deserves better clients, you will attract high-quality clients. This means positioning yourself as an expert and consistently delivering high-quality work on time. If you don’t have your act together, you’ll likely attract clients who don’t either. To attract better clients, you need to have a solid process in place and demonstrate expertise. Once you start working with better clients, they will refer you to others like them.
Streamline Your Freelancing with a Defined Process
To be a successful freelancer, it’s crucial to follow a process. As a freelancer, your time is your most valuable asset, and the only way to get more done is to either be more productive or work longer hours. However, no one wants to work more hours, so following a process is the key to productivity. Not only does it increase your productivity, but it also helps you deliver higher-quality work with fewer mistakes. Moreover, having a defined process makes you appear as an expert, which helps you attract better clients and better work.
Defining a process takes time in the beginning. You need to write down what you think your process should look like, but as you complete projects, you’ll discover steps that you don’t need and others that you need to add. For instance, when building a website, my process includes client discovery, content, design, development, quality assurance, and launch. Each phase has its own tasks and checklist, making my process robust.
Ultimately, the best freelancers are distinguished by their defined processes, which they refine over time, producing higher-quality work consistently.
3. Templatize everything for greater efficiency
As a freelancer, creating templates for everything, from invoices to proposals to contracts, can save you a lot of time and reduce your mental load. You can create templates using various tools like Google Docs, Notion, or Hello Bonsai. Having templates for various tasks makes your work reusable and saves you from the hassle of drafting up new documents every time.
By creating templates, you won’t have to think about how to draft up a contract or whether you need to consult a lawyer. You can simply use the existing template, modify the necessary details, and send it over to the client. This approach increases your efficiency and ensures that you have a consistent approach to your work.
4. Use basic scripts to streamline your workflow
Creating basic scripts for common tasks can significantly streamline your workflow. These snippets are reusable and save you time by allowing you to copy and paste frequently used responses instead of typing them out each time.
For example, when onboarding new clients, you might receive similar questions repeatedly. By creating a script for those questions, you can answer them once and save the response as a snippet. Later, you can use the snippet whenever the same question is asked again.
Tools like TextExpander can help you create and store snippets. You can write the script and save it in TextExpander, then assign a keyboard shortcut to it. This way, you can easily access the snippet using the shortcut and avoid typing the same response repeatedly.
Creating basic scripts is a simple but effective way to increase your productivity as a freelancer. It also ensures consistency in your work and saves you from repetitive tasks.
5. Take Advantage of Automation
Automation can revolutionize your freelance business by streamlining your workflows and saving you time. With tools like Zapier, you can easily automate repetitive tasks and connect different tools together through API calls. The benefits of automation go beyond just saving time. By automating tasks like invoicing, proposal creation, and client onboarding, you can reduce the risk of errors and improve the consistency and quality of your work.
By setting up triggers, you can create a workflow that automatically generates documents and sends emails based on specific actions. For instance, when a new client signs up for your service, you can automate the creation of an invoice, proposal, and contract, as well as sending a welcome email. This not only saves you time but also improves the client experience by providing a quick response.
Automation can also help you keep track of important tasks by creating reminders and alerts. For example, you can set up an automation to remind you to follow up with a client after a certain period of time has passed. This ensures that you don’t forget important tasks and helps you maintain good relationships with your clients.
Overall, automating your workflows can make your freelance business more efficient, consistent, and scalable. By reducing manual work and increasing productivity, you can focus on delivering high-quality work and growing your business.
6. Limit Your Calls to Boost Productivity as a Freelancer
As a freelancer, it’s important to limit the number of calls you take. A 30-minute call may seem like a small chunk of time, but it can actually take up to 150 minutes of your day. This is because the call may occupy your mind 60 minutes before and after the call, in addition to the 30 minutes on the call. While calls are important during the onboarding and client discovery phases, use them sparingly and be aware of their impact on your productivity for the rest of the day.
7. Master the Art of Written Communication
Effective written communication through email and Slack is crucial for freelancers. By learning to write better, you can avoid unnecessary calls and save time. Invest an extra five minutes in writing an email and you can save yourself 150 minutes spent on a call.
8. Utilize Loom for Better Productivity
Make Loom your go-to tool for communication. Even though it costs $10 a month, it can save you 20-30 hours of work every week. Record short Loom videos to update clients or walk them through tasks. It’s much better than constantly jumping on a Zoom call.
9. Know the Difference Between Cost and Value
To succeed as a freelancer, it’s important to know the difference between cost and value. Cost is what you charge your clients, and value is what your clients get in return. As a freelancer, you should position your work as an investment rather than an expense. You need to be an expert in your field and not just a technician that is paid by the hour. Experts charge based on the value of the project, while technicians charge for the time it takes to complete a project. By understanding this difference, you can position yourself as an expert and charge what your work is truly worth.
10. Factor in Non-Billable Work
As a freelancer, you have fewer hours than you think. You need to factor in non-billable work, such as administrative tasks, marketing, and networking, into your billable work. For example, if you want to earn a hundred grand a year, and you plan to work 40 hours a week for 48 weeks of the year, that’s 1440 hours of billable work. You need to divide that out and calculate your effective hourly rate, which should be around $70 per hour. Additionally, you need to consider other business expenses, such as taxes and equipment.
11. Raise Your Rates
If you’re never getting any pushback on your rates, it’s time to raise them. Charging too little can make it difficult to produce quality work and can make it harder to improve as a freelancer. When you charge more, you’ll be able to provide more value to your clients, and you’ll have the financial freedom to focus on producing high-quality work. It’s important to consistently improve your skills as a freelancer and to regularly assess your rates to ensure that they align with your expertise and the value you provide.
12. Avoid the Red Flags
It’s important to be aware of potential red flags from clients that could indicate problematic working relationships. For example, if a client tries to negotiate down the price without reducing the scope of work, it may be a warning sign that they are not willing to pay fair value for your services. Another red flag is reluctance to sign a contract, as this can lead to misunderstandings and disputes. Additionally, if a client insists that the project is not much work, they may be trying to minimize payment. Lastly, if a client refuses to pay a down payment, it’s a clear indication that they may not be reliable payers.
13. Connections, Skills, and Conversations
Being a successful freelancer requires three main elements: skills, connections, and effective communication. It’s crucial to be good at what you do, easy to work with, and deliver your work on time. As Neil Gaiman famously stated, you only need two out of the three to succeed in the freelancing world.
14. Teach What You Know
Sharing your knowledge and expertise can be beneficial for your business in the long run. Educating clients, collaborating with other freelancers, and teaching people online can help build your reputation and attract more clients.
15. Future-Facing Portfolio
Your portfolio should showcase the type of work you want to attract. It’s essential to tailor your portfolio to your target audience and the industry you want to work in. Your portfolio should impress potential clients, not other designers or random companies.
16. Your Business, Your Rules
As a freelancer, you have the freedom to set your own rules and design the lifestyle you want. If you don’t want to work a typical 9 to 5 schedule, you don’t have to. However, keep in mind that you still need to be available for client communication during reasonable hours.
17. Freelancer vs. Entrepreneur
It’s important to define whether you want to be a freelancer or an entrepreneur. While there is some overlap between the two, freelancers are paid to do the work, while entrepreneurs are paid to manage the company that does the work. It’s essential to focus on one role first and then consider the other later on.
In conclusion, freelancing can be a rewarding career path, but it’s important to approach it with a realistic understanding of the challenges involved. By avoiding common mistakes, such as undercharging for your services and taking on too much work, you can increase your chances of success and find greater satisfaction in your work. Incorporating the 17 tips discussed in this post, such as building a strong online presence and creating a schedule that works for you, can help you achieve your freelancing goals and create a fulfilling career. Remember, freelancing may not be easy, but with the right mindset and strategies, it can be a fulfilling and rewarding way to work.