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How to Become a Freelancer: Tips, Tricks and Things to Avoid

How to become a freelancer

Why freelancing?

Have you ever wondered about leaving your office job and starting to freelance? Or, do you see freelancing as a side job while you study, raise a kid or work part-time elsewhere?

It’s true that the life of a freelancer has many benefits and advantages. Indeed, it is tempting to be your own boss, choose your working hours and report only to yourself. However, there are also many aspects to consider before you dive into self-employment. For example, are you able to discipline yourself and respect deadlines? Can you be financially flexible and accept that your income will differ from month to month?

There are many skills that are crucial or at least very helpful for every freelancer. Luckily, we live in an age when it’s easy to spread the word about yourself in many forums, job boards, and online networking sites. Moreover, you can even learn a new skill online! In this article, we will outline essential tools, tips, and tricks for making the most of your self-employment.

Life-saving skills for every freelancer

Life-saving skills for every freelancer

A freelancer is a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer. A freelancer is responsible for his or her own work and usually works as an individual, rather than a team player, managing his or her finances independently.

These are life-saving skills that you must obtain or develop if you want to be a full-time freelancer.

  • Presentation & Communication

First, you will have to know how to pitch yourself to get new clients. Second, you’ll have to present your work when it’s done and be able to prove its value if necessary.

Presentation will be an essential part of your freelance lifestyle. Excellent presentation skills will help attract new clients and get approval for the final version of your work.

To learn more about how to present yourself and your portfolio, watch this video What it takes to be successful.. where Ramit Sethi, a well-known entrepreneur with a brilliant understanding of psychology and money itself, talks to Chase Jarvis, one of the most demanded photographers in NY.

  • Briefing

A brief is a set of instructions given to a person before starting a task. At this point, it is crucial to ask the right questions right away in order to get all the necessary facts about the client’s needs and expectations. A good brief will help you save time and avoid multiple edits when the project is “done”.

Dig deep at the beginning, and it will make your work much smoother later on.

Better yet, send a brief template to your client and ask them to fill all the fields that could be useful for your assignment. This way you’ll achieve two goals – get detailed information about the task at hand and demonstrate your professionalism to the employer. Alternatively, you can fill the brief template yourself during a meeting or a call with the customer.

Here are some great sample briefs that will save you the effort of making one yourself:

There will probably be lazy clients who won’t give you detailed answers. In this case, don’t hold back – ask them to answer those questions. Explain that in the end both parties will benefit as you’ll be able to do the task sooner and better.

  • Time Management

Never forget that your skills are your business. Many beginning freelancers have a false assumption that self-employment is an easy-money job that will only take 6 to 10 hours of your week. Well, hate to break it to you, but there will 40, 50 and even 70 hour work weeks. Being your own boss is a big responsibility – you can’t just leave at the end of your 8-hour workday.

On the other hand, it is important to know when to draw that line in the sand. Many freelancers struggle with dividing their work and personal life.

Flexible working hours are dangerously tempting – you think you can always finish the job in the evening, at night or during the weekend.

Beware – sooner than later you can realize that your work and free time have blended in a blurry existence of never being 100% at work and never fully relaxing.

If you confess to having a time-management problem, try using a time tracking software that might help you discipline yourself, manage your projects, and boost your productivity.

  • Business & Personal Money Management

Most freelancers do not separate their professional income from their personal money. However, as your freelancing business expands, it is advisable to start two separate “wallets”. Why? First, this system can help you understand what your business expenses are. Second, you will learn where and how you can cut back, and this will help you to develop and grow. Third, it will help you manage your finances smartly and make savings to prepare for the less successful months.

Possibly one of the best methods of separating your finances is opening a prepaid non-bank card & account.

WestStein Mastercard will not only let you keep your professional income in a separate account but also let you receive your salary from all over the world.

WestStein is not associated with your local bank; therefore you can enjoy a higher degree of anonymity and financial freedom. Furthermore, WestStein account lets you withdraw funds from electronic wallets like Kiwi, Web money, Neteller, PayPal, Skrill, etc.

How to Get Your First Client

How to get first client

In case if someone moves from a regular office job to freelancing, they usually already have one or two clients who give them the assurance that others will follow. If you begin freelancing from scratch, you should start by publishing your profile on several of the largest freelancer networks to find new clients. Those are Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal, Elance, Freelancer, 99designs, Demand MediaSimplyHired.

So, what it takes to get your first, second and tenth client? First and foremost, you will have to learn to sell your skills. More than once, you will have to prove your worthiness and demonstrate the value that your skills will bring to the client. Don’t be modest! Outline your most valuable talents, work on your portfolio and references from your previous clients.

The quality of your product or service is what matters the most, but also other side factors are important. For example, many customers will appreciate a structured and forthcoming communication style, the quality of your homepage or portfolio, the way you are packaging your service (presentations, design files, etc.). The best clients will appreciate all the extra work you’ve put in, and they’ll feel that their money was well spent.

If you are having trouble to get clients and you don’t have an impressive portfolio, offer your services to a limited group of people for free in exchange for their references.

A good way of getting new clients is joining the forums or Facebook groups where the people of your area of expertise gather. But don’t start aggressively selling your services right away as these groups are usually sensitive to spammers. Instead, you must earn their respect – engage in conversations, start discussions and provide value. It will take some time, but it will be worth it.

Probably you won’t receive a paycheck right away. But you’ll earn good feedback, shares, and recommendations that are the true currency of the digital world. Don’t be afraid to receive honest and sometimes critical feedback – the truth might hurt, but it’s the only path towards improvement.

Some more tips for showcasing your work and attracting attention to your services:

  • Show your work on social media. As simple as that. Don’t be shy to demonstrate your talents in a playful way – even if they are posted only on your own profile or in a closed group of friends.
  • Get into entrepreneurs groups or forums. Quite often they need help, and they would rather pay someone who they already know.
  • Use Fiverr to grow your portfolio fast. It is a huge freelancer platform, known for its good price-performance ratio.
  • Answer questions on Quora. Set up your profile, add links to your freelance page where people can see your skillset, portfolio, and overall information. Once you will engage in conversations and answer questions, people will go to look at your profile and some of them will land in your freelance page.
  • If you are a designer, show your creative work on Behance.

Types of clients:

  • Clients who appreciate and respect your job. The tasks coming from these clients are always well-structured and logical. They respect your time and are forthcoming about the deadlines or any issues related to the project. It is a pleasure to work with people like that, and you’ll usually put in extra effort for their assignments.
  • “Give me a discount! Big discount!” All these clients care about is paying as little as possible. You should avoid them as they will use up your time and do everything they can to spend less.
  • “I need something to be done, but I’m not sure what it is. I will argue about it though.” You will have to ask a lot of questions to be 100% sure about the task at hand. Don’t agree to do tasks that are not your area of expertise, even if they are related to the assignment. These clients will change their mind often, so be careful and always ask for a written agreement and save all your correspondence as proof.
  • “I forgot to tell you about some changes, and you need to redo the task.” Of course, changes are normal in any work environment. It’s understandable if this happens once and you are immediately informed about the adjustments. If this is their regular way of working, don’t be shy to charge for every extra hour spent and postpone the delivery deadline.

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t show half-done, almost-done, this-is-only-an-idea work. Clients are not you, so, they don’t have the same vision and mindset as you do. They will only see what you are showing them, and a rough draft might seem like a poorly done piece of work.
  • Don’t use your own money for client’s needs. For example, think twice before buying design templates, stock footage and graphic elements with your own money. Unless you know the client well, there is a risk they can forget to repay you or even leave without notice.
  • Don’t let the client get into your head! Be flexible, but stand your ground. Everybody has their opinion, but there’s a reason why the client chose to give this task to you instead of doing it himself.
  • Don’t do anything before signing an agreement. Even the most friendly and positive people might end up hurting you and your business.

Useful Tools for Your Freelancer Career

Useful tools for freelancer

Freelancing without various helpful tools is inefficient and wastes your time. Here are some apps you should adopt with your first client and continue to use when you start to juggle several projects.

  • Track your time. Apps like Timedoctor or Desktime let you track the time spent on each project. This is helpful to analyze your productivity as well as show to the client exactly how much time you spent doing the task.
  • Manage several projects. Know the status of each task and control your deadlines with tools like Trello or Asana.
  • Sort your inbox. Google has launched Inbox by Google that works like a To-do list + Email. Very handy when you have many emails from different projects flowing in.
  • Don’t lose your files even if your computer sets on fire. Google Drive has become indispensable for many freelancers, as it auto-saves all edits online. Use Google Docs for writing, briefing or outlining. Use Google Sheets for planning, data research, and reports.
  • Grammarly add-on. Grammarly is more than just a spelling checker. Suggesting synonyms, correcting sentence constructions and indicating overused words, this intelligent app can basically substitute a proofreader.

Most popular freelance jobs in the world

If you’ve read this far, you are surely determined to become a freelancer. But have you already decided which of your skills to sell? Check out these freelance jobs that are in high-demand at the moment.

The most popular freelance jobs right now:

  • Social media manager
  • Graphic designer
  • Mobile app developer (iOS & Android)
  • Web designer & developer
  • Copywriter
  • Video editor
  • SEO specialist
  • Virtual assistant
  • Simple animation designer
  • Translator, proofreader
  • Customer service agent
  • Accountant

Resources

Keep these sites close at hand as you begin your freelancing adventure!

  • How to Get Clients: A Freelancer’s Guide to Growing Your Business. An excellent article by Noah Kagan – a self-made millionaire and an easy-going guy. Very helpful if you are just starting to freelance. Check out his blog about simple marketing techniques, freelancing, and amazing productivity hacks.
  • Free Independent Contractor Agreement Template & What to Avoid. A comprehensive guide and free template from Fit Small Business. This is a great resource for new freelancers looking for a way to protect their income.
  • https://www.mockupworld.co An indispensable site if you work with Photoshop – get countless PSD mockups and simply make the necessary design adjustments.
  • https://www.canva.com/. These two quotes sum it up: “The easiest to use design program in the world,” “Canva enables anyone to become a designer.” Very useful for making simple photo edits, collages, posters, greetings and much more.
  • https://creativeclass.io/. This freelancer’s digital “mentor” covers pricing, landing projects, getting paid, managing revisions, etc.
  • https://www.youtube.com/user/PhlearnLLC. In case you need to get started or get better with Photoshop, this is the Youtube channel for you.
  • Ramit Sethi website. Amazingly clever thoughts on psychology, unconventional money management tricks, how to get a raise, how to market yourself as a business or as an employee.
  • Lynda.com. This platform is designed by Linkedin and offers thousands of online courses. Use their 30-day free trial to learn a new skill.
  • https://www.freelancer.com/exam/exams/. Take skills tests to define your credentials and get awarded more jobs.

Conclusion

Why do people choose to become freelancers and give up the stability of a permanent employment? There are many different reasons – some prefer to work solo and take full responsibility for their work. Others don’t like the regular working hours or going to the office every day. Some just like the adrenaline of finding and executing their own projects and managing their salary.

Any of these is a valid reason to start something by yourself. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that freelancing is a relaxed working style that lets you stay at home and do almost nothing – it’s quite the opposite. In fact, the word “freelancer” comes from a mercenary soldier or adventurer in medieval Europe. And even in the 21st century, freelancing can be quite an adventure and sometimes even a battle – to reach new clients, recognition or a proper work-life balance.

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