Top tips for newbie freelancers
There are many different reasons to switch to freelance working: some people like the feeling of a one man company, some feel that it is just more profitable for them and some just can’t fit into standard nine to five life. In this article we will give some general tips for young freelancers to help them be better prepared for a freelance lifestlye. Read them carefully and they will help you to avoid some newbie mistakes and make your freelancing career easier and more profitable.
1. Consider if freelancing is right for you (and try it at the same time as your full time job)
The worst move you could make as a wannabe freelancer is to wake up one morning and quit your job to become a freelancer. It takes a bit of planning, a bit of research and some careful budgeting to ensure you can make a go of it. Getting a project might take up to a week and getting payment could be another week and if you don’t have an account with some project history on the freelance marketplace you decide to work on it may take even longer to get your first freelance job. This means that you’ll need enough money to carry you through for at least two weeks and possibly even few months before you get your first decent payment into your bank account. So, before you start full time, plan for a freelancing weekend (or use some holiday time and make it a freelancing holiday). Take few days off from your regular nine to five and test the freelancer way of life. Create portfolio on a freelance marketplace and start bidding for jobs. See if you have what it takes to win a project or two and to complete them within the deadline (especially with the regular weekend home chores hanging over your head).
2. Ensure your profile and portfolio are up to date and have impact
In the world of freelancing – your profile and portfolio are of paramount importance. Freelancing can be like applying for a new job every day! When a buyer views your online freelancer portfolio they must see your main skills and experience immediately, but they should also have the ability to dig a little deeper and find out more about your skills, experience and interests.
3. Set up a suitable backup strategy
Once you become a full time freelance work you are a one man band! When you work in a company you have access to administrators, IT support staff and financial backing that can buy a new server if the old one goes down. When you work at home – you are on your own. That’s why you need to establish effective backups in case of emergency. Know where your nearest internet cafe is so you can get online if you have telephone trouble, use software like go-to-my pc or icloud.com to ensure you have access to all your important data. Invest in a USB memory stick and if you can stretch to it a backup pc or latop. Also look after your equipment and your equipment will look after you.
4. Make good use of the tools which are available to you
Depending on your area of specilisation you will find numerous tools and software applications which can help you deliver more results with less effort, in fact, even a simple whiteboard could prove hugely beneficial for brainstorming, but also consider tools like dropbox.com - for distributing very large files, icloud.com for remote access to your documents, Google Apps, for managing task lists, calendar and email. There are hundreds and thousands of tools which can be used to make your life easier and make you a more effective freelancer, pull together a suite which meets your needs and means you can be as productive and motivated as possible.
5. Ensure you work in a field which you are not only good at, but that you enjoy
Freelancing can be much harder than an office job. You don’t have a manager or supervisor to ensure your discipline and productivty remains high, you don't have access to a team of people to bounce ideas off, you don't have paid sick leave or holidays. You need to be disciplined and you need to stay focused and productive. Ensuring you work in a field which you enjoy and are good at mean you will stay engaged and on top of your game.
6. Be committed to ongoing personal development - or lifelong learning.
As a freelancer, you are your own boss and you are in control of your destiny. The skills and experience that are popular today may fall out of favour tomorrow. Stay on top of your industry, keep ahead of developments, read, communicate, collaborate and make sure you do not become complacent. Feed your brain with relevant knowledge so that your skillset remains in demand. Work it into your schedule - don't squeeze it in every now and then - make it a structured part of your working day or week. A good thing to do is read a couple of tutorials or tips in the evening before you wind down for the day, or first thing in the morning when you are fresh for the working day.
7. Use the most appropriate marketplace for your skills and target audience
Use WhichLance.com to find the marketplace which lists projects that meet your skillset, spend time looking over the ones which meet your needs, check the financial requirements, make sure they are fair and reasonable. Pay attention to the secuirty and safety mechanisms in place for buyers and providers. Check how often and how many jobs in your area of expertise are posted - and to what value. Once you have found a site which you think is worth working on - register, craft a profile, build your portfolio and where applicable complete the most relevant skill test.
8. Secure your first project on a marketplace quickly
Once you have registered for a freelance or outsourcing marketplace and completed a profile, don't just leave it - be proactive about securing work - remember, you are the newbie and others have more experience and stronger feedback. A new profile, or being new to the marketplace is the only plausible excuse for having no feedback. If you wait for weeks or months after your profile is up, your credibility drops and getting that elusive first project becomes harder by the day. Once you secure you first project do it well. Don't be afraid to start with a smaller project than you would like - and then another and another, get a few small jobs under your belt and you will find the bigger jobs soon follow.
9. Foster long-term relationships with your clients
Your clients are your bread and butter, they pay your wages and a job done well is likely to result in repeat business and referrals. Don't understimate thier importance. Applying for projects on marketplaces is good, but time consuming. Building up a panel of regular clients should be one of your primary aims. But, don't get greedy and start working with all these clients away from the marketplace - yes you will save 5 or 10% - but your profile and portfolio on that site will suffer. You will then lose out on future bids. 10% is not a big price to pay to ensure you have a shop window - imagine if you had to rent an office, pay for advertising, etc - 10% is a fair price to pay for a regular flow of work - just make sure you build these costs into your bids.
10. Manage your money and your budget carefully
Freelancing is much more risky than working a 9-5 - you have no guaranteed salary. Your money will usually be paid from your client, to the freelance marketplace, from the freelance marketplace to your paypal account, or your payoneer pre-paid debit card, or similar. From there you then need to either trnasfer money to your bank account, or withdraw it from an ATM. Although these methods are often reliable, things can go wrong, so don't start spending your income until its cash in the bank - or in your hand. Also, you may have a really good month, and then a really quiet month - try your best to build up a contingency budget which will see you through 1 or even 2 months of living expenses in case you had no money coming in for some reason.
And - a bonus tip - look after yourself - stay healthy, don't work yourself into the ground - you are your income now, and remember, no work - no pay - so stay fit, stay active, stay healthy - and if possible look into things like health or medical insurance - and even income protection or payment protection insurance in case of accident or illness.
Good luck with your new freelancing career, follow our tips, stay focused and it can be the most rewarding step you have ever taken.