How to be a Successful Freelancer

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Speaking from personal experience, working as a freelancer is amazing 99% of the time. You have the luxury of being able to decide who you work with, what hours you want to work and ensuring that you are always working on projects that you enjoy. It can, however, be hard to know where to get started and what to do to become a successful freelancer.

A freelancer, sometimes referred to as a ‘1099 contractor‘ is someone who works for themselves and not for an employer. As there are now more than 56.7 million freelancers in the United States alone, competition is rising and it is important to know how to be the best of the best. This blog will give you seven top tips on how to successfully freelance… Enjoy!

How to be a successful freelancer

The first thing you need to do is to gather some regular clients. There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Word of mouth, which is when someone recommends you to a person they know
  • Having a blog that writes about topics relevant to your work
  • Create content for others as this gets your name our on bigger websites and gives you more of an audience
  • Keep your LinkedIn up to date with your most recent experience and skills
  • Head over to some freelance job sites, such as People Per Hour or Upwork, where you can showcase your work and gather some initial attention

Now you have a clients… how do you make yourself successful?

1. Focus on regular communication

To avoid misunderstandings, practice how you communicate. As a freelancer, you need to be timely with replying to emails or phone calls. I suggest setting aside some time each day that is dedicated to correspondence.

Another really useful communication skill to have is active listening. ‘Active listening’ means, as the name suggests… actively listening. That means fully concentrating on what is being said, rather than just ‘hearing’ words.

Active listening is a skill that needs to be mastered overtime, so get practicing! Nonverbal signs of active listening include: smiling, eye contact, posture, mirroring body language and not being distracted. Whereas, verbal signs include questioning, remembering, clarification and summarization. Active listening is a skill that will help you get the most out of each conversation you have with a client. Therefore, making you more successful!

2. Have many different channels of income

One of the major advantages of being a freelancer: flexibility. One of the major disadvantages: lack of stability.

So, as a freelancer it is most definitely not a bad idea to have lots of different channels of income to give you some stability. This is a way to ensure you will always have an income if one piece or work comes to an end.

Some freelancers have lots of different channels of work, completing projects and tasks for many different people. Others tend to give a big chunk of their hours to one project, but will often have gigs on the side. Do whatever is easiest for you, but it really is wise to have lots of different sources of income.

3. Have a back up plan

As I’ve just mentioned above, the nature of freelance work is quite unstable and unpredictable. You never know what is around the corner. Based on this, it is always a good idea to have a detailed back up plan.

Your plan should be detailed about what you will do if your plan A fails or if freelancing doesn’t work out for you. What does your plan B look like… Will you try a different niche? Or perhaps try to market yourself online? Will you change your freelance business model? Or, will you go back to being employed by a company?

4. Go the extra mile

Like anything in life, going the extra mile, for the right reasons, is worth it. When trying to become a successful freelancer, one of the key things is to be remembered. Being remembered, for the right reasons of course, gets you loyal and returning clients. These clients are predictable and are essential for a successful businesses.

Going the extra mile means fulfilling more than just the necessary obligations. It means setting long term goals, referring experts in other areas if the business needs help or helping your client in any way you feel qualified to do so.

It is important that you are not bending over backwards for people that don’t appreciate the effort you put in or take advantage of you. This would actually be a poor business decision, as you will waste time on things that don’t benefit you. And we all know, time is money, and money is time…

5. Figure out your niche

It is no good just being self-employed because you fancy it. You have to actually be good at what you do, or no one will pay you for it.

To become a successful freelancer, you need to figure out what you’re actually good at and then stick to it. Think about your previous work experience, what did you excel in? What do you have a real strength in? Or, do you have a degree or an internship in a specific area that you can use to your advantage?

6. Charge a reasonable rate

There is a fine line between charging the right amount and charging too much.

Like any contracted job, you can’t expect to start off earning as much as the top bosses. Until you have enough experience, you really shouldn’t be charging a premium price, because the chances are, you won’t offer a premium service.

If you have a service that has no proof of being premium, potential clients will simply go for the freelancer who can prove they are worth the money. Whereas, if you say “hey, I am charging a little less because I’m just starting out. But, here’s a portfolio of the kind of things I am capable of“, clients are likely to take a gamble. If you wow them with your work, they will then be more likely to use you again and pay a higher price for your services.

Of course, don’t undersell yourself. When starting out, do the maths. Figure out what you need to survive (e.g, pay the bills, eat, feed the family), what costs you will have (travel, printer, computer) and then do some research as to what other freelancers of a similar experience level are charging. Start lower, but you can always up your prices as your experience increases.

7. Market yourself

The final top tip on how to become a successful freelancer is to market yourself correctly. How can you expect people to use your services if they don’t know you exist?

Although sometimes costly and time consuming, a website or social media page is a great, and often cost effective, way to market yourself. Think of this as a ‘portfolio’ of your work. If you write, show off your favorite pieces. If you design, show off some designs. And, if you create things, post pictures of what you create.

One of the very few hard slogs of being a freelancer is that you do need to get used to self-promotion. So, as hard as it is to sell yourself, it’s worth starting early.

Wrapping up

I hope you enjoyed these seven tips, and that you’ve learnt some useful ways to freelance successfully.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments section below. Are you a freelancer? How did you get your first clients? Do you use any apps or online resources?

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