I’ve been freelancing full-time for 16 months now and apart from a small blip in March-April (thanks Covid) each month has been busier than the last. I’ve been asked by friends and blog readers for tips for new freelancers, so thought I would put some together as a blog post.
I won’t lie and say it’s easy, there are many pros and cons to being a freelancer, not having a set payday and regularly having to chase invoices are two things I definitely don’t enjoy. For us though it was definitely a good decision overall and it has enabled us to move to Spain and work less hours.
So, if you want to set yourself up as a freelancer, here are 8 tips for new freelancers that you need to consider…
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Understand your target market
Before you start sending out proposals and trying to get business as a freelancer, it’s important to consider who your target market are. Understanding this will help you to find the right clients for your experience and skills.
What type of person or business do you want to work with? Who is your ideal client? What expertise do you have to offer?
Knowing who your target market is will help you to know where to market your services, what message to put out, and how to use your existing skills and experience.
Set your rates and stick to them
Do your research on what other freelancers in your field are charging to help you set your rates. Consider your experience when deciding how much to charge – don’t sell yourself short.
Tell potential clients your rates and don’t be pressured into lowering them, if you start off like that it will be difficult to earn what you need to. If someone says they can get your services cheaper, rather than giving them a discounted rate let them know why you charge what you do. Tell them about your experience, qualifications, and knowledge of the industry.
Be picky with your clients
It’s very tempting to accept any client who comes your way when you first start freelancing. However, if you get a bad vibe about a potential client or they start the business relationship by trying to knock down your fees then that is probably a sign of what to expect further down the line.
In the past I’ve had clients who pay late every month, clients who expect the earth for a small monthly fee, clients who’s businesses bore me, and clients who are terrible at communicating. When I first started freelancing I put up with them all because I needed the money, but all it does is add stress to your day. I’ve been lucky that I know have enough clients that I can pick and choose the ones I want to work with.
Start off being a bit picky so that you don’t fall out of love with being a freelancer too quickly!
Start invoicing properly
If you’re going to do your own accounts, and I’d recommend you do at first to save money, then you need to set up a good invoicing system. You want to be sending out invoices that look professional as well as making sure you have all the information that the tax man will need each month.
My first invoices when I was dabbling in freelancing on the side were just Excel templates and looking at them now makes me cringe!
Since then I’ve started using proper invoicing software that not only looks professional but also helps to keep track of what money you have coming in, what is outstanding, and even lets you receive card payments. If you want to know more check out Fresh Books and sign up for a free trial.
Expect to work hard
If you want to leave your job and freelance full-time you have to expect to work a lot of hours to begin with. It takes time to build up any business and freelancing is no different.
You might have a lot of late nights and working weekends at the beginning, but in time the hard work will pay off and when you’re charging a higher hourly rate than you were when you were employed, then you can start to work fewer hours!
But set boundaries
Even though you will have to put in some longer hours initially it’s important to set boundaries so you don’t end up working all hours. After all, one of the reasons you want to freelance is probably so that you can set your own hours and have more time to do the things you enjoy.
Try to have set times when you finish work, turn your laptop off of an evening, don’t reply to emails late at night, and make sure your clients know when you are and aren’t available.
One of my top tips for new freelancers is to get organised. Being organised is super important when you work for yourself – you won’t have anyone to help or to pass the work on to like you do when you’re employed.
How you organise yourself will depend on the type of work you do but having some kind of online to-do list is a must-have, I use Trello but there are lots of other tools available.
Try not to take on too much, give yourself enough time to complete each job, and have set days or times for admin and invoicing.
Don’t give up
And lastly, but most importantly, don’t give up! It might be difficult at first, and it may take you a while to get enough clients to pay the bills, but if you keep going it will be worth it.
Freelancing allows you to set your own hours, attend your kids’ school events, avoid the rush hour every morning, and do something that you enjoy every day.
If you take all these tips for new freelancers on board, and set your freelancing business up properly from the start, then you could have a successful time being your own boss.