A freelancer is a self-employed professional who earns a living by working on different projects for different employers without a long-term commitment to any. Usually a freelancer will be paid per project or per task. If you’re considering a freelance career, here are a few things to note.
- Freelancing is a business and you should treat it as such. If you treat it like a hobby, it will pay you like a hobby.I remember some people wondering why I needed a nanny for my baby back when I started freelancing, “After all you work from home and you work for yourself.” This is a common misconception. It’s not just about working when you feel like, or taking on random projects from time to time. It requires the same seriousness and consistency as any other business, if you’re serious about making a living doing it.
- Know what you’re worth. When you’re just starting out you may not be able to afford the luxury of insisting on your rates or being picky, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know your worth and the value you bring to projects you work on. Even if you decide to charge less than what you’re worth or give discounts to attract more customers when you’re new, it should be deliberate. Your worth should always be at the back of your mind.
- Set your income goals. How much do you want to make every month? How many projects will you need to meet this goal? If you don’t set goals and keep reviewing them, you will struggle as a freelancer. When you know how much you want to make per month, you’ll know what kinds of offers to accept and what kinds to say no to. Sometimes a job is high-paying but also time consuming and labour-intensive. Will you be better off accepting a number of low-paying jobs than one high-paying, labour-intensive one? Your in come goal can help you decide.
- Keep records. You should have a record of how much you’re making, as well as your business expenses. This will help you know exactly how profitable your freelance business is so that you can build on that. When you subtract your expenses from the revenue that has come in, then you can see what your profit is. It’s normal to spend more than you make when you are just starting out; it’s part of your capital. However, you should soon start breaking even, and making profit. There’s no point in continuously pouring in much more than you get out and telling yourself you have a freelance business when you actually do not.
- Pitch constantly. A time will likely come when jobs will fall into your lap, but in the early days you need to keep seeking opportunities. Pitching is not easy, but it is the most important aspect of your freelance business. Before you finish one project, you should be sure the next is waiting. This can only happen when you’re always pitching.
- Look out for anchor clients.These are regular clients who give you guaranteed work monthly that you don’t have to pitch for. When you have a number of anchor clients you are able to reach your income goals more easily. Also, having these anchor clients frees up your time, as pitching can be time-consuming. Use that time to diversify; freelance is unpredictable and it’s dangerous to rely on your regular clients because they can be here today and gone tomorrow. You don’t want your business to crash completely because you lost one or two clients. Let the income from the regulars serve as a cushion to help you pitch for jobs from a position of strength, and not as a reason to become lazy about pitching.
- Always do an excellent job. This cannot be overemphasized. Whether you’re a freelance writer, editor, transcriptionist, graphic designer or photographer, referrals can boost your business beyond your imagination. Doing great work also makes it easier for you to attract and secure the anchor clients your business needs to be stable. Make yourself as indispensable as possible, so that you’re the one the editor or project manager turns to when they need a good job done, and if they’re ever downsizing you’re the one they’re reluctant to let go.
- Build your portfolio. If you can afford a website to sample your work, that would be great. If you’re a freelance writer, at least have samples of your work saved as PDF files so that you can send them to editors. If your work has been published online, links to those sites will suffice.
A freelance career is a great way to earn good income without being boxed up in an office. You get the chance to work from anywhere, work with a variety of clients, manage your own time, and eventually earn what you want. Success is never instant, but you will find that building your freelance business the right way will prove to be well worth the effort.
Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at] yahoo.com