Top 5 Tips for Success as a Freelancer
Maybe you’ve reached the end of your rope at the office. You’ve decided you cannot possibly last one more day working 9 to 5 in a cubicle.
Or maybe you’ve heard or read about others who seem to be financing a wonderful life through freelancing. And you want that life, too!
Perhaps, you’re just ready for a change, but you’re not sure what direction you should go.
Let’s talk about freelancing!
It’s a buzzword these days, and it seems to promise a lot.
A lot of freedom, a lot of money, a lot of flexibility - you get the picture.
You envision yourself working in a bungalow on a tropical beach. Or jet-setting to an exotic location.
But, let’s be real.
Freelancing does have its rewards, but it also requires a lot of preparation, hard work, and responsibility.
It’s probably not going to change your world overnight, but it can change your life over time.
In order to be successful at freelancing, though, you’ve got to understand how to make it work for you.
I want to share with you my Top 5 Tips for Success as a Freelancer.
If you commit to these, and really put them into practice, you will be rewarded with all that freelancing can offer!
Let’s jump in.
Tip #1: Have a Plan
Before you even start working as a freelancer, you need to have a plan.
You need to ask yourself some questions and spend some time answering them honestly.
- What are my short-term vs. long-term goals?
- What is my skill-set?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What kind of budget do I have to start with? How much will it cost?
- What do I already know about the industry vs. What do I need to learn?
- What people can help me make this transition?
Really take time to answer these questions until you begin to see what you’ve got covered and where the gaps are.
Then, write out steps.
To do this, look at your short-term goals.
Maybe one short-term goal is to quit your current job.
What steps will you need to take to do this?
Will you need to have a specific sum of money saved up to live on while you pursue freelancing?
Will you need to finish a current work project before you can quit?
Will you need to give notice in advance? How much time in advance?
Begin to list the steps you will need to take in order to meet your short-term goals.
Then, write out steps for how you will tackle a few of your long-term goals.
Finally, you’ll begin to see a plan develop. A plan with actionable steps and clear goals.
Before you move on from this first step, I highly recommend that you find a trusted friend, advisor, or mentor to share your plan with.
It can be so helpful for someone else to look at your plan because that person may see things you’ve missed.
Or they may have helpful experience that will simplify things for you.
Don’t try to do everything on your own.
You’ll soon find that freelancing requires you to build relationships in order to succeed, so it’s best to utilize relationships now.
The more time you can afford to spend on developing a solid plan and then getting crucial feedback from others you trust, the more likely it is that you will succeed at freelancing.
Tip #2: Foster Relationships
Remember how I said that freelancing requires you to build relationships in order to succeed?
Well, now it’s time to learn how to leverage relationships for personal success.
I don’t mean unfairly taking advantage of others for personal gain.
I mean learning that we all need other people in order to become our best selves.
You can’t freelance in a vacuum.
Freelancing is all about people helping people.
So, the first thing you need to do is determine how you can best help others.
What do you have to offer? How can your skill set bring value to other people’s visions?
Knowing your particular skill set and what value you have to offer others will help you find your niche in the world of freelancing.
Because, let’s face it. There are a lot of freelancers out there.
You’ve got to determine where you fit in and how you will stand out.
Then, start reaching out to everyone you know in a variety of ways.
This is called networking. And networking is a great way to increase your chances of success as a freelancer.
Whether locally or virtually, look for ways to connect with people.
Make sure you have a social media presence, an up-to-date LinkedIn profile , and maybe even a website where you can showcase your work.
I’ve already talked about tips for networking as a freelancer , so if you’re not sure how to network or where to start, read this link .
Networking should be part of your short-term and long-term goals.
Networking not only connects you with others in the industry, it can help you find potential clients and it can put you in contact with other experts who can answer your questions.
Creating strong freelancing relationships can help you find more work and gain more credibility.
And, of course, building your reputation as a freelancer will help you achieve success.
Tip #3: Develop Your Skills
You may have worked at your 9 to 5 job for quite some time, always doing the same type of work. In some ways, this can be comforting.
But the freelancing world is constantly evolving.
Which means you have to be evolving, too.
First, your knowledge should be evolving. You’ve got to stay current on industry trends and changes.
Networking with other professionals in the industry can help you with this.
So can freelancing blogs, like this one, and expert advice like Freelancing for Devs 101 .
You should also consider attending conventions and joining online groups that specialize in the type of freelancing you do.
Then, your skills should be constantly growing in order to stay relevant in the freelance market.
Nearly every day, some new program, system, or digital tool impacts the world of freelancing.
For example, you may be an expert programmer, but how will AI impact what you do?
Take advantage of free online courses to learn new skills.
If you’re not open to expanding and adapting your skill set, you’ll soon fall behind and become obsolete.
On the other hand, taking the time to hone your skills, accept challenges, and learn something new will help you stay competitive and successful in the industry.
Tip #4: Create Your Brand
I’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth repeating.
Freelancing is competitive. It’s a crowded industry. You can be easily overlooked.
You have to differentiate yourself by creating a personal brand.
Branding for a freelancer is necessary marketing.
After all, as a freelancer you are selling yourself. You are the company.
When you’re first starting out, you may not have a clear vision of what a brand is or what your brand is.
That’s ok. You can begin by studying other freelancers’ brands.
Look at their social media presence. Study their website. Listen to their YouTube videos or podcasts.
You’ll begin to understand what a personal brand is and how it is created.
As you become established in the freelancing world, you’ll need to develop a cohesive and recognizable brand.
Your brand should inform potential clients of three things:
- Who you are
- What you do
- What makes you unique
For example, “I am a reliable, creative digital marketing freelancer who specializes in web design for small businesses.”
Of course, you’ll add more detail about your background, experience, and skills. And you can add examples of your work.
Your brand should also be visually inviting and cohesive.
Use the same color scheme, logo, font, etc. on your social media pages, your website, and any other marketing you publish.
It’s okay if you need help developing your brand.
It will be worthwhile to invest some money to get expert help so that you can become more visible to potential clients.
Once you have a clear, cohesive personal brand, put it to work!
Put your brand out where people will see you.
Incorporate it into everything - emails, your website, business cards, social media platforms, marketing drives, project proposals, etc.
Your goal is for your personal brand (i.e. you) to become recognizable.
You want clients to remember it (i.e. you) and pass it on to others.
The more recognizable and memorable your work (and you) are, the more successful you will become as a freelancer.
Tip #5: Take Care of Details
I can’t tell you how many freelancers start out strong but end up buried under a failed freelancing career because they didn’t pay attention to the details.
What details can kill a freelancing career?
- Paying taxes
- Returning phone calls, texts, emails in a timely manner
- Taking care of your mental health
- Practicing good habits
Overlooking the details or assuming that “things will just take care of themselves” is a recipe for freelancing disaster.
A lot of creative freelancers have great vision and drive, but that only takes you so far.
As someone once said, “The devil is in the details.”
So, do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success by paying attention to the details.
Make sure you keep track of finances.
Keep accurate and up-to-date records of all your income and expenses.
Also, have a plan in place for managing your money and setting aside funds for taxes, if required.
Stick to a budget, and most importantly know exactly how many projects or how much money you require to make this freelancing thing work for you.
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself short of money after putting in a lot of hard work.
Also, practice good habits.
This includes creating a daily schedule that works for you and sticking to it.
Keep track of client deadlines, so you can keep clients happy!
You’ve got to know yourself and what tendencies you have that might derail your freelance work.
For example, do you constantly procrastinate? Do you forget to follow-up with people?
Put habits in place that will help you overcome these tendencies.
Knowing what habits to build will help you be successful as a freelancer .
Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Freelancing can be a very stressful job. It can be mentally and emotionally draining.
Make sure you take breaks, and don’t take on more than you can reasonably handle.
Give yourself time to relax, exercise, and get creative.
Freelancing can change your life for the better, but your whole life is not just about freelancing.
It’s all about balance.
By following these Top 5 Tips, you can make freelancing work for you and enjoy success as a freelancer.
You’ve got to commit to doing what it takes, which means
- Having a plan that includes goals and actionable steps,
- Fostering relationships through networking,
- Developing your skills to keep pace with a changing industry,
- Creating a personal brand that differentiates you from the competition,
- Taking care of details that will set you up for success.
With a bit of dedication and hard work, you’ll be well prepared to take on the challenges that come with this career.
And you’ll reap the rewards that freelancing can offer!
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Juan Cruz Martinez
Juan has made it his mission to help aspiring developers unlock their full potential. With over two decades of hands-on programming experience, he understands the challenges and rewards of learning to code. By providing accessible and engaging educational content, Juan has cultivated a community of learners who share their passion for coding. Leveraging his expertise and empathetic teaching approach, Juan has successfully guided countless students on their journey to becoming skilled developers, transforming lives through the power of technology.