The 9-to-5 daily grind, long commutes, and uncomfortable business attire are quickly becoming things of the past. People are discovering alternative professional paths, which provide them with more flexibility and control. Freelance careers are on the rise as more and more people are discovering that this framework can greatly improve their lifestyle. 

Read on to discover the best tips to become a successful freelancer!  

Reasons to become a freelancer

Foremost, a freelancer makes his or her own schedule. Most freelancers usually offer some kind of a skilled trade, whether its copywriting, graphic design or website development. Freelancers work based on the orders they receive from businesses or individuals. This means that they can work whenever they are most productive (any other night owls here?) and make time for the things that really matter in life.  

Most freelancers that operate from their laptop can take their work anywhere. Many people travel while they work, putting in a few hours every day to keep them afloat as they explore the world around them. 

Being your own boss is amazing. This is usually top of the list of reasons that people decide to take the leap from their normal jobs to the freelance world. As a freelancer, you make your own schedule, work with whom you want to work with, and have the final say on your projects. Of course, in this scenario, your client has more power and control over your work. However, after you get more experienced in this world you will get better at this increased amount of customer interface. 

The best advice on kick-starting your new freelance career

The first thing that you will learn once you become a freelancer is that there are no hard and fast rules. Each person is different and unique, and generalizations can be difficult to make. However, there are some guidelines that can help you in the beginning as you navigate the freelance world. 

  1. Learn how to say no. If there is a project that is outside of your skill set or you don’t trust the client that is contacting you. Just say no. It can be difficult at the beginning of your career because the workflow will be quite slow. However, the time and energy that you will waste on a project that you have doubts will have more of a negative effect on your business than if you had never done it.
  2. Before you develop a loyal client base, many people are going to try and take advantage of your services. Unless you are operating from an online freelance platform that provides some protection, always use a contract. Start off with a simple one that covers all the basics such as payment and the process you have set in place if there are any disputes. There are many templates available that you can base yours on and then you can make personalized amendments, as you get more experienced. By sending through a contract before you start work you will be able to protect yourself and let the client know your terms and style of working.
  3. To ensure that you will be paid for your services it’s imperative to get a down payment before you start working on a project. It’s generally recommended that you receive 50% of the total project fee before you start work. After you’ve finished the work don’t send through any files that the client can use commercially until they have paid you the further 50%. Unusable files can include watermarked documents, low-resolution images, and bad quality sound files with mistakes built into the script.
  4. Develop a specific brand identity. After a few years of working as a freelancer, you will have a thorough understanding of the projects you like working on and what you’re good at. Once you’ve come to this realization, it’s time for a complete rebranding. Be specific and show examples of the kind of work you want to do. Make your biography and business intro focused on this kind of work with specific keywords included. Try and attract the clients in the field you're passionate about and tailor your services to them.
  5. Transparency is one of the most important steps to being a successful freelancer. Many people make the mistake of trying to pretend that they are part of a large company or that they have more resources than they do. The risk that you run by being dishonest is that you could end up with a workload and a client that has unrealistic expectations. This will eventually hurt your reputation and business. By just being straightforward and truthful from the get-go you will attract the right client base and have a host of happy returning customers who will recommend you! 

This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start. The best way to get a good idea of being a freelancer is to start working as one. Start off doing casual gigs during your downtime after work. Freelance careers can take years to build and in the beginning, it can be easy to juggle it with a full-time job. You will also quickly get a taste on whether the freelance path is the right one for you. 

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