Freelancer Tips

7 Habits of Successful Freelancers

Katherine Penta
March 8, 2016
successful freelancer

While the allure of working for yourself can seem, from the outside, lucrative and exciting, the life of a freelancer is typically spent staring at a computer screen working on a project or looking for new work; sometimes wondering where the next paycheck is coming from. There is a lot of freedom in freelancing, yes, but there is plenty of time spent simply working and looking for more.Successful freelancers might spend over 60% of their time simply looking for new work, with those just starting out spending up to 90% of their time looking for clients. To make the most out of your time there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind. We’ve compiled some tips and tricks on how to maximize your time spent and advance your online business in the world of freelancing.

1. Slow and steady

If you are just starting out, plan on keeping that full time job for a while and burning the midnight oil to work on your freelancing career. It can take months or years to build a client base large enough to justify full time work. This isn’t a short term sprint, it’s a long term marathon, one that will hopefully last you the rest of your life; it will take time to train.

2. Build your portfolio early

When freelancing, and especially when starting out, having a portfolio (physical or digital) can be the difference in securing jobs or losing them. If it seems like a “chicken and the egg” argument, well, it kind of is. To have a portfolio, you have to have previous work experience, but to get new jobs you should have a portfolio. This is why you keep your full-time job at first. No one talks about this, but a lot of the early work you’ll be doing to build your portfolio will be for little or no money. While you should never sell yourself short, it is sometimes necessary to offer amazing deals in order to build that initial portfolio.

3. Work the hours that people are spending money

Once you take freelancing full time, the temptation to set your own hours and work “when you want to” will set in. Don’t let it. While it might seem like a good idea to spend your day playing tennis and watching reruns of Full House and spend your evenings and nights working, it is not the ideal way to work. You need to be at your computer and working when people are spending money. This means that even though you might be in sweatpants and a blanket, you should be working around the typical 9-5 hours. There are exceptions, but generally speaking, you should look at your freelancing gig as an office job, with normal hours being part of that.

4. Build brand equity by using social media

Social media is a powerful tool that can be utilized to bring your brand and work into an entirely new realm. If you’re an expert in your field, you can livestream Q&A sessions which allows people to ask you questions in real time and allows you to answer them in the same manner. If you’re a creator or designer, Instagram is a great platform to display projects and interesting behind the scene photos. Snapchat can give fans a great way to keep up with you, as well, and allows for quick snaps of works in progress.

5. Build connections offline

One of the best ways to obtain online work is to build offline relationships. Whether it’s web design or freelance writing, being social can build links that can lead to new work. Look for entrepreneurial meetup groups and business workshops. These will be filled with like-minded individuals looking to expand their businesses and have the same motivations as you. Not only could you make some great friends, but find new work, as well!

6. Have a strong contract

You’re going to want to protect yourself, and your clients, when you jump into full time freelancing. There will always be unexpected surprises when freelancing, but if you have a thorough contract, many of the issues will be solved simply by referencing the contract. By having a well-written contract, both you and your client know exactly what to expect from your time together, from timeframes to unexpected additional costs.

7. Value yourself and your work

Quite possibly the most important point on this list, valuing yourself and the price of your work correctly could be the difference in you making it in the freelancing world and failing. While early on you might have to lowball prices, as your portfolio and your experience grows, make sure to price your services accordingly. While it might be tempting to constantly undershoot the average prices people in your field charge, potential clients can see that as a reflection of your work and associate it with being less than stellar. Freelancing is an exciting opportunity to build your own business and brand, but like any business, hard work and dedication will play a key role in your success. Some freelancers want to look at it as an escape from the day-to-day grind, but the truth of the matter is it’s just a different type of grind. One that you will have to put 100% into if you want it to be successful. Find your niche, figure out what you’re good at, and decide how you will differentiate yourself from the droves of other entrepreneurs looking to do the same thing.

Katherine Penta
Brand and copy expert with over six years of experience developing brand personas, managing content, and writing copy for brands like Neutrogena, Visa, and Adobe.
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