With more and more designers going freelance, it could be time you followed. We investigate the steps you need to take to ensure heading out on your own is a happy, and profitable move.
While the idea of sitting around in sweatpants or relaxing on a beach while working sounds like perfection, freelancing isn’t always a walk in the park. From juggling business responsibilities and invoices to finding your next gig, freelancing comes with its issues. Despite these challenges, a few tips can help you find success and happiness in your career.
1. Believe in Your Worth
Particularly when you’re new to freelancing, it can be intimidating to set your fee. While some projects or jobs may entail negotiation, it’s best to set your rates and stick to them. Depending on your niche, you may work on an hourly rate or quote per project. Set a rate that’s on trend with your industry rather than settle. While you may find more gigs when charging less than the industry average, you’ll experience more stress trying to juggle enough projects to meet your income goals.
2. Network Even When You’re Not Seeking Work
Networking is the lifeblood of freelancing; it’s necessary to keep your business alive. Even when you have contracts, freelancing jobs can be unpredictable. You may have ten small projects one month and three ongoing projects another month.
Finding yourself low on projects can be stressful to your mental health and your wallet. Keep networking with other professionals, freelancers, and potential employers even with plenty of projects on your plate. This effort makes it easier to find a job when you’re looking for your next gig.
“You can think of freelancing as volatile and risky, or as flexible and opportunity-rich.
Doesn’t having multiple sources of income and multiple moneymaking skills sound less risky than putting all your eggs in one employer’s basket?
Freelancing lets you shift gears when the world does.
– Sara Horowitz
3.Create high-quality samples
You can sell your ability to complete a task if you’re good with your words, however, this is somewhat difficult and not something most people will be able to reliably do.
A much faster path to communicating this? Acquiring high-quality samples of your past work.
I know what you’re thinking– I just started (or haven’t started at all…), I don’t have any samples. That’s okay, you don’t need any! Am I making sense? No? Great.
What I mean is, you can make the samples you need on the fly as you find jobs you want to apply to (or now before you apply for jobs).
So, let’s say you’re a graphic designer and you find a job with someone asking for a Flyer design on the topic of Bourbon. All you have to do is make your own sample design on a similar topic (not the exact same) and present it to the client in your proposal.
And, remember, you’re selling the potential client on your ability to perform the task, so get straight to it and link your samples instead of dragging on about your experience. That won’t help you land the job– your samples will.
But what if you still don’t get the job? Did you just waste all that time? No. This method will increase your chance of getting the job astronomically, but whether you do or don’t, don’t worry. The great part about this method is you now have a great sample which you can use to apply to other projects indefinitely.
4. Set a Schedule and Stick to It
Working the standard nine-to-five Monday through Friday can feel restrictive, but businesses are onto something when they adhere to a consistent schedule. Whether you prefer to work late at night or early in the morning, set a regular schedule for your work week, including the days and hours you’ll work. Aim to schedule four days of work and one day for handling administrative tasks, such as following up on emails, taking care of bills and invoices, and networking. A regular schedule helps you get into a work mindset each time you start your day.
5. Don’t Skimp on Business Necessities
Working as a freelancer means wearing a business-owner hat too. While it’s tempting to cut back on costs wherever you can, it’s worth investing in the tools you need to do your work efficiently. One service you should never skimp on is a reliable high-speed internet connection for communicating with employers and completing projects. Take the time to find the fastest internet in your area and calculate your bandwidth needs based on the type of work you do. With a fast connection, you can complete your work faster and avoid the frustrations of lag.
6. Wow your client
A big part of becoming a successful freelancer, like any business, is offering an incredible client experience. You can’t just get the sale, deliver the product or service, and then leave it at that high and dry. You need to maintain the same level of professionalism from beginning to end.
Ways you can do this include:
- Offering realistic complete-by dates…and then turning in a day early
- Offering daily updates (clients love it when you keep them in the loop)
- Find some small way you can go above and beyond and surprise your client (like more than one version of a graphic so they can choose instead of just having one, the kind of thing you probably already created anyway)
This is huge and really can’t be understated, if for no reason other than the fact that, in freelancing, many of your clients will become repeats if they love your work.I’ll repeat that again because it’s ridiculously important: treat your clients right and they’ll keep coming back, over and over again, for more work from you.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
When you determine your income, it’s easy to make the mistake of taking on too much work. If you’re tempted to take on another project for the additional income, consider the cons: additional stress and less time to decompress. Don’t risk your mental health for a bump in pay. Before agreeing to any new project, look to see if it will realistically fit into your schedule. If it won’t, turn it down or explain what deadline would work for you.
Working as a freelancer is an exciting career move, offering independence and opportunities to challenge yourself and enhance your skills. While freelancing isn’t the easiest gig, following these helpful tips can help you find happiness and success in your career.
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