17 tips for those who have just become a freelancer

Being a freelancer means working remotely, having a lot more freedom, being close to our children, being a digital nomad…

There are many possibilities that can take a professional to want to begin a freelance job in a professional manner. But deep down you feel fear because we are so used to formal and traditional jobs.

The insecurity of being in charge of the professional career and to drive our very own vehicle, many times causes might hinder. Don’t worry! This happens to a lot of people and you’re definitely not alone in this feeling.

In order to provide you with courage, today I want to share with you 17 suggestions that will help you jumpstart your freelancer career.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Marketing professional, like me, a web designer, or a Computer Technician, this applies for everyone!

I have been working as a employee for 20 years and the traditional work mode is very different from the independent one. At the beginning I didn’t quite understand what the best method to begin my freelancer career was. I couldn’t find a guide with details step by step.

It was at that time when I began to create a guide with the important aspects to take into account in order to become a successful professional. I truly hope they can help you as a guide and at the same time be useful in the improvement processes within your current businesses.

So, without waiting any longer, here are some of my best tips as a professional freelancer.

1. Know and define your professional abilities

When I began my career as a professional freelancer, I began offering jobs related to strategic planning and Project management. I did it because for the last 10 years it had been my routine in multinational companies in which I worked. Therefore, I knew that was an ability I could use immediately.

Then, I have been discovering other things that I knew how to do well so that I could widen my opportunity spectrum and that would help me to thrive in the freelance world.

An interesting tip, that helped me a lot in this process of self-knowledge, was to read the book titled “Now, Discover Your Strengths“. Taking the test and practicing the results has helped me to think about how to improve my professional performance.

The majority of people spend all their time worrying about what they “should” do well, when you actually need to focus on what you want to do. Whatever causes you joy when accepting a project!

So, now you might ask: How do you do it? Wll, how about writing down 5 things you’re good at? And don’t worry about them from the business point of view! To give you an example of this, making my own exercise I could write:

  • Empathy
  • Easy communication and good writing skills
  • Management expertise
  • Speak other languages (English and Spanish)
  • Responsible and organized

Every professional freelancer has their own abilities.

2. Choose a market

After discovering your abilities, it’s now time to think about the types of freelance jobs you want to do and what clients you want to work for.

The importance of determining the first stage directly impacts here, because the market is the result of 3 factors:

What you like to do + what you know how to do + what the market want and how much they’re willing to pay for it = MARKET.

Of course, at the beginning, the tendency to accept any offer can help you build your portfolio and begin to be the indicated one. But, as you dive deeper in the freelancer career, you need to start being more strategic with the types of jobs you do and with the clients you accept.

The importance of choosing and segmenting your market is because once you specialize, you become a reference in a specific area, and the experts can charge more for their services.

In an article published by Neil Patel, who is one of the biggest names in Digital Marketing and recognized among the Top 100 entrepreneurs under 30, he explains how to define your market and he talks about the importance of defining your market as:

“A business with a specific market has a lot more opportunity to stand out and to add value to their products. With a much smaller investment, it is possible to reach out to a public much more interested in what you have to offer”

Think as a client: would you rather hire a specialist in all businesses? Or hire a professional specialized un solving your problem? I choose the specialist every time.

By having a well focused freelance work, you become the most wanted option when someone is has a “problem” that you are capable of solving.

3. Start working as a freelancer before quitting your job

How about starting to build your brand and adding projects to your portfolio while you still have your job?

If you make this transition, you can get some advantages:

  • Increase your income before leaving your current job: save money during the first months of your job as a professional freelancer. It can take some time to finally have a few fixed clients or a good amount of projects.
  • Learn to work with tight deadlines: The excessive amount of work (including demanding freelance projects) and to be responsible for the deliveries to your clients with limited time, will quickly teach you how it is to manage your own business.
  • Be selective: While you still have your current job,you can choosein a better way your freelance projects, because you don’t depend 100% on this particular income yet…
  • Have time to improve: seize this transition moment to get updated with online courses and to get to know new techniques in your area.

The advice given by Tomas O’Farrell, co-founder of Workana, in an interview for the Exame magazine from Brazil, says that the ideal money savings, in order to begin a freelance job, should match a year of paid expenses.

4. Learn self-discipline

Self-discipline is one of the biggest qualities of freelancers with the highest success.

Having the ability to focus on one task until its end is easier for some people than for others, but it’s also a feature that can be cultivated and nurtured. Follow the steps that you need to help yourself, how to minimize distractions, make a list of tasks, anything that helps you!

When you work on improving your self-discipline, you will come to discover that it get easier every day.

5. Define your workplace

You can choose to work at home, which has been my option in this case, there are advantages, but it also has its challenges. If this is your selection as well, it will only work if you do the following:

  1. Your family needs to understand that you are working and that the fact that you are at home does not mean you are available for chatting.
  2. Never work in bed or on the kitchen table. Having a specific place will make all the difference.
  3. Take off your pajama for work.

Nowadays, a very common election is co-working spaces. In these spaces you will find many options, from renting a desk to renting an entire room exclusively for your business.

6. Build your portfolio

Don’t save time nurturing your profile. Do it as detailed as possible. Look at your profile from the client’s perspective. Add all the details as possible. I recommend that you do not post a selfie, do something that shows your professionalism.

Do not add any expertise that you do not have, because the lie will not be held for much time and it could carry a negative experience on the contractor’s side and the result will be a bad rate.

7. Spread your work and do networking

Through the internet it is possible to do networking and to spread your work as a freelancer. Using social media such as Instagram and Linkedin are excellent ways to spread jobs and content; you can see and get seen.

Participate in discussion and information exchange groups. Who knows if one of your contacts could become your client?

But don’t forget that there is an unconnected world. Participate in associations, conferences, fairs and events. These places have always been a great way to find new potential clients, as well as for showcasing your work and even to find people that offer services that could complement your own.

Also, in these places you always have a huge opportunity to know and to follow the changes of the sector and the new tools that can help grow your abilities and your business.

8. Make your profile on a freelance platform

Freelance sites are an excellent opportunity for those who are looking for projects and there are very important attention aspects to consider when joining one of them.

If you are just starting your freelance life or if you’re an experienced professional, these sites are an excellent opportunity to build portfolio, gain experience in this professional relationship model and even to find out if this is the best path to take. Some important aspects you should consider when signing in:

  • Make sure you understand working the terms and conditions of each platform.
  • Verify the reception methods of the platform and if they are available for your country.
  • Optimize your profile, 100% complete, with a good photo, professional experience, portfolio and the services you offer.
  • Investigate if the site is trustworthy and if it is translated into your language.

Workana is the biggest freelance platform in Latin America. Here, it is possible to find jobs in the most diverse areas and, the most searched are: web designers, graphic designers, programmers, marketing and computer professionals, translators and content produces.

Its biggest difference is an app available on the site called Workana Time Report which helps the professional to register tasks, while the client can follow the work done and control the time dedicated to the project through the registers.

Besides all this, Workana offers a variety of payment options for the freelancer, such as a bank transfer or paypal, among others, and you can also setup different reception dates. All transactions are made in a fast and secure way; with practicality and saving time.

9. Define goals

After all, what took you to become a freelancer? What do you wish to accomplish as a freelancer? Many people say “I want more freedom” or “I want to be my own boss”.

Learn how to establish your goals and understand that they are different from objectives.

The IBC Coaching site has recently published a subject where they explain in an excellent way how you can define your goals and how to achieve them.

10. You must be productive

Being able to create your own agenda and to keep all your compromises to date can be challenging. Being a freelancer is different from working in an office environment – nobody will check if your work is getting done.

You will have to discover what works to keep production and motivation levels high and to maintain your planning well organized with the minimum delay.

Work on being organized, this will help you save a lot of time.

Some tools like Trello and Asana (which we actually use internally) can help you a lot to manage your work and projects and to have a good visualization of everything you need to deliver.

Learning about time management methods is also a great resource to help in your daily productivity.

11. Define the value of your freelance work

This is a very complex task… And even the experienced professional freelancers have difficulty with this aspect. It’s very common to charge less, with the fear of losing that ideal job.

You have probable already gone through this insecurity situation, fearing that the client will not accept your proposal, or frustrated when knowing that you could have charged a lot more – when the client approves your offer instantly, without hesitating.

But then, how do you define value to your freelance work?

I don’t think there is a definite value for a freelancer job. It ends up being a combination of aspects such as the demanding level of the project, along with the level of difficulty of the service and, of course, with the client’s budget.

Here in Workana, you can count on a nice help that the Freela Calculator offers. It’s a simple tool that helps you know how much to charge as a freelancer. The good thing about it is that at the end, it shows you what the average fee charged in your work category.

Another thing you can do is to analyze your skills. Check out profiles that are similar to yours and carry out investigation about the fees they charge.

12. Learn how to gain clients

Make a separate time per month or week to look for new projects (this demand will happen according to your work load).

When sending your proposal, show interest in understanding the client’s objective and let them know how you can make the difference. If you know what the objectives are for this client, it’s easier to sell something that they truly need!

When you send your proposals, it is your chance to present yourself, to show your professional experience and the jobs you have done previously.

After sending your proposals and getting new projects, remember: make a good job! If at the end your client is satisfied, the probability that they will recommend you to others is huge. Recommendations and good reviews are crucial for freelancers.

13. Organize your monthly work

If you are your own business, remember that you will be doing everything on your own! Provide customer service; manage your finances; produce. You must have great discipline to be able to balance it all.

Today I am a full-time professional freelancer and what initially brought me to work as a freelancer was the fact of being closer to my son. So, I have to balance the time I dedicate to my freelancer job with the job of being a supportive mother by taking him to sports and school events.

You might now ask: Why is she saying all this? Simple! Because I have to eliminate these hours from my day because they are not available for my professional job and therefore, I need to organize my agenda throughout the month so that nothing gets left behind.

So, on those days when I know that I have more external compromises, I often delay work until later in order to help compensate for those hours that were dedicated to my son. That has worked well for me!

Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you are working part-time or full-time, but determining your work hours is very important.

Create the habit of getting up early and carrying out your tasks under the same schedule. Having a routine is healthy for the mind and body.

14. Don’t be afraid to say no!

Learn how to say no! I know it’s not easy to do this for many reasons and the main one is not leaving your client with a last minute request.

The fact of not wanting to disappoint anyone can end up meaning an extremely heavy work load and the only one affected is exclusively you.

Learn one thing: no matter your area of activity, you will disappoint someone. That could be either a client, for not being able to assume a project, your family, because you are working too many hours, or even yourself for being stressed out due to the job you have assumed without really being able to.

Therefore, you should feel comfortable with rejecting a project is, at the end, it is not within your possibilities.

In order to help yourself determine whether you can take on a project or not, ask yourself some questions:

  • Why am I assuming this project? Is it something I should be doing?
  • Was it something I did wrong and now I have to find a way to solve it?

The big problem of accepting it all is that there may not be time enough for another project if you say yes to everything! There will also be the need to assist to some webinars in your area or to take an online specialization course.

15. Use a contract in all your projects

If you are starting your freelancer job, not using a contract with your clients is a basic mistake. Don’t worry about finding the perfect contract.

Start with a simple model and improve it along the way. Many freelancers try to find the perfect contract and forget to focus on finding new projects.

All you need, in the beginning, is a general agreement that includes some basic, but important, terms which your client and you must agree with. In a very simple form, the terms of the contract must include:

  • Originality of the job
  • Confidential client information
  • Payment terms with method and date
  • Deliverables
  • Rescission conditions

At the end, you can print it out, sign it personally or digitally.

Either way, my recommendation is that you leave out any type of bureaucracy at the beginning of your freelance career. By opting for signing to an online platform, such as Workana, for example, you discard this step.

The site itself is responsible of an efficient contract and protects both the freelancer and the client.

16. Be transparent with your clients

As a professional freelancer, you are your business and you should be proud of that, so, don’t hide from it.

Whenever a client is interested in your work, be transparent, explain the way your work, if you are a part-time or a full-time freelancer, the types of jobs you carry out, your deadlines and, your work schedule.

Expectations must be aligned since the very start, if not you could find yourself in a conflictive situation. It is very common, for instance, that the client contacts you at 10 o’clock at night and expects an instant answer or even during the weekends. If you do not determine a few rules, they could feel frustrated or you could get upset. Explain how the process works.

Share your experience and methods and show what each client can expect from your work along with your time and availability when responding.

Being transparent is not a weakness! On the contrary, it will help you become more confident and that could be a decisive factor to win a project or to continue working on the same one for a long time!

17. Divide your income into taxes and savings

Start dividing your income to pay taxes and to make some kind of saving. In general, the expenses you should program are the following:

  • Taxes – the percentage will depend on the type of taxpayer that your business is.
  • Work tools – In my case, I use some applications that are essential in a daily basis such as: Workana Premium Account, Adobe package, and a personalized email account. Don’t forget to separate some money for updating courses!
  • Personal savings – The percentage that I reserve each month is 12%.

The rest goes straight to my personal account and to the daily expenses.

Make a format to take control of your expenses, determining how much went in and how much went out of your ATM.

Conclusion

In order to begin your job as a freelancer, you don’t need to follow every step and practice them as a bible.

These were just some aspects that seem I considered important to share, and that if I would have had similar recommendations step by step at the beginning of my freelance career I would have taken advantage of many things along the path.

These 17 tips are a summary of everything I would like to share with you to help you jumpstart your own business in a structured way and that will help you establish the bases for a prosper and sustainable freelancer business.

You can be sure that by putting all these tips to practice on a daily work basis, I hace gained great personal growth.

Using Workana as the main way to get freelance projects has brought me the confidence and certainty of finding good jobs!

Today, I manage Workana’s social media here in Brazil and I write articles for the blog! Isn’t it amazing?

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