1. How do I get success as a freelancer?
Let me start out by saying that there is no universal answer to this. It is not that easy. You could though start by reading our article “how to become a better freelancer: 10 tips to get more jobs and make more money”.
Or continue here to read the short version.
It is important to understand that as a freelancer you are a business owner. You need to think of yourself as the brand and product of your company.
Every interaction that you have with your clients will make up and form your image and ultimately reputation. Everything you do and say, how you act, communicate and your performance will make up your personal brand. And as any brand in the world, it can either be weak or strong. It all depends on you.
Many freelancers say that the most difficult job to get is the first one. One of the reasons is because reviews and good references are critical for most freelancers. But it takes time to create a good reputation, it will not just come overnight.
Therefore, be aware of the importance of dealing professionally with every single client. Strong customer relationships is a key to success as a freelancer. Check point 10 to learn how to build strong relationships.
2. How should I manage/plan my budget?
One thing you must be prepared for, before choosing a freelance life, is an uneven flow of income. Every month, you income may differ. But you bills will still have to be paid at the same time.
Some months you are likely to do great while other months might be bad. This can be because of many things. For instance bad luck, seasonal demand fluctuations or maybe a bad experience with a client that is late with the payment. No matter what, it means that you have to be prepared for a rainy day (Or rainy month), with low income.
Let’s imagine that you earned twice as much as you average 3 months in a row. Maybe because you just signed some huge clients. That is all great. But please don’t go spend all that extra money you earned. Put some in the bank so that you have a buffer if things take a turn for the worse. Your bills will always have to be paid every month. So don’t get ahead of yourself and take your current success for granted.
Taking your success for granted is a dangerous path towards failure.
3. Is it harder to be a freelancer than a regular employee?
Yes, in many ways, it is. But does it feel like it? Most likely not!
Being a freelancer is challenging. You need to manage all aspects of your business yourself. No one is taking care of your taxes, accounting, networking, paperwork, customer service, communication or follow up with clients for you. You will need to do all the tasks yourself.
As mentioned in another article, you will have the role of an octopus. This can be tough because these are all things you need to do next to the actual jobs you perform.
But the reality is that most freelancers actually like their freelance life anyways! Around 50 % of American Freelancers even state that no amount of money would ever get them to go back to a regular full-time job.
The reason for this is probably the great satisfaction of being you own boss, following your dreams and working with your passion. These are all things that come with the freelance life. If you want to, you can check out the experience from another freelancer who answers the question, “Is freelancing really worth it”?
4. Is it important to have a minimum price?
Absolutely! Any freelancer should know the minimum price they are willing to work for. It needs to be a price that matches your value and gives you a reasonable profit.
Knowing your own value will not only secure yourself reasonable profits but also display you as a professional and experienced freelancer. Few clients are only concerned about the price. You will though most likely meet some that only cares about the price. But don’t use time on those clients, they are not worth working for.
For most clients, it is about value for money though. Therefore, you need to be able to justify your prices. There must be a strong connection between the value, expertise and skills you bring to a job and the price your charge. If not, you will not succeed as a freelancer in the long run.
“But if I raise my prices I will lose a lot of potential jobs”? True, you will lose some jobs by not being willing to be underpaid for your services. But don’t care, just don’t care. Being underpaid for your work is just not worth it.
It is simple mathematics actually. If you raise your prices, it also means that you need fewer clients to gain the same profits. You can also earn the same amount of money with fewer hours of work. This ultimately gives you more time to find extra jobs and to promote your own freelance brand.
For an extensive understanding of the importance of knowing your own price and value, check out point 1 in this blog post we wrote a short time ago.
5. Do I need a specific education or background to be a freelancer?
No, in reality, you don’t need a specific type of education or background to be a freelancer. But having a relevant education will certainly never be a disadvantage. But a specific type of education or background is not a requirement to become a freelancer. By that, I mean that freelancers are demanded within a variety of industries today. So it does not matter if you are a carpenter, electrician, it-guy, marketeer, painter, graphic designer, photographer, or anything else for that matter – All of you can become freelancers.
It is clear that if you are a photographer or graphic designer your portfolio is probably more important than your education. On the other hand, you will find few jobs as an engineer or marketer if you don’t have the education to prove your skills.
But don’t be afraid to become a freelancer just because you don’t offer services within the most popular types of freelance industries. There is a need for freelancers in almost all industries.
6. Should I prepare to become a freelancer?
Quitting your job today and start following your dreams tomorrow sounds appealing. In reality, it is not a clever choice.
Before you take the jump into full-time freelancing, make sure to prepare yourself and your business for it.
This includes a lot of things. For an extensive guide, check out this article that put forth some excellent points.
First of all, start freelancing a bit next to your full-time work. Try to create a network and land a few small jobs. Yes, it will be tough and you will have to use your spare time and weekends to do this. But it is all worth it because this is what will enable you to quit your job in the end without any worries.
Also, before you begin, Find your old calculator from school. Try to figure out how much you actually need to earn per month to make a decent living. This is also a good place for you to figure out what you minimum hourly price is (See point 4).
Remember that you will no longer have any employer benefits. Maybe you will even have to buy your own equipment to do your job. Figure out what type of fixed and variable expenses you expect to have. Make sure to take these into account.
- Do you know how to file your own taxes?
- Do you know how to do your accounting?
- Are you aware of any potential legal conflicts?
- Will your advertise/market your business e.g. on social media or a website?
If you have no idea about any of this, start searching the internet or take some courses. You need to prepare yourself for this part of the business. Youtube is your friend and advice from fellow freelancers is always great. You can find tons of forums and groups where freelancers and solo entrepreneurs exchange experiences. Someone will be happy to answer your questions there.
7. Should I have discounts in a certain period for my services?
You most definitely can. But you definitely don’t have to.
It really depends on what is normal within your business. Within some businesses, it seems as if everyone always has discounts for their services. It almost seems as if they just set their regular price so high that they can give a 50 % discount and still make good money. If that works in your business, go for it.
In other businesses, such a discount may though send a signal to employers about the quality of your services that you don’t wish to send. So remember to think about what signal your price and discounts sends. Because it most certainly sends a signal.
Always remember your minimum price though. Never go below that. If you give 50 % discount, make sure that 50 % of your normal price is still good business.
You can also give discounts to clients who sign longer contracts, or to any clients that rehire you for instance. There are a lot of options. Remember that discounts can be used as marketing to promote your business.
8. Where do I find jobs?
There are two ways for you to find freelance jobs.
The first way includes actively seeking out jobs. This is any job you seek out on your own initiative. For instance by networking, contacting clients and applying for posted freelance jobs.
The second option is letting the jobs come to you. By that, I don’t mean lying on your couch and waiting for jobs to arrive by themselves. It is not that easy. But it can actually happen – It just requires a lot of preparation and hard work.
What I mean is self-promotion, marketing, follow-ups and references.
For jobs to come to you, you need to promote yourself and get good references. Important clients that can vouch for your skills and services is nothing but essential for your success. For this to happen you must, of course, perform a great job. This requires professional communication, timely execution and quality work. If that is what you deliver, good references will come flying. But remember to ask for them. Satisfied clients are almost always willing to provide you with a good reference. But don’t make the mistake of believing that they will give you a reference if you don’t ask them to.
Just think about all the times you went to a store or bought something online and where everything just went smoothly. The products you bought were in perfect quality and the entire process was quick, comfortable and easy. But how many of those times did you go home to leave a review of the company online? Not often, would be my guess.
Create a website to display yourself and your services, or choose the type of social media that fits your target audience best. This is just a few of the extra efforts you can focus on to improve your chances of attracting clients.
9. What processes should I automate in my freelance business?
As mentioned in point 3, it can be tough to be a freelancer. There are lots of tasks to complete on your own.
To give your self more time, take a look at your weekly activities and check if any of those things could be automated. Besides that, go through this list of 99 excellent resources that can make your freelance life easier. No matter what kind of freelancer you are, you should be able to find a tool or two for your liking.
Two things I would recommend to always automate is e-mail marketing and invoicing.
E-mail marketing is extremely easy to set up. Find a completely free e-mail program to handle it for you. Mailchimp is recommendable and is free as long as you have less that 2000 subscribers.
Use it to create automatic e-mail flows for all the clients you have dealt with. When you have completed an assignment for the client, add them to the e-mail lists. Then create e.g. 3 e-mails that you can send out to every single client.
The first e-mail could be a thank you e-mail where you thank them for the cooperation. Here you can explain that you hope your services met their expectations and that you look forward to further potential cooperation in the future. Ask for a recommendation or maybe asks them to complete a short survey so that you can continuously improve.
The second e-mail could be after 3-6 months. Here you just make a simple follow up and let them know that you enjoyed the last work you did for them. Make sure to let them know that you are available if they should need you again.
Have a yearly follow-up e-mail 1 year after the contract ended. Directly asks if they should be in need of your services. Maybe add if you now offer any new services or show some of your latest references.
Automatic invoicing is more tricky. There are a lot of different online solutions, where you can buy to use a smart system that basically creates all invoices for you. And, of course, you could also just you use our system to find freelance jobs as automatic invoicing is part of our system. And it’s free!
10. How do I build strong relationships with my clients?
I’ve already preached about the importance of references, but what is just as important is returning clients. Nothing is better for your business than clients that are coming back when they need your services.
This is an important part of a successful business. It is popularly said that for a regular business to consumer(B2C) company, it is around 5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than keeping an existing one. What you need to take from this is the importance of getting your clients to come back to you. Returning clients may be what gives you a solid and consistent level of income.
However, it is not necessarily easy to build these strong relationships. But you can do a lot of things to welcome it.
Start by acting professionally from the very beginning. Even from before you get the job – During the negotiations for the job. Your customer service should start from the very first moment of contact with the client. Understand the importance of customer service here.
Good customer service and communication with clients will improve the likelihood of happy clients. And a happy client is a potential relationship. A relationship you would hope ends with the company asking for your services again.