Becoming a freelancer is a way to work at home and be independent without having to start a business. Freelance work varies greatly. Some projects require clients to sign written agreements, while others provide work based on verbal agreements that are enforceable through the nature of the project. Some freelancers provide written estimates of work and request deposits from clients.
Payment for freelance work also varies greatly. Freelancers can charge by the day, hour or page or per project. Instead of charging a flat rate or fee, some freelancers adopt a value-based pricing scheme based on the perceived value of the results for the client. Arrangements could include up-front payment, a percentage up front or payment upon completion. For more complex projects, a payment schedule based on completed stages of the project could be set out in the contract.
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A freelancer is a professional who sells services to clients. It can be either full-time or part-time work. Freelancers can be asked to do just about any kind of work, including the following:
Basically, anything you can do as a business, you can do on a freelance basis under your own name.
For a freelancer, the client should be the object of attention. Clients are the heart of the job and, in a sense, are the job. While working with clients, freelancers should keep an eye out for future business.
Let’s look at some of the basic steps of building and sustaining a successful relationship with clients.
No matter what happens, you must be able to deliver what the client wants. The client should recognize that you are a reliable contact and provide you with more work opportunities. You can do certain things to demonstrate your reliability:
Reliability has a direct effect on your credibility. Give the client care that goes beyond the terms of the contract. Develop a friendly rapport, listen, ask questions and be clear about the project’s schedule. These practices will make you a reliable and effective person who knows how to do their job, and you’ll provide the kind of support that clients ardently look for.
Inaccessibility can sabotage your chances of securing new clients. If you are not able to contact a client immediately after they approach you, then send one or two text messages or emails assuring them that you have received their communication and will get back to them soon. Do not dismiss their eagerness.
You might be selling your skill on websites or in brochures or magazines. Whatever medium you use, make sure your portfolio (which might be the medium itself) is eye-catching and interesting enough to attract clients.
If you are reliable, credible and accessible and promote yourself effectively, then you will build a clientele that comes to you in times of need. In return, you will profit and be contented.
To become a successful freelancer and increase your income sustainably, you need to be consistently productive.
Unless you create a routine that makes you accountable to yourself and to clients, you are unlikely to be productive.
Make sure the routine has a definite number of working hours as well as time for relaxation, because you won’t follow an unrealistic routine.
Define what you are aiming for with each project. Be precise with your goals, and figure out what approach to take in order to reach them. Make a list of the day’s work and prioritize; do this with paper and pen or an online application, but make sure your list includes all necessary tasks and realistic deadlines.
Focus on one task at a time, rather than try to fulfill multiple demands! You can be efficient only by focusing on one problem at a time.
Also be aware of how much time you spend on social networks and surfing the web.
Having multiple email accounts is a waste of time; the best practice is to have one email account and receive everything there. You can use labels or folders to categorize your emails (for example, “web-client,” “home,” “friend,” “urgent,” etc.).
Social networking takes up a lot of our time these days because there are just so many networks. There are applications that aggregate feeds from social networks; using them can be a real time-saver.
Make sure you have a well-organized desk, a comfortable chair and sufficient lighting—a place where you can work comfortably and freely for long hours.
Below are a couple of resources that explain how to increase productivity by organizing your workspace:
For someone who works entirely by freelancing, getting a steady income at all is an accomplishment, let alone an increasing one. There are many reasons why I have been able to achieve it, and one of the most important is that I make a continual effort to increase the amount of money I earn. I do this primarily with a ranking system, but there are other tricks I use to ensure that my income regularly rises.
Here are some tips you can follow to steadily increase your own freelance income:
In the “corporate” world, people expect to get a raise on a regular basis. If you take yourself seriously, demand the same.
Who doesn’t want to increase their income?
You can do it easily by narrowing your focus
The wider you cast the net, the more fish you will catch. Many people take this approach in all areas of life, including business. When people start freelancing, for example, they often try to expand their market as much as possible in the hope of catching more clients. They offer more services than competitors, and they focus on more traffic sources than anyone else. The “more” mentality makes sense logically, so they stick to it.
Today, however, I’m going against the grain.
Instead of telling you to do as much as you can for as much as you can get, my advice is this: increase your income by narrowing your focus.
Allow me to give some examples…
Many people have a specific talent that they decide to use for freelance work, yet when they make themselves available for hire, they stretch the range of services they offer. You’ll see logo designers offering e-book layouts and custom web designs, and you’ll see programmers building applications for Facebook, Twitter and whatever comes out next.
If you run an agency, this is probably a good strategy, but if you work solo or are on a small team, then playing to your strengths is usually better. Become an expert rather than a jack of all trades (and master of none). When I started taking on clients, I had skills in content writing, business writing and reputation management. Yet content writing was the area where I decided to establish my name, and this has worked very well for me.
Most of us solicit clients from as many sources as possible. At the outset, I spent my time blogging, writing guest posts, pitching to random companies and approaching the contacts of my friends. It took me a while to realize but I eventually noticed that I was spreading myself thin, and because of it, I wasn’t getting the type of visitors I wanted.
Then, I focused on my blog and target audience. In less than a year, I went from 0 subscribers to over 1000 and managed to land a lot of clients as well.
I know many freelancers who likewise focus on only one traffic source and live comfortably. I know designers who are authorities on a certain forums, and I know programmers who have established their name on freelance marketplaces. Despite their limited sources, they get far more offers than they can handle.
Look at your current clients and ask yourself which ones occupy most of your time. There’s a good chance that most of them cause no problems and account for the majority of your income and that a tiny group accounts for a small part of your income but takes up a lot of your time.
This all depends, of course, on what services you offer and how you handle the work. Instead of fishing for as many clients as possible and spreading yourself thin, focus on the clients who appreciate your time and give you the least hassle. Letting clients go is hard, but it’s often the best route to take because it makes your life easier.
After a while, you’ll get more done during the day, and you’ll have time to find more clients like the ones you have. Your income will likely increase as a result, too.
I used to really struggle to use my time effectively. Let’s illustrate the problem with a little task:
Write down every single thing you do in a typical day, whether it’s responding to emails, writing blog posts, working on projects for clients or just spending time on social networks.
Be completely honest with yourself, and don’t be ashamed to include minor items in your log. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but when I first did this, I was amazed at how much time I spent on non-essential activities. Every morning I read blogs that offered similar advice, scanned news from a not-so-effective website in my niche and responded to irrelevant emails. After all that, I finally got down to work.
I realized that I was not using the majority of my time productively. I was trying to be everywhere and do everything but was distracted by things that did not directly increase my income. After I noticed this, I started each day with my most important tasks, rather than ease into my real work.
I felt like I had far more time in the day and was actually using my time effectively.
Finally, the best way to increase your earnings is to hire other freelancers. You’ll always need to do certain tasks yourself—your signature work, for example. You would probably micromanage particularly complex coding or writing so much that you might as well do it yourself (although if Damien Hirst can hire people to paint for him, then what can’t be outsourced?). Much of the daily work that most freelancers do, though, can be passed onto other freelancers who charge a lower hourly rate. Simple coding, basic design and low-level editing can be trusted to hired help, and doing so frees you up for other work—plus, you’ll earn a premium during that time.
Outsourcing usually only happens when a freelancer has enough work to pass around, is confident enough in their ability to oversee the work of others and is ambitious enough to turn a one-person enterprise into a growing business. Your limited funds might not be so limited if you learn to outsource.
Having said all this, there are exceptions to the rules. Some people will find that offering more services or having many clients motivates them to work harder, and they’ll actually get more done. This is exactly how Cyan from FreelanceSwitch says she operates.
Picking up the right clients and creating lasting business relationships are the keys to your freelancing success. Your reputation will benefit from having solid clients, and the high and timely payments will keep you motivated. Get to know every new client, and make sure the relationship continues to develop even when you are not working directly on a project of theirs.
I would love to read in the comments section what you think is the better route: being the rule or being the exception?
While compiling this list, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great tips. Feel free to share it with us.