How to Be Successful as a Freelancer with our Starter Tips21st September 2015 | George Atkins
Working as a freelancer has never been more popular, with many people forgoing the daily 7am traffic-congested commute, stuffy office space and bafflingly-long chain of command for increased creative, logistical freedom and the ability to be their own boss. Whilst freelance work is not for everyone, it is certainly a great way of capitalising on your skill-set and an abundance of short-term project offers, including (but not limited to) web site development or graphic design, for instance. Some of you will no doubt have a number of questions concerning this fairly-recent approach towards employment, so here are our top tips, which should hopefully clear up any confusion and provide you with the information needed to decide whether freelancing is suitable for you.
Embrace Social Media Wholeheartedly
Social media is the freelancer’s best friend, an excellent medium to get your work out there to as many people as possible; using Twitter or Facebook alongside blogging sites such as Tumblr or Wordpress allow you to present online portfolios to potential buyers, usually for free or for a small fee. Given that you (assumingly) now have less contacts from leaving a company to go freelancing, utilising these sites is crucial to build new working relationships and reach target audiences effectively. It’s a cheap and time-efficient way of promoting your work without relying on a third-party marketing company to sell products/ services for you (usually for a price). A definite must.
You must be/ become Self-disciplined
The internet is often the enemy of productivity; unfortunately though, if you are a freelancer then using it is a given if you want to self-promote your work. As with working for a company, avoiding time-wasting websites and procrastination-promoters is recommended if you’re ever to complete daily tasks on time. Using social media for networking and content delivery is recommended (see above), but prolonged Facebook or Twitter sessions are not advised, especially if those sessions are spent looking at videos of dogs-falling-over. Keeping a room/ area in your house for solely work (if you have the space) is a good idea; this allows you to differentiate between relaxing time and grafting time... staying in work mode constantly isn’t wise as you’ll become easily stressed out and tired.
Network, Network and Network Some More!
Finding and contacting new/ interested clients is the most important part of freelance work; social media we have covered, providing a free, easy way to communicate with customers and help develop your contact list, but let’s not forget face-to-face networking! Meeting with individuals “in real life” is integral if you want to cement good working relationships with clients, whilst freelancing, that you want to work with extensively over a longer period of time. Emails and other digital forms of correspondence are often lost or go unread, but personal face-to-face conversations over, say, coffee, are much more valuable to you in the long run especially. Never underestimate the power of the “personalised touch”. Check out our resource on networking.
Remember: Flexibility is Key
One of the main reasons people switch to freelance work is the freedom attributed to its employment style; you can work for as long as you want, take breaks when you want and pursue whichever avenues you see fit at any point. Make sure you let your customers/ clients know this and if you do make a big song-and-dance about your flexible work schedule, then be sure to follow it up with proof; like other freelancers, try and work on projects beyond your normal working hours and you’ll easily impress clients who may well tell other potential clients about your flexible, efficient working approach. This is what freelancing comes down to; being able to work with whoever you want but also having to offer a better service than office-hour-orientated companies.
Establish a Brand
Like your competitors (big business, other freelancers, small team designers), you too must create a brand that clients can believe in, a brand which is associated with a quality service/ product which delivers every time. Just because you are working as a freelancer does not mean that your service should appear “second-rate”; large companies are now your rivals, so creating a brand image that impresses just as much is crucial. Try and keep your brand as simple and unconfused as possible, emphasising a certain feature/ product that you offer when starting out; this will also enable you to put all of your energy into that singular pursuit. Also, remember to bring business cards everywhere you go, that way you’ll always be ready to impress potential clients. Talking of impressing clients...
Create a Website
Creating a website is one of the most useful decisions freelancers can make; it allows clients to gain a glimpse into your work, making you seem professionally aware of your chosen industry and in possession of digital technology skills which should make you an asset to any potential customers. Freelancers often favour sites like Moonfruit, which make the process of creating a professional-looking site cheaper and easier than ever; even blogging sites like the aforementioned Tumblr will do nicely for showcasing your work.
Don’t Be Afraid to Work For Free (Initially)
As in certain areas of the creative industries, working for free is an almost necessity if you want to be successful (when starting out freelancing). Gaining invaluable experience before moving on to paid work is a very good way of proving your credentials to prospective clients, establishing yourself as a driven, talented individual who (hopefully) provides a unique, often personalised service to those who are less interested in corporate design and generic products. Most clients are not looking for impressive qualifications from freelancers; they just want to see what work you have done in the past and how good it looks. Building a portfolio and offering your services pro bono is a great way of introducing yourself to clients, clients who (if impressed) won’t hesitate to pay for your services next time round.