Earlier this year I was interviewed by Marco Hjorth about working in the field of digital marketing and what it’s like to be a freelancer. It was an interesting conversation that revealed to me some of the things I’ve learned the past few months which I thought was worth putting into writing. So without further ado, here are my top tips on becoming a freelancer.
- Hone your time management skills. Now that you’re in charge of your own time and projects, it’s super important to understand how long it will take you to deliver on work. This will help you know how much work you can take on at a time, and when it’s wise to turn down incoming requests. Keep track of how long tasks take you so you can make better estimates for future projects. Simple tools like Toggl are very helpful.
- Network like your life depends on it, because it does. Networking is super important for any professional, and even more so for freelancers. Your network represents the people who will support you, promote you, and remember you when they see a job come up that is a good fit for you. It’s invaluable to have people like that in your corner when you’re an entrepreneur. But it also means you have to make the time to go out there, meet people, and nurture the relationships.
- Know your rates. What’s your minimum viable income? As a freelancer and entrepreneur it can be difficult to know how much to charge when you start out. You might not be sure what the rates are on the market, you might worry that if you charge too much people won’t hire you, and those are valid concerns. But at the end of the day you’re solely responsible for bringing in a salary and making sure you can pay your bills. With that in mind, you have to calculate your minimum viable rate for work that will allow you to survive, and stick to it.
- Be patient, have faith, trust yourself. A 3 in 1 combo. It’s going to be difficult. There will be times when you have no work coming in and few prospects on the horizon. You’ll be wondering if you’ll make it. You have to be patient and ride through these difficult times. Keep on hustling, do what you can to make sure you’re on people’s radar and don’t give up. If you are good at what you do and have a solid network, projects will be back on your desk eventually.
- Learn how to prioritize, and develop a process that works for you. Those of you who know me know I love a good process. 🤓 The fact is, you’re once again the only one responsible for managing your projects and your time, so you have to find a way to make sense of that. Don’t be reactive, do your best to plan and anticipate your needs. This is why I like to work with project briefs so that both parties are clear on expectations and have the opportunity to outline what they want. You can also use briefs to ask questions. Similarly, don’t set up yourself up for failure by suggesting or accepting crazy timelines. Back to point 1: hone your time management skills.
- Build relationships with your clients. I’ve always believed in the importance of good relationships and I think a little goes a long way. Get to know them, spend time with them if you can, and go beyond the daily to-do list. The better you get to know them, the better you’ll be able to do your job. It also means that they might renew you for another project, recommend you to someone else, or call you back in a time of need.
- Walk the talk, market yourself. No matter your profession you have to walk the talk. Are you a photographer? Have an up to date portfolio. A writer? Run a blog. A baker? Show your Instagram collection of cakes. As a digital marketer, it’s always been important for me to have my own website and strong social media presence to show that I practice what I preach. At the same time you have to market yourself and learn new skills to make sure you’re visible in your field. That could be anything from setting up a basic website, having a newsletter, writing blog posts or articles on LinkedIn, posting regularly on LinkedIn… Whatever it is you can’t rely only on word of mouth or projects miraculously falling into your lap.
- Value the process of trial and error. Something I learned from the startup world and I think is a great mindset. The truth is, it’s quite rare for someone to succeed right off the bat on their first go. You have to accept that as an entrepreneur you will make mistakes. Maybe you’ll accept the wrong gig or undersell yourself, and that’s ok. Just make sure you learn from it and keep on trying to improve incrementally.
So there you have it! I’ve only been in the business for 8 months but these are my lessons learned so far. It’s not an easy journey being self-employed. There is a lot of doubt, uncertainty and sometimes even fear. It will be challenging and you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of whether you really want to pursue this lifestyle.
When I first started out, I resisted it a lot and was afraid of the lack of security it afforded me. And while it’s scary it’s also fun and liberating. You have to take a gamble, and sometimes you will have to work harder than when you were employed just to make ends meet. That’s the freelancer life.