I’m going to start this blog post off with a shameless plug for my podcast Offbeat Grad. You can listen to it anywhere you listen to podcasts, and you should because it’s amazing. And by amazing, I mean 70% of the episodes are just me babbling to myself for 30 minutes. I mean, you can’t beat content like that. In my latest episode, Amanda Cross and I share 10 tips for freelancers.
While both Amanda and I are freelance writers, our tips are applicable to just about any type of freelancer. Writers, designers, developers, rock bands, whatever. If you’re a self-employed contractor, these 10 tips for freelancers are for you.
Before I start, I definitely recommend you check out Amanda’s blogs AmandaCross.co and TheHappyArkansan. She’s always got great tips for blogging, freelancing, and post-grad life. She also started a Facebook group called The Ambitious Freelancers which is a great resource.
Enough rambling for one post. If you want to listen to more of me talking to myself incessantly, check out Offbeat Grad. Oh, and listen to the podcast episode version of this post for way more in-depth information and Amanda’s thoughts.
1. Make a Website
If you don’t have a website, I need you to close this post right now and get on that. Actually, don’t go just yet. First, read my in-depth guide to starting your own blog.
Okay, now you can go.
Just kidding. Sort of. If you don’t have a website, you’re basically not a real person today. Sorry, but it’s true. You want to be a real person, right? So make a website. It’s professional as heck, and it’s a digital version of your resume. You can check out my freelance website at SamanthaTetrault.com for some inspiration.
2. Guest Post (for Free!)
Guest posting is free advertising. It’s the most important part of SEO, if I may be so bold. It builds authority. It does wonders for your page ranking on Google. It’s EASY.
Even if you’re not a freelance writer, you can (and should) be guest posting. If you’re a designer, for example, submit a guest post about your favorite trends or tips for branding your business. If you’re a developer, blog about why every eCommerce business needs a mobile app. Whatever floats your boat, buddy.
Guest posting is as simple as finding top niche sites in your industry and submitting a pitch. Look for a contribute section on the blog-of-your-choice and follow the instructions. Hint: I have a contribute page on Samanthability and I love guest posters.
3. Learn About the Web
Okay so this sounds vague as heck, but hear me out. One of the top freelancer tips I can give you is to learn more about the web. learn how to write for the web, how to build websites for the web, how to do the basics of SEO, etc.
Even if you’re not a writer, you need to learn some writing skills. They’ll only help you. Academic writing isn’t the same as web writing. Learn the best practices in your industry and keep learning.
4. Underpromise and Overdeliver
If you have a new client, you need to knock it out of the park. Your client chose you, hurray! There are a gazzilion other people on the internet they could have chose, so why should they keep working with you?
Make a good first impression by setting a precedent of quality work. Don’t say you’re going to deliver your product/service in 24 hours if that’s not possible. Instead, leave some padding of time, and turn in your work early if you can.
Go the extra mile when appropriate. For instance, as a writer, I often suggest images or go over the word count to show my client I mean business. This isn’t always something you should do, but read the room and do what you can to show you’re serious.
5. Create a Productive Work Environment
If you’re freelancing, you’re probably working at home. Working at home means distractions all over the place. You have your phone buzzing next to you, your TV just across the room, and a cozy bed beckoning like a siren song.
Creating a productive work environment sometimes feels like rocket science. Let’s break it down simply: get a desk, eliminate distractions, and actually get work done.
Use an app like Forest to set timers that block you from using your phone. Amanda highly recommends the Brain.
6. Don’t Compete with the Bottom
Boy, am I guilty of this. I think every new freelance writer deals with this to some extent. When you’re new, there’s such a temptation to charge less because you think that’s what you’re “supposed to do.” I’m here today to tell you that’s 100% not true.
If you only listen to one of my 10 tips for freelancers, let it be this one. When you compete with the bottom not only do you get paid less, but you undervalue your entire industry. If a client can get away with charing pennies for your work, what will make them ever expect to pay more?
You don’t want to work with low paying clients. They don’t value you. They’ll expect the world and pay little in the world. Once I accepted work at $10 per 1000 words. This makes me want to crumble up and die when I think about it now. I had a Bachelor’s degree!
As Seth Godin said, “The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.”
7. Knowledge is Power
Even if you’re an “expert” in your field already, there’s still more to learn. As someone who working marketing, I can tell you that there’s no room for standing still in this industry. Actually, I’m running at top speed to just keep up with the back of the pack.
There are so many free or cheap resources today for learning about your field. Read books, listen to podcasts, follow blogs. The more you learn, the more you can charge.
Why would your client hire you over the next freelancer? Is it because you took a course on design 5 years ago or because you’re skilled in the latest trends and design rules? Probably the latter.
8. Create a LinkedIn Profile
Like, for real. Your college advisor wasn’t lying when she told you to
A lot of small businesses search for freelancers on LinkedIn instead of other sites like Upwork and Fivver. The key to a winning LinkedIn profile is to use clear keywords in your description and headline. Amanda also suggests asking current clients or past employers to write a recommendation for your profile. Easy peasy!
9. Reality vs. Vision
You will encounter so, so, so many clients who aren’t really in touch with reality. This isn’t always their fault. Many people are new to the gig economy, and they might honestly not understand what to expect from a freelancer.
Many companies already have a vision for what they want, and if you aren’t clear about this vision upfront, you can’t make it a reality. This take a lot of back-and-forth communication, and it can be super frustrating.
Push beyond the vision. Ask questions about what’s expected of you before you begin so you’re sure this is the right fit. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where the client expected x, y, and z but you’re only comfortable with a, b, and c.
10. Take Breaks (Really)
I’m the worst and best at taking breaks. For some reason I have no problem stopping and checking my phone every five minutes when I’m in the middle of a tech article, but when I’m working late into the night I don’t know how to step away.
Self-care is so important. It’s even more important if you’re a freelancer. Freelancer self-care is hard because there’s no one there to tell you to cock out after 5 o’clock. This is a stressful career path. You spend 80% of the time hoping clients will actually pay you so you can buy groceries. It’s okay to let yourself off the hook.
Learning how much you need to work each day will take time. Remember to take breaks, remember to eat meals, and know when to walk away at the end of the day.
Freelancer Tips for Success
If you’re a freelancer, you should definitely take this list seriously. I know it seems like freelancers spend all day goofing off on their phones—okay, sometimes that’s true—but it’s actually a demanding lifestyle.
There are more and more freelancers every year. Soon, it’ll be the new normal. Until then, we have to trudge on with our own paths. Don’t undersell your value and take care of yourself.
Oh, and listen to Offbeat Grad for more freelancer and blogging tips. I’m not sure how well I know my stuff, but I certainly sound confident so that’s enough.