Hello to all of you survey panelists!
The first half of 2018 is almost over, so some of you may have already started to analyze their income for the first six months of this year.
If you still haven’t done this, we want to tell you not to get disappointed when you calculate how much you have earned from paid online surveys. As we always say, they are not a full-time job and you should treat them only as a source of side income.
Luckily, there are other ways to make money online. With so many improvements in Internet communication, it is easy to find a lot of different ways to earn online. One of these ways is to start your own freelance business.
Freelancing takes much more time and effort than paid surveys but it can also get you much more money than survey panels. Today, we will talk about ten best tips for becoming a successful freelancer.
- Reach out
As a freelancer (or a future freelancer), it is important to have a robust network of people. You should (re)connect with all people who want to support you in your decision ‒ come rain or come shine.
This doesn’t mean you should place an ad in a local newspaper (though you can do this as well), but only let your closest ones know what you are up to. Just tell them that you have decided to start your own business and want to help them any way you can. (When you put it like this, it won’t sound as if you were asking them for a favor.)
Word-of-mouth marketing is the best kind of marketing, especially for small businesses and those who are just starting out. Once your friends know what you will be doing, your prospects of landing your first client will be much better.
Besides reaching out to people you already know, you should make new connections as well. Connect to your fellow freelancers and professionals in your field as this is the best way to improve your skills and gain invaluable experience.
- Work on your brand
Like in every other business, brand is everything. Even though you are not Coca-Cola or Nike, you need to work on creating and improving your personal brand.
As a freelancer, you are your brand. By selling your services you are selling yourself. In a good way, of course. Therefore, you should consider improving every single detail of your personality, services, skills, professionalism, and so on.
In a word, if you want people to buy from you, first you need to make them like you. Some of the first things you could do on this journey is to create a LinkedIn profile and fill it out completely. Then, do the same on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Quora and Meetup.
Next, go to events relevant to your field and show yourself in the best light when meeting new people.
But this is only the second step. Remember that social media is the start point. Through social media channels, you can meet a lot more people. Then, you can filter your contacts and meet in person those that you think could be a turning point in your career.
- Do your research
As a freelancer, you are on your own.
In other words, you are the boss, marketing manager, HR, sales manager, production manager, and everything else. This means that you have to research every single aspect of the field you work in to gain ground.
Do your research on the competition, hot topics in the industry, necessary skills, and so on.
And always improve yourself. Being a freelancer is not only about freedom but responsibilities as well. You have to be willing to learn constantly and stay abreast of the current trends in the industry.
- Write a plan
Having a plan is crucial. As a freelancer, you are on your own. Did we already say this?
This means you should plan each step of your way to becoming successful at what you do.
No matter how good you are at your job, you won’t attract a lot of new clients if you don’t market yourself. But on the other hand, if all you do is market yourself, you will not have time to actually work.
Of course, you won’t be able to follow every single step of the plan, but it is important to have a predetermined plan when the going gets tough.
Your plan should cover more fields and various activities: networking, finding new clients and negotiating with them, setting your rate, learning new skills, even leaving enough time for leisure activities. All these are important aspects of a freelancer’s life, so you need to take care of them all.
Then, if the plan doesn’t work, replace it with a better one. But always have a plan until it becomes a routine.
- Always use a contract
This is a must if you want everything to be transparent between you and your clients.
However, you don’t need an overly complicated contract. Instead, it should cover that:
- The client’s proprietary information stays entirely confidential
- The work you produce is original
- Your payment terms are clear (how much money you will get paid and when)
- Both you and the client have the right to terminate the contract and what are further implications of that.
This will protect both you and your client, so you should have a contract for every project you do. Once you agree on contract terms, have the contract signed by the client and sign it yourself so that you can start working on the project.
Also, include a down payment in your contract, for example, 50% of the total amount. This should not be a problem for any client who has worked with freelancers before. However, if the client has an issue with this, think twice before you start the contract with them. Explain how it works (because you are an experienced freelancer) and if they refuse again, then you should move on.
If a single project is worth a lot of money, you should consider getting a legal professional to write a specific contract. Again, this is only for your protection, so the sooner you overcome your negative attitude to red tape (at least in this case), the better for you.
- Know your limits
If you are not ready to take on a project because you don’t have enough time or necessary skills, don’t be afraid to say no.
It is much better to decline an offer and let client find someone who will be able to deliver than accept a project and burn out along the way or be unable to finish the project because you lack needed skills and knowledge.
That is why, before taking on any project, you should ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have the knowledge and skills that the project requires?
- Do I have time to complete the project within the deadline?
- Why am I accepting this project?
This way, you will avoid having loads of projects which require you to spend sleepless nights in order to complete them.
Bottom line, think twice before accepting a project.
- Focus your skills
When freelancers find that the market is incredibly competitive, they will often try to learn some new irrelevant skills quickly to add them to their portfolio and become more attractive to clients.
But this is counterproductive and exactly the opposite from what you should be doing. If you are a web designer, you shouldn’t take a course in social media marketing. Instead, gain more knowledge on web developing and design.
When you focus on one or two fields, you will look much more professional and more serious about your business. Take a look at athletes, for instance. Is there anyone who plays more than one sport at the top level? Even Carl Lewis and Michael Phelps, who won a great number of Olympic medals, managed to do that within a single sport, athletics and swimming respectively.
You don’t want to be the Jack of all trades and master of none.
Instead of learning all skills yourself, join forces with someone who can help you offer a complete service. For instance, if you are an SEO engineer, connect with a content writer, social media manager and website developer to create an online marketing dream team.
- Learn about legal issues
This covers more things like finding an accountant, having your paperwork in order, etc.
The best time to find a good accountant is even before you land the first contract. This person should be someone who can give professional advice on taxes, managing expenses, and so on. It is wise to set up an LLC or similar designation in order to separate your business assets from your personal ones. Another useful thing is to get a business credit card right away, which will facilitate making your business transactions.
Also, you might want to talk to a lawyer while you are making initial steps in your career. Knowing things like a nondisclosure agreement and an independent contractor agreement can be extremely useful, and you may not be able to understand them on your own.
Finally, all the paperwork has to be in order. This is necessary not only so that you can work in a transparent way but also to make you look more professional in the eyes of your clients. When you have everything ready, including a contract template, invoice, statement of work and so on, clients will see that you mean business.
- Be persistent
Being a freelancer is not as easy as it may seem to you right now. Ask people who have been freelancing for some time (at least for a year) and you will find out a lot of downsides of freelancing.
First, it will probably take some time to find your first client and even more time to create an entire network of clients, so you will need patience. A lot of it.
Next, be prepared to have a periodic income. Until you find a few regular clients, you will need to stash away some money to survive when you don’t have projects to work on. It could take you anywhere from six months to a year to get a consistent cash flow going.
And finally, be persistent when it comes to improving yourself. Having a solid client base can be both a blessing and a curse since you will have a regular income but also relax and think that you don’t have to work on your skills anymore. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, learn a new small skill or read an article relevant to your field every week.
- Enjoy your free time
Being able to manage your working hours is a great thing. If you had a long night out, you can sleep late without having to explain yourself to your boss. Also, when you are sick, you can take as many days off as you want.
But on the other hand, precisely because freelancers don’t have set working hours, they are much more likely to burn out when they have a lot of work. It is not uncommon for them to work for ten hours a day several days in a row. This is great for their income but awful for their well-being.
As a freelancer, it is important to always have some free time for your family, your friends, going out and other activities. This will prevent you from overexerting yourself and burning out. It is much more important to stay mentally fit and healthy than to become a money-making machine.
Besides helping you enjoy life, your free time activities will increase your creativity and allow you to reach better solutions at work.
Being a freelancer is far from easy. But if you follow these tips, you will stand much better chances of being successful at it.
Whatever you do, it is important to be persistent and have a plan. This way, you will get the best outcome.
Who knows, in a few months, you may like freelancing so much that you will want to do it full time for the rest of your life.