Advice for Freelancers

Five Pieces of Advice from a Five-Year Veteran to a New Freelancer

I realised just the other day that April 2018 is the five year anniversary of going freelance. I’ve never looked back and at times I did worry about whether I was doing the right thing. But that month was a lot of change for me – personal and workwise, but it stands as a landmark time. I have no regrets. Now I’m a veteran of sorts, I’d like to offer some advice to those just starting the journey I began five years ago…

Think About Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Build a brand around what makes you unique and sell those skills, not a commercial service – you won’t stand out against all the other buzzword-regurgitating mediocre freelancers in your field. Think of all those job adverts loaded with “We’re looking for a dynamic self starter”. You don’t remember all of them because of their similarity. When you stand out, potential clients will notice you. When they really notice you, they will remember you and that is what leads to persistent, regular and reliable work. Tailor your sales pitch to what makes you you.

Work Out What You’re Going to Charge

It’s a tricky business as you don’t want to price yourself out of the market. Set your prices too low and you won’t earn a living while you’re churning out mountains of work. Too high and you run the risk of being passed over every time. Think of the price you set as a mark of value of your time. Charge what you think you’re worth; by all means look at what others are charging with similar skills and background. However, don’t undercut them for the sake of it and don’t be tempted to “race to the bottom“. That’s the fastest way to burnout and misery.

Build A Web Presence and Promote Yourself

You’ve probably read umpteen blog articles on how opening social media accounts on all platforms is a waste of your valuable time as you spend more time on them than seeking clients. They’re right to an extent that you shouldn’t waste so much time on updating your social media that you don’t have time to work and this should never distract your from your business. However, your web presence is your shop window, but it can also be an exercise in fake work when it doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped. Select the most relevant platforms and have a plan for promoting yourself on each.

Know Your Sh*t

Have you ever seen that show Dragon’s Den where business hopefuls stand in a room full of investors and pitch their ideas? Have you noticed which ones are accepted and which are not? While some people do have genuinely bad product or business ideas, those that are rejected are often sent packing because the person or people pitching for their investment don’t have a clue what they were doing. They may have a brilliant idea but poor execution which leads to the Dragons turning them away. Be prepared to provide answers to every question – know what you’re doing and present the air of authority.

Be Persistent, Patient, and Don’t Give Up!

It’s easy when you’re a few months in to feel disheartened at your lack of success. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your small business. It took me three months or so to get my first client on Odesk (Upwork as it now is), almost a year to get my first on Elance and several years before I was earning any decent money. Now, I’m earning more than I ever have in any “proper” job and more than I ever thought I would in a graduate job relevant to my skills and qualifications. Persistence, determination and willing: without them, you won’t get far.

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4 thoughts on “Five Pieces of Advice from a Five-Year Veteran to a New Freelancer

    1. Yes, I gave up full time work and moved in with family, sold my car and lived on savings. I basically coasted it until I had enough of an income. At the time, all of my clients were on Odesk and Elance (the two sites that merged to form Upwork).

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