Starting a freelance business can be highly rewarding. You work for yourself as your own boss, when you want, and where you want.
Since the 2020 pandemic, the number of freelancers has increased, many of whom have been disillusioned by the nine-to-five life.
But making it solo isn’t as easy as it might seem.
New freelancers have to work hard to set up a client base and earn a good income. As a result, it could take weeks or months before you develop a decently sized clientele.
For that reason, we’re going to give you nine freelancing tips for beginners to help you get started. These freelancer tips can serve as the foundation for a successful freelance career.
Keep reading to find:
- Understand your niche
- Become a generalist or a specialist
- Build a website
- Create a process
- Pick tools within your budget
- Set your rate
- Leverage social media
- Find the right job boards
- Communicate clearly — an often-neglected freelancer tip
1. Understand Your Niche
Although this freelancing tip may seem obvious, it isn’t. Before taking other steps, new freelancers must understand the space they’re about to enter. Therefore, they must conduct comprehensive research to understand their niche and how they fit into it.
Some freelancers might have knowledge about their niche from previous full-time jobs, but that isn’t enough when you’re handling all the work by yourself.
Since you’re going solo, you need to dig deep into your niche. Your research should help you identify:
- Potential clients
- Trending or evergreen content topics
- Your goals as a freelancer
- Work processes used by top creators in your niche
For example, if you want to be a freelance copywriter, your research can include reading freelancer tips and guides by experts to identify how they made it big in copywriting. You don’t have to follow every step, but it should give you an idea of what a career in your industry entails.
Your research should involve extensive Google searches related to the role you would like to fulfill. Also, look at any significant platforms relevant to your industry to see how they work and what you need to succeed on them.
2. Become a Generalist or a Specialist
As a freelancer, you can be a generalist in your industry, or you can venture into specific topics and services.
A freelance writer, for example, can choose to write for any niche they find clients in, or they could build authority in one niche, let’s say health and wellness.
Generalists are qualified for more gigs. That increases their chances of being hired, but the level of competition is rising, according to Upwork’s 2020 report.
High supply and limited demand lead to mediocre compensation. After all, there’s a reason why many companies look for the cheapest talent rather than the most effective.
Unless you’re extremely good at what you do or have years of experience, it’s hard to ask for higher rates as a generalist.
In contrast, a specialist freelancer needs to have the expertise to back their application.
For example, in the health and wellness freelance writing scenario, the writer must have medical knowledge and preferably formal certification to prove to prospective clients that they know what they’re talking about.
If you choose to be a specialist, you’ll have fewer clients to pitch to, but once you’re approved/hired, you can set higher pricing right from the start since you’re an expert source/contributor.
No matter which one you choose, this is a freelancing tip you should consider before starting your freelancing career. That way, you get to enjoy the perks they offer as soon as possible.
3. Build a Website
All freelancers need to have a website to showcase their work. There is nothing better than an online portfolio to help new clients understand your capabilities.
“If you are creating a website yourself and can’t afford to hire a designer, then consider looking into website templates so that you’re still putting something out there that’s beautifully done,” advises Breanna Rose, founder of Rowan Made.
Here’s an example website from freelance copywriter Susan Greene:
While the overall feel and look of your website will depend on your niche, here are some essential sections we suggest adding as part of our freelancer tips:
- Homepage – A brief intro with a call to action (CTA) to your Contact or Services page. Include your LinkedIn and other social media links at the bottom.
- About me – Concise career history, along with notable achievements.
- Services – Clearly list all the services you provide. You should also consider listing your rates for each service.
- Portfolio – Arguably the most crucial part of your website. Highlight your past work and prove your merit. If your work isn’t good, no one is going to look at the other sections.
- Contact – A simple contact form for potential clients to reach out.
If you’re a beginner, your portfolio can showcase sample work you’ve done or assignments completed during internships.
Also, be sure to include any notable achievements. Most creative freelancers have logos of the brands they’ve worked with on their homepage. That proves their credibility within the industry.
4. Create a Process
No matter how good a freelancer tip is, there is something you have to build on your own — discipline.
As a freelancer, you should have a defined work process that dictates your everyday workflow, not just for your craft but also for back-end operations.
Decide on a process for the following:
- Pitching to potential clients
- Contract creation and signing
- Any work items
- Invoicing and payments
If you’re a designer, you should have a clear design process that helps you get started with every project. The same goes for freelance writers or any other content providers.
Most clients will ask for a brief explanation of how you work to get an idea of how it is to work with you.
It also helps clear doubts with your clients and set realistic expectations. So, if you work five hours a day and need six days to submit a project, you can ask the client for that specific deadline.
5. Pick Tools Within Your Budget
Freelancers heavily rely on software to get work done, especially with remote working becoming the norm.
Upwork estimates that 22% of the American workforce will be working remotely by 2025.
As a freelancer, you’re paying for all your tools by yourself. That means you have to handpick your tools to match your budget.
If you’re starting and can’t afford to pay for all the best software, you need to make the most of what you have.
WordPress, for example, is a great web host that’s inexpensive. You can use it for the first few months to a year before commissioning a custom website based on your freelance career.
It’s important to remember that there’s plenty of free, open-source software that can do what a paid app does. So, in the beginning, it might be better to use multiple free tools rather than shelling out for a whole platform.
Unless previously specified, your clients will not care if you use free or paid tools to get the job done. They just want high-quality work within the given deadlines.
6. Set Your Rate
This freelancer tip is crucial to you and your career long-term.
Your rate depends on your niche, but generally, you can charge by the hour or the project. You can also split up payments across project milestones or deliverables.
A freelance writer, for example, can do all of the above but can also charge per word.
There are many ways to decide how much to charge clients. Here is a detailed guide that could help.
Generally, a flat rate is better than an hourly rate. That is because hourly rates give clients the opportunity to dispute the hours listed or question the amount of work needed. Micro-management is another big worry for hourly payments.
PRO FREELANCING TIP: If you decide to use a flat rate, always ask for a deposit upfront. You can choose how the client will make the payments.
For example, you can ask for half your fee before the project commences and the rest when you’ve submitted the assignment. Customize it for every project.
Clients will likely offer lower rates for beginners. The key is to build up your client base quickly, so you have proven work experience and testimonials that empower you to negotiate for higher prices.
Once you’ve got your bills covered, you can switch clients based on your desire to explore new topics or branch out into other forms of freelancing.
7. Leverage Social Media
Every freelancer must be comfortable with marketing themselves.
Social media platforms are excellent for this. You can use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to advertise your skills and get in touch with brands for potential work.
Self-promotion is crucial, especially if you’re new to the industry as a whole.
While an experienced creator will have knowledge acquired from previous jobs, all a rookie has to show for their work are self-made samples. Many clients on job boards will not give you a chance over industry pros — this is why you must reach out and market yourself.
On platforms like Twitter, there are specific hashtags, such as #freelancedeveloper, that you can browse through to find freelance jobs or freelancing tips from experts.
Pick hashtags for your niche and leverage them to showcase your work and attract interest.
Remember that your social media efforts should complement your job board and freelance platform efforts.
8. Find the Right Job Boards
If there’s one freelancing tip that can help you jumpstart your career, it’s branching out and looking beyond generic platforms.
Most freelancers flock to Upwork or LinkedIn when they start. These are great platforms, but you also need to identify where the good clients in your industry are posting jobs and apply through those job boards.
That is especially true when you’re looking for long-term freelance work rather than one-off projects.
You could waste months reading freelancer tips and applying on generic job websites rather than websites specifically for your niche.
PRO FREELANCING TIP: When you’re applying for a freelance gig or pitching to potential clients, think from their perspective. Don’t just list your skillset. Instead, think about what the client wants and customize your application based on that.
Doing this will show clients that you understand their needs, helping you gain a slight edge over your competitors.
9. Communicate Clearly — An Often-Neglected Freelancer Tip
You can read a hundred articles on freelancer tips, and they will all mention communication — or at least they should.
Communication is how you, as a solo worker and entrepreneur, will build your brand and small business. It is the foundation for all client relations.
You could have attractive rates and great samples, but when you can’t convey your worth to clients, they will look at other options.
As mentioned above, think from the client’s perspective and address them in your application. But even after your pitch/application has been accepted, your written and verbal communication must convey every relevant detail to clients.
You must communicate project expectations, deadlines, potential delays, and anything that affects a project to your client to sort things out efficiently.
Final Thoughts: 9 Freelancing Tips for Professional Success
Freelancing can be daunting when you first start. There’s trial and error involved in getting things right, from your website to your tools and even your clients. However, you must persevere beyond the lows to become a successful freelancer.
We hope these freelancer tips help you out.
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