Freelancing. It can be a wonderful, enriching, financially rewarding career—or it can become an “oops” in a long list of work failures. I’ve learned several strategies that lead to success as a freelancer. Here are eight of them.
1. Set goals.
Whether you’re starting a new business or reinvigorating an existing one, it’s crucial to set (and keep!) goals. Once a year, set three-, six-, and twelve-month goals, along with a far-off goal like five years. Make sure all goals are S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. For example: “By the end of the year, I will increase my income by 15 percent through increasing my rates and taking on one additional large-scale project.” Check in monthly or quarterly to evaluate your progress.
2. Establish a website.
As a freelancer, there is perhaps no more important communication tool than your website. It is what potential clients think of as you—until they meet you, of course. Your site doesn’t have to be complicated (and shouldn’t be). But it should, at the very least, include expected pages: About, Services, and Contact. On my site (stacye1.sg-host.com), I also include a portfolio, free author resources, a blog, and information about my book.
3. Set a routine and be consistent.
Few people work well without a set schedule, and establishing a routine is especially important for success as a freelancer. Try to begin work, take lunch, and end work at about the same times every day. Put off personal chores or errands until the workday is over (though I have been known to throw in laundry during five-minute breaks). Which brings me to my next point…
4. Take breaks.
It is all too easy to get sucked into a project and forget to take regular breaks. To help, set a timer to go off every 25 or 30 minutes to remind you to rest your eyes and brain. If you find your breaks extending past five or so minutes, set a timer to keep track of breaks, too. Every hour or so, try to get some exercise: walk around the block, do jumping jacks—anything to get your blood pumping. A bonus: Better blood flow boosts brain function.
5. Put in the work.
Freelance success comes only through hard work—there are no shortcuts. Your success and salary depend almost entirely on how much time you’re willing to put in. Going into a freelance life, you must acknowledge that you will be working at least as hard, if not harder, than you were at your day job. The good news? You will be doing something you love—which feels a lot less like work than sitting through endless employee meetings and writing TPS reports!
6. Charge what you’re worth.
Very rarely do I find freelancers overcharging. In fact, most freelancers don’t charge what they’re worth. Not only does this mean you’ll be making less money, but your clients might also value you less (there is a direct correlation between cost and perceived value). Plus, it can devalue the work other freelancers do. Do yourself a favor: Charge what you’re worth, and give yourself raises, just like you would get in a j-o-b.
7. Become the favorite.
There are three key qualities of successful freelancers: friendliness, being easy to work with, and delivering work on time. If you have those qualities, you’ll be well on the way toward becoming a client’s favorite freelancer. As a favorite, you’ll be the first called to work on a new project, and clients will likely be willing to pay you more than other freelancers (because, after all, you’re their favorite!).
8. Think ahead and stretch yourself.
When you’re freelancing, it can be easy to focus on daily tasks and projects. After all, they pay the bills, right? But that’s a recipe for staying exactly where you’re at. If you want to keep growing your skill set, salary, and clientele, always think ahead. What do I mean by that? Well, when you agree to take a new project, think of how you can leverage that experience for future contracts. Be willing to take on contracts that stretch your skill set. If you don’t know how to do something, figure it out. The more forward-thinking you are, and the less risk-averse you can be, the better.
What are some strategies you’ve discovered for success as a freelancer?
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