If you’ve decided to start a freelancing career, whether full time or just as a side hustle, you are in for a treat: over 57 million Americans do freelance work today, and companies are becoming more and more used to this way of working at a point that way more jobs are available to freelancers daily.
It goes without saying that if the market is growing, so are the freelancers: this means you need to step up your game and improve your skills, to compete fair and square with the millions of people out there.
If you’re looking for tips on how to freelance successfully, I recommend reading this guide all the way through from top to bottom. I’ve put together 17 actionable things to do as soon as you start freelancing to succeed and, most of all, to improve over time. Establishing a business as a freelancer, it’s pretty easy but making sure it is successful, and it works requires time, dedication, and a precise way of thinking.
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How to Freelance Successfully
Being a freelancer requires discipline, passion, and sacrifice. Once you start, you need to keep up and constantly improve to become an increasingly successful freelancer. Here are 17 effective ways to be a successful freelancer and find more clients.
1. Track your income and your expenses
One of the most boring things to do as a freelancer is regularly keeping on top of your finances. It’s effortless to lose track of what you earn and how much you spend, and it’s even easier to end up in a terrible situation where your income doesn’t exceed your expenses. There’s only one way not to lose control of your finances as a freelancer: keeping a full record of every cost and expense incurred by your freelance work.
There are different ways to track your income and your expenses, one being a simple and straightforward Excel file where you record your costs and your expenses to make sure you’re aware of what’s happening. It doesn’t matter how much you earn. Using a tool to keep track of your finances, it’s one of the best choices you can make as a freelancer.
QuickBooks is one of the most famous and known: easy to use and highly intuitive; it allows you to take photos of receipts and automatically log the expense. It also helps you in taking track of invoices to keep everything in order.
For a LOT more on the subject of finding the best invoicing tool for your freelancing business, check out our guide on The Best Invoicing Tools for Freelancers that Won’t Break your Bank
You can also read our guide on saving more money as a freelancer in 2021 for actionable tips.
2. Review your prices frequently
One of the perks of working as a freelancer is to review things periodically to match your (new) needs.
Reviewing your prices should be one of those things you do now and then, and it should reflect your situation, goals, and what you want to achieve: how many clients you have, how many clients you wish you had, how much your skills have improved.
Let’s say you have too many clients, and you’re happy with the current situation: you may decide to raise the price to discourage new clients. On the contrary, if you don’t have enough clients, you may decide to decrease your services’ price to attract new customers.
You may also decide to step up your game and raise your rates to attract businesses with a higher budget or decrease it because you want to work with a lower budget but a good project.
No matter the reason, reviewing your services’ prices should be a planned activity if you want to freelance successfully.
And remember that you are the sole decision-maker when it comes to pricing your work, so make sure you evaluate this properly and charge accordingly—more on this topic in our guide on how much to charge for a freelance job.
3. Level Up Your Skills
Evolving is a big part of freelancing successfully: if you don’t learn new things, if you don’t improve your knowledge, if you always remain at the same level, you are going to become one of the many freelancers out there, one of those that don’t thrive but survive. And you may eventually lose interest in working as a freelancer and decide to go back to your full-time job to avoid economic complications.
By leveling up your skills, you’ll become more valuable to companies: this is something you should always keep in mind. Every skilled freelancer knows how important being on top of the category is and how important continuous learning is.
How to level up your skills?
There are thousands of ways to level up our skills: going back to school is one of those. Finding a suitable course for you is very easy today, and you can either improve something you already know well or narrow it down and become even more specialized. Here’s an example: let’s say you are a freelance social media manager and know every social network at its best. If you want to improve, you may decide to specialize in Pinterest marketing to offer your specialized services to a niche industry. You’ve started from your knowledge and expanded it to become more and more specialized.
There are hundreds of online courses you can do, and we recommend Udemy for your online training.
Udemy also offers courses to learn how to work as a freelancer, so there’s really no limit to what you can learn and improve!
The six-module “Starting Your Business” course by Trendimi is highly recommended as well.
4. Build Your Reputation
Building credibility is critical today, and if you’re thinking, “I can improve my credibility only if I become an influencer, or if I open a Youtube account, or if I’m on Instagram or if I sell my courses,” you’re making a big mistake.
You don’t have to be necessarily visible to be credible: your work has to speak for you, your clients have to speak for you, the quality of what you do has to speak for you.
Having a curated website, a portfolio, and a specialized Linkedin profile help gain authority and credibility: you don’t need 100000 followers; you need very few people interested in your story. You need the right people and the right tools to build your credibility.
5. Perfect Your Pitching
A successful freelancer knows how to pitch. It’s no secret that pitching is an art, and it’s probably the hardest part for most freelancers.
The more you practice, the better you become but to get more qualified clients, you need to perfect your pitching and learn the art of selling yourself.
How? By trying different approaches to find the one that suits you, your business, and your needs.
Every pitch should be carefully curated and customized, and you need time for this: spend this time A/B testing different templates and see which one performs better.
To bring your freelancing career to the next level, you need to start exercising and crafting quality pitches; pitching consistently for a few months, it’s hard, but the chance of succeeding is very high.
6. Build a routine
Building a routine is part of being a successful freelancer, no matter how much you love it. Building a routine means learning to know yourself a bit better and use it to succeed in your business.
- What are the things to be considered when building your working routine?
- How many hours per day/week would you like to work?
- When do you function best in the day?
- How do you want to organize your working day?
Starting from these four things, you may be able to understand how to schedule your working day: you may, for example, decide to work only in the morning for a certain client because it’s the time of the day when you function at best for doing certain things, or to the only answer to email between 9 and 11 in the morning, to avoid interrupting other tasks during the day.
A unique and universal routine for freelancers doesn’t exist, but building your own routine is an amazing way to take care of yourself and accomplish much more than what you expect.
These 400+ motivational quotes for freelancers can give you the incentive you may need!
7. Seek Multiple Income Sources
Working as a freelancer can be hard: you have months where you don’t earn a dollar cash flows and months. That’s why it’s highly advisable to put your feet in more shoes and seek multiple income sources.
The easiest way is by working for more customers and in different industries so that if something goes bad with one, you have other customers going to pay you at the end of the month.
Another way is by building a side gig to earn passively. Investment is another option, but it goes beyond being a freelancer or not.
Have a look at this list with 49 proven business ideas to work as a freelancer and make money… and find yours!
8. Ease the Administrative Burden
To simplify your life and avoid thinking too much about stuff you’re not qualified for, you need to reduce your freelance business’s administrative burden. It goes without saying that you need to keep track of income and expenses, but you should delegate to someone else the management of your taxes and your administrative tasks.
You can hire a VA for your daily administrative tasks: email, data entry, and every other task you don’t want to do yourself!
Read our guide on the best money management tips for freelancers for a better overview!
Also, this guide on the best accounting softwares for freelancers can be useful.
9. Set Limits
A successful freelancer knows his limits and makes everything to use them to his advantage. Freelance burnout is a huge issue, and it causes problems at various levels: the best ways to avoid getting burned by your job and start feeling anxious is by setting your own limits. At what time do you start working every morning? At what time do you stop working? What about the weekend? What are you interested in doing?
When working a 9-5, your boundaries are well-defined: you know when your working day starts and when it ends, and you’re all set with everything. The same has to happen for your freelancing business: you need to clarify with your clients the boundaries you’ve and when it’s not appropriate to call or send an email.
And you need to set boundaries for yourself and refuse to do working things continuously to succeed.
Productivity apps can help you with this, so have a look at the 11 best productivity apps of 2021 that we’ve reviewed.
10. Track your work hours
Based on the above, it’s good practice to track your work hours to understand the clients or the projects that take most of your time and anything you can do to balance things out. Tracking your working hours is also a great way to create a schedule and stick to it.
Learn how to boost your productivity when working from home or as a freelancer, and your career will highly benefit from this.
11. Learn the art of negotiation
The more you work as a freelancer, the more you need to learn how to negotiate with your clients.
If you want to be a successful freelancer, you need to know how to say no and how to say yes when appropriate.
If a client starts asking for things you’re not supposed to do, think about it and start a negotiation: do you want to earn more? Do you want to do what’s has been requested? These are the two things you have to consider.
And don’t forget: a successful freelancer works for multiple clients and projects, so make sure you don’t spend your working time only on one very demanding client, or your business will be affected.
Never forget to have a contract signed. This freelance contract template is specifically for freelancers, and it’s a good way to put everything in writing.
12. Customer service is number one
Understand clients, problems, and expectations are part of being a successful freelancer: you are not required to know everything and to anticipate everything your client may require, but to understand their needs and solve their problems in a way that it is suitable for them.
They’re your customers, but they may know nothing about your job: don’t over-explain, but make sure they understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing something.
13. Measure your effort
Ensure you know how to measure what you do as a freelancer and what benefits you’re bringing to the company: one of the biggest problems for freelancers is to demonstrate that what they do have value for the company.
Create reports based on the previous situation, the actual situation, and how your initiatives have helped or are helping: use numbers, stats, and % to show why your effort is well needed clearly, and it’s working.
14. Be someone people want to work with
Imagine you’ve to hire someone: aside from expertise, what are you looking for in a candidate? You need to behave in the same way you would expect from if you were hiring someone.
Be the best version of yourself, professionally speaking, and make sure you’re not just pleasant to work with but that you also bring real expertise to the table, connections if needed, and a perspective on things.
15. Be open and transparent
Freelancers sometimes have to make a lot of effort to be trusted and respected. If you want to succeed, you need to be open and transparent. You need to clarify your points and stick to your opinions when you think you’re right about something.
This is a good way to build credibility and trustability and understand the customers you want to work with and the ones you want to commit fully.
16. Go the extra mile
You can become a successful freelancer by making sure you go the extra mile for the clients you work with. This doesn’t mean you’ve to gift them with your time or expertise, but that if they ask for something, your deliverability will be more than what you’ve been asked to deliver.
You may simply help a client in an area that is not usually within your purview, becoming a problem-solver. This will give you extra credit, and in the long term, it will become one of your magic cards when looking for clients or retaining the existing ones.
17. Learn how to say no and say goodbye to clients
Not every freelancer is compatible with every client: during your career as a freelancer, you will have problems with clients at a point that you have to let them go. Sometimes a client is toxic. Other times simply, there’s no communication and empathy. Other times it’s just a matter of compatibility.
No matter the situation, if a client doesn’t feel right for you, you need to let them go. You will lose money, but you will gain respect for yourself and your job.
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