A lot of people want to go into freelancing but do not often take the time to understand what it takes to be successful at it.
I have compiled 12 solid keys that will help you become a successful and happy freelancer.
1. Set Your Goals
Before you start freelancing, you need to set your goals so you know where you are headed early. One of the things you definitely need to figure out is your income level.
Are you freelancing just for extra income aside your day job?
Do you plan to do it full time?
Are you working on your own product but want to use freelancing to bootstrap the product?
Take your time and honestly answer those questions.
The answers will help you stay on track no matter the distractions that may come along your journey as a freelancer.
2. Get Your Fundamentals Right
You need to sort out your paper works and accounting system. Yea, I know it’s boring work and you don’t like it but you need to do it. Your taxes, contract templates, proposals, and all the necessary documents should be prepared so you avoid a lot of headaches down the road.
3. Form A Team
You could be an expert in your field or several related fields to the work you want to do as a freelancer. However, it is a wise move to know others (hopefully your friends or colleagues) who offer complementary services to you.
For example, I’m a Web Developer with stronger backend skills. When I have a project to do, I find my friends who are very good with the frontend, UI/UX, or design and outsource the work to them (and pay them too).
This approach will help you avoid burnout and you can take on more projects than if you did all the work alone.
4. Create A Suitable Workspace
Your working environment is also very important and plays a huge role in the quality of work you produce. Your tooling, seats, desks, lighting all matter. I work best from home. Yours might be finding a good co-working space or even renting an office. Do what works best for you.
5. Have a strict schedule
One of the biggest determinants of your success is your schedule. You have to think well about it and then commit to it. Good days, bad days, rain or sunshine, you put in the work as stated in your schedule.
Over time, it will become a habit and you will be surprised at what you have been able to accomplish.
I find that early mornings work best for me (I started writing this article at 4am). You could be a night owl.
Find the schedule you can work with and stick to it.
6. Define Your Ideal Clients
Are they professionals like Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Fashion Designers ? Or do they own specific kinds of businesses like restaurants, oil and gas servicing firms, transportation, agriculture, etc.
You should pick clients that can and would be willing to pay you to help their business with your skills. Avoid the bad one that can’t pay you well.
7. Learn Your Clients’ Business Thoroughly
I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t take the time to learn and understand their business, you would have a hard time pitching valuable solutions to their problems.
The knowledge you gain from studying their business will show when you speak with them. They will see you as an authority and someone who can truly help them. They will be drawn to you.
8. Set Your Prices Strategically
For the different services you provide you need to set a good price for it.
I recommend you set your prices based on 3 main factors:
- your own costs,
- market value, and
- what it contributes to the client’s business.
Don’t set it too low so you don’t attract the wrong kind of clients or make your clients perceive you as being cheap. Don’t set it too high so you don’t also scare everybody away. Keep your prices realistic but never cheap.
9. Create A Quality Portfolio
You need to create a good, high quality portfolio that will attract the kind of clients you want. It should clearly show what value you can offer the clients without you needing to say a word.
10. Network, Don’t Be A Loner
Now that you’ve done the previous steps, you need to move out. Yes, you have to go to where your clients meet (either online or offline) and interact with them.
You should genuinely aim to serve and be helpful to them. If they have questions, answer them. If they have small problems, you can fix them. It may not seem like much but it opens the way to bigger, profitable projects.
11. Build Relationships And Reputation
Always remember your clients are not just numbers on your spreadsheet or data points in your database.
They are real people that you need to build great relationships with. The better you know and understand them, the more effective you would be at delivering quality service (and potentially make even more money).
Maintain your integrity. Let your word be your bond and deliver good work every time. This is what will bring you the referrals to grow your business.
12. Never Stop Growing
It can be tempting when you achieve some success to relax and start taking it easy. Let’s say you now have 50 to 100 good clients. That’s awesome!
It’s wise to keep looking out for new clients, expanding your team or learning new skills that will push your business to more success.
The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.
— Antonio Brown
There you have it. The 9 keys to successful freelancing. Read it often and internalize it. You can use it as a checklist to know where you need to work on per time.