Becoming freelance is a big step. The freedom can be exhilarating but the responsibility can also feel overwhelming. The path to freelance success doesn’t begin and end on the day you quit your job – it can be a pretty long and involved process. So, how do you prepare for, succeed and thrive at freelance life?
Preparing for freelancing
Create a space where you can work. When you become freelance for the first time the temptation is to spend all day every day working from your bed. However, you might be more productive if you had a dedicated workspace, which is functional and free of clutter.
Design a great website. Although word of mouth referrals are important, it’s your website that will generate the vast majority of leads for your business. So, it’s crucial to have a site that looks good, is easy to navigate and brings work your way. Because this is essentially your shop front it might be worth investing in professional web design of the kind we offer at Aquatint. We can help you to produce the perfect tool to get your freelance career off to the best start.
Be prepared to handle your own admin. You’re now going to be responsible for your own tax, national insurance and preparing annual accounts for your business, even if you’re a sole trader. Get into good habits early and learn how to manage receipts, payments and your own books.
Making a success of freelancing
Give your days some structure. You’ve got no official start time, no lunch break with a boss watching how long you take and you could in theory work all night. Unstructured work days can end up making you stressed, unhappy and leave you feeling very disconnected. So, get into a regular routine so that your days have some structure.
Make sure you’re constantly networking. For freelancers, winning work is a lot about the connections that you make so your professional networks are more important than ever. Social networks are essential but so are real life connections. Invest in some beautifully designed business cards and slip these into the hands of potential prospects at every opportunity.
Be professional. Although as a freelancer you’re working alone you still need to present a professional front. That starts with a great website and also requires making sure you’re responsive to emails and you have a quiet environment in which to take calls. You might want to design some marketing assets for your business – brochures can be highly effective and a good logo is an essential to ensure that you stand out (we can help with these too).
Create a portfolio. Clients who are looking to book you will want to see what other work you have undertaken in the past so it pays to invest in a portfolio. You can work with a web design company to create a page on your website or use a pre-prepared format such as Clippings.me.
Manage your income… Freelance payments won’t necessarily all arrive at the end of the month or in one go. So, get in the habit of dividing each payment up as it comes in so it’s going to the right place – for example, 12% towards the ongoing business, 20-40% towards tax and 15% towards personal savings.
…And your time. You’ll need to find a time management style that works for you. This could be short bursts of work or an entire morning of focused productivity. When you’re creating, restrict your access to distractions such as social media or other people. Create ‘to do’ lists, track your time so you know how much you’re earning per project and experiment with breaking down larger jobs into more manageable tasks.
Grasp the basics of freelance business. Business relationships for freelancers are very different to those for employees. You’ll need to bear in mind:
- Contracts – it always helps to have a signed contract for every job so that you have costs and intentions written down in black and white.
- Payment structures – it’s standard practice for many freelancers to take a down payment up front for every project, either 50% or 100% of the fee, depending on your seniority.
- Work choices – you don’t need to take on every piece of work you’re offered. Initially you may have to do some jobs that aren’t exactly what you want to do but, as you build your business, start saying no.
- Learn to prioritise - this is absolutely key for a busy freelancer or you could end up working 24/7 and 7 days a week. Deadline-based task prioritisation works well.
Enjoy it. This is the lifestyle that you’ve always wanted so take a moment in each day to enjoy it. Whether that’s when you drink your coffee while walking the dog or when you’re doing that afternoon yoga class you could never do if you were still employed, five minutes of gratitude each day goes a long way.