What do you think of when you hear the word “freelancing?” When I first started off on my own, all that I could think of was the freedom that it would provide. Freedom to choose who I wanted to work with and when. Freedom to travel and work anywhere at any time. And perhaps most of all, freedom from the typical 9-5 grind that I had been indoctrinated with since graduating college.
If you haven’t already been told, let me be the first to tell you that freelancing isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It has to be approached like a career, otherwise, you will be right back to scrolling through Indeed looking for a spot to get back into the rat race.
That isn’t to say that it is all doom and gloom. I love this career path and wouldn’t change a thing about it, but I never benefited from someone telling me the hard truth about freelancing.
Freelancing IS a sales career
There is no way around it, freelancing is a sales career. You are constantly selling your service to potential clients, managing current client expectations, and will inevitably lose clients. To truly be successful in a freelance career, you have to accept this and market yourself accordingly.
While sites like Upwork and Fiverr are great places to start freelancing if you want to move into higher-paying clientele you need to be able to sell yourself. This is where many people struggle. Personally, I spent over a decade in sales and I find myself using those tools on a daily basis with my freelance clients.
If you don’t have sales experience, look for learning opportunities, and actually invest in this area of your business.
Time management is critical
For those just starting out, you will hear many people tell you the importance of time management. Let me be blunt – if you cannot effectively manage your time, you will fail as a freelancer. Time is hands down the most valuable asset that we have, and only you can put pieces in place to provide structure in a career field that preaches flexibility.
Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that you have to get up at 7 am and work until 5 pm, after all, that is why many freelancers leave the traditional workforce. But you do need to understand how long things will take you to accomplish projects, and then relay that with accuracy to your clients.
There are a variety of different time management platforms and methods, find what works for you and you alone. If a digital solution isn’t your jam, go analog. I still use a giant whiteboard that hangs above my desk for project management. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.
The client isn’t always right
Yup, I said it and I will not apologize. As a freelancer, your job is to interpret what the client wants and produce something that generates ROI. If you only do what they are telling you, they might as well not be paying you.
It is ok to push back when you know something can be done better or more efficiently. They hired you because you offer a unique skill set or perspective that they currently need. Find your voice and speak up.
Niches aren’t always the answer
When I started as a freelancer, everything I read told me that I needed to find my niche. This is great if your niche offers ample opportunity, but that might not be the case. If you only write about golf clubs and golf products, you will undoubtedly limit yourself and the jobs that could help you progress in your career.
This becomes a bigger issue when you lose clients, and you will lose clients, it is just part of the lifestyle. You may pass up great clients waiting for that one that is the perfect fit, only to find that those clients are harder to come by. While you don’t have to take every job that comes your way, don’t discount the ones outside your niche because they can lead to amazing opportunities.
You probably aren’t charging enough
What do you charge your clients? It is singlehandedly the toughest question that you will face as you get started. Pricing will obviously depend on your experience level and the field that you are in, but most of the time you will be undercharging out the gate.
My advice–If you are unsure what to charge, ask your prospective client what they have budgeted for the project.
This question should be asked before you ever provide a quote. Failing to ask this simple question might result in taking on a project larger than you realize and being under-compensated.
Once you have a pricing model that works for your business, know your worth, and don’t be afraid to push back when a client makes a lower offer. Negotiating is part of the gig, but that doesn’t mean you should give a 50% discount just because.
Freelancing isn’t for everyone…but it can be amazing!
Freelancing is an amazing career field that can open untold doors and provide financial freedom, but it isn’t without folly. While the number of freelancers continues to grow, know that it isn’t a field for everyone. I don’t claim to have all of the answers, and never will. My goal is to simply provide a little insight into this amazing world full of awesome, like-minded people.