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How to be a kick-ass freelancer

I’ve been freelancing for 6 months. Having left behind a great job and a career break, I launched myself into the world of freelancing accidentally, resulting in a steep learning curve. If you’ve just started out as a freelancer or you’re considering joining the masses, here are my 5 tips on how to truly kick-ass as a freelancer.

1. I Am A Freelancer!

Don’t fall into freelancing. I did. It’s not the best way to start. When I took on a short-term contract and it was explained to me that I would be self-employed, I didn’t connect that with a potential career as a freelancer and so was woefully under-prepared. I then had no idea ‘what’ I was. Updating my LinkedIn profile was fun. What was I actually doing? From one short term contract to the next, I then became conscious that I had no personal brand. Who were clients dealing with? As I discussed work opportunities with a friend, he said “so you’re freelancing then?” Cue lightbulb moment!

I stumbled around for a few months. I wish I’d made a business plan from the start, thought about marketing and started networking. Instead, it’s all been a bit haphazard. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

2. Set out Your Stall From The Start

Once you’ve decided that you’re freelancing do these things immediately:
* Inform HMRC that you’re self-employed.
* Set-up a bank account and if relevant, a Paypal account so you can accept payments.
* Get a website. You can do this very cheaply. Find a hosting service i.e Bluehost , GoDaddy, 1+1: Choose a domain name and you’re good to go. It’s not difficult to design a functional website. I use WordPress, hosted by Bluehost and I have put together my website on my own. I have no training.
*Think about social media. Where will your clients be hanging out? Twitter is your best bet, followed by Google+. Facebook and Instagram are good if you’re selling a visual product or service.
*Think about your personal branding. What’s going to make you stand-out from the other freelancers out there?
* Decide how much you will charge. Write down your monthly expenditure, including the costs of your freelancing and then divide that by the hours you intend to work. This will then be your minimum hourly rate. I say minimum because don’t forget, you don’t get sick pay or holiday pay. Plus, you need to try and build-up a buffer in case you lose a client or you can’t work for a while.
*Keep records from the start of your income and expenditure. It’ll make it far easier when it comes to those tax returns!
* Build-up a portfolio from the beginning and show it off. Get it on your website, shout from the rooftops!
*Network! Reconnect with old contacts, whip your LinkedIn profile into shape and get building bridges. Consider joining a networking group. Get out there and show what you have to offer.

3. Get Your Own Space

Create a workspace that is all yours. Whether it’s a spare bedroom or a corner of a room, make sure that this is a no-go zone for everyone else. As well as a place for you to work, it should also be as peaceful as possible for you. If you are working from home, decide on your working hours and stick to them. Skyping whilst sorting out the kids, laundry and feeding the cats is never going to work. You’re in charge of your own brand now. This involves projecting a professional image.

4. It’s All About The Money

You know how much you need to make to keep your head above the water, but how do you make sure that it all goes to plan? Tailor your pricing to your client. Not everyone likes hourly rates. If you are asked to quote for a whole project, make sure you’re not selling yourself short. Once you’ve secured a client, you need to make terms and conditions very clear, from the beginning. Provide an initial quote that includes your payment expectations. Make it clear when you’ll be invoicing, when you expect payment and in what method. Don’t leave any gaps for confusion.

You might find that some clients pay straight away, others expect 30-days, 60-days or even 90. Can you handle that? Consider if it’s worth asking for a percentage upfront. This is standard procedure if you take on a larger project. You can’t risk devoting days, weeks, months to a project and then going unpaid. So far, all of my clients have paid. A week before my invoices are due, I send a gentle reminder. Just a quick email. Am I lucky? Perhaps. There are plenty of freelance horror stories out there. I get to know my clients and I’m upfront with them from the start. I work hard to build-up a rapport. This seems to be paying off. Personally, I would avoid anyone that asks you to work for free. Ok, a quick sample of your work to show your prowess might be required. If you have a portfolio to show, that should be sufficient. I’d also be careful with any of the freelancing websites such as Elance, Odesk, PeoplePerHour. There are many stories of non-payment, disappearing clients and also work being plagiarised.

5. Believe In Yourself

You are going to get knock-backs. I’ve had plenty. The first one stung, let me tell you. They liked my writing but my “mumsy” image didn’t fit apparently. I’ve sent out quotes that have been ignored and followed-up on leads that amounted to nothing. Could I have given-up? Of course, but you just need to dust yourself off and get on with it. Self-belief is key. Once you’ve got your first client under your belt get a testimonial, recommendations on LinkedIn, social media etc. Sell yourself.

If you have decided to go freelance, ask others for advice. Join communities on LinkedIn or Google+. Make freelance friends on Twitter. It can get lonely and you’ll have ‘why am I doing this?’ moments. Becoming a freelancer is the best career move I’ve ever made. You can do it too.

Have you got any freelancing tips to share with us? Comment below.


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