The first step to becoming a freelancer is to form a system. This is easier said than done, and many beginner freelancers go through many trials and errors before figuring out what works best for them. That said, we’ve put together a guide on how to succeed as a freelancer to make this process a bit easier.
Tips for Success as a Freelancer
Use a Contract for Each Project
Always have a contract written up for every new project and client you take on—no matter how big or small. Create a base contract that includes the necessary information needed for any type of project, and then improve upon it as time goes on and the level of difficulty changes. Your base contract should be a general agreement that covers important terms, deadlines, and form of payment that both you and client need to agree upon.
Don’t be afraid to turn down projects; as a freelancer you need to recognize your limits. It’s typical for beginner freelancers to feel as though they must please everybody—that’s simply not possible. You should know when getting rid of a client is the best course of action. Putting too much on your workload will not only stress you out but most likely result in poor work that will disappoint your client. To be a successful freelancer, you need to get comfortable with turning away work if it does not fit your availability.
Always Get a Down Payment
Late payments (or not receiving payment at all) is something many freelancers deal with. Do your best to avoid this issue by requiring a down payment from your client. If a client has a problem with giving you a down payment, then that should warn you that they may not be the best fit.
Focus Your Portfolio
Your freelancing portfolio should be quite different than the portfolio you had in school. It should not just be all of the work you’ve done—that gets overwhelming. Rather, you’ll want to focus in and showcase the type of work you wish to take on. Present the work that best represents your abilities as well as the type of work you wish to do for people.
Similar to the idea of saying no, you need to be upfront with your clients right from the get-go. If you think their project might take a bit longer, say so. You don’t want clients to get upset when you’re unable to follow through on a promise. If someone is going to hire you, let them know what your process is. Transparency helps build trust and confidence between you and your client.
Join Freelance Groups
If you’re planning on freelancing fulltime, you may want to consider joining a freelancing group. Since it’s likely that you won’t be working in an office, this gives you the chance to meet and interact with your peers. If you don’t know any freelancers in your community, look for an online group. Not only will these groups commiserate with you, but if you’re having a tight month, they could send clients your way.
Set Aside Money for Taxes
As you grow as a freelancer, it’s crucial that you’re aware of the two types of taxes you’ll have to pay—income and self-employment tax. As you make money during the year, the combination of federal and state income taxes, along with additional self-employment tax, can add up to a significant amount of money at the end of the year. Protect yourself and make sure that you’re saving money throughout your time as a freelancer to cover these costs.