Freelancing can be incredibly liberating, as you are typically in control of your own schedule and surroundings. Of course, with this freedom comes a lot of responsibility. You don’t have an accounting department, boss, or other company employee handling your paperwork, payment, etc. If you stay on top of all these things, however, freelancing can be the most rewarding experience of your life. If you’re doing so already or are considering this lifestyle, we can help. Read on for six tips for freelancers to achieve career success.
1. Set Your Schedule
One of the best things about freelancing is that there is no 8 AM office report time. However, if you allow yourself to go completely unstructured, your productivity will likely suffer. You should still try and stick to a daily schedule so that you don’t allow other activities to take priority—whether consciously or subconsciously. It’s far too easy to think that you will get to your work later, only to allow yet another task or lagging energy to impede your success. Use a project management system like Asana to stay on top of assignments.
2. Become a Savvy Salesperson
Unless you have a recruiter that regularly dishes out work to you, you are likely the one responsible for getting your own work. You can’t just spam resumes and hope for the best. Be strategic about what jobs to apply for, only sending your information in for jobs for which you are qualified. Learn how to sell yourself by honing your resume and cover letter, brushing up on your interview skills, and even coming up with an elevator pitch.
As this thebalancecareers.com article notes, “If you’re job searching, you can use your elevator pitch at job fairs and career expos, and online in your LinkedIn summary LinkedIn or Twitter bio, for example. An elevator speech is a great way to gain confidence in introducing yourself to hiring managers and company representatives.” Consider having business cards printed and have them on you at all times, as you never know when an opportunity could arise.
3. Keep Track of Your Work
Again, no one else is going to catch it if you aren’t paid correctly, so it’s imperative that you track your hours, report them accurately, and then ensure that you have been paid the right amount for your projects. It will also help you to gauge your hourly rate, as you’ll see how long various types of projects take and can charge accordingly in the future. You don’t want to charge so much that everyone passes you over but, alternatively, you don’t want to be underpaid. If the latter happens, you’ll be tempted to take on too much work to make up for this, which leads to stress and possibly even work that isn’t up to your usual standard.
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4. Make Sure Your Home Office is Stocked
You likely don’t have an office manager monitoring supplies as you would if you had a full-time job, so it’s imperative you keep track of what you have and what you need. There is no worse feeling than being under a tight deadline and having a home printer or computer that isn’t working properly. Make sure you’ve got printer paper and other supplies, and that your computer is updated with the latest version of your operating system. This will ensure it’s working at its optimal level.
5. Know What You Can Write Off on Your Taxes
There are drawbacks to freelancing when it comes to getting paid, such as chasing down your paycheck and typically not getting benefits with your position. Because of these things, you want to make sure you take full advantage of all the tax breaks you get as a freelancer. You can make a home office deduction as well as write off things like office supplies, medical costs, transportation costs, retirement contributions, and more. If you’re not well versed in this area, outsource this to a tax professional to make sure you are getting all the tax benefits that come with being a freelancer.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
It can be terrifying to turn down work as a freelancer, as it’s often feast or famine. And, as any freelancer will tell you, the “famine” periods can be far more stressful than the “feast” periods, as you worry about your next paycheck. Because of this, you might be tempted to say yes to everything that comes your way, but this can often be a huge mistake.
As freelancer James Sowers notes on this DigitalFreelancer.io article, “No matter what you do, you’ll disappoint someone. Whether it be the client because you’re unable to deliver halfway through the project, your family because you’re working long hours, or yourself because you’re stressed with the work you’ve chosen to take on.” Sowers recommends asking yourself the following three questions when being approached for work:
- Do I specialize in the work that’s needed by this client?
- Why am I taking this project on? Is it a commitment I should be making?
- Why am I adding that project to my plate?
Once you’ve nailed down the “why” behind the possibility of accepting the work, you can decide whether this is a good decision or not.
Freelancing can be a wonderful lifestyle, but it does take a lot of discipline and preparation. Follow these tips and you should have a long and prosperous career in this realm.