I’ve been a marketing consultant freelancer for a long time. Over the course of (none of your business) amount of years, I have made a few friends and colleagues whose work that I really respect (they are currently helping with features for our bot, Freelanzr, too)
I thought it would be really interesting to get their insights into the top ways to be successful as a freelancer. How to not burn out and excel in the long-term as part of the autonomous economy.
So, in no particular order, I give you…
22 tips for being an awesome freelancer:
- Always, always, always carry a notebook and a pen with you. You never know when an idea will suddenly come to you, as ideas are wont to do, or if you’ll need to quickly write down a link or contact information (the Notes app on your phone can work too if available).
- Be sure to prioritize your work based on what has a strict deadline and the terms you have set with your client. However, it can really boost your morale if you start with easier tasks; it always feels good to cross items off a to-do list.
- You never know when you might have pockets of 15-20 minutes: waiting on the train or for a bus, or for your dinner to finish baking in the oven. Use that 15 minutes for some of the smaller tasks you have—you’d be surprised how much you can get done in that burst of time.
- Break big projects into smaller tasks. This will help the project seem much more manageable, and allow you to work on it in chunks so that you don’t rush to get it done in one sitting, nor does the quality suffer from getting increasingly burnt out.
- Always account for your mood.
- Go outside and enjoy the weather or the sights around you. Go for a walk. Maintain a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, and exercise. Be sure to live in the moment for a little bit each day. Meditate, think about where your passions lie and what work brings you happiness. A happy mind and body can go a long way. This is crucial to avoid burning out.
- Do not be afraid to see the work that others have done that may be similar to your intended deliverable. It can help with inspiration; perhaps you see something they did that you wish they had done differently, and you can implement those ideas into your projects. Obviously, and this is crucial: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PLAGIARIZE and ALWAYS CREDIT SOMEONE IF YOUR WORK IS NOT ORIGINAL. Not only is it unethical, but it could get you into serious legal trouble.
- Do not multitask. Our brains aren’t built for it, and your work will suffer.
- Do your best to take breaks, yes, but eliminate distractions as best as you can. Use services online that help you block websites you frequent for 30 minutes to make sure your process is uninterrupted. Save reading, organizing, and responding to emails for the mornings and evenings.
- Use the amended 24/48 hour rule for emails. Always, always respond to an email within 24 hours. If they have requested you send a draft of your work, and it’s non-negotiable that you do so, or some kind of deliverable, respond within 48 hours.
- The Scotty Principle: if you want to set a deadline or a timeline with your client, estimate how much time it will take to complete a task, and add 25-50% to that time. This will help you account for unforeseeable events, like emails, unproductive moods, and other administrative tasks.
- Never charge below living wage for your work (we recommend at least $15/hr). Your time is important, and your time is money, and you do not want to be underpaid for providing a legitimate service. As Sitepoint wonderfully points out: There is “no such thing as non-billable time spent on a client project, there’s only time you are choosing not to be paid for.”
- Invest in something like Adobe Creative Suite or registering a domain for a personal website to showcase your portfolio. A tablet can also help.
- Take jobs outside of your comfort zone. If you have a small level of familiarity with an obscure marketing tool the client wants you to use, for instance, take the job. When else are going to have the opportunity to learn how to use and create with that resource?
- Always be improving. Keep track of the skills you’ve learned, and constantly update your portfolio. This is important: dedicate some of your downtime to learning new skills, like coding if you’re unfamiliar, or graphic design, or refining and honing some of your skills. It always pays off to be better at something than you were before.
- It can get lonely out there, so we recommend reaching out to communities with fellow freelancers. Ask for tips, ask for work advice, ask for best practices—and use them as a network and potential safe and comfortable community of people who understand the kind of work you do and the value of your time (as some non-freelancers might not recognize). You don’t have to be lonely.
- Treat your work as work, not a hobby. It’s important to maintain self-discipline and stay motivated. Freelancing may have perks that very few other jobs offer, but it’s a job nonetheless, and if you want to at the very least make ends meet you need to recognize the importance of a strong ethic. The most competent writing skills or graphic design savvy can mean almost nothing if you can never sit down to actually create something.
- Make a schedule and stick to it. Use to-do lists and cross items off. Actually write them down; it helps you remember, and the feeling of checking a box for completion can improve your mood drastically. Write down every aspect of what you have to do—crossing things off lists can help you feel even more motivated.
- Account for additional tasks like research, communication, the follow-up questions you have for a client, and emails. When estimating time, don’t overlook these things. Writing an email for a client might seem like an easy project, but consider the research needed, the time to format (if you’re working on the design of the email as well), and the drafts you might need to exchange back and forth with the client.
- Always, always, always ask every question you might have about a project immediately. You don’t want to have done a week’s worth of tasks only to find out it wasn’t what the client was looking for. Additionally, always, always, always remember that your work will likely need to go through editing several times, as the client may not immediately like your first draft.
- Remember that some deadlines are negotiable with your client, but do your best to stick to the original commitment you established. Knowing realistically how much time a project takes, and accounting for additional business overhead will help you set a pragmatic timeline and hopefully you won’t need to extend your deadline—but sometimes unforeseeable things pop up, and people are understanding.
- Maintain open and honest communication with your client. This is crucial to establish a strong, trusting relationship. Consistent negative or positive feedback from clients can make or break your career (whether or not that’s always fair).
What are your favorite tips for freelancing? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.