More and more people are turning their creative passion into a way of life by becoming creative freelancers. It’s an attractive prospect: freedom over your own schedule, choose the projects you want to work on, be your own boss. Plus you get to work in your PJs! As rewarding as freelancing can be, it’s also one of the hardest ways to earn a living and not for the fainthearted. But if you’re passionate and business minded then you can take your career to the next level.
Here’s our tips on how to get started:
- What will you sell?
It’s the most basic question but make sure you know the answer! What is it that you actually sell? You’ll need to be able to articulate this properly to clients so they have a clear idea of what to expect from you. For example, if you can produce a track but can’t master it, make sure your clients know and don’t expect mastering services too. Write a list of what skills you can offer.
- Make a plan of action
Before you make that leap into freelancing, write out a plan of action. This needs to be realistic and detailed. Work out how many projects you’ll need to take on per month to stay financially afloat. Write a description of the business, market strategies, development plan etc. This guide by Regina is a great introduction to business plans. Write down any areas you’re unsure of such as where to find contacts and how much you should charge.
- Turn on your business brain
There’s a lot of business involved in freelancing, so be prepared to do the paperwork. That’s the downside to being your own boss. This article is a good crash course on the business side of freelancing.
- Create a brand
Now that you’re a freelancer, you have a brand, so use it. You need to learn to start selling yourself – half the battle of securing new clients is down to your personality and brand. If customers don’t like your brand, they won’t buy into it. This guide is a great introduction to creating your personal brand.
Get out there, get yourself known, spread your vision far and wide. The more people that you contact and network with, the better. Go to meetups in your local area, introduce yourself to people and let them know what you’re doing. Let everyone in your personal network know that you’re becoming a freelancer. Everyone. Even if they don’t seem relevant, you never know who they’ll recommend you to. Be the king of social media too. Interact with your peers – ask questions, answer questions. It all counts.
- Set yourself apart from the competition
Freelancers are ten a penny these days. What can you give your clients that your competitors can’t? Unfortunately creating great work isn’t always the answ
er. Clients will give repeat work to a freelancer who’s reliable, can turn around work quickly and is good to work with.
- Do your research
Stay ahead of the game by checking out your competition. Get to know what they do, who they work with, what they charge. Who do your target audience go to for freelance work and how can you get them to come to you instead?
Get yourself an online portfolio. This is an essential a way for clients to contact you and check out your work. Clients will want to see that you can do the work before they invest in you. If you have no real-world examples, create some examples (just make sure you don’t try to pass them off as client work), or do a couple of projects for free for the experience.
- Set up financial information
Before you even think about getting clients, you need to have a few financial details in place. Work out how much you’re going to charge for your services, and stick to it as much as possible. Be realistic – if you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you won’t be able to charge as much as someone with an established career, but in time you can build your rates up. Draft up some basic templates such as invoices and contracts. Be sure of processes – will you take a deposit before completing work? How will you take payment? When will you release final project files?
- Build a network
Network, network network. It’s been said before, but it still rings true: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. A lot of first time freelancers don’t realise that your network and your clients are often one and the same thing. At first glance it seems counter productive to spend time networking with other professionals in your field, after all, they don’t provide work. But, when that professional receives an offer for work that they’re too snowed under to complete, they may pass it on to you. So get networking – online and offline, it’s all good.
- Get testimonials
Create positive vibes about yourself. If you’ve completed a project for a client, get them to give you feedback. If you’re lucky they’ll write you a glowing testimonial that you can put up on your site and on your social media profiles. Testimonials reassure new clients that you’re up to the job and can be trusted. Don’t be tempted to fake them – you will be found out.
- Get good at communicating
Freelancers often work remotely, or only meet with a client face-to-face a couple of times, so most of the time you’ll be talking via email, Skype or phone. You need to get good at communicating via these channels. This article explains how to avoid miscommunication in emails. Don’t second guess what your client wants. Always work to the brief You’ll be able to understand your client a lot better if you understand their needs. Research their business before you meet – work out who their target audience is and potential areas where their strategy could be falling down.
- Have fun and believe in yourself!
Freelancing is hard, hard work. You’ll be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to get your business off the ground. But if you stick at it and believe in yourself, you’ll reap the rewards and you’ll have fun doing it too. If you doubt yourself, even a tiny little bit, it will eat away at you and your chances of success. Look at other freelancers and think ‘If they can do that, so can I’, and you’ll soon find your state of mind turning round. Don’t go through it alone – if you’re struggling, reach out to other freelancers. Creative networks are generally very tight knit, and you’ll be surprised how much support you can get.