Successful freelancers can manage themselves as they would a group of employees. Here are five habits of successful freelancers that can help you get a strong start to your freelancing career.
As a freelancer, there is no supervisor, CEO or secretary helping to keep your tax documents, deadlines, project specifications, leads, bill payments and other business needs in order. It’s all on you. Having everything you need accessible to you within a matter of minutes helps you spend more time working and making money, and less time looking for things that you misplaced. Digital calendars and day planners can help with scheduling, while external hard drives and cloud storage can help with organizing documents.
Happy customers may leave online reviews and refer friends and colleagues to you. But that doesn’t mean you get to slack off in the promotion department. You still need to have a consistent, clear marketing strategy and attempt to let as many people know you exist as possible. This means — at a minimum — going to trade shows and professional conferences, creating and managing social media profiles, and having a website. Using these platforms, you should strive to regularly engage with your target market with giveaways, tutorials, contests and useful information that shows off your expertise.
No one is perfect. This means that, no matter how careful you are, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong and a customer could be left dissatisfied with their experience with you. When this happens, don’t hesitate to apologize for what you did wrong, do what you can to make it up to the customer in the moment, and then do what you can to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in the future.
The last thing any freelancer needs is to build a reputation for not being able to handle the same issue repeatedly (for example, missing deadlines on multiple projects with various customers). Do your best to ensure that the first time you make a particular mistake is the last time, too. Adapt by focusing on ways to strengthen your weaknesses, or at least compensate for them (e.g., hiring a graphic artist if you struggle with concept art).
Before accepting any job, it is essential that you communicate with your client what each of your expectations are. Everything from how and when you’ll be receiving payment to how long after project completion you’ll be available for consultation should be fleshed out before you begin work.
You could lose money or damage your reputation if you get into a disagreement with a client just because you were unclear about what your role would be for a project. Many freelancers have a niche set of skills and, in their standard work contracts, they explicitly outline what services will not be provided if they are hired by someone.
Not every freelancer makes millions of dollars a year working one day each week. It’s helpful for you to understand that being a freelancer means being diligent, focused and responsible. And while you may still have to be “at work” 40 hours each week, the perks are that you get to do something you love, make what your work is really worth (no taxes and other fees removed from your compensation) and you get to mold those 40 hours around your schedule so that you can live a happy, balanced lifestyle.
While you may build up a reputation that eventually allows you to work less and make more, expecting this early in your tenure as a freelancer will merely lead to frustration.
Keeping these habits in mind, you can step into the world of freelancing fully prepared to be a standout candidate for any project.