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Get the Most Out of Your Freelancing

Are you considering becoming a freelancer? Or maybe you already are but are not sure about going fulltime or haven’t got the hang of it yet. Here are a variety of tips for getting the most out of your freelancing career.

Naming Your Services

Pick a name. It’s important that you give your business a name, even if it includes your actual name. This sort of branding makes it easier for clients to remember you, and might also differentiate you from other people with the same or similar name. You don’t necessarily have to incorporate; however, you might consider registering a “doing business as” name. Having a business name might also make it easier to get a suitable domain name for your website.

Setting Your Rates

1. Have personal, business and financial goals. Know what you want to get out of your freelancing. Decide on a financial goal for the year. Determine what services and products you need to offer to achieve this.

For example, if you want to earn $120K/ year in 44 weeks (2 months holiday), in just 25 hours week, then you have 1100 work hours per year (220 days). Your effective DPH (Dollars per Hour) will be about $109. Your average daily earning needs to be $120K/220 = $546/day. Now determine what you can offer to accomplish this daily rate on a regular basis.

2. Factor in billable work, admin tasks, and operating expenses. Note that the 25 hrs/wk in the example above is billable time, not working/ admin/ research time. The diagram below gives you a possible breakdown of your work week.

Time breakdown:

  1. Billable hours:
    1. Client work
    2. Client meetings
    3. Client admin
    4. misc
  2. Non-billable hours:
    1. Networking, marketing, promoting.
    2. Wooing new clients. Chatting, talking, emailing.
    3. Client work scoping. Writing proposals, agreeing on work.
    4. Research.
    5. Client work estimates
    6. Admin work, billing/ invoicing, banking, taxes.
    7. Personal tasks
    8. Personal development.
      1. Conferences.
      2. Workshops.
      3. Skills-building
    9. Down time.

3. See what others are doing. What are your colleagues charging for various services? You do not necessarily need to charge more or less to compete, though who you target as a client might have to change as a result. Regardless, it helps to know what market rates currently are.

4. Don’t work for free, or slave wages, just to get your foot in the door. This usually doesn’t work, and many clients won’t respect you.

5. Be flexible. It’s not always a good idea to advertise an hourly rate. By using project rates, a client not only benefits by knowing what they have to spend, it gives you leeway for earning a higher hourly rate if you’re efficient and can complete the work quickly. Note that this does not mean you shouldn’t have your own private hourly rate, to help you base your project quotes on.

6. Pick a rate, any rate.You can earn more by charging less, provided you’re fast. That’s because you potentially increase your client base. On the other hand, going too low might give some clients the impression that your work quality is lower. As well, a lower rate means more projects to manage. A higher rate might reduce your potential client base, but it means less overall project management. Consider a mix of rates, depending on the service you’re offering.

7. Update rates. If you’ve set a rate to base your project quotes on but you are not reaching your target income despite getting work, maybe you’re charging too little. You either need to update your rates from time to time, or learn to work efficiently. A good workflow makes the difference between freelance success and just getting by.

Getting the Clients

Just as you should have multiple clients, you should progress towards covering more than one industry and different types of work:

  1. per article
  2. per project
  3. bid work
  4. books/ ebooks
  5. editing
  6. design
  7. coding
  8. customization
  9. consulting

Being full-service improves your chances of meeting your income goals. You might have to partner or hire other freelancers, but your income will rise.

To find work:

  1. Bidding sites.
  2. Cold calling.
  3. Former employers.
  4. Word of mouth. Colleagues, friends, family might know of potential clients. Facebook and LInkedIn can be very valuable to freelancers, especially if you work to actively build your list of “friends”.
  5. Freelance job boards.
  6. Job search engines.

Managing Your Workload: 7 Simple Rules

Okay, there are probably more than seven “task management” rules, but here are some of the important ones.

  1. Let ideas incubate. Brainstorming helps you to produce some raw ideas, but the best ideas take time to develop properly. Just try to do this within the confines of project deadlines. If you’ve taken the time to allow ideas to develop mentally, you can get to the point where you can produce “sketches” or even finished work quickly.
  2. Have a schedule. This give you a framework to work within, and will not make you feel as if you’re working all hours of the day.
  3. Focus on one project at a time. That does not mean you cannot take a break to think things over and switch to another project. Just be sure that you allot sufficient time to each project before you switch to something else.
  4. Change projects. If you’re “spinning” on a project, try to work on some unrelated project, but apply Rule #1 when you do.
  5. Take a break. This is sometimes far more productive that spending extra time trying to solve a stubborn problem. It allows your mind to rest, and background processes to take over.
  6. Take an average. Don’t measure your success or failure by the earnings of a single day. Freelance work often involves projects that bring in differing rates. It’s good to have a financial goal, as discussed earlier, but gauge yourself on the basis of a daily – both on a weekly basis and on a monthly basis. This is less stressful than worrying that you didn’t meet your daily rate goal today because you needed to do research. Otherwise you might start resenting research then slip into a creative block.
  7. Don’t procrastinate. The key here is to not wait until the last minute. Prep currently active projects and you might find that when you actually get around to focusing on a project, it’ll feel like you’re in the flow.

Other Sources of Income

Diamonds might be forever, but clients are not. Try to build in passive revenue streams whenever you can, to iron out those periods in a given year where client work is ebbing. Not doing so means possibly going through a feast or famine cycle – something that’s commonplace for freelancers, contractors, and agencies in creative niches.

When it comes to online sources of revenue, treat them like an investment that pays interest: the sooner you get started, the sooner the revenue will build rapidly. It’s all exponential, and there are mathematical theories as to why. But it’s actually quite simple: if you rely on a website to generate income, it takes time for other websites to link to you and send you web traffic. All it takes is one to start with, and it builds from there. This is an approach that all freelancers should take now. Treat it as a retirement fund of sorts.

One Comment

  1. Max Pool Says:

    A lot of people freelancing on the side fear charging clients. One trick I have told many people about is the "discount".

    If you are looking to get your foot in the door, you can offer a first time client discount OR have it be results based and offer a discounted rate if the work comes in later than expected. This is a great way to install a sense of trust into the end client.

    Great post.

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