Getting Ahead

Want to become a freelancer? Here's how to make it a success

. 6 min read . Written by Vanshika Goenka
Want to become a freelancer? Here's how to make it a success

Working on your own terms, as a freelancer is a dream many people nurture. While it turns out to be great for some, for others it may just be a struggle.

The success rate, honestly, depends on a lot of factors but most of all its about your personal working routine and how you tackle projects at hand. While we can’t help you with every project, we can certainly acquaint you with some ground rules that will make your freelancing career a success. These are tried and tested methods and, in most cases, work like a charm.

So, if you want to work on your own schedule without a boss and still be able to make money, here’s a handy guide that’ll help you be a successful freelancer.

1. Discpline yourself

There are hundreds of people doing your job for a lesser amount of money and if you lack the discipline to meet your deadline, you will never be able to sustain in the industry. Also, word spreads fast and your clients aren’t going to come back if you don’t adhere to time limits and deadlines. This means, sooner or later you are going to be left with fewer projects and that isn’t going to be good for your bank account, or your rep.

Kool Kanya tip: If you are working from home, it’s a good idea to have a corner to yourself for your work. Having a physical space will help you to focus better.

2. Be ready to work odd hours

The best part about freelancing is that there are no fixed hours. But coincidentally, that’s also the worst part because you may end up working late nights and early mornings and you’ve got to be prepared for that. This happens especially with overseas clients who will want to do video calls during their work hours and probably your sleeping time. But it’s a little sacrifice in the larger scenario so work these into your schedule, but have some boundaries; no calls at 3 AM, please!

Kool Kanya tip: If you are dealing with international clients, try and make sure your working hours fall in line with theirs. That way, you get enough time to do other things during the day, including catching up on your sleep.

3. Stick to deadlines no matter what

Unlike in an office where you can get away with a mere warning from your boss, as a freelancer missed deadlines will lead to far worse circumstances. So unless you are willing to lose clients, money and spoil your rep, make sure you have a focused plan for meeting your deadlines.

Kool Kanya tip: Develop a reward system to motivate yourself. For every deadline you meet, give yourself half an hour of time off in a week.

4. Be on the job, always

Okay, not always, but most of the time, you need to be prompt and available. Of course, you are location independent and have creative freedom but make sure you are also available when needed by your clients. This will count as you being dependable, something that your clients will appreciate. If you are going to be travelling, inform your clients well in advance and make sure they know where to contact you if there’s a work emergency.

Kool Kanya tip: Get yourself a separate work phone, or sync all your work emails on your phone so that you can have a better response time.

5. Always network

When out on your own, it’s important to maintain relationships and network. The one thing I’ve learnt in my career as a freelancer is that most of your business or future prospects come from people who know you and who you know. The best thing is to be proactive and tell people that you are open to taking up work. Spread the word even if it may not help initially, over time it will come in handy.

Kool Kanya tip: Join local freelance groups, and make sure you attend all corporate events held in your city.

6. Ask for an advance and don’t be afraid to say 'no'

Freelancers end up not getting their money because they don’t always have a written contract for their work. Assignments are usually given out with oral confirmations and that can be a major issue especially when working with a new client.  If you are not sure of your client’s credibility, it would be best to ask them for advance payment before you spend time and energy on the project.

Also, if you don’t believe in a particular project, don’t be afraid to say no. In fact, one of the advantages of freelancing is that you can refuse to do what you don’t like or think you can’t do justice to. Say no to projects you think you can’t give your heart and soul to. This way you don’t have to work on things you don’t like and thus, you’ll invariably work hard on everything you like making your productivity a full 100 per cent.

Kool Kanya tip: It’s a good idea to reach out to a few of your trusted fellow freelancers and ask around before you take on a client that you aren’t sure about. Their experience with that particular client may help you make a better decision.

7. Manage your accounts well

Treat yourself like a small business and keep a track of all your expenses. Make note of all the things you are spending on even if it’s just a work-from-home setup. Things like electricity, laptop, courier charges, research time etc. should be accounted for. Make sure that as a freelancer you are still making money and not losing it by spending more than you can afford to.

Kool Kanya tip: Keep aside one day every month for managing your expenses and keeping track of how much money you are putting in for each assignment.

8. Work on yourself

You are your own brand thus it is important for you to work on yourself and market yourself well for the services you offer. This is the best way to get more business. So present yourself well, make a lasting impression and put your best foot forward with work and soon the word will spread. A great way to start is to publicise your work on social media and make business cards if that you can hand out to potential clients.

Kool Kanya tip: Right from Facebook to LinkedIn, make sure you keep your profile updated and add the right people to your circle. Share details about the projects you’ve been a part of. Use social media as a great tool to advertise your work to potential clients.  

9. Keep your eyes and ears open

Make sure you know exactly what projects are up for grabs in the market. It could be anything from a small brand looking for a business development manager or a salon looking for a freelance makeup artist. If it’s in your field of interest then you should know about it and then decide if it’s something you would like to pursue.

Kool Kanya tip: Set Google alerts for the companies you wish to work with so that you get notified each time they post a job requirement. Also, spare some time in a day to browse through social media andjob sites to see what the current requirements are.

10. Keep your competition close

As mentioned earlier, you are not the only freelancer. There are many others out there and if you slip, someone will take up your projects from you. So pay attention to your competition! Try and understand their work structure as well and make sure you offer only the best.

Kool Kanya tip: Sure you don’t want to share your best client’s details with them, but staying in touch with a network of your fellow freelancers will help you stay up to date with what everyone is doing.  

There you go. Here’s wishing you all the luck for your new venture as a freelancer.

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