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8 Tips to Help You Make It Through Your First Year as a Freelancer
Being your own boss sounds like a dream come true, but getting there is not easy. It takes some time to establish your brand and get regular clients. Until then, you're in for a wild and unpredictable ride. Sure, your nine-to-five may be boring, but you need to ask yourself if you're truly ready to give up your steady income for a life of uncertainty, at least for a while.
Of course, being a freelancer can be extremely rewarding and lucrative, but the trick is to make it through the initial year and come out a winner.
Here's how to do that.
Choose a specific niche
While it may be tempting to dabble a bit in everything, this is a terrible idea. It may seem like an excellent plan for attracting as many clients as possible initially, but it can have a counter-effect.
Clients are well aware of that old adage — jack of all trades, master of none. No one can be great at everything.
If you want to stand out, it's best to choose a specific niche and work on perfecting your skills there. People are much more likely to choose a professional in a specific field for the job.
Make a business plan
Soon, you'll be a one-person business, and it's essential to have a business plan. You may not know which course you'll take in the following year, but having at least a rough sketch of a plan can be useful. It will give you something to measure your progress against.
You need to define your main goals so that you don't end up all over the place. This will help you set a working framework and decide which offers to take and which to turn down. That way, you'll be working on establishing your brand and what you do with every client order.
- Promote your work on various platforms
The hardest part when starting your freelancing career is getting your name out there. That's why you should take advantage of the power of social media.
Make sure to have business accounts on all the relevant platforms, especially LinkedIn. This professional networking platform can get you more clients than any other.
However, before you start promoting your services on social media, you need to have a core website or online portfolio. Creating a website is not as hard as you may think, and there are numerous portfolio builders online, especially for those who focus on writing, which can be used to help you establish your online presence.
Be meticulous when creating these as they will act as your business card.
Be smart about your cost and rates
How do you value your freelance work? It's a tricky question, but it's your call. However, you have to be extremely careful when setting up the costs of your work when you're just starting. There are many things to think about here.
- Should your rates be fixed or vary from project to project?
- Should you go lower than the competition at the beginning?
The best piece of advice we can give you is — balance it out. Scour the market to find the average prices and don't go too low or too high. Think about the time and energy you'll need to invest in each project and adjust your costs accordingly.
Make a schedule and stick to it
If you're not used to working flexible hours, you may find it challenging to be productive. It's so easy to procrastinate when you don't have to show up at work at the same time every day. Sleeping a bit longer, taking another break, and even leaving all the work for tomorrow are only some ways to fail.
Others have the opposite problem — with no fixed hours, they'll work all day every day, which is a surefire way to experience burnout before you've even started properly.
So even though you don't need to have a schedule, it's best if you create one. It will help you establish a routine and stick to it. That way, you'll stay productive and motivated.
Collect client testimonials
A happy client speaks louder than your whole portfolio. As many as 93% of people have decided on a purchase based on online reviews. That's why client references are invaluable, especially when you're just starting out as a freelancer.
So whenever you finish a successful project, ask the client for a testimonial. Don't be shy — if they're satisfied with your work; they'll be happy to sing your praises.
Testimonials are the most potent aphrodisiac for new clients. Why would anyone risk working with someone with no references whatsoever when they can rely on other people's experiences?
Cut back on your expenses
Now's the right time to become extra frugal. Becoming a freelancer means not knowing how much you'll earn each month. There's a lot of uncertainty in the job, and you may suffer long periods of stagnation before you get a lucrative project.
What's more, you may even spend weeks on a project only to be stood up or scammed by a client. Of course, this may sound scary, but in time, you'll learn how to recognise the signs that you should skip the offer. So make sure you save wherever you can and cut all the unnecessary costs for the time being. For example, maybe it's time to cancel all the forgotten subscriptions that are draining your wallet.
Have a dedicated workspace
It can be so tempting to roll to the side of the bed in the morning, reach for your laptop, and work from the comfort of your sheets. However, this is extremely unhealthy as it eliminates the boundaries between your private life and work.
Your bed should be your sanctuary and a place of relaxation. If you introduce work to your resting spaces, you'll ruin them forever and never feel like you're not at work.
Having a dedicated workstation will eliminate this problem, and it will also allow you to focus when you're at work. It's a great idea to invest in an ergonomic chair and other furniture that will keep your health and posture in check while you're working.
About the author
Michael has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a vast range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael's work at Qeedle.
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