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Freelancing Tips: How To Get Into Freelance

As a freelancer, I’ve developed a few tips that I think could really benefit anyone that wants the flexibility of remote work, and wants to test out the self-employment lifestyle

by Emma Bousfield • Oct. 24, 2023 • 10 min read

Landing a remote job these days is no easy feat. The job market is quite turbulent at the minute. Big tech layoffs seem to happen almost daily, and so the competition for any job, let alone a remote job, is, well, let’s just say, quite high. I recognized this quite early on into my job search, and for a while, I let it really bruise my ego. I’d always found myself a hard worker, probably above average in terms of talent, a go-getter attitude, but for some reason, opportunities just kept falling through. So, feeling the pressure of my not-so-limitless bank account, I decided to try out freelancing.

The decision to become a freelancer came at the same time as my decision to move to Mexico. I found a few odd jobs for social media management and content creation. The sort of jobs that would pay me a couple hundred bucks a month, which wasn’t a lot, but I wasn’t about to start getting picky, and Mexico isn’t that expensive.

As a freelancer, I’ve developed a few tips that I think could really benefit anyone that wants the flexibility of remote work, and wants to test out the self-employment lifestyle. These tips are 100% my own, no AI-generated tips and tricks. And though I encourage every person reading this to consider these tips, I will also add that freelancing is 100% not for everyone.

Be Yourself

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Landing jobs isn’t that much easier as a freelancer than it is when seeking a full-time position. But, my number one tip is to not be afraid to put yourself out there. Like I said, it’s not like as soon as you jump into the freelance world, that the competition vanishes completely. If anything, it’s actually slightly higher. But the benefit to being a freelancer is that clients are often seeking workers a bit more casually. You’re an independent contractor, so they want to make sure you’re a cool person and good at what you do. Rarely will you ever find a potential client that sits you through rounds and rounds of interviews… and if you do, run.

But, let me get back to the point of this tip, which is being yourself. As a freelancer, and someone who has committed themselves to working independently, there’s the personal brand aspect that, depending on how you approach it, could greatly benefit you. Before you start applying for gigs, really consider your values. How do you want your clients to perceive you? How do you want the WORLD to perceive you? For me, I wanted to be entirely, 100%, unapologetically, authentically, myself. And so that’s what I did. I’ve done some crazy things to land freelancing jobs, arguably too much to get some of the jobs I’ve gotten, but I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences I’ve had for the world. Here are a few things you can try:

Video content is king

Send a video application. If it’s a social media role, even better. Record a reel of yourself, or even a few reels with the latest trends, and send that in. There’s no better way to apply for a job than giving yourself the ick!

Apply in-person, if possible

If there’s a local business you’d like to work for, for example, maybe rebranding your favourite little cafe, or shooting some photography for a funky wine bar, actually go in and introduce yourself. Getting in front of clients makes it sort of hard for them to avoid you. It’s really the best way for them to get to know you and most importantly, you’ll stand out - it shows you’re passionate, excited, and committed.

Find alignment in your online presence:

Especially if you intend to freelance in marketing, branding, communications, etc. There’s nothing that screams amateur than when your own online presence is a bit haphazard. And also, make sure that whatever presence you do possess on the internet really shines. Basically, this means that your website, instagram, linkedin, tiktok, behance, you name it, should all be uniquely you.

Use Your Network

My second piece of advice would be to leverage your current network. Most of the clients I’ve worked with, I have found through friends, former colleagues, mentors, family, etc. A potential client is way more likely to give you the time of day if you’re a referral. Let your connections know about your situation and expertise, and tell them to keep you in mind if they come across anyone looking to hire a freelancer. I think most peoples’ instinct is to try Fiverr and Upwork, but I actually think this can be extremely discouraging when starting off… trust me. I tried this and I was overwhelmed by the competition. Hello imposter syndrome! Full disclosure (and I have no shame in admitting this) I’ve never landed a job on Fiverr or Upwork. Mind you, I gave up the search fairly quickly.

Start small.

There will be projects that seem boring or insignificant, but at the start, I encourage you to be open and to take projects of all kinds. You learn valuable lessons from every client, task, and project you receive. It’s also better to build your skills on smaller projects, so that when that golden, dream client comes around, you’re well prepared to tackle it.

Work With Who and What Feels Right

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There’s a very wise man in my life who repeats the following statement to me almost every time I see him: “You gotta know when to hold em, and you gotta know when to fold em.” As a freelancer, these are words to live by. Know when you’ve got a good client, and know when a client is no longer serving you. In the past, I’ve watched my motivation completely plummet on some projects. This could be for a few reasons: it could be that the client and I didn’t see eye to eye, or that we had different working styles. It could be that the industry and/or topic just didn’t resonate with me. Regardless, don’t waste your time or your clients’ time. Kindly exit. Emphasis on kindly. Explain that you think that there may be someone who may be better suited to achieving their goals, and better yet, if you know a fellow freelancer that you can refer who you think would excel in that project, do it.

Know Your Working Style

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This leads me into my next point - know how you work. For example, I thrive in client relationships where I get total autonomy and ownership over the tasks I’m tackling. If it is a social media client, I want to be wholly responsible. If it’s email marketing, let me handle it. Obviously, I still maintain super open communication channels and consult the client on decision making, but overall, knowing that I’m trusted is extremely important to me. I always do month-long trials with clients to see if we jive, and I make it crystal clear that it’s a trial upon signing contracts. This allows them to also assess the situation. I’ve learned that if a client “dumps” me at the end of the month, it’s not personal. It’s because they felt the safety in telling me that we just don’t have the same working style, and it would be more trouble to continue than it would be to acknowledge and move on.

Getting Paid…

Getting paid is probably the most challenging, most mind-numbing, and most stressful part about freelancing. At least, it can be. But here’s my advice, which may differ from someone else you talk to, so take it with a grain of salt: when starting off, don’t be picky. Similar to the way you choose jobs, recognize that some of the smaller jobs will be smaller clients with smaller budgets. You may need to compromise with their payment terms. That will mean, yes, unfortunately, that your income for a little while will be incredibly unstable. However, as you start to build up that portfolio and confidence as a freelancer, you can find your niche and begin establishing rates. You can do this a few ways:

Hourly

If you prefer to bill your client based on the hours you work on their project, cool. You can google hourly averages for the type of work you do and find a rate that fits your experience level.

Make Packages

You can offer services in a package. Maybe you offer a set, one-month, social media management package, and maybe a set, one-month, social media content creation package. The management package will probably be pricier, because you’re responsible for a lot more than just content creation. But this gives your client options to choose from, and to find a package that fits within their budget.

Per Project

If you prefer to price a client for the cost of the project as a whole, as them to come prepared with a full scope to your initial kick-off meeting. After that meeting, be sure to take some time to digest everything they’re asking for. You may need to do a bit of research on what projects like that typically cost. As an added measure, I recommend asking the client to also outline their expectations in written format, in addition to how they communicate it verbally during the meeting. It’ll make quoting a lot easier for you.

Pricing Out-of-scope Tasks

Another thing I will advise you is that it is very common for a client to expand the scope of the project after you sign the contract. it may or may not be intentional, but you have a few ways you can approach it if it happens. You can 1) do the extra work for free, 2) say a hard no to the additional work, or 3) do the extra work but inform your client it will be at an additional cost. If you choose option 3, I would add a section to the contract you sign. Think of this cost similar to overtime, you can charge more, and it may even discourage your client from broaching this altogether.

When it comes to getting paid, I will say this - there is no right or wrong way to approach payment, and it can also vary from client-to-client if you want it to. Figure out what works for you and for your clients, but also be sure to prioritize yourself and your finances at SOME point in your freelancing career. Don’t let clients take advantage of you, know your worth, and make sure you’re getting paid.

Receiving Payment

Finally, when it comes to the point of actually receiving payments, you’ll realize that this stays just as inconsistent as the payment terms… another super annoying part about being a freelancer. Because you’re not technically a full-time employee, you’re not as big of a priority (hate to break it to you). Clients will pay you when it suits them. For me, I’ve gotten super used to it and this isn’t as annoying to me as some other people find it. If you’re someone that requires prompt payments to pay bills, there are some strategies you can deploy, some freelancers I know will actually actually stop doing work for a client until they receive payment. Which, fair. For me, I just sit patiently and wait… poking every week… waiting. But I certainly do not encourage you to do what I do.

Stay Organized

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This last tip is one that I’m still refining and figuring out how to navigate myself, so if you have any tips for me, I’m all ears. But one thing that I think is extremely important as a freelancer is organization. When I started, I very quickly onboarded way too many clients. I was so excited that people wanted to work with me and all I saw were dollar signs, but the overwhelm flooded me almost instantly. Not because the workload was too heavy, but because the time and client management aspect became just short of chaotic. I found keeping track of all the different tasks and asks really difficult, and I also found myself prioritizing certain clients (ones I liked more, or ones that were more demanding) over others. I still struggle with this, but it’s getting better. This is something that I wish someone had flagged to me when I started off on my freelancing journey.

The Wrap-Up

Freelancing is a great career choice for anyone that prefers flexibility and wants to dip their toes into the world of self-employment. Working for a few different people can be extremely rewarding, for me, I finally feel like I serve a purpose. I’m relied upon by people to get stuff done, and powering through a to-do list each day is super satisfying to me. I wouldn’t recommend freelancing to anyone that doesn’t accept feedback well (feedback on your work is not a personal reflection of who you are), or someone that prefers consistency. Freelancing requires you to be agile. Each day is different. If you have a knack for going with the flow, try it out.

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