33 Tips to Become a Successful Freelancer

beautiful young freelancer using laptop on couch

Freelancing is becoming increasingly popular amongst professionals who now realise that by choosing to work for themselves they are not exchanging stability for uncertainty, but embracing the chance to be flexible and set their own terms. Being self-employed certainly comes with its own problems and benefits, but the key is to figure out your limitations and not push yourself too hard.

Below you’ll find 33 tips that will allow you to not only find work and build meaningful relationship with clients but also ensure that your own well-being is being taken care of.

Taking Care of Your Wellbeing

1. Avoid Isolating Yourself

A common problem amongst freelancers is that they tend to isolate themselves. This doesn’t always start out intentionally, but rather is the result of having to work from home without any human interaction and often leads to them being unable to leave their own house.

But, this inevitably leads to depression and a lack of motivation, so it’s important to maintain your social life. Go out to lunch, meet with clients outside your home and find excuses to make the most of your flexibility. Remember that one of the primary reasons many people become freelancers is so that they don’t get trapped in one place all day. Staying at home defeats the whole point.

2. Consider a Coworking Space

As the number of freelancers in major cities is increasing, so too is the number of coworking spaces. This is good news for you, especially if you live in a small apartment or if you're an extrovert who loves being around people.

One of the best things about coworking spaces is that they provide you with all the amenities and services you need to do your work (including a hot desk and access to high-speed internet) without having to worry about the pitfalls of traditional office rental. In other words, they can save you a lot of money in the long run.

3. Make Sure You Take Time Off

Freelancers tend to work a lot, so much in fact, that most of them neglect to take time off even on weekends. But, the brain needs occasional breaks to revitalise and become more creative, so make sure that you schedule some time off every now and then. You don’t have to take two weeks off if that’s going to cost you your rent, but try to take a few days here and there just to do something different.

4. Practise Relaxation Techniques

Stress can get the best of you since having to deal with clients, finding new work and projects and keeping to your deadlines can be exhausting, and this is why you need to find ways to release stress on a daily basis. Consider dedicating an hour every day to the gym or take up yoga. Taking a break from stress can be vital for your sanity.

5. Avoid Burnout

The key to avoiding burnout is not to overwork yourself and this means that you need to set realistic deadlines. Don’t agree to take on too many projects at the same time, and don’t agree to pressing deadlines just because that’s what the client wants. Make sure you give yourself the time needed to perform at your best because that’s the only way clients are going to continue giving you work, while it’s also necessary for your health and wellbeing.

6. Anticipate Mood Swings

It has been proven that freelancers are generally much happier as they are in charge of their own work and are able to set their own rules. But, because their livelihood depends on being able to find projects, when things get rough, or when there’s a lot of work and pressing deadlines, they can quickly become depressed. It’s important to understand that being a freelancer won’t make you happy 24/7.

Maximising Your Potential

7. Plan Your Work Week Ahead

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being your own boss and this is why you need to stay ahead of your responsibilities. Planning your week ahead of time can help you stick to deadlines, but it can also help you achieve the best quality possible for each project. Assign tasks to each day, prioritise and focus on one day at a time to avoid stress and boost performance.

8. Create a Business Plan

A business plan is essential as it can help you identify your goals, set your financial expectations and provide you with a strategy that will help you achieve those. A business plan will also force you to decide how you want to market yourself and make you more determined.

9. Don’t Quit Your Day Job at the Beginning

This can be a double-edged sword as you’ll need to invest all of your energy into getting projects and completing them within deadlines which means that combining work and freelancing might be very difficult, but by being patient you’re ensuring ease of mind since you’ll be able to have a salary while you are building your reputation.

10. Create a Reward System for Yourself

As a freelancer, there will be nobody around to reward you with raises or promotions for your good work, but it’s important to find a system that will allow you to set the bar high and push yourself. Identify what makes you tick and build a reward system for yourself around that.

11. Form Your Own Group

Having allies is extremely important in the freelancing world as they can recommend you and expand your clientele. So, if for example you’re a web designer, you can band together with developers, digital marketing managers etc. to offer a complete package of services to clients. This way you’ll be able to guide your clients and help them meet their needs, while your freelancer friends will also send you their clients.

Finding Work

12. Get in Touch with Old Clients

One of the biggest problems freelancers are faced with is that there isn’t enough projects available. They generally need to work hard to find each project and there are times when finding a project is impossible. During these times, it’s a good idea to contact old clients to see if they need any services.

13. Contact Clients with a Plan

A great idea to find work when things are difficult is to come up with a plan or an idea and present it to the client. Make sure that your idea is tailored to the specific client you are presenting it to and that it can help them achieve their goals.

14. Network

As a freelancer networking is even more crucial because your ability to meet and connect with clients and other professionals can help you find new projects. Have your elevator pitch ready so that you can quickly explain what you do and make sure that people associate you with professionalism.

15. Follow Up with Connections

Good networking skills mean that you also try to build meaningful connections with each person you meet. You never know when someone you met could come in handy so try to follow up with everyone you meet. Send them a link to your website, discuss what you do and help them associate you with your trade.

16. Work on Your Own Projects

When the going gets rough and there’s no work available try to focus on working on your own projects. Maybe you’ve been meaning to update your website for example, or maybe you’d like to do an exhibition of your artwork. If you’re a writer maybe you want to take advantage of this time to write a book. Bear in mind that whatever you choose to do will help you build up your reputation and in the long-run, it will allow you to get more clients.

17. Cold Call/Email

Not everyone is comfortable picking up the phone or sending an email to a stranger and asking for a job, but you’d be surprised at how well this method works. Even if they don’t have work for you at the moment, most companies will keep your contact details and get in touch with you when they do have work available for you.

18. Don’t Limit Yourself to Your Area

As a freelancer you can take on projects far from home as well as abroad, so why not look into websites for freelancers in other cities and countries as well. Even if you don’t speak the language, they still might be able to use your skills, and you really have nothing to lose by contacting companies abroad.

19. Build Connections with the Local Community

Most freelancers rely on the internet or their professional connections to help them get work, but you’d be surprised at how much your local community can help you as well. Speak to people, let them know what you do and leave a business card with them in case they should ever need your services.

20. Invest in Paid Ads

Although investing in connections you make in person is wise, it’s also important to put some effort into increasing your online visibility, and this is exactly what paid ads can help you achieve. Use Goodle Adwords and Facebook Ads to drive more traffic to your website and you’ll be start to turn out projects soon.

21. Make a List of all the Companies in Your Sector

Think of these companies as potential customers and identify strategies to woo them. Presenting something unique and tailored to them will help you get a head start, while you’ll also be able to find work much more easily after you’ve collaborated with some of these companies and gained a good reputation.

22. Join Freelance Websites

Although you shouldn’t rely on these websites, it’s worth noting that a big portion of your work will come from them. To boost your prospects make sure you join freelancing websites such as Flexjobs, Freelancer and Upwork to find more opportunities that are specific to you.

Branding Yourself

23. Build a Website

Arguably, building a website could be the key to being able to succeed as a freelancer or not. A professional-looking website will make it easier for people to trust you and understand more about your work and its quality. Make sure that your website doubles as your work portfolio so that people can also see samples of your work.

24. Set Up Accounts on Social Media Platforms

To make yourself accessible to clients, you are going to need to set up accounts across all social media platforms. It’s important for your social media presence to be strong, commanding and engaging. Make sure that you participate in various industry-related groups and that you are showcasing your expertise.

25. Build an Impressive Portfolio

Although your portfolio will most likely be a section of your website, it’s important to note that it’s perhaps the most important aspect of finding work as a freelancer. Just like you want to see pictures of a hotel and read reviews from people who’ve already stayed there, hiring a freelancer is not a decision most people make easily so help them decide by showing a well-structured and impressive portfolio.

26. Ask for Testimonials

Make sure that each time you complete a project and the client is satisfied, you ask for a testimonial. Ask each client to provide a targeted testimonial (eg. Timely, excellent quality etc.) and add them to your website. Future clients will find it much easier to trust you knowing that someone who’s worked with you is happy with the results.

27. Give Gifts to Your Online Visitors

The key to finding more clients online is to increase your visibility and what better way to drive more people to your website than offering free stuff. Depending on what you do it varies on what you can offer, so if for example you are an architect you can offer some floor plans. If you are a graphic designer consider adding a few templates for business cards that people can take. If there isn’t much you can offer for free then give new clients a discount.

Working with Clients

28. Prepare a Contract

Having a contract with each and every one of your clients is wise because it helps both parties better understand the expectations and terms of the collaboration. Make sure that each contract you and your clients sign is detailed (eg. How many times the client can make changes etc.) and that it includes all aspects of the collaboration, including compensation and time-frames.

29. Vet New Clients

Freelance work often means having to work for customers that are terrible. Some will try to be very micromanaging, while others will flat out refuse to pay, so rather than going in blind and hoping for the best, make sure you vet new clients. Talk with other freelancers and find out more about how they treat their partners.

30. Invest in Regular Communication

No matter how much you trust your skills, it’s important to make sure that your work aligns with your client’s vision so make a point of keeping an open line of communication with them. Send them drafts and ask for details about how they want things done. This will go a long way to avoid misunderstandings in the long run and it will help you build a more meaningful relationship with the client.

31. Let Clients Go If You’re Not Happy with Them

There’s really no point in wasting your time with clients who make more trouble than they are worth. If you find that a client is impossible to work with and that they are making your life a living hell, don’t be afraid to let them go. To become a successful freelancer you’re going to need to build up your reputation and you simply can’t do that with clients that are impossible to work with.

32. Be Assertive with New Clients

It goes without saying that you should strive to create a positive impression to new clients, but at the same time you should also be assertive as a self-confident professional is much more trusted. Not only will clients be more willing to entrust you with their project, but they’ll also be more willing to give you the space you need to create.

33. Know Your Value

It’s a common theme in the freelancing world for people to ask for less than what they are worth. This is especially common amongst younger professionals who feel that the only way to make up for their lack of experience is by asking for less. Although, it’s true that you should be offering slightly reduced prices at the beginning that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be compensating yourself for your work. Would you work for an employer who was offering significantly less than the industry standard? No, right? So why would you turn yourself into that employer. This article will help you identify strategies to present pricing to clients successfully.

These freelancing tips can help you create a more positive experience. Keep in mind that the key to becoming a successful freelancer is respecting yourself and understanding your own limitations.

Do you think you could be your own boss? Let me know in the comment section below.