Many salaried workers dream of independence. This applies especially to young millennials. And for good reasons. The freedom to work from anywhere in the world, choose your own working hours, handpick projects that match your interests, and charge a fair price you actually deserve, trumps any corporate job in the eyes of many.
If you are willing to put in the extra effort, freelancing is your best bet to escape the daily 9-to-5 grind. It can be your gateway to travel the world as a digital nomad or run your own little business as a solopreneur.
However, freelancing is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be self-motivated enough to work through the tough times without a boss to pester you. As you’ll no longer be a salaried employee, you’ll also have to look after the business, marketing, and accounting side of things apart from your actual client work.
In other words, freelancing has a lot of moving parts, but if you concentrate on a few basics, you can surely stay on top of things. Here is a three-point checklist to do just that.
1. Client Acquisition
Arguably the toughest part of freelancing, especially when first starting out, is convincing potential clients that you’re the right person for the job. There are thousands of others with similar qualifications as yours, perhaps willing to work for much less, so you have to go above and beyond with “selling yourself”.
Focus on the following three things to consistently source good clients:
Build and Maintain a Quality Portfolio
First and foremost, build a portfolio website to highlight your strengths, skills, and experience. Keep it simple yet elegant. If like most creative freelancers, you’re not code-savvy, you can use one of the many user-friendly drag-and-drop website building tools such as Wix and Squarespace.
While creating your appealing website, ensure you underline something unique about your services to stand out from your competitors. Your prospective clients should get a clear impression that you will be able to offer a solution which precisely suits their needs.
Create an easy-to-use “Contact” page and make sure to respond promptly to any queries made through the form. Moreover, once you build a great portfolio website, it is just as important to maintain it. For that, consider blogging frequently, updating your work samples, and adding genuine client testimonials. Speaking of clients…
Choose them wisely
In the early stages of your freelancing business, it is pivotal to land the right type of clients. You know, the ones having requirements which exactly match your specialization and interests. Why? Because you want to give your absolute best to satisfy them and turn them into recurring clients. Their perception of your work will serve as a foundation for you to build your freelance business upon.
Network Like a Boss
You may be the best in your niche, but if you are not able to showcase yourself and your work in the best light, it will be difficult to get prospective clients to trust you. So, dedicate a fair amount of time (such as one day a week) to network with other freelancers and potential clients on LinkedIn, Twitter, and over email. Also, you can use tools like Slack to join groups/channels of like-minded freelancers willing to help each other out. For instance, here’s a list of developer-focused Slack channels that’ll help you find your next gig.
Doing all this will help in building a solid reputation and a personal brand, which is extremely important as a freelancer. And don’t forget to personalize your communication and tailor each message to the recipient, otherwise, most of your efforts will end up in the trash.
2. Project and Invoice Management
Once you have a steady flow of projects rolling in, your next challenge will be to manage them efficiently. Juggling multiple projects at once can literally be a headache for most new freelancers.
Prioritizing work according to complexity and deadlines is a must. And so, a Kanban approach to project management is what you need to get things in order. This approach typically involves assigning a “Board” to each project and then bifurcating the board into columns labeled as “To-do”, “In-progress”, and “Completed”. Each column then consists of “Cards”, where each card specifies the tasks needed to be done in order to complete the project.
This so-called Kanban approach is one of the most efficient ways to manage your projects.
Besides, as you further land and complete more and more projects, you’ll want to streamline your invoicing process too. This involves:
- Creating standard, professional looking invoices and estimates to kick off projects on the right foot.
- Tracking and sending reminders to your overdue clients.
- Setting up recurring invoices to automatically get paid on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and managing overdues as well.
- Invoicing clients in their preferred currency and getting paid online faster.
Tools like Nutcache are ideal for freelancers as they allow you to create an unlimited number of professional-looking invoices (see below) the first time out to avoid back and forth with clients so you can get paid faster and spend more time working on the actual projects.
3. Time and Expense Tracking
As a freelancer, you would often encounter projects that are seemingly right up your alley, only to discover hidden complexities at a later stage, and ultimately, end up losing track of time. Plus, you’ll likely be working on multiple tasks/projects at any given instant, which escalates this problem exponentially.
Consistently high levels of productivity and discipline are key to success in your freelancing venture. Furthermore, accurately tracking your billable hours is crucial to avoid working for free! And like many big-time freelancers, you might eventually start to outsource some tasks which aren’t your forte.
Likewise, you need to record and manage your expenses as well in order to know exactly where your money is going.
Ask any freelancer and they’ll assure you there’s more to remote working than sitting on a beach with a Macbook and a piña colada. In fact, maintaining a work-life balance can get quite difficult once you’re immersed in multiple projects. But with the right tools and mindset, meeting client expectations and managing your resources becomes much easier. So, go on and hustle hard!
Great article Pratik, as a freelancer myself I truly relate to this article. I tried a few tools to help me organize my projects before I settle for Nutcache. I find the Kanban approach it offers easy to understand and maintain and makes me more productive. Thanks a lot!
The worst part about freelancing; health insurance. Different every year and seemingly worse while costing more each year.
Hardest part about freelancing; self-discipline. It isn’t a constant. It ebbs and flows and you’ve got to figure out a rhythm that works for you.
Best part about freelancing; controlling your own destiny.
Pratik: Thanks for compiling this list! As a certified networker, I agree that you have to “network as boss”! 🙂 I have to check out Nutcache. I have used FreshBooks in the past.
Yes. It is all about networking. It is about who you know that allows you to help more businesses.