Dos and Don’ts of Freelancing: 20 Tips for Freelancers New and Old
Whether you are a brand spankin’ new freelancer, or a veteran with years under your belt, there are certain dos and don’ts of the business that everyone needs to learn at some point. We’ve put together this big list of tips for freelancers based on our years of experience, both working as individual freelancers and running a freelance marketplace.
Some are serious, and some are down right funny. But they’ve all got a hint of truth to them that you can use to find more success, more profit, and more fulfillment in what you love to do.
20 Tips for Freelancers
#1 DO get a contract. Almost every freelancer who has been in the biz for a while has a sad story of the client who didn’t pay. Whether they were dissatisfied with the work or running a scam from the get go, the end result is a freelancer who was left empty-handed. Protect yourself with a contract. Or, even better, use a trusted platform like Legiit that keeps your money in escrow so that as long as you do the work you promised, you are guaranteed payment.
#2 DON’T trust clients who want to work outside your platform. If you are working on Legiit or a similar marketplace, never work for a client who asks if you’ll take payment through some other channel. This has SCAM written all over it, and many a freelancer have lost time and money falling for it.
#3 DO know your value. Understand how much your services are worth compared to others in your industry of similar skill level and charge accordingly.
#4 DON’T work for experience or exposure. One of the biggest insults a client can make, especially for creative freelancers, is to ask them to work for exposure instead of money. Here’s a hint: if the client has a big enough following to give you good exposure, then they would also have the budget to pay you.
#5 DO set a minimum charge for your services. Sometimes clients want really small jobs done that aren’t worth it for you. Figure out the minimum amount you will charge despite the size of the job.
#6 DON’T take any job that comes your way. Beginning freelancers have a tendency to take every job offer. Eventually, though, it is okay to turn clients away for good reasons. Maybe you are just overbooked or maybe you really aren’t engaged in the work they are offering.
#7 DO choose your clients wisely. Be wary of clients who are demand more than your contract promises, or those who just don’t respect your time and talent.
#8 DON’T be afraid to fire a client. It is okay to part ways with a client. If they are a constant source of stress or anxiety for you, they probably aren’t worth the money. Work on forming long term relationships with respectful clients who value you as a person and a professional.
#9 DO keep track of your finances. Know how much you are earning and spending. In fact, set a date with yourself once a month to track your finances. Trust us, it will make things so much easier when tax season comes around.
#10 DON’T assume that you are succeeding. By keeping track of your finances, you can actually verify whether or not your business is growing at the rate you want it to. If you just assume that you’re turning a good profit, you might not notice that you are actually working for minimum wage when your time is worth so much more.
#11 DO remember to eat every now and then. Okay, sometimes we get really engaged in our work. But remember that life beckons to be lived. So eat, sleep, take care of your family, or do whatever else you need to do to keep life going.
#12 DON’T forget to have fun. While your at it, remember to plan in some time for leisure. You’re earning all that money for a reason, after all. Treat yourself to a night out every once and a while, or do whatever it is that you do to unwind, relax, recharge, and have fun.
#13 DO communicate clearly with your clients. Poor communication is one of the biggest killers of repeat business. Learn how to communicate with your clients so that they are happy to work with you again and again.
#14 DON’T respond to messages at 3 in the morning. Or do… if that’s your normal working time. But the point is that you should set reasonable limits on your communication. They are your client, after all, not your boss.
#15 DO follow up with questions about an order. It’s okay if you need to ask a client to clarify their request. They want you to do a good job as much as you do, so any reasonable client won’t be put off by questions that you need answered to do your job right.
#16 DON’T assume that you know what the client wants. Trust us. Clients are much more annoyed when they don’t get what they were expecting than when you ask for clarity.
#17 DO establish a reasonable schedule that works for you. Setting a schedule for your freelance work (and everyday life) will help you build the discipline that you need to perform at top efficiency day in and day out.
#18 DON’T fly from the seat of your pants day after day. On the other hand, if you never know what your day is going to look like until it’s happening, you will quickly burn out your energy, motivation, and willpower to push forward. Surprises can be a big source of stress, so establish a schedule that limits the number of surprises in your freelance work.
#19 DO take steps to market yourself and your services. Whether you want to admit it or not, marketing yourself is an integral part of being a freelancer. Network, promote your services, pass out business cards, or do whatever it takes to get yourself in front of potential clients.
#20 DON’T feel like you are entitled to clients. No one owes you business. It’s your job to earn it. Approaching freelancing with a sense of entitlement is just about the quickest way to ensure your failure.