Earning a living as a freelancer is completely different than holding down a steady job. You are your own boss, you are responsible for your own income and how your “business” will grow in the future. If you’re at the beginning of your freelance career, the most important thing is to get good advice that can help you get better, fast.
Quality, not Quantity
Always, always, always put quality first. You might be of the mindset that the more work you do, the more income you will generate. And that may be true in some cases, but it’s no way to build a proper portfolio and gain trust among your clients. If your work is sloppy and low-quality, people will be hesitant to hire you again and re-hiring is your best opportunity to earn a solid long-term income. Be honest about your capabilities and give your best, and the client will definitely appreciate it.
The word “contract” is a bit scary-sounding, but in reality, a contract is something that is beneficial to both you and the client. Put simply, it’s a list of short, simple agreements that serve to benefit both yourself and your client for the entirety of your business deal. This includes your payment terms, your guarantee that all your work is original and not plagiarized, any mutually agreeable confidentiality terms and so on. It’s just an official document that serves to enforce these terms so that you both feel certain the other person isn’t trying to cheat you in any way.
Create a Working Environment
Working from home is a tempting concept, but it isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Most people aren’t as productive when they work from the same room that they sleep in. There are a lot of distractions, and you don’t really “feel” like you’re at work.
But you don’t have to rent an office in order to be more productive. Just get dressed, pack your laptop and head to your local coffee shop. You’ll be surprised by what a different mindset you’ll be in simply by changing your environment.
If you have the means to do so, transforming one of your rooms into an office space is also a possibility. This should be a room for work and nothing except work so that the minute you walk in you’re fired up to get things done, and not think about anything else.
Keeping track of your income and potential expenses is essential when you want to be a productive freelancer. Calculate the balance between all your incoming expenses and due client payments in advance, and you’ll get a better idea of how much you can earn every month (or how much you need to earn).
One of the downsides of being a freelancer is that cash flow isn’t always steady – it depends on how much work you’re able to perform. This can also be one of its biggest strengths if you’re good at finding work because you can potentially earn a lot more than a steady job could offer you.
Find Time to Exercise
It’s been proven that regular exercise stimulates brain activity and creativity, so you should find at least fifteen minutes to get the blood flowing every single day. You don’t have to deadlift two hundred pounds or run a marathon, though. Just some simple bodyweight exercises or a quick jog every day is enough to keep the mind sharp.
The keyword here is “every day”. If you’re consistent with your workouts and make a habit out of them, you’ll quickly realize how sluggish you are when you don’t exercise and will be far less likely to skip a workout.
Flat Rates or Hourly?
A dilemma that many freelancers run into is whether they should charge flat rates (a certain amount of money per project), or charge on an hourly basis. In my opinion, hourly rates are a superior system simply because you might not know how much time or resources it is going to take you to finish the job. If you decide to go with hourly rates, you'll need to keep track of your hours so you can report it to your clients later. There's lots of time tracking software out there you can use to coordinate your hours.
It’s always better to give clients a good surprise than a bad one, and you should keep that in mind when the client asks you when the job is going to be done. A lot of new freelancers are tempted to give themselves challenging deadlines to impress the client, but practice has shown that this is a bad idea. Always give yourself some leverage room, and try to hand the work in as early as possible. This shows character and professionalism and is much more likely to get you hired again in the future.
This is something that many freelancers are hesitant to do, but it is absolutely essential if you want to avoid scammers. Whatever work a client asks you to do, even if it’s just a “demo”, always ask for 50% in advance. Tell the client that if they’re not satisfied with your work, you’ll be more than happy to give them a full refund, but ask for 50% every time.
More and more people are successfully earning a living by doing freelance work on the Internet. As long as you heed their advice and learn from their mistakes, nothing can stop you from doing the same. Make your deadlines reasonable, and always aim to deliver a quality product. Find time to exercise and do your finances on a regular basis, and never work without a contract. As a freelancer you have to be the employee and the boss at the same time, so a little discipline and consistency go a long way.