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freelancers

Freelancing – all cupcakes and rainbows?

Sarah Beldon Blog

Today is National Freelancers Day 2019, so we’d thought we’d speak a little about how to address some of the challenges you may face as a freelancer and provide you with some top tips.

It’s not breaking news that the trend of freelancing and remote working is increasing. In the UK, the Professional Contracts Group estimates that there are 1.4 million British freelancers working across all sectors which is worth £21 billion to the UK economy in added value. An astonishing 78% of the UK public think that freelancing and flexible working helps to promote a good work/life balance not to mention the positive effects on family life.

The pros and cons of freelancing

There’s no doubt that freelancing is a highly attractive option for workers, yet it can be faced with particular challenges. Yes, the flexibility, global working opportunities and limitless earning potential are attractive. As well as the ability to choose your own assignments, take regular breaks and be your own boss.

However, freelancing can come with some periods of drought and can take huge amounts of discipline and motivation. It’s not always easy to attract and retain clients – it’s hard work. Not to mention, you’re running your own show which means you need to do all your own marketing and take responsibility for all your financing and tax.

Freelancing can be flexible, but can also mean staying up late if you’re working across global clients. Not to mention some clients who undervalue your skills and offer you low money for a lot of work! It can be a little disheartening, to say the least!

12 Top Tips for freelancers

Despite the challenges, freelancing can be fantastic when you’ve achieved a lot from your hard work and it has great earning potential if you do it right. Here are our top tips for all you freelancers out there!

1. Choose the right time

It’s important to find the right time to go freelance: Maybe you work alongside a full-time or part-time job as you build up your client base or you plan projects in advance. Either way, it’s important to get some work lined up before you freelance full-time. Work may be slow when you start out, so it may be worth having some savings to tie you over if business gets a little dry.

What’s also important is to have a strong understanding of your target market and your own skill set so that you’re clear on what you’re selling. Establish what your key proposition is so you can identify the demand, find the right customers and plan accordingly.

You can always be flexible and change your proposition along the way as you grow your business. It doesn’t have to be set in stone.

2. Set your prices right

Depending on where you’re entering the market – entry level or highly skilled professional – it’s always best to put in your research to determine what you should be charging for your work. It may be, depending on the industry, that it’s easier to work on an hourly or daily rate, yet some freelancers like to work on a project-based rate instead.

Measure up your skills and talk to other freelancers in your industry to find out what works for them. There are plenty of forums around online to tap into. Then, you can find a solution that works for you. When you’re first starting out, it can be hard not to undervalue yourself, but if you set the bar too low you could be taken advantage of. Get the price right.

Picky clients may want evidence of the work you do, so it’s important it stacks up. It’s also important to form agreements prior to starting any work so you’re not bombarded with extra work hunting for evidence.

3. Blow your own trumpet

It’s not always an easy task to tell people how great you are, but when it comes to pitching you need to show off a little bit. Namedrop clients you’ve worked with, demonstrate projects you’re proud of and tell them about what you can do. If you do, clients are more likely to take you seriously.

It’s also beneficial in some circumstances to tell them about yourself too. It can be perceived as being more personable which clients often appreciate. It may also be beneficial to write a blog about your experiences, share good news and feedback to keep customers engaged with the work you do and your journey.

4. Ask for feedback

For every client, particularly when you’re starting out, ask for feedback. Good feedback can provide you with a platform to obtain new customers, and any negative feedback can be used as constructive criticism. It can help you to identify areas where you need to work on but also showcase your strengths.

It may be a slow burner but getting real feedback can be a great tool for gaining new business. Asking customers to write testimonials too or working with them on a case study can really help your portfolio.

5. Get your presence out there

It’s important that you have an online presence to help back up your pitch. Make sure you’re on social media, Google maps and create a website for yourself if you can. It can help, not only to increase online growth of your business but also can look more professional when you’re meeting clients or networking.

You may want to get some business cards printed too and set up a business email and phone so people can contact you. These tools can also help you with tracking your progress. You can see which avenues you are getting more business from; what works for you as well as monitor time spent on activities and any site traffic you’re receiving and from where.

It may also be worth looking at direct marketing or working on LinkedIn or accessing job boards for access to new clients.

6. Make your work foolproof

If you’ve got yourself a new client, then it’s really important to thoroughly check any work you do before sending it over. Spellcheck/grammar check any proposals, presentations, copy, blogs, articles, etc. before you get them sent to your clients. Make sure uploads and images are the right sizes and of high quality.

If you need to, get a second opinion of someone to glance an eye over work before you hit submit. It’s important to follow briefs correctly and conduct research too so that your facts are correct and you’re meeting the requirements of your client.

It doesn’t only make you look professional but also helps you to retain business too.

7. Be picky about the jobs you apply for

When starting out in the freelance business, it can be too tempting to simply go for any jobs that come your way. However, choosing clients specifically can actually help you gain more traction.

Clients with more detailed descriptions of their requirements can allow you to pitch better. It’s also important to ask questions and make sure you’re responding to their needs in the right way. It gives you a higher probability of getting the job.

Equally, don’t be afraid to say no to jobs you feel don’t match your strengths or knowledge. In addition to this, if they don’t have a budget – don’t write a proposal. You may spend wasted time writing a proposal they can’t afford. Ask them – what’s your budget? My packages are…does that work for you? Find out the nitty-gritty so that you can decide if it’s worth your time.

8. Sort your finances

When you’re working as a freelancer it may seem like you don’t have enough time to get all your work done as well as organise your finances. However, it’s really important to be organised so that you can prepare for tax and national insurance contributions.

It is recommended that you save between 20-30% of what you earn so that you can comfortably pay your tax (especially if you’re still paying back university fees as that will come out too). The earlier you are able to conduct your tax return, the more prepared you can be for the bill that may come through in January.

You can also claim back on some of your expenses, so it’s well worth keeping track of what you’re spending for work purposes. There is plenty of information online to get help on tax payments, allowable expenses and time frames. Equally, you can invest in a financial app, such as Quick Books, that can help you get organised easily. Keep all your information organised and to hand so that it is an easy process for you.

9. Get yourself the right kit

Working from home or remotely can seem really attractive, but if you’re not connected up with the right kit you may face some difficulties. Both your home set up and any ‘on the road’ set up should allow you to conduct business easily and communicate with clients.

There are some great solutions with tech these days that allow you to work remotely using your mobile, tablet or laptop. In addition to this, cloud technology helps you connect your devices without needing a direct broadband line. It also means you can access your files via the internet wherever you are e.g. when meeting a client for coffee.

10. Remain vigilant about dodgy clients

It’s really important to get information about your clients before starting a job for them. It’s too common you hear freelancers fall into the trap of conducting work and sending it but then not receiving payment.

If you are able to, third party freelancing sites can help you get clients that are verified. However, these often come with a subscription fee or take a percentage out of your earnings. If you don’t choose to go down this route, put some research into who your client is.

In addition to this, when agreeing to take on work make sure you both agree on what you earn and get things in writing, so you have evidence. If you can, credit check clients or agree to receive a deposit upfront. It may also worth writing contracts and putting them in place to avoid risk, which requires getting full contact details of your client too in case a claim needs to be made.

11. Set realistic expectations

As a freelancer, you’ll get better at managing your time and budget as you grow. Having said that, it’s always important to be realistic and upfront in terms of expectations as well as to yourself.

If clients come to you with unreasonable time frames, be honest about it. Let them know what you can do within the expected time frame and come to an agreement or either compromise. Setting up important project milestones can also help keep customers informed along the way, but it also helps you to schedule your work effectively.

It’s important to come up with a plan that both parties are comfortable moving forward with, to avoid any issues further down the road.

12. Prepare for ups and downs

When you work for yourself, the ups can be rewarding and provide a great sense of achievement but equally, the downs can be really tough. As a freelancer, you need to be resilient and keep believing in yourself. There may be periods where you have meetings with loads of potential clients, but not get a single sale. Yet, other times where you get great feedback and repeat business.

Freelancing can be unstable, but it also comes with a huge amount of benefits. Try to stay positive and keep up with motivating yourself by doing things you love when you can be flexible – that’s the beauty of going freelance, right?

More importantly, don’t be ashamed if freelancing isn’t right for you at this time. It’s important to find what’s best for you and going back to a ‘regular’ job may be what’s best right now. There’s always an opportunity to go freelance in the future or even stick with it as a side hustle.

Freelancing isn’t always easy, but if you work hard, take some advice and follow these tips, it may just work for you.