Shortcuts for freelancers

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Shortcuts — who doesn’t love to take one? Why waste months on painstaking work when you can learn something in minutes without breaking a sweat?

That is why we’ve brought in the top experts to talk about getting started, pricing, financial stability, productivity, and the future of freelancing.

3, 2, 1, let’s go!

  • Getting started:
Freelancing is very rarely steady-state. There’s very rarely an “average” workload, or an “average” client for that matter. Everything is different with every project. — Crawford Ifland

When you first start freelancing, you’ll have to take care of a lot of things, many of which you’ll probably have no idea you’re doing until you do it. From writing contracts to solving problems, from communicating properly to managing your time, the best knowledge is learned by diving in head first. Seeking the help of a mentor, however, is an option that should not be overlooked. A co-working space can be a great place to start if you want to find a mentor.

  • Setting your price:
My price was 100X more but it was still me (granted with a few team members now). The product certainly wasn’t 100X better but the positioning, the offer, the proposal, the value proposition certainly was. — Liam Veitch

Although you won’t notice any patterns initially, after taking on clients you should start asking yourself, “What is the value I’ve provided?” Freelancers need to place more focus on the unique value they can bring to their customers. Your job is to carve out a niche and set your price accordingly. Don’t just be a marketer, designer, developer, or life coach; name your audience, specialty, target, values, etc. and stand behind them. Consider yourself a living, breathing business rather than just a freelancer.

Perception is very important when it comes to pricing. When a client sees two prices, one high and one low, they’re looking for a reason for that difference, so lead with that. Why are you different? How will you impact their life? What is the goal they’re aiming for, and how can you help them reach it? With enough justification, pricing can become a trivial matter, though you should take care not to charge more than your clients can pay.

Moreover, ask yourself if you want your price to be negotiable. Some freelances prefer a set price, but if you would like to be a little more flexible, be sure to learn the basics of negotiation first. If you’re too aggressive, you won’t get very far.

Don’t be too aggressive when you negotiate. Leonardo DiCaprio in the Wolf of Wallstreet
  • Financial stability:
Show that you’re valuable long term by creating case studies of past projects that have been successful because you’ve been additive to the team long-term. — Chelsea Rustrum

Financial stability is a real concern for freelancers, but the easiest way to ensure your own is by working for longer periods of time with the same clients and building business relationships with them. You should be the first person they think about when they have a particular job. By investing yourself in a client’s business and being clear that you are their partner — not a laborer — you can build a sense of collaboration that’ll ensure repeat business. If you do great work and are genuinely interested in your client’s success, they will keep coming back to you. Make them look good, communicate graciously, and look for additional services you can offer to take work off their plate (for a charge). Remember, you can bill more hours if you don’t have to look for new clients.

  • Increase your productivity:
Know your workflow inside and out. Practice until it is second nature. — Emily Leach

Want to get more accomplished in less time? Start by making sure you define the deliverables in each contract as failure to do so will eventually come back to bite you down the line. Next, get to know your workflow inside and out, and mark the required time in your calendar. Living off a calendar may take some getting used to, but it will prevent you from losing time to context switching throughout your day. Once you adjust, you’ll be able to manage the process faster and know which duties can be handed off in order to open up more time for you. Furthermore, this will help you to embrace time constraints. A lot of freelancers push themselves to work through the night and weekends, but research has proven that work quality diminishes after a certain number of hours. If you find this difficult, try joining a mastermind group which will help you stay accountable.

Automation is another good way to save time. Find areas of your workflow that can be automated, such as using a program to send an email whenever an invoice is paid. Let a system take care of the pieces that do not require you yet still need a personal touch.

Lastly, take care of your full self. Not going into work every day leaves a major social gap that can be filled by doing the things you love. Make a list of the things you don’t want to give up and take time to enjoy them.

  • Additional shortcuts:
We’re all looking for the same thing, financial predictability and professional freedom. You won’t get that from Upwork or Fiverr. — Liam Veitch

After freelancing for a while, you’ll start to notice patterns and want to create some personal rules based around them. For example, some of Ryan’s personal rules for freelancing are:

- Don’t work after 5 pm or on Saturdays.

- Reuse everything. If I do work for a client, I always want to ensure that the work could be used for a case study or referral in the future.

- Set clear expectations with a contract or email that serves as a contract.

- Relationships and helping people > cutthroat environments and burning bridges.

- Try out everything before delegating. I did the accounting/bookkeeping for my business for half a year before delegating it to someone else because I wanted to be sure I understood the fundamentals involved in the process.

Have clear rules and communicate them with your clients Source: Mad Men
  • On the future of freelancing:
More of the workforce will consist of freelancers. This won’t be a problem for existing freelancers as more businesses will also be receptive to hiring freelancers. — Ryan Castillo

If you aren’t consistently improving and evolving the stability of your business, you’ll be stuck in an hourly rate hamster wheel, working hard but staying perfectly still. This will become more prevalent in the coming years since automation will change the type of available and sought after gigs. For example, it will become easier for the average person to create a website, leading to less of a need for a freelance builder.

In the next few years, people will increasingly work remotely and on contract. We already see this trend happening with the on-demand economy, but we’ll soon see it hit more industries and large companies. Many needs are short-term and require the focus of someone who is specialized to come in and look at things differently, solve problems, and add new energy to a team.

If you want to learn more great tips, we encourage you to take a look below at our freelance experts’ profiles. You can also follow them on Twitter and ask them questions directly about their approach.

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The Experts:

  • Emily Leach: Emily is the founder of the Texas Freelance Association, the first statewide association of freelance workers in the country and The Freelance Conference, the only event of its kind for freelancers.
  • Chelsea Rustrum: Chelsea Rustrum is the co-author of “It’s a Shareable Life” a practical guide to sharing and in tandem, founded the Sharers of San Francisco, a social and educational series exploring the limits of what sharing can do for business, culture, and lifestyle. As a long time internet entrepreneur, she operates several web properties in addition to acting as a marketing and strategy consultant for sharing economy marketplaces.
  • Crawford Ifland: I’m a web designer who loves helping other freelancers build their dream career. From award-winning creative artists to startups and publicly-traded corporations, I have helped tell the stories of diverse individuals, organizations, and businesses from around the world.
  • Liam Veitch: Liam is the founder at Freelancelift, and author of the bestseller ‘Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer’ which charts his growth from ‘side gig’ freelancer to $1M web agency.
  • Ryan Castillo: Ryan builds web applications and writes articles on building a consistent income. He is the author of 7 Recurring Revenue Recipes for Freelancers. Outside of work he spends his time running after his kids and figuring out ways to beat his wife in sports.