10 Lessons From My First Months as a Freelancer

This May I started my own freelance business in marketing and communication. I registered my business, created a website (Anne.nl), promoted my services on social media, and my first customers started to come in. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, but at the same time I learned many valuable lessons in just a short amount of time. Today I will share ten takeaways of my first two months as a freelance marketeer.

Do not just market your abilities and services, but show customers what it would mean for their business. Are you going to increase their revenue? Will their customers recognise their brand more often? Will they generate more leads? Will you increase their margins? Will you save them time? What is the ROI going to be? These are more relevant questions than how exactly you will be accomplishing this.

2. Keep a clear overview of your spendings.

Customers pay you including VAT and income tax that you need to pay to the tax authorities (at least in The Netherlands). When you are receiving customer payments on your personal bank account, set aside an amount (at least the amount of VAT and approximate income tax) on your savings account, to make sure you can pay the tax authorities later.

3. Get to know the risks and take cover.

One of the things I help companies with is writing press releases. In the worst-case scenario, I ruin a company’s reputation and the company sues me. As a freelancer, you are liable withyour personal assets. So, I decided to visit an insurance company and pay a small monthly fee to protect myself from these type of risks. I would recommend to figure out which risks there are for your industry specifically and think about how you want to take cover from them.

It can be very valuable to collaborate with other freelancers. Customers often appreciate it if you can save them time by arranging it for them.

4. It is okay to collaborate with other freelancers.

You may be running the business on your own, but it can be very valuable to collaborate. You can not stand out at everything yourself and customers often appreciate it if you can save them time by arranging it for them. For example, if you have to create a website, it is okay to involve a graphic designer for some illustrations or an SEO expert to optimise your texts for search engines. Of course, always make sure to ask your customer for approval beforehand.

5. Involve your customer throughout the entire process.

This is especially important with larger projects. Do not wait until the end of the project to show it to your customer, but involve them throughout the project. It does not matter that it is not perfect yet. This way you can manage your customer’s expectations. If you wait until the project is finished, your customer may be unhappy because he or she expected a different result. Having regular contact with your customers prevents this pitfall.

6. Use a task management tool.

I have been using click up, a free tool that advertises itself as ‘the one app to replace them all’. In click up you can easily track the time you spent on different projects, track leads throughout the sales process, have a sprint-like board with your to do’s, create documents, assign tasks to different people, create dashboards and connect to other programs. So far I am a big fan of this tool! It makes it much more convenient to track the time you spent on different projects and to get an overview of your to do’s filtered on priority.

Sell the outcome of your services rather than the service itself.

7. Set the right price for your services.

Just being the cheapest is not a smart strategy. Differentiate yourself. Sell the outcome of your services rather than the service itself. Tailor your proposal to the specific needs of that customer. And as soon as you finished projects for existing customers, try to promote success stories on your social media and website.

8. Make sure you appear on freelancer platforms.

Even though such platforms take a big portion of your revenue, it is a good way to get into first contact with businesses that need freelance marketeers from time to time. After you complete the initial project, you can keep in touch with the customers acquired through these platforms, and help them with other tasks from time to time.

9. Don’t be afraid to turn down customers.

If you do not have time to assist a new customer in time, let them know. It is annoying for customers to realise right before the due date that you can not finish the job in time, because you simply don’t have time.

You have relatively more paid hours when you have one customer for which you work fulltime than when you have a thousand customers for which you each do a very small task.

10. Choose the easy (and most profitable) way.

Acquiring new customers takes unpaid time. Drafting proposals and invoices take unpaid time. Small projects take more unpaid hours than large ones. So try to go for projects with a longer duration that result in stable income for a certain amount of hours per month or week. You have relatively more paid hours when you have one customer for which you work fulltime than when you have a thousand customers for which you each do a very small task.

Even better is to make a retainer agreement, in which you have a fixed number of hours a month for a customer. Make sure you report your hours right, so the customer can see what you did in those hours.

About Anne Koolen

Anne is a 23 year old Dutch entrepreneur and the owner of marketing & communication services business Anne.nl. She has a Bachelor of Science in International Business Administration. When she was 12 years old she started a movie making blog that she later turned into a fashion blog with 300.000 monthly pageviews. She did two internships at the E-Commerce department of G-Star RAW and helped Booking.com with the making of several internal company movies. At age 16, she worked at AdWords Robot, a company optimising long-tail AdWords campaigns. She was the Chief Information Officer of Super B, a lithium battery company and the Chief Marketing Officer of Koolen Industries, a Dutch clean energy conglomerate. She is starting her Master studies in Interaction Technology at the University of Twente this year.

Freelancer at Anne.nl (marketing & communication). Investor. Former Chief Information Officer Super B (lithium batteries). Former CMO Koolen Industries.

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