10 quick tips for new freelancers

I’ve been freelancing and doing contract work for quite some time now so thought I’d share some quick tips which might help some people trying to start out in the freelance world.

1. Try working for free

You’d probably be surprised how much you get out of this. I do the odd free project (mainly smaller ones), and each time the client is so happy they seem to refer me to everyone they know. Working for nothing can actually become quite lucrative.

Another bonus is you get another project you can throw in your portfolio, and since they’re not paying you, they can’t reasonably ask you not to display it ;)

2. Share your work whenever possible

Try sharing your work on Behance, Dribbble, or even on Pinterest. Sharing work has been the best way in which I’ve found work. I’ve never gone to a client… I’ve only ever had them come to me. This is purely down to posting work on Dribbble and making sure I have a web presence.

Always ask clients first if you can share the work you’ve done for them.

3. Stay humble

You aren’t the best in the world. Don’t charge or behave as though you are. Consider the client’s ideas and don’t just knock them on the head.

Don’t send your client a design and be shocked if they don’t like it, either. When they gave you the job they had an idea in their head of what they wanted. It’s your job to bring this idea into reality and make changes to it where you believe it is flawed.

4. Don’t be greedy

You aren’t a design agency with a team of people to pay. You’re an individual sitting at your desk at home working when you feel like it… And your clients are well aware of this. Be careful not to start trying to charge astronomical fees thinking you’re better than an agency. If your client had the money to pay an agency to do the job, they would!

5. Quote separately for changes

Say you quoted $2000 for a full website project but once you’d finished it, the client asked for a large change to be made. Would you charge extra? Or would you just shy away and do it for free?

Neither is really acceptable. You need to quote separately for changes. Whenever I write out a quote (for a web project), I break down each phase of the job. Here’s an example

  • Design — $1000
  • Development — $1000
  • Changes — $40 per hour

Your categories may vary from mine, however the key takeaway here is to BREAK IT DOWN. I generally opt for hourly rates for changes as I can’t see a better way of charging without having to negotiate each change.

6. Adjust your pricing for each client

Your price should adjust with each client. When the client comes to you (or you go to them) you should research their business. Look at the kind of business it is. Is it a large corporation? Is it a small business with only a couple of employees? Is it a startup? If it’s a startup, what sort of backing has it got?

You need to work out how much the company can afford to pay you. If you suggest a price too high for a smaller client, they’ll just walk away and either find someone else or do it themselves. And if you suggest a price too low for a bigger client, they’ll shrug you off as being inexperienced.

7. Use invoicing and time tracking software

Writing out invoices and estimates isn’t fun. Fortunately, there’s heaps of software that can do this for you. I’ve tried out quite an array of different services and here are the ones I recommend…

Of late I’ve used OnTheJob as it’s a one-time purchase and as I don’t need to send invoices all that often I don’t like paying for monthly services.

8. Outsource

The majority of my client work is web design and branding related stuff. Often I’m asked to photograph products, shops, houses… all sorts of things. I’m not much of a photographer and I certainly don’t have the gear required to sell photography services. Ialways outsource photography work because there are people out there who are EXCELLENT at what they do. Similarly I often outsource small web development projects I don’t have time for. These are normally little things like coding complex forms… never the entire site.

Make sure to be honest with your client that your going to be getting somebody else to do this job for you, and make sure there’s room in the budget.

9. Learn to say no

If there’s a project you aren’t particularly interested in or you don’t really have time for say no. There’s nothing worse than taking on a project and doing a poor job of it. It often happens just because you aren’t enjoying the project, and the unfortunate part is, projects like these can often drag on and on. Say no from the outset if you have any doubts.

10. Take time off

It’s easy to never stop working as a freelancer, and you can fall into that trap very easily without realising. Take time off between projects, user timers to make sure you’re not working an excessive amount, and pre-set your work hours.

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