Freelance Advice to my Younger Self, While Starting Out.

I started freelancing 4 years ago. When I tried for the first time, I realized that to become a great freelancer one needs to have a shift in one thinking. Freelancers need to realize that they are no longer just “working” but “running a business or a company”. This means that you have to plan yourself in terms of time and how to schedule your tasks because there is no structured management either as superiors or juniors who might assign or organize tasks for you. These are some of the lessons I have learnt so far in my freelance journey:

Start from a freelance platform

Sign up with freelance platforms such as Onesha, fiver, Upwork, Guru, etc. Starting out solo might be challenging to get clients. So you should start with these platforms that have already sourced clients for you and also worked on some logistics such as pricing or delivery time of projects.

Keep prices low

This is controversial to many, but it is my opinion. In the beginning, keep your prices a bit low. Not cheap. I am not saying you work for peanuts as Kenyan millennials normally refer to it. My recommendation would be to charge like 20–25% less than an experienced freelancer you know of somewhere. The downside of this is that it might be challenging to raise the pricing in case you start having repeat clients who are used to a particular price. Some clients might also feel that you won’t provide them with enough value and you don’t have sufficient skills that are why you have lower rates.

Always be prospecting.

Always look for new clients and make sure you create the ability to service multiple clients at once. This is not only great from a financial perspective, but it also gives you unlimited options to choose which client to work with to avoid a single client converting you to an employee and end up abusing their superior negotiating position.

Set up clear professional boundaries.

If you’re expected for a meeting or to submit any tasks, be mindful of the time zones and the professional culture of work. Let your clients or prospects know that you are always responsive and will communicate to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. Your first clients are important and they will give you lots of memorable experiences. Serve them well, they are likely to come back as repeat clients or offer you some referrals.

Simple contract

Make sure you have a written contract and make sure all communications are done via email so that both of you can have a record. Also get some payment in the form of a deposit upfront, something like 40%. This is just to make sure that there is a commitment from your client before you invest your time and resource in doing the work. If it is hard to get a percent of the expected money upfront, it will be just as hard to get money after you incurred a ton of expenses and work.

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