How to Succeed as a Creative Freelancer

Photo of Grit Collective by Jeremy Rall, more here.

Freelancing as a creative can be an enriching experience. With freelancing, you get to set your own schedule, work on exciting projects you might not have otherwise been involved with and open yourself to a new community — while paying the bills.

When you start being paid for your creativity, your process may change. Freelancing is a great way to make money while working in your creative field. But, you must look at freelancing as another form of collaboration for it to benefit you and your clients.

Here are six tips to build a successful freelancing relationship with any client:

1. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS ABOUT YOUR DELIVERABLES.

On your own, you can decide to work whenever you feel like working, so you may not be used to calculating how long it takes to finish a project. That won’t work when you’re teaming up with a client.

Determine how long it takes you to complete a project and communicate that clearly. You know your work rhythm better than anyone else, so communicating how long it takes you to deliver quality work will keep expectations realistic and all parties on the same page. Transparency will help you retain control over your creative process, even while collaborating.

2. UNDERSTAND YOUR CLIENT’S ULTIMATE GOAL.

When you’re freelancing, the finished product belongs to everyone on the team. You’re a part of the equation, but there may be other departments, contributors and creatives working together to complete a project.

Understand your client’s goals so you know how best to help. Knowing what your client needs will help you answer your own questions when you come up against challenges in your creative process. It will also make you an invaluable resource to the team — because even as you contribute your own unique voice, you’re emboldening the bigger vision.

3. UNDERSTAND IT IS A COLLABORATION.

It’s a give and take. You’re working within a set of parameters that might not be your own, so be open to feedback and be willing to let go of some aesthetic choices. On the other side, notice when you can contribute a new perspective to the project and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Putting your ideas into the conversation doesn’t guarantee they’ll be used, but you may open your client to a new approach.

4. WORK ON YOUR OWN PROJECTS.

When you’re collaborating, you might find yourself wishing you could go rogue. If that’s the case, do it — but do it within your own sphere. Working creatively in a freelance capacity can help you hone your aesthetic, even though you may not be able to execute it in that particular context. That doesn’t mean you should let it go, it just means you need to do your own work concurrently.

Let your freelance work inspire your personal projects. Let those personal endeavors be an outlet so you feel like you have the freedom to make your own creative choices, while still collaborating with other creatives around a common goal.

5. FIND AUTONOMY IN SMALL MOMENTS.

When you offer your creative expertise to your client, they won’t always green-light everything you suggest. But when you do get the okay, run with it. Maybe you’re a graphic designer and your client loved the colors you proposed. If you are able to move forward with your idea, find freedom in those decisions and develop them in a way that feels authentic to your vision. You need to respect your client’s vision, yet not be afraid to fully execute on your concept.

6. USE FREELANCING AS A CHANCE TO WORK OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

Many times, if you’re working on your own projects, it can be easy to fall into the same routine of creation and execution. You get comfortable with your own process. Use a freelance opportunity to test the limits of your comfort zone. If you don’t totally agree with your client’s approach, instead of fighting against it, use it as an opportunity to try something new.

Practicing a new way of doing things doesn’t mean you have to do it that way forever. Gather more information and come back to your own creative process with more insight because of it.

When you get to the point that you start earning money from your creative work, it should be an exciting and rewarding moment.

You’ve worked hard to be recognized and affirmed. Now that you’re in a place of freelancing, you must step up to the collaborative plate by respecting your clients and partnerships.

Succeed in these collaborations and you’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of creatively-driven work. And what’s more successful than that?


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