Posted: Tue 4th Oct 2022
As the founder of 'Being Freelance', Steve Folland loves to help other freelancers make a success of self-employed life. Through his hugely successful podcast, Steve and his guests share their top tips to become a better freelancer.
Here's 15 of his favourites.
“Don’t freak out.”
When you’re self-employed there’ll be times when you'll feel panicked. Too much work, not enough work, demanding clients, shifting deadlines... It’s easy to become overwhelmed! Take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone. Join a few online communities for freelancers, ask questions, seek advice, and surround yourself with support.
“Only showcase examples of work that you want to keep doing in the future.”
What are you showing on your website? What are you posting on social media? Future clients will hire you to do the things that they see in your portfolio. So if you carry out a project that you didn’t enjoy or didn’t earn you enough money, don’t put it out there. Similarly, if there’s a project that you’ve loved, or there’s something that earns you more money, shout about it.
Even if you’ve been freelancing for years, it’s worth doing a spring clean of your portfolio from time to time and make sure you’re only demonstrating the projects you really want to do moving forward.
“I’m a company of one.”
When you start out it’s easy to forget that you’re a business. But you are, and it’s important to get into that mindset, fast! Yes, you can outsource certain tasks, but undoubtedly you will still have to wear a lot of hats; you’re the sales team, the marketeer, the CEO, the cleaner... You’re a 'company of one'. Get used to it!
“Pace yourself; it’s you against you.”
Social media is great for so many reasons – not least making it easy to connect with other freelancers. But the downside is that it can force people to compare themselves to others, leading to you feeling like you’re falling behind or not doing as well as you could be. Yes, it’s great to be inspired by others, but it’s important to stay in your own lane. Do what works for you. Do you!
“Keep the hopper full.”
A hopper is a container that stores fuel for a stove. Here, the hopper is a metaphor for your sales pipeline. You’ve got to keep those leads coming in, rather than waiting for a project to finish before you go looking for the next. Keep your marketing efforts going to ensure that you’ve got a steady stream of clients.
“Nice guys get paid last.”
A lot of freelancers struggle to get paid on time. Remember, you’re a ‘company of one’, which means you’re also the finance department. So you have to stick up for yourself. If you’re chasing payment from a client, and you’re not firm with them, they’re likely to pay other suppliers ahead of you.
“Get used to rejection; good things happen eventually.”
Pitching for work can feel daunting, and not winning a contract can be frustrating. But don’t be disheartened. If you pitch enough times, and knock on enough doors, good things will come.
“Time track – always.”
There’s lots of tools you can use to track your time, but why is it so important? First of all, many freelancers charge by the hour – in which case they’ll need to track their time so that they know what to charge at the end of the project. But it’s equally important if you don’t charge by the hour – as you still need to know how long a project takes you, so that you’re able to offer quotes to future prospects.
Ever suffered with lack of confidence or self-belief? Perhaps you’ve experienced imposter syndrome? Don’t worry, it’s very common amongst the freelancer community. But you have to believe in yourself and value your time. You’re the expert afterall. If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you too.
“I don’t do marketing – I make friends.”
People remember people. People hire people. So get to know your clients on a personal level. Find some common ground so that you can talk about something other than ‘work’. Because if they like you, and if they feel a genuine connection with you, they’ll hire you again – or recommend you to others.
“Know your finances, and understand them.”
Even if you outsource your accounting, you still need to have an understanding of your finances. It’s too easy to let your overheads get away from you (subscriptions, operating costs etc). But it’s also vital that you know where your money is coming from too. Consider categorising your services and/or your types of clients. What projects earn you the most? Who pays the fastest?
“I didn’t find a meet-up, so I started one.”
This applies to more than just meet-ups. It could be a blog, or a podcast, or a community. One of the greatest things about working for yourself is that you get to choose what you spend time on. So if what you’re looking for doesn’t exist, go out and do it yourself.
“Stop being so available.”
Setting boundaries with your clients is not a bad thing. Your professionalism can actually establish you as the leader in the relationship and help build trust. Respect your own time, say no when it’s right to do so, and never feel guilty about the boundaries you set.
“Other freelancers aren’t the enemy.”
Other freelancers are not your competition. Actually, they could end up being your biggest supporters. They’re your cheerleader, advice giver, sound board. Go find them – they’re just friends that you havn’t met yet.
“Schedule life first, then work.”
Work / life balance is always important – but the great thing about being freelance is that you’re in charge of that. Book in those coffee dates, do some voluntary work, learn a new skill... or simply spend time with family and friends. Put those appointments in your diary first, and then schedule work around them.