Being a freelancer in the modern age might be easier in some ways, but unfortunately, the hard parts have only gotten harder. The market is flooded with competitors who can undercut you on cost and quality, and it seems like you can never quite get your foot in the door even with your ads in all the right places. How can you expect to survive as a freelancer when everything seems to be against you? There are a few tips to follow to help you keep your head above water, and really start going with the best of them.
Remember: You’re Your Own Boss, So You Have to Manage Yourself
This is the biggest mistake that freelancers of all stripes make. When you work for yourself, no one can screw you up or make you succeed more than you yourself can. You get to bask in your own successes, but have to own up to the fact that your failures are all on you as well.
Time management is what most freelancers wind up having trouble with, even though it’s perhaps one of the easiest-to-control factors involved in freelancing. Don’t forget that freelancing is your job, and you’ve got to treat it as such. Just because you can work from home and make your own schedule doesn’t mean that you get to spend all day watching cat videos on YouTube. If you just can’t seem to manage your time with traditional methods, there are a variety of computer and phone applications dedicated to assisting in focus. As an example, the Google Chrome app StayFocusd will block recreational websites of your choosing (or even all websites, period) for set periods of time. After a while, you’ll be able to function without these tools with training.
It’s not just about not getting distracted – it’s also about setting a reasonable timeline for getting projects done. Work with the client to get firm answers on what is due when, and draft a rough outline for yourself on what needs to be done daily until that date. Don’t push yourself too hard to knock out too much work on one day. Set reasonable expectations of what amount of work needs doing each day, and feel free to do more than what’s required if time permits. Steady work will win the race, and is far preferable to a last-minute rush.
Since You’re Your Own Boss, You’ve Also Got to Market Yourself
When you freelance, you’re several roles all in one. Not only are you your own boss, but you’re also your own publicist. Marketing yourself is a vital part of obtaining work, and you can’t always just let people come to you, especially when you’re just starting out.
Social media is, as always, a vital part of marketing. Create an account separate from your personal ones to keep your work and play separate, and be certain that they do not link to each other. Update regularly, and network with companies and clients to get your name out there, especially on professionally-oriented sites like LinkedIn. A simple search of standard job sites will drum up plenty of freelancing jobs with the correct keywords – remember, in the age of the internet, there’s always a market for people willing to write and design for the thousands of sites updating daily.
As the Boss, You’ve Got to Protect Yourself, Too
Flat out, don’t fall into the “for exposure” trap. If a company’s not going to pay you cash to freelance for your site, no amount of “exposure” is worth the time you’d waste on them. This is perhaps the hardest thing to learn and put one’s foot down about when freelancing – you are selling a product, and you cannot just give that product away for free to companies who don’t appreciate the work that’s gone into it.
For a new freelancer, it’s hard to turn down work when it comes along, even if it’s not paid. However, it doesn’t pay the bills, and the only thing you’ll get exposed to is more companies who only want to pay in more exposure. Allowing companies to get away with slave labor and continue to offer nothing but vague promises of word of mouth won’t encourage them to stop these dishonest practices, so do a solid for the whole freelance community – it’s cash or nothing.