1. Learn by Example
Look at what others are doing and make it work for you. Do it better and soon you’ll be known. For example, seek bloggers and see what they are doing to generate more traffic. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and follow it. Dip your toes in the pond and then get ready to dive in.
2. Social Networking
Get on with Social Media – treat it as one of your terms of “self” employment – enough said!
3. Learn to Say “No” and When to Say It
Determine your work hours. If you respond to any inquiry with “I’ll work all night long and I’ll have it done for you by tomorrow morning” you’ll burn yourself out in no time. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, especially at the beginning of your freelance career. You’ll have to impress your clients and this is one of them – just don’t fall into the trap of jumping at every little request – you’ll end up losing other clients.
4. First Impression Counts
You’re in business for yourself and you are your business; so is your website, business card, email etiquette, social media presence, your shoes and your hair style. You might think it’s cool to rebel against the establishment with a shaggy hair style but unless people are writing books about you, your prospective clients will not take you seriously if the image you project is not professional and expert like.
5. Money, Money, Money
It is very important how much you charge (per project or per hour). You’ll probably end up having a combination of the two. Here’s how we do it. If we create a website for a client, we charge per project based on the number of pages, complexity of the site, forms to be attached, etc. Once the website is up and running, we begin charging per hour based on the type of changes/additions the client may have. When you first start out, know ballpark pricing for website design, creative design, etc. and be competitive to gain experience and build your reputation. Once established, you can evaluate your pricing structure and increase your rates based on your quality and reputation.
This is probably the most important element of your freelancing career. Pay attention to this and make sure you have strong contacts in place, as well as non-disclosure documents. Do not ever, EVER agree to take on a project without a signature from the client and a clear description of the tasks to be performed. Make sure you include all the necessary and vital details you see fit. Mention the total amount and break down the work description in manageable chunks with the respective price attached for each section. In order to make sure the client is committed to the project we typically require a deposit before we start the work.
If the client has changes or additions in the middle of the project, have them send you emails with all the necessary details and do not assume he or she assumes that the additional work to be performed is not included in the initial amount. Clarify if it’s included or if it will be billed at an additional bill rate.
If things go sour, you can always go back to your contract and your written proofs of their approval for different items they requested. In the end, they will happier because there is no gray area in your agreement.
7. Market Yourself
Find any type of website you can add your portfolio of work or you can list your website or blog. Look for directories and other sites that look professional and ask the owner(s) to include your URL on their site. Offer reciprocity with their URL on your site as well.
Don’t forget to create a PDF version of your portfolio with your best work. It comes in handy every time someone requests proof of your work, plus it’s something that a potential client can always carry with them or even print.
8. Know What You Don’t Know
You don’t know everything. With the momentum of internet marketing evolving, it’s hard to stay on top of the latest trends in web design, social media, e-mail marketing, etc. Recognize and know your limitations but always be prepared to learn new things. Constantly improve your talents and keep up with news in the industry by searching the web, participate at seminars, follow industry leaders on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other online resources. Also, visit your local book store – pick up a book or publication to stay relevant.
If you don’t know something, be honest and admit it without promising things. Clients don’t like pleasers, they like people that get the job done right the first time. When we’re asked to do things outside Tangerine5’s realm, we do the research. We report back to our clients or level of knowledge on the task and our findings and give them the opportunity to decide if we’re the best firm for the job. They respect the approach and appreciate our efforts. And more often than not, we retain the client.
9. Get Organized NOW!
The majority of creative people are not CPA’s because they are… well… creative. Unless your brain is perfectly balanced an can reconcile checks as easily as designing a new logo, chances are you lack the tedious work ethic and organizational skills of the bean counters. That might hurt you when taxation time comes so be prepared at least with some form of tracking your expenses either in Excel or QuickBooks. Keep track of daily expenses, bills, invoices and other fun stuff the IRS is so fond of. A shoebox for all your receipts can come in very handy.
10. Network, Network and Then Network Again
Start with your friends and family and put the word out. Make friends on Facebook and signup for LinkedIn. Look for professional seminars in your area and attend. Take a stack of business cards with you and hand them out. Call old high school or college buddies and tell them what you do and ask for their help. You’ll be surprised how many connections you can make. Search for organizations in your area where you can participate or volunteer. Pick a cause, any of them and offer your services for free. Donate your services for website design to organizations that help the community. So – network. Network a lot.