I’m still getting quite a few people who are thinking of taking the plunge, or have just gone freelance, who are keen for some advice. To be honest, I’m not exactly a pro at being freelance, as I’m only four years in, but I do have some useful nuggets of advice to give.
You learn so much by going it alone, both about how to survive solo, but also about yourself. In the first month it’s quite a daunting time, and you learn a lot of things you never knew about yourself. For most people, the thought of leaving their secure, well-paid job is TERRIFYING. Sadly, the reality is that it is bloody scary, but it’s also exciting and liberating.
Don’t worry, you will get through the first month and move on to greener pastures. There’s just a few things you should probably avoid doing. Here’s what not to do in your first month as a freelancer.
In the first month, and for the first year probably, you will have moments where you are like WTF am I doing? Am I bloody crazy? It’s OK to feel like this, but try not to let these thoughts drag you down too much, or they might completely overwhelm you. You are only entering your first few weeks, and building a client base takes time, so be patient.
Under or overcharging
Think very carefully about your prices in your first few months. It’s very difficult to strike a balance between having your prices low enough so that you attract work, and setting them high enough so that you can actually earn a living.
How you deal with this also depends on what sector you work in. For example, with freelance writing, I had to start with lower prices than I wanted in order to get my first few jobs and begin building my portfolio of work. Once you have some decent examples of what you can do, it becomes easier to sell your services.
Avoid going too low, or you will find it impossible to ever raise your prices enough or gain the respect you deserve. Equally, overpricing your services when you are fairly new to the game could prevent you from getting any work in the first place.
Personally, I would avoid sites like Fiverr and Elance as I think they make a mockery of some freelancers by encouraging them to undercharge. I certainly wouldn’t earn a living by getting £5 per article. There are a few sites that will pay a little more and are much better, you just have to pick and choose carefully. If I’m honest I prefer working with my clients directly.
Take on nightmare clients
You might think that going above and beyond to please extremely difficult clients is worthwhile, but it’s not. In your first month, it’s obviously very hard to turn down any work. However, if after four weeks you are having big problems with clients demanding too much, you may want to cut them loose. Trust me, in the long run it will save you money.
Thankfully I have only had a couple of nightmare clients in my time, and although they wasted my time, I learned a lot from them. Part of the reason you go freelance is to work for yourself under your terms, so if a client is making your life an absolute misery, let them go.
Not have a website
In most businesses and industries, having a website is absolutely crucial. If I’m honest, I didn’t have one for at least two years (crazy I know). However, if I could do things again, I would have set up a website even before going freelance.
Since I started this blog and create my freelance writing page, my income has increased by about a third. Yup. True story. It’s just so much easier to sell yourself with a website. It gives you somewhere to direct people rather than having to attach portfolios or send 4736 links to your work.
Get a website up, even if it’s just a basic one to begin with. If you need help with creating a site for your freelance business, give me a shout, I can put you in contact with Ryan from DCI Digital.
Doing work outside of your brief
Please, please, avoid doing more than what’s defined in your brief at all costs. There might be the odd client that treats you well that you are happy to go above and beyond for every once in a while, but doing it regularly is a bad idea.
If a client asks you to do more work than expected, don’t do it, unless they pay you more. If you go ahead and do it, later on down the line, you will find it very difficult to ask for more money from them. You will also stress yourself out and waste a lot of your time.
Make sure you clearly define what’s expected of you so that there’s no confusion when the work is delivered. Get a clear, written brief from your client before you start.
If you are a freelance writer for example, get all the information you need to complete an article such as the word count and what needs to be covered. Also, let your client know in advance how many extra edits you are happy to do at no additional cost.
Have a crap LinkedIn profile
I have received so much work via LinkedIn. No matter what you are planning on doing as a freelancer, it can help to have a presence on LinkedIn. When you announce the fact that you have gone freelance to people, they will probably look you up on LinkedIn.
If there’s nothing on your profile about your new business, or your profile is just generally lacking information, get it sorted pronto. If getting your website up is taking time, at least people can see what you do on LinkedIn.
Not get on top of self assessment admin
Whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand and avoid dealing with tax related issues. In your first month, you should probably get into good habits when it comes to recording what you are earning, keeping your receipts and organising your invoices.
Not only could putting this off cause problems with the big bad tax man, but it also piles up until you realise you have an absolute mountain of tax admin to do. Get stuck in to some epic spreadsheets and make sure you record everything, or get an accountant or personal assistant to do it for you.
Personally all that tax malarkey was one of my biggest worries about going freelance. However, the reality is it’s not as daunting as you might think. If you have no clue what to do (like me), then get some help or speak to an accountant.
Expect too much
If you aren’t killing it in your first month of being freelance, don’t beat yourself up about it. Your first month is more about admin, research and putting the feelers out rather than earning thousands of pounds (unless you are very lucky!).
So that’s all the advice I can think of for the moment, I will add more tips if anything else springs to mind. Feel free to share your own advice by commenting below or sending me an email.