Tips for Starting Freelance Work
Freelancing can be a flexible way to provide creative services. There are some things to consider when getting started as a freelancer.
I had just a few experiences in the world of freelance work. Although it was an option for the past few years, it was previously more like a plan B when I was focused on full time roles. That is normal. Then I pursued a freelance options when I chose to take some time at home. After this early experience, here is some advice for people when beginning to find freelance work.
Put Together a Portfolio
Consider all the quality projects you have created anywhere. They could have been at college, favours for a friend, voluntary projects or tasks in employed jobs. The portfolio will be like a CV or LinkedIn profile. But it is more visual and includes more than past paid work.
Be honest and say that you did something in a team when employed in a company, and name that business where you worked. Don’t claim it as your own work or use the content. But you can say, ‘I did this at this place with these people and this was the result.’ If in doubt, check with an employer who values your career. I’m not a lawyer. This is just how I listed my work experiences in portfolios. You can see some examples of my portfolios at my web site, Behance, ‘My Portfolio,’ Past blog articles are at Bloglovin’.
A professional portfolio will show what you have done. It will list the skills you have and the services you can offer potential clients. Customers may want to know the methods you can use, such as the computer software programs and web sites that help in your implementation. However, outcomes are especially important for non-technical clients. Freelance work is a service for a customer. And the portfolio should clearly say what someone gets when hiring you.
Register on Freelancing Web Sites
Have a look at the many different web sites that register freelancers. Decide if you are willing to pay a subscription or stay with free sites. Since you might take a bit of time before making money, find low-cost sites that put the ‘free’ in ‘freelance.’ Try task apps like Airtasker. You could create a saved search that sends alerts to your email inbox when relevant content is added. Or you can just look for work when you want.
Look at what other applicants are doing. Don’t dive in and instantly apply to a job. See how others are writing their offers. Get inspiration from their focus on benefits, qualifications and other content. Some applicants identify with a particular profession – writer, content creator, copy writer and so on. They might say how many years they worked in the industry. Also compare how much money they are expecting to be paid for the job. Know the others’ strengths that they do well. Understand your own strengths. Take inspiration from the good ideas. Then be competitive with price, hours or any other differentiation.
Carefully read the job ads. Ask for clarification about requirements. It’s better to get something right and look interested. Check the time frame and know if you can meet the deadline. Find out if a task is urgent or not. Quickly read up on the industry this client is from. You don’t have to become an expert. Get a basic understanding of key industry issues and trends. It could be just a two minute Google search and a few headlines. Research in more detail on the industry if you’re really fascinated. It could demonstrate understanding and further ability to do the work.
Then start writing your applications. Keep it short and sweet. Concisely say what you will do for the client and why you should be chosen over others. Sometimes the lowest price wins, so give an affordable quote. Some clients want a creative with the most professional image. Make sure your web site is as sleek as competitors’ sites. There are very user-friendly ways to do this. If you’re meeting in person, consider bringing business cards. If you can find out the approximate age or technical knowledge of the client, that will determine whether you rely more on telephone calls or more sophisticated technology like email or apps. This can all be summarised with one idea – figure out what the client needs and offer to provide it.
Getting the Gig
Woo hoo! Congratulations for getting a freelance gig. A human being at a business has trusted you with a task that is important enough to spend money on it. This client could be an individual, a small business or a large corporation. What matters is how much the person offered to spend and what you offered to give. The work is presumably something the person feels unable or unwilling to implement alone without help, due to restrictions such as skills/knowledge/time. You have something this person wants. No pressure.
Communication is essential to any work – be it freelance, employed or otherwise. This will be an ongoing process of written information and possibly verbal discussion. Don’t ever assume you’re both on the same page (pardon the pun). If the client is not an expert in your chosen skill, be it writing or whatever else, that person may not know how to articulate what is wanted. Help by clarifying and simplifying along the way. Keep the whole process simple with minimal decision making.
The client probably sent some written instructions by now. Read it very slowly. Don’t rush and skip anything. Ask a trusted friend to read it, so you don’t miss details. Use your personal learning style to translate the client’s language into a to-do-list that you understand. I like to highlight key words or phrases, break up paragraphs into dot points and even reword bits. Then I assign my own jargon to someone else’s request, in my own notes. Then I have an idea of what I think the client wants.
Then you need to go back to the client via the chosen preferred contact method. Give a clarification. “Just confirming, you would like me to make blah articles and blah pictures using blah programs for blah audience in blah days.” See how short and sweet that was? If email is not giving the necessary clarity, ask to allocate a time for a quick talk on the phone. If the client is not willing to do a phone call, offer to do instant messaging or just send very prompt emails. Hopefully after all this, you should know what is expected.
Implementation – Doing the Task
Here is that beautiful moment when you’re actually getting the work done. Set a realistic time frame. Inform the client if things are running late. Don’t use personal life as an excuse to not do the work. But if you become genuinely sick, decide if you are truly capable of doing the work. Don’t provide a lower-quality result because of illness. Use your best judgment. Give a new amended expected date of completion.
Then get on with it. Don’t procrastinate. If you have multiple projects, prioritise based on urgency and consequences. Only commit to a total workload that you can handle. Submit content when it seems ‘complete.’ Don’t send early drafts unless a client insists on it. If something isn’t yet at the required quality, and the deadline has not yet arrived, don’t send early content. Drafts don’t give impressions of how your work will appear. You want to be judged by your best work. Have it ready and send for evaluation.
One or two revisions may be required. Don’t complain. Just do it. Too many revisions will be exhausting for all involved. Put in the hours that are deserved. But don’t dedicate every waking hour to repetitive amendments. That’s could be unrealistic perfectionism. Clarify early about how many hours/versions are being paid for.
Ask for Feedback
Send a polite request for constructive feedback and evaluation after the task is completed. There may have already been comments along the way. Ask something like this, “Your task was a great opportunity to serve a great brand. I continuously seek to improve and better serve clients in the future. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Is there anything that you believe was done very well or could have been changed?” Take any comments with a grain of salt. Consider changing your methods based on respectful evaluations from clients.
Continue the Freelancing Journey
Freelance work offers great flexibility. Freelancing can be done either as a full time job, or on the side of a different day job. Find a balance between creating perceived value for customers and taking care of your own lifestyle.