How To Be Successful At Freelancing And Make A Decent Income

Published on: June 15, 2021

Working from home and becoming a freelancer has a lot of benefits. While the top of mind is being your own boss, it's also about the ability to be flexible with your time, deciding your own rate of pay, and not having to answer to anyone about taking days or weeks off for a holiday. It truly sounds fantastic. 

However, the world of freelancing may not be for everyone. It requires a sense of discipline – with no one to answer to, being your own boss can be tough. But there are lots of tips to ensure you can successfully embrace the world of freelancing, and indeed, thrive. 

1. Get organized

Having a dedicated workspace in your home is crucial to succeeding as a freelancer. While it can be tempting to work from bed or from the dining table, these aren't going to be productive places to get things done – or protect your back and joints!

While not everyone will have a separate room, a simple desk set-up in the corner of the room will suffice. Make sure you have all the tools you need and decorate it as if you were creating your very own space in an office situation.

Whether it's flowers, some quirky trinkets, or photos of the family, make space 'your own' and ensure it will inspire you to get things done. 

2. Create an exceptional resume and cover letter

You won't have any freelance work to manage without first creating a strong resume along with professional and effective cover letters. Building a client base is far easier with a strong personal brand that is backed by an impressive business resume and covering letter. You need to brand yourself whilst outlining your strengths and credentials, and the best way to do this is to write a resume and cover letter that makes your unique skills and accomplishments shine.

When creating the perfect resume, add links to your previous work, addressing your areas of expertise, the quality of your work and the speed of delivery. Also, be sure to have your relevant online presence, such as LinkedIn, up-to-date and inclusive of customer testimonials regarding the quality of your work.

It's also important to strike a balance between working on prospecting for new clients verses on gaining more work from existing ones. As a freelancer, it's imperative to foster and nurture good ongoing relationships with existing clients – taking care of those contacts you have already taken the time to create – but also, schedule in some time regularly to prospect for new opportunities. You are the best judge of where that balance lies depending upon your current circumstances and workload. 

3. Think about your finances

This means ensuring you have your invoice template ready to go as well as a dedicated bank account or PayPal account organized before you begin. This means that as soon as you secure that all-important first client, you'll have everything ready to go when the time comes to invoice.

It's also a good idea to set aside one day a month to invoice all your clients – use the template and adjust as needed. Before you start, it's also important to set your hourly rate, and consider how you may adjust that depending on the type of client, including any additional charges that may be required, such as travel time, products that need to be purchased, or any extra courses you may need to do to upskill yourself.

4. Get equipped

Mobile hairdressers will need equipment, right? Well so too will freelance writers, web developers, graphic designers, and photographers. Of course, the equipment needed very much depends on what you're doing. Sit down and make a list of everything you need, from hardware to software. Before you start, make sure every item is checked off. 

5. Set a routine

Many people believe working from home means doing the washing, ironing, and dishes in between projects. While you can certainly use your lunch break to get things done around the house, it's important that you set a work routine from the start. Set your start time and make sure you're at your desk at that time every single day. The same goes for quitting time. 

6. Understand your strengths

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and understanding what yours are is critical to success, especially when it comes to being your own boss. Great at pitching yourself to new clients? Fantastic. Not so great at hounding people to pay their invoices? Possibly something you need to work on. Remember, freelancing often means you'll be in charge of every facet of your working life, so you need to be okay with stepping out of your comfort zone. 

7. Figure out how to say no

Just because you're a freelancer doesn't mean you need to say yes to every single opportunity. There will also be some friends or family who will wrongly assume that because you work from home, you're available for them at the drop of a hat. Just say 'no'. You are working. It doesn't matter where you're working from, you are still working. Be clear with your boundaries. The same goes for work. If the price doesn't value your expertise, turn the job down. 

8. Don't work in your pajamas

Sure, it can be tempting to roll out of bed and straight to your desk, but would you rock up to an office wearing your pj's? Didn't think so. Get up, get dressed. You'll feel much more productive and much more equipped to face the day. Plus, you'll feel much more professional and you'll be prepared for any video calls that may crop up. 

9. Schedule some time for yourself

Starting up as a freelancer can be overwhelming, especially when you have to take control of every aspect of the business. You may find yourself checking emails at night or even when you're away for the weekend. It's important to keep an eye on things but remember, you also need to have time to unwind. There's no use in becoming burnt out because that's not going to be good for you or your clients. Leave your phone in the other room, turn off your emails or put an out-of-office on; whatever you need to leave work at work and enjoy a bit of me-time. 

Embrace your new life

Remember, there's a reason you wanted to become a freelancer. Always remember your 'why'. It will help you fully embrace your new life as your own boss and will constantly remind you why you've chosen to become a freelancer. Whether it's time with your family, wanting to take charge of your work or because you want to build your own company, being a freelancer can be so rewarding. If you remember your 'why' you'll work harder for its success.

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Luke Fitzpatrick

Luke Fitzpatrick

Career Advice Contributor

Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in a variety of publications such as Forbes, Tech In Asia, and The Next Web. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in cross-cultural management and the pre-MBA program.

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