Freelancing is fun. At least, that’s what we’re told.
The freedom to choose your own schedule, working from anywhere at any time, being your own boss, and more importantly, avoiding the dreaded commute that might take too many hours out of your day.
But with these perks comes a lot of responsibility.
At the end of the day, whether you are working or not depends solely on you, and how you handle the opportunities you’ve acquired.
Hopping from one gig to the other, if not done right, can leave you with too much time and little work on your hands.
If you’re a freelancer, like me, you know that you have to be able to maintain relationships with clients and be on the constant look-out for work.
This is not easy. I know. That’s because you’re not only creating most of the time, but you also have to play the role of an accounts man- looking for new business that will substitute the work you previously had.
So here are a couple of pointers on how to keep the engine running when it comes to work as a freelancer:
And by this, I mean: be actively aware. Sometimes work will come to you, sometimes you’ll have to look harder for it. Both require a high level of engagement with your surroundings and the people in them.
Even if you’ve developed a solid business, that fulfills all, if not most, of your income needs, you should continue to network. It is the best time to do so, since you have work that will allow you to concentrate on the opportunities you enjoy and want to participate in.
Learn how to turn old into new. Every job you have as a freelancer is a chance to get another chance at more work, and potentially, long term work. Long-term work in the freelance world is what will allow you to continue to work off the beaten path. At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, financial stability is necessary in life, and this is a great way to have that security.
There are many reasons why having long-term clients should be your goal. It will always be less expensive and you will be able to spend less time looking for new clients. Overall, to build these relationships, your work should reflect that you care about your client’s business, and more importantly that you are THERE.
Build Your Brand
As a freelancer, part of your job is to sell yourself. In today’s uber socialized world, how you present yourself online is as important as how you do it in person. It’s another way to generate credibility and trust with potential clients. A resume is fine, but websites, blogs, social media accounts make your brand tangible. This requires more time than it does money, and it’s a great way to showcase your talents and skills. Think about it as the digitalized version of your elevator speech: you have 30 seconds to 1 minute to catch their attention.
This way you’ll make it easy for THEM to find YOU.
**Sidenote: Your personal approach to new business should be as polished. Being able to relate what you do to anyone, in a concise yet interesting way, at any given moment is essential.
Let Your Work Speak For You
This goes hand in hand with never taking an opportunity for granted. We all have to do work that we don’t necessarily enjoy sometimes. Even freelancers. That’s how you become better at what you do and at distinguishing the jobs that you want from those that you don’t. If you’re working on something that you find a bit mundane, don’t let it become unimportant. How you treat the work you don’t enjoy so much speaks a lot about your work ethic and the commitment to your clients.
Whenever a new opportunity arose, I’d always consult my father on where he thought it could lead. His answer always involved asking whether it was something that interested me and saying what his father would always tell him: “take the opportunities, even more if it’s something out of your comfort zone. Be the one who volunteers, you never know where it can lead.”
In other words, sometimes we don’t look for jobs in places because they have nothing to do with “what we know” or “our experience”. But intelligence and success aren’t based solely on what we know. How willing, and determined, you are to learn will take you farther. I’m not saying you have to go out there and become an astrophysicist, but not knowing everything shouldn’t be a limitation but a challenge to grow.
Then Learn How To Say No
The last point leads me to what is even harder to do as a freelancer, because we’re constantly tempted to say yes to absolutely everything. It’s not about saying yes to every single opportunity that presents itself without careful meditation, it’s about identifying the good from the bad. Yes, you might be working all the time and the jobs will be paying, but there needs to be a balance between doing what you need to do (to sustain yourself) and what you want to do.
Say Thank You And Leave The Door Open
If there’s one thing mom and dad we’re right about is that being polite is important. Don’t forget that your clients are people too. When a project is done, thank your client for the opportunity they’ve given you. Be genuine and show them there is another person on the other side.
More importantly, if you’re interested in working with them again, make it known! Let them know you can be reached for future projects and that you look forward to working with them again. A few words can go a long way.
Don’t Stop Working
You might have hit a rut. It happens. Freelancing is unpredictable because it falls outside the confines of a typical structure. If you find yourself with little work and few leads, the worst thing you can do is think that the work will come to you.
Take a course to improve your skills. Pitch to clients (small and big) every day. Look at your list of contacts: friends, family, ex co-workers, college friends. Reach out to them and let them know you’re looking for something, these are some of your best sources. After all, solid networks are at the base of all success.
Whatever you do, don’t stop.