Pursuing a career as a freelance professional has become more and more popular in the last decade. According to a study conducted by Intuit, freelancers are expected to make up approximately 40% of the entire U.S. workforce by 2020.
Becoming a freelance professional is an attractive idea for many reasons, but it is important to first understand what it takes to succeed as a freelancer. As the number of freelancers in America skyrockets each year, competition is fiercer than ever. Whether you work as a software developer, HVAC professional, or photographer – use this guide to get started (or continue!) on the freelance path to success.
Take Time on the Logistics
This piece of advice may not be sexy, but it is incredibly important. Many busy freelance professionals find themselves overwhelmed, moving from job to job while trying to stay up-to-date with emails and other tasks.
Instead of navigating your business blindly, develop a logistics plan: How will you track projects? What is your business process for sending and receiving invoices or proposals? When will you follow up on emails and phone calls? This work can seem tedious, but developing a logistics plan ahead of time will save you a world of headache in the future.
Customers will also notice and appreciate your organization. Want to go the extra mile? Define your process, document it, and provide it to potential customers in a professionally designed PDF. Following the same process from project to project builds trust with your customers as they learn to rely on you to provide transparency and consistency.
Use Your Calendar as a Guide
One of the biggest perks as a freelance professional is the ability to be your own boss. Unfortunately, it is also one of the biggest risks when it comes to time management and goal-setting. Learning to use your calendar to its fullest extent is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to better manage your time and resources.
Do not only use your calendar when meeting with clients or customers. Need to finish a project by a certain deadline? Schedule time on your calendar to work on the project in small increments over time to meet that deadline. Struggling to find the time to return customer emails and phone messages? Set aside specific time each week to focus solely on customer communication.
As a freelancer, balancing your business and home life can easily become a struggle. There is no shame in also using your calendar to make sure you never forget a soccer game or special dinner with family! Using your calendar for personal, client, and project-related tasks ensures nothing slips through the cracks.
This may seem awkward, but being a successful freelancer means learning how to market yourself. Thankfully, this does not mean you need to wear a costume and hand out flyers on every street corner. The goal in promoting your business is to simply make sure current and potential clients are able to easily find, understand, and contact you and your business.
In its most basic form, one of the first tips in successful self-promotion is having a sleek and modern website that outlines your company, its mission, customer reviews, and contact information. To take it a step further, bring your business to social media. Do some research to understand which social media platform(s) your main customer base uses, then use these platforms to connect and engage with your audience. Social media is not only the fastest growing platform for entrepreneurs and freelance professionals, but it has the capability of marketing your business for free!
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
You likely started your freelance career because you specialize in something. To be as successful as possible in that special ‘something’, it is important to focus as much of your time as possible on the actual work you provide to clients.
Defining your processes, following your calendar, and marketing yourself are important. However, using your valuable time to complete all administrative and marketing tasks yourself (answering emails, returning phone calls, updating the website, posting on social media… the list goes on!) may not be the most valuable use of your time.
When you first get started as a freelancer, it may be important that you cover all these bases yourself. It allows you to personally connect with customers, save money, and understand your business in full. Over time, though, it may actually save you time and money to build a team that has expertise in these areas and can cover them for you.
If it does not make sense to build a team, consider delegating certain tasks to modern-day software. Business or project management apps, for example, allow you to streamline project estimates, timelines, invoices, and more. Delegating tasks outside of your niche allows you more time to do what you love, while also allowing you more time to strategize and grow your business.
As with any freelance business, you will experience your fair share of struggles and successes. The learning process can be the best part! Regardless, it never hurts to have a little helpful advice along the way. Use these ideas as a guide to maintain and grow your business. It is not always about being “busy” – it is about being productive with your time and resources!