5 tips to help you succeed as a freelancer
Updated: Mar 8
So you’ve decided to freelance? Hats off. Anyone brave enough to leave behind a cushy salary for the uncertainty of self-employment can drink from our canteen any day.
If you’ve freelanced for some time, then you know what it takes. If you're starting out, consider the tips below. As you’ll see, it’s more than just good stuff — your craft may land you a gig, but keeping clients and building a business is real work.
TIP #1: Trust yourself and do your thing
This isn't self-help advice. We need you to roll on your own.
We hired you because we have confidence in your abilities. Tell us what you feel is right and execute on it. Some direction is reasonable and expected, but if you’re relying on our guidance for every little thing, then your value to us will take a steep dive to the “do-not-hire” abyss.
This isn't about us not wanting to help you or worker classification compliance or anything like that. We just don't have time, or in many cases, the expertise. Especially when we’re working with someone new, we want to see initiative and most of all, hear your voice.
TIP #2: Negotiate at the beginning
You don’t like the rate, or the terms, or the deadlines? Let’s discuss at the beginning, not the end. Don't hesitate to name your price, just do it up front. We'll talk, and if the numbers don't match, then we'll talk on the next one.
Don't accept what you feel is a low number. Just say no. It's easy.
Sometimes you'll take a project below regular rate for whatever reason. If you do, then please don't gripe about it throughout the project, and make a half-baked delivery a day before the deadline. This drives us nuts, and you've lost a client.
If you're concerned about scope changes, make sure you're satisfied with how everything's defined on the SOW -- what is and what isn't included for the rate. Again, before we ink everything, not after.
A few practical steps: make a list of things you want to work out with all clients (rate, terms, etc). Read any contract you’re required to sign and discuss any details with which you don’t agree. Make sure you have agreements in writing.
TIP #3: Treat us like your clients
Yes, treat us like clients because…well, we are your clients. We’re hiring you for a project and we’re paying you. We could be hiring someone else, but we’re hiring you. That makes you special to us, and us special to you. Please don’t treat us like the incompetent supervisor at your old salary job. You know, the hapless fella you talk trash about and skip over whenever you can? We’re not that guy. We’re a client, not your regular employer. If we don’t want to work with you again, it’s much easier than going through HR and all the Labor Law hoops, especially here in California.
So what does that mean? When we ask you a question, please don’t ignore it. Keep communication professional. When we say something about your work, please don’t get immediately defensive. Don’t bring the drama.
TIP #4: Be honest
Yes, I have to include this here, and yes, there's a reason for it unfortunately.
TIP #5: Communicate
This is the common thread. Communication is key. Give your client updates. Set expectations. During a project, be available to answer calls or texts, or let us know if and when you won't be available. Delays don't stress us as much as not being able to contact our team. We shouldn’t have to call and email and text multiple times to get a quick update. So, make communication a priority.
Most of the above are common sense items but good to keep in mind especially when starting your freelance career. Any thoughts, please comment below. If you’re a freelancer looking for work, check us out at picturelab.com and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.