So, you want to make a career as a freelancer? It’s easy to get started. Anybody with a skill to sell can advertise online and find the occasional job. It’s very unlikely, though, that you’ll earn a living that way. The successful freelancer is organised, focused and – as a rule – filling up as many working hours as can reasonably be used while maintaining a healthy work/life balance. You should never be struggling to find work and you should continually be progressing toward better levels of pay. How can you get into that position? These tips should help.
Value your work
When you start out, you’ll encounter a lot of people asking you to work at discount rates – or even for free – on one pretext or another. Often, they’ll tell you that it will help to build your reputation, but is that true? You should value what you do and always ensure that you’re getting something concrete in return. That could be the publicity that derives from doing work for a well-known charity or it could be the skill-building opportunity that comes from working with a highly experienced manager or editor, but 95% of the time it should be money. Keep minimum wage in mind and make sure you’re getting adequately paid for your time – then factor in the time it takes you to source jobs and do the associated paperwork.
Stick to your deadlines
When you’re working for yourself, it’s essential to be disciplined. That is as important to most clients as the quality of your work. They need to know that you’ll deliver on time because they have busy schedules. Make sure you allow sufficient time for projects, don’t let yourself be distracted, and if you do get something in late, be honest about how it happened and how you’ll ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Freelancing becomes much less productive in financial terms if you’re spending half your time chasing up late payers or dealing with people who try to cheat you on contracts (which you should secure in advance for every job). A union may cost money to join but can save you a lot by taking on those annoying jobs for you and wielding a lot more clout when it does so. If you’re a writer, for instance, you could join the NUJ, which offers discount rates for beginners on low incomes.
Be sharp about finance
As a freelancer, you’re responsible both for ensuring that you have an adequate income and for paying your taxes on time. One option is to sign up with an umbrella company, which will help with contractor pay, and deal with all the complicated admin for you. That makes things straightforward for all concerned, lifting the burden of paperwork from your shoulders and freeing you up to concentrate on the work itself.
Always be on the lookout
There is nothing predictable about freelancing, no matter how good you become, so you always need to be on the lookout for the next job, and for higher paying opportunities. Treat every social event as a networking opportunity and you’ll soon be on track to getting paid as well as you deserve.