5 Practical Tips for New Freelancers

Young, stylish woman working near a window on black laptop. Young, stylish woman working near a window on black laptop.

Freelancing sounds like freedom—and freedom sounds damn good, doesn’t it?

Hold up —

Free can also mean broke, sad, and lost.

It depends where you’re at in the process.

I‘m currently giving it a shot through the ups and downs (let me be real: the ups are really up, and the downs are really down). If you’re wondering how to bypass some of the downs (or at least manage them), stay put.

FREELANCING PROS

  • Wake up knowing you control your schedule and can work from anywhere — Yesssss
  • Being your own boss and deciding what projects you take and when
  • Charge a healthy rate ($$$) for something you’re already good at

FREELANCING CONS

  • Feeling shitty when someone undervalues your skills and business — “What can I get for $100 dollars?” *Cries*
  • Meeting 30 potential clients for coffee with no follow-up bookings *facepalm*
  • Being in-between work [read: unemployed] and marketing yourself hard, despite the mental health struggles that come with unemployment. That shit ain’t easy.

Freelancing and self-employment have become extremely popular. In the United States in 2016, 34% of the workforce was freelance.

If you’re ready to dive into the uncertain world of self-employment, here are 5 real-life-no-bullshit tips to get you off on the right foot.

1. Find a support group

Just because you’re going out on your own doesn’t mean you need to do it alone.

If you’ve never worked for yourself before, you need to learn a ton of new skills — fast. Why recreate the wheel when others have gone through it before you (and might be willing to share tips?).

When you’re working alone from home the only thing you can ask about hourly rates, invoicing, difficult clients, follow-ups, & budgeting is Google.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Google, (don’t hurt my SEO, Google Gods!) but it can only take you so far.

Google can’t provide emotional support. Or hugs.

Finding a group of freelancers or entrepreneurs to commiserate with will go a long way for your mental health. I’ve learned some lessons through trial and error. I’m happy to share these lessons with my peers and they’re happy to share them with me.

There’s practical advice and there’s emotional support. Google can’t provide the latter. My crew of freelance friends hold me up when things go sour and high-five when projects soar.

If you can, join a co-working space to meet other self-employed peeps. In the Toronto area? Make Lemonade is my spot of choice.

2. Research your hourly rate, prices & packages

Credit: https://tonl.co/

One morning in March I announced on social media that I was going Freelance. Within hours, I had requests from 2 friends to work for them. They immediately asked:

  • What’s your hourly rate?
  • How much do you charge for…?
  • Do you have a standard contract?

I fumbled all over the place to answer their questions. I hadn’t thought about this before making my announcement. I quickly did some research, asked some contacts, but ultimately underpriced myself for the work and ended up giving the employer all the power.

Avoid my scenario. Invest time in the early days of your freelance decision determining your services and putting some packages together. If possible, do this before telling anyone about your news.

How can you figure out an hourly rate? What the hell’s a package?

Remember that support group I mentioned? Time to hit ’em up.

Not everyone will be willing to share their pricing strategies, but some might. Now, this doesn’t mean you should charge exactly how others do. It simply provides you an idea of the market rate and comparable services. Here are some helpful articles about pricing as a freelancer:

Pricing 101 — How To Price Yourself As A Freelancer

How to set your copywriting fees and earn what you’re worth

How to charge for freelance copywriting services

Packages are helpful because they set expectations for your potential clients. Rather than spending hours researching each time someone approaches you for your services, simply forward them a list of packages you’ve already created. This helps set the context for how much you charge and what they might be interested in.

Website need editing? You have a package for that.

Social media strategy? Yup, one for that too.

For example, in October/November I offered a package of 3 blog posts for new clients for less than I would normally charge.

The clearer you are on your value and how to put it all together with a bow, the easier it will be for your ideal customer to find you — and book you!

If you don’t want to do a lot of research, just take it from my friend and fellow freelancer, Jessica Hamilton: “Double the hourly rate you were making in your last job, add 15 percent, and charge that.

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