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February 25, 2020

The Best 25 Tips for Freelancers

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Contrary to popular belief, freelancing is no walk in the park. You have to take responsibility for your entire future and your overall income, and you have to choose who to work for all on your own. Yes, since you dictate your entire income, you will have to look for clients on a daily basis to ensure that your cash flow is actually consistent. Also, since you are completely in charge of everything, any mistake that you make will only be blamed on one person in the end: you.

So, how can you tackle all of these challenges head-on? Keep reading.

1. Focus on the details

When explaining what a project will need or when quoting a client, make sure you are always specific. If you are a freelance coder, for example, think about what type of coding has to be done and which pages need it. Now, this doesn't mean you have to explain all of the PHP codes you plan on using; being specific simply means giving accurate details on the things that you know your client would want to know and understand.

Being specific will actually benefit you a lot, most of all if you have to get into work issues that need to be done. Plus, it can help you communicate with your clients more effectively. After all, clients need that sense of authority whenever they ask you to finish a project and by giving them enough details, you can satisfy that need for them.

2. Communicate with your clients on a regular basis

Remember: clients don't like it when you keep them in dark while a project is going on, so set milestones and communicate with your clients every 24 hours, every few days or every week. If you need more time to complete a project, then just tell them. Clients would rather know if a project is running late - remember that - and they will definitely appreciate your communication and sense of responsibility when all is said and done.

3. Sign a contract

A lot of freelancers forget to do this, but this is actually a vital step if you want to ensure that you get paid in the end. Make sure your contract consists of the project details and arranged deadlines, and try to hire a solicitor who can look over the contract for you, too.

4. Ask for a down payment

This is another vital step if you want to ensure that you get paid. After all, some clients might sign the contract, but still give you a hard time with payments anyway. Because of this, I usually ask for a down payment of 30 to 50% when it comes to my freelance work.

5. Have a database of clients

Of course, you always have to keep records of their information anyway, like their contact numbers and email addresses, but having an actual database with all of this information may prove to be very useful later on.

6. Document your briefs

Surprisingly enough, a lot of freelancers just work off their client's email formats right away, but relying on the information in an email inbox is never smart when it comes to data security. Instead, you should start copy-pasting the important information into electronic documents.

7. Communicate in a professional manner

When talking to your clients on the phone, in person, or through email, make sure you stay professional at all times (unless you're good friends, of course). This goes for the entire sphere of communication methods.

8. Make a signature

Another useful tip would be to include a signature in your online portfolio that has your contact information and website link on it. You can also include this signature with all of the emails that you send to your clients.

9. Avoid using too much jargon

Whenever you speak to your clients, avoid using jargon and lingo that they might not understand.

10. Detail your invoices

When sending invoices to your clients, make sure that they are complete. This means that you should include a small section that talks about the project terms on them. Ideally, you should send these invoices through email or regular mail.

11. Do not start work right away

That's right. Do not start working until the entire down payment is clear. Make sure you let your clients know that the down payment will be good for both of you, so you can both work on the project with peace of mind.

12. Do not wait too long to reply

If a client is waiting for your response, don't keep them waiting too long. I have actually had clients in the past who were so obsessed with checking on my progress every ten minutes. So, if possible, get a mobile phone that can answer emails on-the-go. This way, your clients will never have to wait again. If you want, you can just call them, too.

13. Create another email address

You should have another email address that you can use for support issues with your clients aside from the one that you use to actually contact them. This way, you can filter various emails out and put some structure into your communication scheme.

14. Work on set hours

If you work from home, then you probably have some clients getting in touch with you in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning. Well, if you want to save your social life from dying underneath all of your freelance work, then you have to separate them as much as possible. The best way to do this would be to set hours wherein clients can contact you. If you don't want to be bothered outside of that time slot, just send their calls to voicemail.

15. Work in set areas

Another important thing you need as a freelancer is a separate working area at home. Since freelancers usually use computers, you will also need to get a computer separate from the family computer, so as to avoid problems with data security and the like.

16. Time your projects right

If you work at an hourly rate, you have to focus on your working etiquette all the more. Since you charge by the hour, you will have to time yourself every day. However, even if this isn't the case, it would be mar to time yourself, so you can find out how long your work actually takes you.

17. Round out the hours

A lot of freelancers charge by complete hour - and for good reason. Decimals are a pain to work with and makes things quite tricky, too. Because of this, there is a rounding rule that you need to work by. This is how it works: if you go past 30 minutes, then that counts as an entire hour. Conversely, if you went past the last hour by 15 minutes, then it doesn't. That's how fair rounding works.

18. Put some structure in your working times

Now, this might be hard to do, but all freelancers have to establish heir working times in order to become more efficient. Since I tend to be more efficient in the evening, I work at night and thus get things done better and faster. If you think it will help, you can try making a timetable for your work schedule as it comes. However, I find that to be too time-consuming and I never follow timetables anyway.

19. Look into computer safety

Since most freelancers work on their computers, it would be vital for you to think about the date safety on your computer. This means that you have to invest in antivirus software, preferably one that has anti-spyware and anti-malware capabilities, too. Remember: just one virus can wreak complete havoc on the data in your computer and cause file corruptions like no other, so stay safe.

20. Keep backups

A backup hard drive is a complete must and you need to store it away from your daily computer. Keep all of your important folders and files in that hard drive and have an accessibly copy inside your computer, too. Backup as often as possible - preferably every month - so that you avoid data loss. After all, you wouldn't want to lose that design that you finished in ten hours, would you?

21. Get a good chair

That's right. You will be sitting in that chair for several hours a day, so make sure you buy one that is comfortable and doesn't hurt your back when you work. If you don't like to sit all day, though, then you can lie down and work if you want. Some people find that tactic better.

22. Get a whiteboard

Whiteboards are always handy to have around in your home office. They are great for mind-mapping projects and to-do lists; plus, they will make you get up off your chair every now and then.

23. Add some color to your home office

Since you are a freelancer, you can turn your home office into a personal haven. Remember: you will be spending a lot of time there, so it makes sense to create a vibrant atmosphere. Try to add some plants inside your office or paint one of the walls. If you surround yourself with color, you can actually give yourself a much easier time at work. Plus, you will end up being more creative at it.

24. Keep things clean

Having a clean work area is absolutely vital when it comes to work, so put your papers away and prevent clutter from popping up on your desk. Clutter makes it extremely hard to work, and having a clean office will help you focus on tasks much better - remember that.

25. Think about positioning

Lastly, you have to consider the positioning of things in your office. Make sure your keyboard isn't too close or too far from you and make sure your monitor is at the ideal distance. Research shows that by positioning your chair, keyboard and monitor right, you can affect your levels of concentration in a significant manner as you work. Also, by moving your monitor a bit farther away, you can save your eyes from strain and will be able to take looking at the monitor for a bit longer - believe it.

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Neeraj Sachdeva
September 27, 2011 - 1:02 pm
I am surprised you have not touched upon marketing and getting referrals. Perhaps you should consider these as important part of a freelancer's career too
August 31, 2011 - 9:47 am
Nice list, some things I never thought of, thanks.
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