I pride myself on being a practical person. A lot of people are going to discover during this pandemic that lack of time isn’t their issue. Clearly, I am not talking about those who are furloughed from their full-time employer. By the way, if you are a freelancer or 1099 employee in the US, you do qualify to file for unemployment. If you’re a brand new freelancer or you thought about starting your own business and your main complaint was how you didn’t have time because you were sooooooo busy, congratulations…unless you are an essential employee or you’re violating the stay home, stay safe practices, you have time! So, here are my five practical pieces of advice for new freelancers.
#1 – Take Time Every Day to Market Your Service(s)
Unless and until you are established, you cannot rely on others to share the wonders of what you have to offer others. Even then, that doesn’t mean that you fully stop advertising what you do. Even now, I still market what I do. This blog primarily serves as a hobby…but it still keeps my name out there. I also have a Twitter, a Facebook page, LinkedIn, I’m published on other websites, I have my Upwork page, etc. I still occasionally bid on stuff on Upwork. I pin stuff from this blog and from my work from home site. I follow a 30 minute marketing plan I designed (and you can buy it using confessions as a coupon code until April 30, 2020…and it makes the price $1).
You cannot rely on one person or one or two friends who share your posts here and there. You cannot get pissed off that you spent one day or one week marketing here and there and didn’t somehow make $10,000. You must put in the work. Period. I built this business working it in the evenings and on weekends around my family’s schedule while working two other jobs. Some of you (now during COVID-19) cannot sit here talking about how you do not have the fucking time. You have plenty of fucking time. You do not have the motivation or self-discipline to follow through.
#2 – It Isn’t Your Project Once It’s Awarded to You
New freelancers (and even some experienced freelancers) have this habit of thinking that once a project is awarded to them that it is their project and they can do whatever they want.
No, dear, it is not yours. It is the client’s project. Do not do whatever in the hell you please with it. That’s a great way to get fired and have shitty feedback left for you if you met them on a freelancing platform. You need to have a clear conversation with the client to understand what they want to get out of the project as well as to understand how they think the project should go. This will help you understand where they’re at, if they need to be educated about the process, and if you’re on the same page. This will prevent a lot of future problems.
It is their project. It is not your project. Sometimes you’ll be given leeway to just take the reins and run with it…and sometimes you won’t.
Related: How to Handle Firing a Client
#3 – Understand How to Charge for Your Work
This takes some time and some work on your part. And that’s okay. First, think about what you need to survive. There are lots of pricing methods. I like to keep it simple. I don’t like math. My method seven years ago when I first thought about doing this was:
- To take what I wanted to make per year…what I needed to survive (I actually took a larger amount than what I made working two jobs because teaching college and working part time in a law firm didn’t pay much) and divided by 12. That gave me the monthly amount.
- I took the monthly amount and divided it by 4 because there are 4 weeks in a month. That gave me a weekly amount.
- I took the weekly amount and divided it by the number of days I wanted to work per week. That gave me the amount I needed to make each day.
- I took the daily amount and divided it by the number of hours I wanted to work each day.
That gave me a starting point. It wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t even sure I could charge that rate initially…so I didn’t at first. In the beginning, I started lower because I had another job (two of them). I used a lower rate (not what I refer to as slave wages by US standards) because I wanted potential clients on Upwork to take a chance on me and also not feel like I was getting taken advantage of. I wanted the feedback. As time went on, it became easier to adjust my rates for per word and flat rate projects because I knew, roughly, how long it would take for me to do those projects. And I kept moving up my hourly rate.
Looking back, I probably could have charged more given that one of my main client bases happens to be lawyers and I am an experienced (and degreed) paralegal who happens to understand the consumer market very well. But…hindsight and all that shit, right?
#4 – Fucking Do the Work
It isn’t always easy to do the work. Some days are great. They are exciting, especially in the beginning. And some days are overwhelming and challenging, especially in the beginning…and even now with experience and in COVID-19…except for me with six years of experience and one kid at home, it’s more like extended spring break.
But you have to fucking do the work. Do the work on great days. Do the work on days it fucking sucks. Do the work on days you don’t want to fucking do it. If you have a deadline, do the work. If you don’t have any work, it is your job to do the fucking work to get the work. You are in business for yourself. Unless you have enough money put back to not worry about not working for a bit and have told your clients you’re taking a couple of days / weeks off, do the fucking work. And don’t bitch about it. You literally signed up for this.
#5 – Set Up a Schedule
I have harped on this since almost day one of this blog. I even wrote a book about it that’s on Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback. So I’m not just saying this because you’re at home because of COVID-19. Set a schedule and stick to it. Before COVID-19, I suggested this because it helps protect your time. The do-it-later mentality leads to you losing valuable time and you running the risk of shoddy work or missing a deadline. Now? It just helps you keep a sense of normalcy.