10 Tips That Make a Successful Professional Freelancer

Derek Abram
CEO of Prio
6 min read

The gig economy is booming and people across the globe are realizing the benefits of working for themselves. This has transformed the freelance community, with now about 59 million Americans that have freelanced in the past year. Millennials and gen z are gearing more towards a work-life balance approach, making freelancing and independent contract work more preferred sources of income. In this article, we take a look at the advantages of freelancing and outline 10 freelance tips to make you a successful professional freelancer. 

Advantages of freelancing

If you are looking to switch over to freelancing or becoming an independent contractor, here are some of the pros of becoming a freelancer:

Freedom and flexibility

Being a freelancer means being your own boss. You can set your work schedule, boundaries of when you’ll log off work, and even work remotely. You can choose to take a few days off without sending in approval forms and you know when best to do so as you’ll be managing your own income. 

Choose who you want to work with

With this flexibility comes the freedom of choice. If you do not want to work with a potential client, you have full control over saying no. Alternatively, if you enjoy working with a client and they, too, value your contribution, you can choose to extend your contract with them. 

Control your workload

You will know who your clients are, how long your projects are for and what your bandwidth is like. Based on this, you can control how much work you take on. You can choose to work on a project that is more meaningful to you if you have the bandwidth and say no to a project that doesn’t align with your values.

Exposure and learning new skills

As a freelancer, you are the jack (or jill) of all trades to a certain extent. You manage your clients, do the work, use tools to keep track of your work and do admin work such as invoicing and creating contracts. In some instances, one client may use a particular tool to track projects whereas a different client uses a different tool. This variety of tools and projects gives you exposure and helps you learn new skills and software.

Freelancing tips: How to become successful as a professional freelancer

Now that you’re ready to become a professional freelancer, you need to figure out how to be successful at it. Here are some freelancing tips that will help you reach your full potential as a successful professional freelancer:

Define your area of expertise

When you are a freelancer, sometimes clients approach you and sometimes you have to approach potential clients for work. In this case, you need to figure out what your niche is and how you can clearly lay it out for them. Identify and define the area of expertise that you want to offer as a service/solution to your potential clients. This will make it easier for you to have a quick chat and outline your services. It is also helpful to prepare an elevator pitch - you never know who you will run into at any place, at any time, that could be a potential client!

Build your digital presence

Everything and everyone is online these days. Once you figure out your area of expertise, create a digital presence to put yourself out there and market yourself. You can either set up a website that outlines your services or sign up with freelance networks such as Fiver and UpWork. You can also use social media to network and connect with potential clients. LinkedIn is a good starting point to connect with B2B clients and platforms like Instagram are a great way to connect with potential B2C clients. Use your profiles to talk about your services as well and take part in key community discussions around your area of expertise.

Calculate your rate

Figure out how much you will be charging for your services. You can decide whether it is an hourly rate or by project base. Most freelancers use hourly rates as it is the most accurate and you can get your time’s worth of income. It does sound daunting to keep track of hours and rates for multiple clients. However, this is where platforms like Prio can help you accurately track time for different clients. You can have multiple rates per project, and rate changes can be scheduled. Once a project is complete, you can automate your invoices to be sent to your clients. 

Always have a contract

When you finalize a client, make sure you and the client sign a contract with the agreed work. A basic freelance contract should include:

  • Contact details (of both the client and the freelancer)
  • The scope of work
  • Deliverables
  • Rates
  • Payment timeline, currency, and method
  • Payment deadlines and any repercussions if the freelancer misses a deadline or if the payment is late
  • Legal terms and conditions
  • Copyright
  • Cancellation terms
  • Equipment and expenses incurred
  • Signature and date at the end

Some clients may also include a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which establishes a confidentiality agreement between the client and the freelancer. Always ensure that you meticulously go through the contract and ask for clarifications if you are unsure of anything. Run the contract by a legal professional if you can or get a second opinion where possible. 

Build a schedule

While freelancing makes you your own boss, it is advisable to have a schedule that you follow. This ensures that you are giving all your clients an equal amount of time and attention, while also making sure that you have a work-life balance. It is common for freelancers to work late hours and have no strict schedule. Having one in place can help you stay more productive and prove to be helpful for your mental health. 

Document your work

Keep track of all the work you do for your different clients. Save them on the cloud, on an external hard drive or maintain an online portfolio. This helps you later on if you need to refer to old projects for other clients. It also helps you update your portfolio regularly while having as much relevant information as possible when potential clients ask for sample work. 

Update clients regularly

The best way to ensure that you have a good relationship with all your clients is by updating them regularly on their projects and work. Provide a regular status update of the things you are working on and how they are progressing. You can use a project management tool or send an email to them on a weekly basis. You can even set up weekly meetings to share status updates and get any necessary updates from their end that might be helpful.

Research on newer tools

Part of being a good communicator as a freelancer relies on the kind of tools and software you are using to communicate and manage projects. Regularly research new tools in the freelance space that can make your work life more efficient. Look into how you can use these new tools and integrate them with your existing tools. You can use platforms like Reddit and Facebook groups to communicate with other freelancers in the community to find out what they are using and what’s new in the market. 

Maintain your portfolio

Set aside time once a month or once a quarter to update your portfolio. Showcasing your work and sharing sample work with potential clients is key to becoming a successful freelancer. Your work should be able to speak for itself and the best way to showcase this is through a portfolio. You can choose to have it as a website, a digital pdf, or even on a social media platform such as Instagram or Pinterest. 

Request referrals

Lastly, freelancers get most of their gigs through word of mouth. Asking for a referral is crucial as you can use it as a testimonial for your work. You can also use your good relationship with your client to spread the word to other potential clients if they are happy working with you. The key here is to not shy away from asking for a referral. 

Manage your projects and clients with Prio

Prio helps you take your freelancing to the next level to reach success. The tool makes it easy to organize time entries by category, project, and client, giving you access to insights on productivity and income values. It also automates invoicing by letting you predefine the process for each client, so invoices are prepared on a schedule ready for your adjustments and approval. Get started today with Prio to build your path to becoming a successful professional freelancer.

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