Self Employment / Writing

My Top 9 Freelancing Tips for Newbies

In 2014 I left my 12-year career in project management after becoming super stressed and unhappy.

Between the daily commute, working in an office and office politics, I felt like I was going mad. And then there was the job itself. Struggling with stress and anxiety, an increasing workload and unrealistic demands, my physical health started to take a dive. And so I took matters into my own hands and plunged… right into unemployment.

I didn’t have a plan.

All I knew was this: it was the right thing to do. I was exhausted, and the universe had been sending me some strong signal to stop!

Up until then I’d been blogging for four years, but I never believed I could make money from writing. In the back of my mind I guess I just didn’t believe I was any good.

Making choices

After turning down a job offer back in project management, I started investigating how to start my own business.

Initially, I started out as a Virtual Assistant, which brought in some cash but wasn’t overly fulfilling. And quickly I gravitated towards clients who wanted help with their communication and social media marketing. This led to me designing a service offering combining blogging with social media management – and it took off from there!

After my income steadied, I had more time to think. This led me to applying for writing jobs on topics I was passionate about. And as I upped my own social media marketing and networking, like-minded people started to gravitating to me. I like to believe that the universe stepped in again!

The highs and the lows

It was a steep learning curve, jumping into freelancing with no idea of what I was doing! And leaving a high-paying corporate job with no savings led to a lot of financial stress.

However that goes hand in hand with starting a business. You see, building a pipeline takes time. There’s also a degree of uncertainty in freelancing in regards to where your next pay cheque will come from. On top of that, there’s this unspoken expectation by some that freelancers will write for peanuts. It can be devaluing.

In saying that, I’ve never been happier and feel very satisfied. I’ve met some amazing people along the way, have had some great opportunities, and have built a portfolio of wonderful clients.

My top 9 freelancing tips

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer or are already freelancing and need some advice, look no further. Here are my top freelancing tips to help you on your way.

1. Build your portfolio

Write, write, write! Start your own blog, guest post, investigate websites you can submit articles to. These will all help you to build your portfolio and get your work out there!

2. Network on and offline

Talk to people, both online and offline. Join groups. Establish referral programs. Build your social media presence. Blog. Attend networking events. Guest write. You just never know where your next opportunity will come from. I scored one sitting in a dentist chair!

3. Do your industry research

Research the standard industry rates for the countries you are targeting for work. It’s different across the board. The rates in Australia are higher than other countries, so quoting Australian rates for a job with an American client I really want to work with would be silly!

4. Take yourself seriously

The one issue any freelancer faces is ‘what to charge’. The second is people undervaluing their services.

When I started out I undervalued myself. I once took a writing job for $5 just to build my portfolio. I held the mentality of desperation. And sure, I built my portfolio, but those people didn’t respect me or my skills. I gradually increased my pricing, but for 4 years I held my prices down. I told myself it was because I wanted to attract a certain type of client. In reality, when you find the right client they will pay you what you are worth.

So do yourself a favour – take yourself seriously and charge what you are worth!

4. Build your savings

People thought I was brave for quitting my job and leaving my career in project management. I found it terrifying and incredibly stressful!

I highly recommend putting away some savings before leaving any paid employment for a freelance career. Call it a security blanket. It certainly would have saved me a whole lot of stress and white hairs!

5. Get a side job

There’s nothing wrong with taking a side job to get you through!

After talking to others who had started a business, I discovered that many held a job on the side. And there I was, struggling to get by whilst wondering how the hell everyone else was doing it!

A side job will provide you with stability and the space to choose the right freelancing gigs for you – without compromising your standards. So get a part time job, even if it’s stacking shelves in a supermarket. I’ve made coffee, served bears, fried chips, worked as a temp in an office editing documents, and more!

Note: these days I freelance AND have a part-time job in marketing and comms. It’s like I have the best of both worlds!

6. Working from home is hard!

Motivating yourself. Getting out of bed. Avoiding Netflix. Staying healthy and active.

Working from home takes discipline!

And then there’s the social isolation. I’ve gone weeks without seeing anyone, and even for an introvert like me, it can get a little lonely.

I’ve written an entire blog post dedicated to surviving working from home. Check it out here!

7. It’s all in the contract

I’m going to be blunt. DON’T WORK WITHOUT A CONTRACT. I’d even go as far as to say DON’T START WORK WITHOUT A SIGNED CONTRACT.

Think of a contract as a security blanket for yourself and your client. Even if it seems like the stars and the moon have aligned to bring you and your new client together for what seems like the start of a beautiful working relationship, hit pause and draw up a contract you are both comfortable with. Trust me. You won’t regret it.

8. Don’t underestimate word of mouth

Word of mouth can be more successful than online marketing and attending networking events [Frame that…those words came from the fingers of a social media marketer and blogger!].

Business may start off slow but by putting in the hard yards, doing a good job every time, and by being authentic, it will pay dividends.

Today, most of my work comes via word of mouth or referrals. I’m now blessed to have the opportunity to work with like-minded people in the niche areas I am passionate about.

9. Be true to you

Run your freelancing business according to your values. Being true to yourself and authentic in your writing AND business is so worthwhile. So don’t forget to show up as the real you, to write from the heart, and to let your authenticity shine through.

By living and working authentically, you will inspire others to do so and be happier for it.

Are you a freelancer? If so, what are your top freelancing tips?

Want to read more? Check these out.

10 skills you need to thrive in the gig economy

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer or are already freelancing and need some advice, look no further. Here are my top freelancing tips to help you on your way.
About Author

Changed careers in my 30's. Became a freelancer writer & marketer. I'm a proud redhead, fangirl, wife & step mum. And I'm a lover of all things books, movies, podcasts, dogs & naps.

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