How to Become an Awesome Freelancer (and Make More Money in Less Time)

No longer are we in the times where you could simply choose a career fresh out of high school or post-secondary school, and stay there for 35 years, worry-free. The cost of living has gone up and the money earned from a traditional job hasn’t exactly matched it. 

For this reason, many are turning to freelancing. Some do it part-time as a side hustle and some do it full-time as an alternative to a classic career. Do you want to learn how to freelance awesomely and, you know, make some money from it? If so, you’re in the right place.

Why is Freelancing Important?

If you’re still on the fence about freelancing as a whole, you’re certainly not alone in that. The term makes it sound like a hobby, right? However, there are a lot of perks that apply now more than ever to our modern world.

  • You can work remotely or from home: Freelancing is all about remote work. This is what makes it such a rewarding career for parents and other people who have responsibilities that keep them at home.
  • You can work as little or as often as you want: Another important feature of freelancing is that you can work at your own pace. If you are unemployed traditionally, you can work full-time when the hours are most convenient for you. Freelancing is intended to work to your schedule and at your pace.
  • You can work in your field: Another detail that is so common in our modern life is that those graduating post-secondary institutions don’t often get a chance to work in their field. Freelancing lets you focus on your area of interest and work with what you are most passionate about.

At its core, freelancing is important because it puts the worker in charge of their life in all of the ways that matter.

Important Questions to Know How to Answer

Here are some of the basic questions to understand and know how to answer to make freelancing work for you.

  • What’s the difference between a quote and an invoice?: When you start working, most people will ask you to send them a quote. A quote is an estimate of charges that the job is going to cost. Most quotes often include details such as delivery time as well. It could be an informal email message or it could be done using formal invoicing software. Regardless of its form, it’s important to distinguish from an invoice. An invoice is the final, accurate document to send to the customer that tells them exactly how much everything cost when the order was completed. A quote is not necessarily set in stone, but an invoice is and needs to be accurate to the work completed. Here’s a guide on How to write an invoice.
  • How do invoices work and when do I send them?: An invoice is like a receipt at a store. You send it when the job is completed and it should have everything itemized (rates, hours worked, services performed etc.). It should also include information such as how you wish to be paid and when, and often it includes information on refunds or follow-up questions. That can be a lot to deal with each time as far as manual input, so using an online invoicing service to help manage a template will be a huge time-saver while still keeping everything official.
  • How do I set (and keep to) deadlines?: One of the trickiest things starting out is how to handle deadlines. Do you know how long it will take you to deliver what someone has ordered? Can you juggle multiple orders or multiple customers at the same time without any of them losing quality or being delivered late? Deadlines, especially when starting out, should be set longer than you think you need. Not only will it keep you from asking for extensions, but it will also mean that you can deliver early — which is always a nice perk and may earn you a repeat customer. If someone wants you to deliver earlier than you had quoted them, you can decide whether or not it is a realistic expedited deadline (just like express shipping versus standard shipping, for instance) and then charge them extra for it.
  • How do retainers work?: You may have heard the expression “being on retainer”, but do you know what it means specific to freelancing? A retainer is a contract that both a freelancer and a company (client) have to agree to and it means that the freelancer is entitled to a certain amount of work weekly or monthly. The payment is, essentially, guaranteed to come in on a weekly or monthly basis and it gives stability to the freelancer. It also ensures the client gets the business of their preferred freelancer.
  • How do I set my rate of pay?: If you are working through a specific freelancing platform, it will often recommend or dictate what your rate should be. If you are working privately and directly with customers, however, you’ll want to make sure that you are setting a good hourly rate that will keep your pricing competitive and still make sure that you are earning enough money to make it worth your while.

How to Make Freelancing Work For You

These are some tips to help you get a good freelance profile going so that you can bring in the clients and get some cash in your pocket.

  • Go at your own pace: There’s no question that deciding to jump on the freelance train has a bit of risk. But you don’t need to make it a huge risk by simply quitting your 9-5 job and deciding to become a freelance voiceover recording artist. You can go at your own pace and then make the transition from a corporate job to freelancer when you feel ready to do it financially. As mentioned, you can take freelancing to be anything from a side hustle for pocket money to a full-time career on which you can support yourself. The decision is yours.
  • Prioritize customer relationships: Regardless of where you end up freelancing or how you end up doing it, you’ll want to make customer relations a key focus. Make sure that you get back to customers promptly (24 hours or less is often the standard), focus attention on keeping calm and professional even when dealing with rude or aggressive customers, and always do what you can to make the customer happy. While this can be hard to get right all the time, just make sure you always remember to take proper care of the customer. They will be what determines your success and most of your business will come from customer referrals, so it’s in your best interest to go the extra mile for the customer if you need to.
  • Brush up on your skills: It makes sense that you are going to become a freelancer in a category in which you have skills and experience (as well as passion), but you’ll also want to take it upon yourself to brush up on those skills. If you’re a freelance LSAT instructor, for instance, make sure you are familiar with the latest guidelines and recommendations. If you are a content writer, make sure you’re comfortable with editing and new word processor features.

    You may also want to consider brushing up on your skills formally, too. If you have the option to take a course or a class or even get a formal degree to back up your skills, it might be worth your while. You can do this before you start freelancing, or while you are working on freelancing and do both at the same time. Not only does it help you make sure you are always putting your best, most accurate foot forward, it also will help show your customers that you are serious about what you do.
  • Make sure to do some competitor research: A good freelancer profile comes from taking the time to see what the competition is doing. Take a look online anywhere you can think of and get a feel for deadlines, rates, extra charges and anything else that’s important in your industry. Competitor research will help you set up your freelancer profile so that you have the same level of professionalism and accuracy that the others do.
  • Consider starting with a platform: If you’ve taken a look online at your competitors, you’ll find that there appear to be a lot of options out there for freelance platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr. While there are many people out there telling you not to go with these platforms because they are oversaturated, you may want to consider trying out a platform at first. This is especially so if you aren’t sure whether or not freelancing is right for you. Going through a platform offers you hosting, security, access to the marketplace, and it’s often free or relatively inexpensive.

    A platform can offer you a chance to dip your toes in the freelancing water — so to speak — and see if you enjoy the freelancing lifestyle at no risk to them. If you do, you can make the change to start taking customers privately and start using online organizational software such as Billbooks to keep financial and customer details organized. If not, you can get out of the game easily with a bit of money in your pocket and no holds or risks taken.

    You can also use a freelancing platform as an internship to learn all the things you need to know through the safety of the platform. Then, when you’re ready, you can transition to working independently and whilst keeping a foot in both worlds — that is, you keep your online platform profile as well as starting a private one — so that you can bring in money from each one.

    You can also enjoy support from accessible online tools such as Grammarly for any kind of writing, Google Analytics for SEO work, a customer relationship management (CRM) system to keep your work streamlined and more. Not only can this help make your freelancing work easier, but it can also help you to understand what services you can (and should) offer to customers!

Financial Stability and Freelancing

Freelancing means that you are working in a “gig economy” instead of with salaried, bi-weekly pay cheques. You’ll need to get a feel for how much you earn monthly or quarterly (an online CRM and invoice software can help make this easier) so that you can start understanding the trends of freelance work. While there can be dips in freelancing, there are also very high peaks when you’ll be raking in the cash. Once you start to earn regular clients, though, you’ll find your income can even out enough for you to see how it’s all tracking long term.

The elephant in the room of freelancing is that it all costs money from the get-go. Since you can’t often find many lenders for self-employed professionals, you may need to dip into your savings to do this. To help you self-finance, focus on keeping low credit card balances and paying debt on time. These will help build a good credit history and can mean that a lender will see you as a healthy risk. The other thing to do is go with cheap or free software wherever you can. Some examples are Google Analytics, Grammarly, Hemingway and more. You can even look into free websites options such as Wix or WordPress.

Using these tips, you can get started on the right foot and start bringing in some serious money using skills and tips that you already have, at your own pace. Taking on a freelancing position takes focus, skills that you already have, online support tools for invoicing and finesse, and a little bit of time. Making it through tough times or just enjoying a remote job that is fulfilling could be as simple as making freelancing work for you.

Alasdair Nicol
Alasdair Nicol
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