Adobe Creative Cloud

March 17, 2015 /

Making Green and Creating Gold: 10 Tips for Freelancers

Freelancing is a tough business, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. You get to choose your own hours and projects, and it opens up a whole new world of creative opportunities. For many creatives, once they find success in freelancing they never want to go back to working for anybody else.

But before you get started, there are a few things you should keep in mind to help get your business off the ground.

1. Don’t Quit Your Day Job… Yet

Once you get the idea of becoming a freelancer in your head, it can be hard to think of anything else. But the smartest thing you can do is to build your freelance business slowly. Start by making a business plan—this will force you to outline what you wish to accomplish with your freelance business, helping you to define your goals and objectives, while establishing a realistic timeline.

2. Take On One Client At A Time At First

Building your business slowly will help you transition naturally into the freelance world. It will also allow you to focus more time on each client, resulting in a final product both you and the client can be proud of. It will give you time to learn, time to reflect and time to build on your experiences. Creating one high-quality piece of work is much more valuable than creating three that are sub-par, especially when you’re trying to build a reputation.

3. Start A Portfolio Website

Create a hub of your work. If you don’t have a place to showcase samples of your work on the Internet, then you don’t exist. Potential clients need to be able to find you, and you need to be able to provide them with a portfolio that highlights your experience and sells potential clients on your work. And remember, as you get more experience and take on new clients, ensure you’re constantly updating your website to showcase your latest work. A good place to get started is Behance. You should also check out Stephen van der Hoeven’s portfolio for even more inspiration!

"Self Promotional Work" by Rafael Varona on Behance.

“Self Promotional Work” by Rafael Varona on Behance.

4. Fake It ’til You Make It

If you have not worked on many websites or apps, you’re going want to create some concept mock-ups that give your clients an understanding of what you’re capable of creating. You may want to consider volunteering to redevelop the website of a charity or not-for-profit that you’re passionate about. This will give you a working example of your talent, helping you to develop your portfolio while earning client testimonials (and references) at the same time.

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Web design concept: “Xplore – rethinking travel booking” by Morten Håvik on Behance

5. Make Yourself Known

There’s nothing worse than a great site that is buried on search engines—or a great creative that no one knows about. To make yourself known in the online space:

  • Do some research on keywords and link building to help your site rise in the rankings, and consider starting a blog to help establish yourself as an expert on the topic and to rank higher in Google
  • Leverage social media to help build a network around your work and to become active in the creative community online
  • Create a LinkedIn profile to make yourself easier to find

6. Get Out Of The House

Don’t forget about good old-fashioned in person networking. Tell your friends and family members that you’re doing this—and tell them to tell their networks too. Word of mouth is still the primary currency of freelancers. There are also many local meet-ups and events that allow technologists to mingle. Participating in these events is a great way to get to know people. You never know who will be looking for a new web developer or designer. And don’t forget to bring business cards.

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Attend a Behance Portfolio Review event in your city

7. Have a Steady Source of Income

Money is the killer of freelance dreams. Even when you sign a contract, there’s no guarantee that the money will roll in on time. A real danger of freelancing is you can potentially go months without a check coming in—even if you’ve worked consistently throughout that time. Freelancers need to be aware that getting paid can be the hardest part of freelancing, leading to frustration that can make it tempting to abandon your freelance ambitions. Your best defense is a secondary source of income that you can depend on until you have enough savings to get by between projects. For many freelancers, this may come in the form of a temporary part-time job.

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Say “No”

When you’re freelancing, you don’t always know when your next project is going to come in so it can be tempting to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. You may worry about burning bridges or closing doors. You may also be trying to appease your clients too much by saying yes to requests that are beyond your means in terms of practicality, time or budget. Learning to say no will help prevent you from becoming overworked and overstressed, both of which can affect your work, your credibility and your business.

The quality of your work should always be your first priority. Before saying yes to a new client or assignment, revisit your business plan, take an accurate assessment of your schedule, and realistically map out how much time the project would take you. If you have any doubts—and this includes a potential client that gives you a bad feeling—then trust your gut and turn the opportunity down.

9. Be Professional

Look the part. Develop or hire someone to create a professional logo, ensure your site is free of grammatical and spelling errors, and present yourself professionally when you’re meeting with clients. Brush your hair, iron your shirt, smile and practice a firm handshake. First impressions still mean a lot in today’s world and putting effort into yourself and your website will show your client that you’re ready and willing to put effort into their project as well. This might be what seals the deal.

10. Keep Learning

If you really want your freelance business to succeed, you’re going to have to continuously educate yourself on the newest technologies and trends so you’re always at the top of your game. There are tons of resources online, as well as certificate courses that you can take to continually upgrade your skills. Clients want creatives that are forward thinking and current. Staying on top of what’s new will help you stay on top of the pack.

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Until next time, happy creating!