Last month, I published How To Become A Full-Time Freelancer Part 1 over on Diversified Finances. As I said last week, not everyone wants to become a freelancer. However, if you do, then continue reading!
Now that I have finally switched to full-time freelancing, I have received many e-mails from others asking how they too can be self-employed and freelance full-time.
This is a loaded question to answer, as there is no right answer for the steps that a person should take before they make the freelancing switch. Each person is different, but overall these tips are applicable to the average freelancer (including myself).
I have only been freelancing full-time for a little over one month, but I have been building it up for a couple of years and have been working on it for over 40 hours a week for quite some time.
I have learned a lot, but still have plenty more to learn.
When deciding whether to freelance full-time, there are many things that you should do and/or know about.
Don’t forget about your reputation.
As a freelancer, your reputation is very important. Many potential clients will ask others about you before they decide to use your services. Or they may look for reviews and testimonials. Always turn in work on time, listen to your client, provide high-quality work and so on.
Everything has the potential to affect your reputation. And, in the freelancing world, your reputation and portfolio is very important.
Provide great customer service.
No matter how small a customer is, you should be attempting to provide wonderful customer service. You don’t want to hurt your reputation by giving someone lower service than what you would normally provide.
Prepare for rejection.
As a freelancer, rejection happens. Someone may not want your services, your services may not fit what they are looking for, or they may not like your price. It’s life. This happens. You should not work yourself up and ruin other freelance work because you are dwelling over the past.
Being organized applies to many areas of owning a business. Be organized with your actual work and products, and also be organized with the financial side of your business. For example, you should not be intermingling business money and personal money.
Know your worth.
There will be times when clients will really low-ball you. How low are you willing to go? You need to know your worth and try not to take below that. If you normally charge $50 per article, should you also charge someone else only $10 an article?
Time is money after all. Know what the value to you is.
Be safe when dealing with customers.
If you are new to freelancing, then you may have not dealt with too many people who haven’t paid. However, as a freelancer, this does happen. You do all of the work and never get paid.
Know how to protect yourself. Provide contracts. However, contracts don’t always help you. Some prefer to receive 50% payments upfront, along with many other methods. Determine what works best for you.
Always keep some sort of notepad with you.
I always have my phone on me, and that is for multiple reasons. One reason is for whenever a new business idea or article idea pops in my head. This way I can type it into my phone quickly. I have well over 100 ideas in my notes on my phone.
You never know when your next genius idea will come to mind.
Is your plan to freelance full-time or to be your own boss? What tips do you have?
I think making sure you’re aware that you’re always representing your business is important. As a freelancer, you might have a large online presence, and if a potential client does some digging, you don’t want anything out there that could be damaging. I like your attitude on rejection – it’s business, not personal, so don’t take it as such, though I’m sure that gets easier to do as time goes on!
Yes, you definitely want to be professional!
Great tips, Michelle! I have nothing to add except that I’ve found it easier to work with a handful of big clients vs. a bunch of small ones. Less to keep track of!
Yes, very true! I work for a ton of small ones and just a few large ones, and if I did not keep notes of everything then I would be really lost.
The Warrior says
My biggest suggestion to any and everyone looking to provide a service online is that you follow Michelle’s tips above.
The #1 reason you won’t succeed is not taking action. A close second is not doing your best and going above and beyond for your early clients. They are the ones that will propel you to success. Add a personal touch to everything. They will eventually pass the good word on for you.
Good luck out there folks.
Haha aww thanks!
Yes, not taking action will of course make being a full-time freelancer impossible. Most people just need that push!
John S @ Frugal Rules says
These are all great tips Michelle. The preparing for rejection one can be huge because you’re going to face it at one time or another and you’ll be much better off if you’re thick skinned. I’d also add to always look for ways you can diversify yourself and what you can offer. There are likely many others out there competing against you and you don’t want to lose a job because you don’t have a certain skill.
Thank you John! And yes, I agree, diversifying is a good idea. I try to be as diversified as I can.
FI Pilgrim says
Charging what I’m actually worth is a big hurdle for me. I’ve been helping people with their computers for 15+ years, and they tell their friends about my assistance. Those people I’ve been charging $10/hour (usually old family friends) let their friends know, and when I tell them I charge $40/hour they are shocked! But what’s really a crime is that in a business setting I would charge closer to $80-$120/hour!
Yes, know your worth! $10 an hour is way too cheap.
Anne @ Unique Gifter says
I think being organized is one that a lot of people struggle with, especially on the finances/bookkeeping end of things. Setting structure for your day is one of the hardest things to do as a freelancer and once you get busy, it’s even harder!
I hope you’re enjoying life as a freelancer now 🙂
Yes, I have seen a lot of people who can’t stay organized and it then hurts them a lot because they can never find anything, or they just lose everything.
Matt Becker says
I think the part about your reputation is so important. Don’t give anyone an excuse to say anything bad about you. Consistently try to over-deliver and your clients will go out of their way to give your more business.
I think reputation is everything. If people and companies see you as unprofessional or shady, then they are not going to work with you. And, if you get a reputation for missing deadlines….that is bad too!
Yes, I agree! I think some freelancers don’t think that missing deadlines affects them, but it really does.
Yes, I agree! Protect your reputation.
I love the suggestion about always having a notepad near by to write down ideas. I feel like I have forgetten so many ideas simply because I don’t write them down! My goal is to get one writing job before year end. I will keep these tips in mind : )
Yes, please keep a notepad! There have been so many times that I have typed something into my phone.
Dee @ Color Me Frugal says
Great tips! I am considering trying to go this route in the future so this was a great read for me. Thanks!
You are welcome 🙂
Knowing what your time is worth is something I’m learning myself. It is so important not to settle and take less than you deserve for any job. I’ve been working hard at keeping my time on track.
Good luck! You can do it 🙂
Adam @ Debts & Dollars says
I use to have an office cover in Post-It notes but now I use Evernote to keep all my notes and be able to access them from anywhere. If I can’t do that I have a word documents set up in DropBox where I keep all my keyword research and topic ideas. This lets me access the files from almost any device including my phone. But I do keep a mini notebook in my car if I happen to have an idea while eating lunch or just out and about and don’t have access to the internet.
Rejection wise I’ve become pretty use to that as I repair computers in my spare time and charge $37 per day for a total system cleaning and diagnosis/repair. People get upset because I charge “to much” for something that they broke or got infected. I just accept their rejections and move on. Effort wasted on trying to convince them is money wasted. My repeat customers however will gladly pay me and often recommend me to their friends and those are the people I want as customers anyhow.
DropBox is a great way to organize ideas and have them readily available. I should start doing that!
Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says
All fabulous tips!!!
Clarisse @MakeMoney Your Way says
I had some rejections before and luckily I found good clients that hopefully I will work for a long time. Right now I’m contented with my work and I’m happy to be a full time freelancer.
Yes, rejections happen but there will be better things out there.
These are all wonderful suggestions! I freelanced for a little over a year and ultimately decided that I have zero desire to “be my own boss” and instead love the traditional office environment. That said, having been on the other side of the equation, I’m much more sensitive to the role consultants play and watching that relationship. Since I’m a lawyer by training, I’m always encouraging people who are serious about freelancing to treat it like owning your own business and protecting themselves financially & legally as much as necessary!
Yes, definitely treat your freelancing like a business! Thanks Amanda.
Lance @ Money Life and More says
I think being prepared for rejection is a huge key. If you can handle that, then get rejected a million times it is OK, because of those million rejections, maybe you get 5 amazing opportunities and 1,000 decent ones. You’d still be making it!
Yes, very true Lance!
Great post Michelle! I freelance on the side (not as a full-time job), and these are all spot-on!
Thank you Rachel!
My phone really works for me! I’m really bad with carrying around a physical notepad because I throw away everything haha
These tips are also very useful in sales jobs. Having a notepad is extremely helpful as there is often a lot of things to remember and it’s almost impossible to remember it all.
Knowing the value of your time is something I agree with. sometimes some work isn’t worth it if it undermines what you’re charging.
Yes, not all work is valuable. You have to way the pros and cons.
having a notepad is a great idea.
we all lead such busy lives, sometimes we (especially me) forget things / great ideas very quickly.
maybe its an age thing
Haha I forget EVERYTHING unless I make a note of it.
DC @ Young Adult Money says
I definitely would like to freelance or own my own business full-time (which I think oftentimes starts with freelancing). My main tip is just get started and never stop learning. The more Excel/Spreadsheet work I do on the side the more I realize I have a ton to learn (there’s a reason consultants have a ton of experience).
Yes, the more I freelance in certain areas, the more I realize that I have to learn as well. There is just so much to know and learn!
Getting used to rejection was a big one for me. But I found with time the rejections didn’t bother me so much. Another big one is that you have to be persistent. It takes a long time to build up a client base. If you work on it each and every day you can definitely get to where you want to be.
Yes, being persistent is very important. Great tips Alexa!
Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says
Undercharging isn’t just an issue for your bottom line. My uncle works in the business of moving furniture for corporations (and often clearing out company offices that downsized). He charges a ridiculously low rate which guarantees he’s always busy, but when you’re charging $30/hr for a service that big companies charge $100-$150 an hour, you’re selling yourself short. I try to tell him to raise his rates event $20/hr but he won’t listen.
Yes, undercharging is a problem. So many people do not think about the negatives!
Kyle | Rather-Be-Shopping.com says
Love the honesty of this post Michelle. I just recently got fired form a writing gig and it definitely hit me hard. You are so right that you have to move on and not dwell on it. Still learning to do that!
I’m so sorry that you lost a job. 🙁
I stumbled on your blog a few months ago and have been reading regularly. You’ve got some great articles and tips here, and it’s fantastic what you’ve done with your business to be able to quit your job and freelance full time.
Full time freelancing is something I’ve wanted to do for years, unfortunately I’ve been suffering analysis paralysis, and not taking sufficient action to get to where I want to go. It’s time to start actually doing the things on my ‘to do’ list instead of just writing them down, I’m sure my family and friends would like to see me move forward and achieve my goals instead of talking about them.
I’m looking forward to reading more!
Thank you Kasia!
Some excellent tips Michelle, and congratulations on reaching $11,927 extra income in october. Regarding the topic of “Knowing your worth” 🙂 I sometimes found in the past that one or two of my long term clients asked for quick jobs well below the usual rate. It’s finding the balance between doing someone a favour who has provided a lot of business in the past, and not being taken advantage of.
I would think rejection would be the hardest part and having to chase people for payments. That’s a great idea about writing down ideas. I always forget to do that and I’m sure I’ve lost many good ideas.
Yes, chasing people for payments is never any fun!
I love these posts! I know that I definitely intend to freelance/be a digital nomad and every post that I read like this just cements that idea. However, it’s not going to happen overnight and after having a while off due to sickness, I’m going back to two part-time jobs. My goal is to give one of them up when I start bringing in some sort of side-income, since I honestly don’t need too much to survive.
I hope you reach that point soon! What type of freelancing do you want to do?
The First Million is the Hardest says
Great tips. I love reading about this stuff so much, one of these days I have to suck it up and actually take the plunge!
Aww thanks! What type of freelancing would you do?
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Great tips, Michelle, especially about being safe. I think it’s really a balance and a fine line between trusting people, yet protecting yourself.
Yes, I agree! If you completely trust everyone, then you may be hurting yourself.
Tushar @ Everything Finance says
As somebody who hires freelancers, these are all great tips. When I think of a post idea, I always forget it unless I write it down so great reminder to bring a pad of paper or a phone with you at all times. It’s interesting to see so many people become full time freelancers.
Yes, if I don’t write it down, I almost always forget!
Debt and the Girl says
Great article. I love your wedding inspiration pics! I am sure your wedding is going to be wonderful.
Thank you! 🙂