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April 18, 2023 - 7 minutes

Freelancing: What it is and How to Excel at it

Freelancers boast flexibility, autonomy, and lots of freedom. But how can we do it right?

Juliette Erath - Tech Writer

Careers

The thought of working for yourself and making your own hours seems pretty cool, right? Being a freelancer has lots of perks, such as deciding when and from where you want to work, choosing the clients that best suit your interests and skills, and getting to turn down work that just isn’t what you want to do. But with great power comes great responsibility and learning how to manage your time, find clients, deliver quality work, and handle taxes can be a challenge, especially when you’re first starting out. 

First, let’s define a freelancer for exactly what it is. 

What is Freelancing? 

To put it simply, freelancers are self-employed instead of being employed by a company. This means that instead of working 40 hours a week for a company, they can be hired for specific tasks or projects by a company and paid directly for their work, instead of on a salary. Pretty much anyone can be a freelancer, but the most common kinds are specialized in a certain area and are sought after for their skills by a company that doesn’t have that kind of expertise in-house. Some of the most common kinds of freelancers are: 

  • Writers

  • Translators

  • Designers

  • Programmers 

  • Photographers

  • Web developers

Advantages of freelancing 

It seems great and you’re right: it can be. Freelancers boast freedom, flexible hours, the ability to manage themselves, work from wherever they want, control how much money they make and charge for a specific task, a specialized skill set, and more. 

Freedom & flexibility

Want to work from the beach? Or just five hours a day? What about working weekends to have free time during the week? Freelancers boast incredible levels of freedom and flexibility due to their ability to make their own hours and schedules. They can also say no to requests, something that isn’t always possible in a corporate setting. 

Control over earnings 

Most salaried employees are limited to just their salary for the month, no matter how much work they actually do. Freelancers, on the other hand, can work the hours they want at a rate they set to decide the income they receive each month. And that’s not all: they can also choose the rates they charge, asking for rush rates for last minute tasks or offering discounts for consistent work over an extended period of time. 

Specialized skill sets

Do you just want to write about fashion and beauty? Or help design a very specific part of a website? Freelancers can choose exactly what they want to do, meaning that if you only want to work in a very specific sector or do a particular task, that’s totally fine. Gone are the days of your boss asking you to do tasks that don’t relate to your job; you can make the decision if you want to do it or not. 

Disadvantages of freelancing 

It all sounds like sunshine and roses, right? Unfortunately there are some downsides to freelancing and you should consider both sides before you decide if this is what you want to do. Freelancers can feel isolated, stressed because they’re constantly searching for new clients, trouble balancing multiple clients, and lack the benefits that salaried employees have. 

Stress & loneliness 

Working for yourself means that you’re responsible for maintaining a cash flow and finding new clients, in addition to being a one-person team. Even if you work remotely at a salaried job, you still have team members, a boss, and colleagues to bounce ideas off of and chat with about your day-to-day responsibilities. When you’re freelancing, it’s just you. 

Instability 

Because you have no formal and long-term agreement with your clients, you could have an incredibly lucrative month followed by a month with almost no income. And clients could verbally tell you they’re interested in three projects during a month and then deliver just one. Part of being a freelancer is being prepared for the ups and downs: they will come. 

Multiple clients 

Juggling multiple clients and tasks means you may have conflicting deadlines, multiple things to do at once, and different expectations/working processes across the board. Instead of just being responsible for your area of expertise, you’re now the HR department, a project manager, the finance department, and responsible for your own marketing. That’s a lot, right? 

Lack of benefits 

Sure, you can pick your own vacation days, but there’s no such thing as PTO in the freelance world. The days you take off aren’t paid and for some, this could be a hard change to get used to. In addition, other kinds of paid leave such as sick time and maternity/paternity leave are no longer existent and you won’t have other benefits such as healthcare, bonuses, 401(k)s, and more. 

Excelling at Freelancing: Here’s How 

We hope we haven’t scared you off! Freelancing is a great option for many and if you’re willing to put in the work to lift your business off the ground, find clients, and deliver high-quality results, you’ll do great. Here’s how: 

  1. Join an online platform and create your brand: you need to put yourself out there and show potential clients what you’re offering and how you stand out from the rest. There are lots of websites that exist specifically for freelancers to market themselves; take advantage of that and create a captivating argument for why clients should hire you.

  2. Be active and responsive: reliability is one of the main characteristics that potential clients look for when choosing a freelancer. No one wants to have to chase down freelancers to get answers or worse, deliverables. Answer as fast as you can, be open and responsive, and work on building a positive relationship with your clients. 

  3. Be patient: depending on your experience level, it may take time to build the proper reputation in the industry and get new clients. Be patient with yourself and understand creating a solid client base takes time. 

  4. Be flexible: you might not get hired for your ideal project when you’re just starting out and that’s completely fine. Flexibility will both help you get experience and make connections with clients. 

  5. Know your worth: unfortunately, freelancers are frequently offered low rates that don’t reflect the quality of their work. While you should be flexible as you start out, know your worth and don’t accept a rate that’s lower than the value of your work.

Our tips and tricks to freelancing success

The aforementioned tips will definitely help you reach excel in freelancing, but we have some additional ideas to help you truly surpass your expectations: 

  • Start out slow: as we discussed, it may be hard to create a steady flow of work at the beginning; before you leave your old job or dive fully into freelancing, try building your brand while you have another income source to ensure you’re not missing rent paychecks after a few months. 

  • Plan, plan, and plan!: there’s no paid vacations or sick days in the world of freelancing and this means that you need to ensure you’re making enough money to live, even when you’re traveling or sick. If you know you have something coming up that will disrupt your ability to take on your normal workload, try planning ahead and working more the previous month to make up for a month with a lower income. 

  • Be on time and deliver high-quality work: companies are trusting you with a task they simply can’t do in-house, but there are lots of freelancers eager to get another client. Meet deadlines, deliver high-quality work, and be responsive to show your client that they should continue to work with you. 

The beginning of your freelance journey might seem scary and impossible, but it’s a great option for those looking to make the most of their flexibility and skills to create the professional life they want. And we’re not sure if you’ve heard, but lots of tech roles are freelance. 

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