Freelancing is a vast, deep ocean and there is so much advice for those venturing into freelancing – read this book, sign up for this course, use this social media platform, so on and so forth. Listening to all the self-appointed pundits of freelancing can be so confusing. So, let’s just push away all this information overload, and get back to the basics. Here are five essential tips on succeeding as a freelancer in any field – because, baby, you must get the basics right!

1.  Know what you are good at and package it as a service

When you become a freelancer, you sign up to compete on the world stage. Thanks to the web you can access a global pool of clients, but hey, the reverse also holds true – your potential clients can tap freelancing talent from across continents.

But instead of being bogged down by the thought, ” How the hell am I going to compete!”, put your mind towards packaging your talents as a service.

Your education, life experiences, professional background other than writing, and any other formal training, all go into making your skill set unique. If you have been an employee ( like I was) before diving into freelancing, you will already have an insight into what you are good at; use that to determine the specialized services you will offer.

To begin with, pitch for all freelancing jobs that are in line with your specialization. It becomes easier for clients to choose you for jobs that match your skill set.  For instance, since I am a business writer, I do not market myself as a creative or academic writer.

2. Know how to pick good clients

Choosing the right clients is one of the top decisions that will determine your happiness as a freelancer.  I know cause I burnt myself early on in the game, with clients who basically saw me as a content writer from India who had to do exactly what they said with minimal pay.

When I realized that my time was not worth the project I was working on, I tried to renegotiate the writing fee, but the client turned out to be a devil. The client wrote a scathing review of my writing services, saying that I had backed out without completing the assignment, which was not the case. I had completed all allotted work but declined to take on fresh topics since I was not under any contract that bound me to continue to work with the client.

Unfortunately, like most real-life crimes, such incidents become a ‘he said, she said scenario’, and for any new client who is considering hiring you, that becomes a red flag. Once a shadow is cast on your professional reputation, it takes more than a few solid projects to get back on track.

If you are lucky, you may have feedback on a potential client from a fellow freelancer. But that is a rare occurrence. So realistically speaking, the only thing you can do to choose the right clients, is asking a lot of questions at the start.

Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • What is the duration of the project?
  • Does the client have a sample of the work he expects from you?
  • What assistance can you expect from the client for the successful completion of the project?
  • Who is the target customer of the client?
  • What is the frequency of content submission and the required length of each article?

The intention behind asking such questions is to get an idea of how much thought has the client given the project. A client who is ambiguous about the ‘what, how, and when’ of a project, spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for an unsuspecting freelancer.  On the other hand, working with clients who are supportive and well-organized will make the project worth your time.

3. Be self-driven to do all that it takes

Most freelancers start out as one-person shops and often struggle to perform business tasks that are alien to them. When I started as a freelancer, one of the first things I did was get my business website up and running. Having never done that in my years as a banker, and having no knowledge of WordPress, I had to spend countless hours reading about how to create a website and learn via trial and error.

Hiring a web designer was an option, but I wanted to go through that process to understand what my client’s experience when they begin a business website and create content. And frankly, I’ve had friends who did hire website design firms, but ended by paying for something that was not up to the mark. This is just one example of how you may need to work outside your comfort zone and be perseverant. Whether it’s brainstorming ways to supplement your business income, finding new clients, or handling a difficult project,  it is perseverance that will separate you from the pack and help you in retaining clients.

4. Use a time and earnings tracker

What does not get measured, does not improve. You must use a tracker (it could be a simple excel sheet) to measure how many hours a day you work, or the number of days you work in a week.  So if you slack on a Thursday and Friday, you must make up for some of the lost time over the weekend.  Doing so will ensure that you meet the revenue targets you have set for yourself and that you meet the content submission dates committed to your clients.

Simultaneously, keep track of the money. Track the invoices to be raised and send reminders to clients on pending invoices. Since I use PayPal as a billing platform, it’s easy to track payments and send reminder notices to clients. It also helps me monitor the USD to Indian Rupee conversion rates.

5. Connect with friends and colleagues – they may hire you or recommend you

Since I have limited working hours per day, I prefer to work clients who are clear on what they want and give me the leeway to set my schedule for submission of articles.

Finding such clients is not easy, but if you can work with people you know  (friends from business school or work colleagues) then you have a better chance of landing such freelancing jobs. Even if your acquaintances don’t hire you, they may refer you to someone looking for professional assistance.

When you start freelancing, let everyone, and I mean everyone, know that you are now available for freelance jobs. Set up a Facebook business page and send invites to friends to follow your page. Update your LinkedIn profile and create posts on topics related to your freelancing field.

That’s true Mr.Forest.

But we can certainly learn from our experiences and exercise these checks to enjoy our time on earth as freelancers.

All the best everyone.