Graduation Season: Tips for the first time freelancer
Thought you had left the stress of the workplace behind? Besides, you're now your own boss, you work your own hours and you spend all day in your pyjamas. But now you're exhausted, working round the clock and terrified you won't find that ever important next client.
Working for yourself does have its advantages but if you can't find a good work/life balance, freelancing can be stressfull, frustrating and exhuasting. When the phone doesn't ring and you're fed up of chasing the same unpaid invoice for months on end, it isn't an easy game to play. Here are a few handy tips I wish someone had shared with me a few years ago…
1. Remember your clients are real people
Real people want to interact with who they are commissioning. Whenever possible meet face to face with your clients. Don't rely on emails or Skype. If you work in your bedroom, take them to their local coffee shop. Offer to pay first. Pick up the phone regularly, keep them in the loop and you will keep them happy. Your most valuable client won't be the client with the biggest budgets, it will be the small 'bread and butter' jobs that come back every month.
2. Be available
Some of us work better at night, I get that. But your clients can't get hold of you during the day if you are recovering from a nights labour. Schedule calls in advance and never miss them.
3. Set realistic deadlines right from the start
If you are pitching against a number of other agencies or freelancers it may feel like you're impressing the client by telling them the project will be completed months before it actually will be. Miss that deadline down the line and you lose their trust. Most people care more about deadlines than you do.
4. Get paid
There is nothing worse than chasing unpaid invoices for months on end. Don't wait for the end of a big project to invoice the client. When appropriate set milestone invoices throughout a project. Offer 60 day payment terms and a fixed fee penalty if the payment is not received or don't deliver the final project until payment as been met.
5. Broaden your skills
Train yourself. The creative world changes all the time. Subscribe to magazines like Eye and Creative Review and keep up to date. You are responsible for learning and growing in your skills. Put time in your diary each week to get inspired by others in your field.
6. Don't take on too much
Busy times are exciting times but don't book in everyone. A manageable workflow keeps clients happy, and happy clients are returning clients. Never turn work away but be open and honest about when you can book it in. Give space when potential projects may overrun. Clients don't mind waiting for a busy creative, it shows that you are wanted by others too, and only makes them want you more.
7. Build your portfolio
Your portfolio is the one project you will work on which never ends. Although most of your work will/should come from word of mouth, the first place they will go is online. Keep it up to date but be careful to only select the best. Select work that shows your strengths and expresses your creativity. Clients are not just looking for creatives who are safe investments but for those who push themselves.
8. Set yourself up
Find the right working environment for you. Not the most convenient space, but the space that will help you create the best work. Your sofa, as comfy as it is, isn't your new desk. Loads of studios offer free desk space for freelancers. Check out Desk Camping. Take time to learn and be inspired by established studios. Being a part of a professional, busy creative environment can make a huge difference to the quality of your work output. Who knows, they may even offer you a job.
- Image credit: Gordon Burniston