People tend to romanticize the image of a freelancer, imagining complete freedom from corporate conventions, constant travel and self-realization. Indeed, such employment has many advantages, but there are also disadvantages and difficulties.
Over the three years of working for myself, I made some important conclusions that had a direct impact on my income and customer search. I want to share them in this article. I hope they help you to get used to it faster, reach a steady income and develop steadily. No matter what you do, these recommendations are universal and do not depend on specialization.
1. Learn English
First and foremost, learn English . All relevant articles and materials appear in the English language, and not always translate them. The most interesting global projects are being created in the English field. Most likely, your idols also speak English. To become a full-fledged participant in this environment, knowledge of English is a must.
In addition, fluency in English will allow you to collaborate with foreign clients, publish articles in international magazines, and develop on specialized freelance sites and niche resources.
2. Identify your niche
Any specialist will be much more in demand if he focuses on specific areas, instead of trying to do everything. If you need an online store, you are more likely to contact a developer who specializes in e-commerce, rather than one who makes “any sites.” No one can be an expert at the same time in everything. To create something outstanding, you need a narrow specialization and deep expertise.
Identifying your niche will also help you understand what you should focus on in presenting your services and what your client’s portrait is.
Focus on what you do well and what you really want to do. Nothing else matters.
At a certain point, I realized that I was most interested in working either with products or with complex applications. Promo and festival sites are not mine. Despite the fact that at first it was a pity to refuse and actually lose money, in the future it was this specialization that allowed me to attract the attention of companies such as Adobe and InVision.
Accepting all incoming projects, we risk missing the most important projects that are really capable of raising our level of expertise and income.
3. Organize your workplace
A well-organized workspace is of great importance. At home it can be difficult to switch from a rest mode to an operating mode and vice versa, this border begins to blur. Yes, sometimes it’s great not to go anywhere and work in a cozy home environment (I’m writing this article at home), but it will be practically impossible to maintain stable performance for months or years.
Think about renting an office or workplace in coworking. Yes, this is an extra cost, but if you are serious, they will definitely pay off. In addition, in coworking you will be able to meet other specialists, which will help to avoid the feeling of isolation and loneliness that occurs during prolonged work at home.
4. Work on your reputation
More and more specialists are becoming part of the market, they are starting to compete for projects and jobs. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, the number of UX designers in the market is increasing by more than a million people every year. By working on the Internet, you are competing with all these people. Your reputation will help you stand out and build your competitive advantage.
A personal brand is something that is really worth paying attention to. There are a huge number of articles and books on this topic. For example, an excellent checklist that will help you work with your own brand can be found in Igor Mann’s book, Number 1. How to become the best at what you do .
5. Put your finances in order
Freelance income is unstable: it happens that everything is going fine, but there is a lull. If you manage money properly and plan your budget, you won’t have to worry about a possible “low season”.
Many freelancers do not save money and do not invest , hoping solely on future profits. This is a huge mistake. Regardless of the amount of income, you need to count money and plan your budget. Take the basic online course on personal finance, this will be enough to get a general idea of how to properly manage money.
6. Create a contact network
Yes, meeting new people can be difficult, but it is critically important for your career and business. A wide network of contacts is the key to a steady flow of customers. We all tend to buy from someone we trust.
- Networking is a way to strengthen your reputation in the professional community, not only by specialization, but also in the industry you are interested in.
- Thanks to personal connections, you can learn about projects and new solutions before they become known to the general public.
- You can share your experience and knowledge with other people.
There is an excellent Keith Ferrazzi book, Never Eat Alone , on this subject . In addition, I advise you to participate in professional meetings and conferences in your city. They are not held? Try to arrange meetings yourself. There are a large number of active online communities where you can find like-minded people: Nomad List , Meetup , Indie Hackers .
7. Do not overwork
If a client approached you with a potential order, this does not mean that you are obliged to undertake its implementation. Choose those projects in which you are really interested, and do not overwhelm yourself with work. If you work on several projects simultaneously , there is a high risk of not doing the job as well as you could. And this can be a serious obstacle to your growth and creating a strong portfolio.
Projects often last longer than planned, so always reserve time for urgent changes, additional work and preparing a case in the portfolio. Consider this part of the project and put such time costs into your work plan. You have it, right?
Do not forget to relax. Freelancers especially need a quality vacation. The main thing is to warn customers in advance.
There is a very fine line between hard work and wear. Be mindful of yourself.
8. Find partners
Work on freelance does not mean that you have to do everything alone. Delegate and outsource non-core tasks: email newsletters, article translations or personal website development .
Think of a mutually beneficial partnership with specialists from other fields of activity. You can do what you do best by outsourcing the rest. For example, if you are a designer and work with interfaces, it is a good idea to transfer illustrations or branding to others. Such cooperation will certainly not be smooth, but will prove beneficial in the long run.
9. Keep your portfolio up to date
Everyone knows how difficult it is to force yourself to update your portfolio, especially when there are a lot of client tasks at work. But you can not ignore how important this is for your brand and business. Your ideal clients may not write to you just because they did not have the opportunity to see your best fresh work! After each project, take the time to prepare your presentation and promo.
Another very important tip: remove from the portfolio all the projects that are not similar to what you want to do, and do not reflect your strengths. For example, you position yourself as a product designer, but your portfolio has medium-quality posters. This may confuse your client or, conversely, you will be ordered to design the same posters.
You will never know how many offers you missed due to your outdated or carelessly designed portfolio.
10. Work more efficiently.
Few designers find it important to structure the workflow. We are creators, aren’t we? But building a successful freelance business without paying attention to your own work processes and documents is almost impossible.
Your ability to perform tasks quickly and efficiently is directly related to income.
If the client is not satisfied with the end result, he does not care how much time you worked on the design or how many options were thrown into the basket. And if you solve his problem quickly and effectively, he will definitely appreciate it.
The designer has a large number of operations that can be automated or performed according to a template. Take, for example, the work of a user interface designer: you can use UI kits, rapid prototyping tools, and your own components. There is no need to create empty art boards every time, wasting your time and money of the client.
By optimizing the work, you can at the same time perform a larger volume of tasks. This will lead to an increase in income even without changing the hourly rate. Or you can finally devote more time to yourself and your portfolio.
11. Develop universal skills (soft skills)
The last, but critically important advice: the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to be a pleasant person in communication. Many good professionals turn out to be arrogant snobs that are difficult to deal with. Often it is your personal qualities that are decisive in your choice.
I hope this little guide was useful for you, and you have found relevant advice in it. Many of them are pretty obvious, but there is hardly any secret to success other than hard work.