7 Tips for Budding Freelancers
Learning from a year of trial and error with many struggles and missteps, here are 7 tips to help aspiring freelancers.
DESIGN A FocusED STRATEGY.
Transitioning to freelance work on a whim might work out for you, but it all goes much more smoothly when you have a focused plan. This could involve identifying the type of freelance work that best suits you and gradually building your resume before you leave your current job, so you can hit the ground running. It may involve finding an income source that pays the bills while still leaving enough time for you to chase your real goals or develop your creative projects. The point is that this is an opportunity to redesign your work-life balance—it’s worth putting some thought and strategy into.
When you do get down to it, staying organized saves time and lets you focus on actual income-generating work. Think about using new project management apps like Asana or Trello. Or keep it simple and use a notebook. Take this fresh start as an opportunity to clean your desktop and inbox, update your resumes, build yourself a website, and set yourself up to enjoy working.
That said, focus also means honest and intermittent re-evaluation. Are your actions leading you to your goals? If not, re-focus.
Set a schedule that works for you.
With newfound flexibility, create a ‘schedule’ that is tailored to your needs. For me, this means scheduling yoga, online classes, coffee breaks, errands, and walks into my work day to keep myself productive and engaged.
InvesT in YOUR development.
There are infinite resources out there, not to mention millions of YouTube tutorials. Take the time to advance your skills or learn a new one. Cut down your Pumpkin Spice Latte consumption and drop that cash on the course you’ve been meaning to take or program you’ve been meaning to learn. Cheap, open online courses (Udemy, etc.) and free trials are out there. Don’t be afraid to invest in the tools you need to get your work done well; some things are simply worth the initial expense. For me, working with FinalDraft instead of free screenwriting programs, directing clients to information via trixiepacis.com, and using great headphones with a built-in microphone were worth any upfront costs.
KEEP YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW.
It’s easy to put off things that seem daunting. Often, visas, insurance, accounting, and taxes can fall into this category. But if you leave these things to the last minute, the cost (in money and headache) can be detrimental. Being away from your country of permanent residence usually doesn’t help in such cases either. So take care of these big things (ie. knowing how to apply for your working holiday visa) in advance, wiping unnecessary stress off your plate as you run your freelance business and more time to travel and enjoy yourself!
Secure your payments.
If you aren’t working through a company that offers escrow protection, execute a simple contract. There is a wealth of information available online, including free templates, but your contract should cover the basics including: pricing, payment schedule, deadline, and copyrights. To make your life easier, also consider clauses covering revisions and rewrite (number included, cost of additional), single point of contact, scope creep prevention (ability to adjust rate if project scope changes), and kill fee (secures a percentage of rate if job is canceled). For specific jobs like screenwriting, know what standard asks (ie. half payment upon commencement) are within your right to request. Ask and you’re more likely to receive.
Get your Banking, accounting, and tax affairs in order.
Whether you’re operating as a small business, independent contractor, or sole proprietorship, have your accounting and taxes figured out. Find the most cost- and time-effective banking service that offers you the best perks. Know how much of your income you should be setting aside for taxes. Keep dollars for taxes, savings, business investment, and spending in separate accounts (especially taxes). Know how you can benefit from tax deductions. And whether Excel, Google Sheets, or apps like Quickbooks and ZipBooks, implement a basic accounting/invoicing/tracking system.
For specifics, check out my ever-growing list of resources for aspiring freelancers.
Design your workspace.
If you’re working independently, creating the right work environment goes a long way. While that looks different for everyone, it’s important to identify and manifest. For me, the backdrop to my office can shift but what’s important is it’s an uncluttered desk with a steaming coffee mug, candle, and Moleskine at my side. Also keep in mind that your workspace can be anywhere. Sometimes, I step away for a walk and my office becomes a charming cobblestone alley or a rugged mountain view because I find walking and thinking in a changed in environment helpful with creative projects.
P.S. I am a firm believer of using an unruled Moleskine to jot down ideas — doodle, draw, or paint them like one of your French girls.