Freelancing For Beginners: 4 Tips For Starting a Freelance Career
Maybe you’ve realized, Ok, I need to get serious about doing my own thing.
Plus you’re in a place where creating some extra income is sounding reaaaalllly good. Or maybe you’ve been in a creative job for a number of years now and are ready to branch off on your own. No matter your starting point, if you’ve got stars in your eyes and a glow in your heart so big to start your own thing which means it’s time to start.
Now, there are four main things I wish I knew when starting out, and knowing these things right out of the gate will help you launch with more of a bang,
Tip #1: Have Contracts In Place
Even if you have a fancy website, perfect Instagram feed, and an excellent marketing plan, if you don’t have contracts in place as a service provider, you’re doing yourself and your clients a major disservice!
It’s like saying, “Hey I don’t think I’m legit, so you shouldn’t think I am either!” Me personally, I can say that when I started out with photography I didn’t have a contract in place (I also didn’t now the first thing about contracts) and was also afraid of having a legal step in my client on-boarding process because I didn’t want to scare off my peeps! I thought contracts seemed scary, too serious, and off-putting.
As a result, and because I didn’t have anything in writing saying I could use those images online or include them on my Instagram feed or Facebook page, I played it small, shied away from it, and didn’t share anyyyy of my work on social media because I felt like I didn’t have permission.
While it’s always great to protect your clients and think of their feelings first, you’re also representing a business. If this is your livelihood and you don’t feel comfortable marketing your services openly because you don’t have a contract in place, that’s going to become a big problem down the road.
Your contracts are not only there to protect you and your client, they’re also there to protect the experience of your services and the longevity of your business. Without contracts in place, things are muddy, unclear, and you’re not legally protected should an unlikely scenario strike. Yikes!
For legal help with contracts or setting up an LLC, pay a visit to my friend Krista over at Remedy Outside Counsel or see the pre-made editable contracts that come inside my favorite CRM for freelancers - Bonsai!
Tip #2 Be Flexible and Willing to Try New Things At First
In the beginning, there’s a lot of just plugging in holes and finding where you fit. Saying “yes!” to any job that comes your way can be really invigorating, but also confusing. You may get asked to do something by a client that includes something you’ve never done before or didn’t expect. But these learning experiences can lead to the next stage in your journey.
For instance, if you’re a photographer, you may specialize in newborn portraits, until a mutual friend asks if you’d like to photograph a corporate event, and then you realize you love corporate photography! It can be situations like that where your path changes for the best, pointing you more and more toward what your true zone of genius is.
What’s important to remember is this: This stage is not forever.
The confusion, uncertainty, the not-sure-what-it-is-that-you-do stage will end. Eventually, you’ll realize exactly what your niche is and exactly what you love to do. Suddenly, it will become easy to say “no” to the inquiries that don’t fit the bill, and it’ll become easy to market yourself truthfully and stand inside of what it is that you want to be known for, and from there things will flow much more naturally.
Suddenly it’ll be easier and easier to tell people what you do. (Yes, really!)
Tip #3 Have Your Tools In Place
To get more nitty gritty and technical here, it’s best to have all your tools in a row before you jump all in to the freelancer world. It can feel a little bit like playing house with a pretend business at first, but believe me, once you get that first client you’re going be so thankful that you had everything set up!
If you think about it, stores have to have their displays and product inventory in place before they can make their first dollar. Right now especially I’ve noticed a lot of coaches and experts saying, “I started without a website!” or “I just started with a Venmo account and now I make six figures!” And while I think the overall message of “just start” is super commendable, I’m also a big fan of the message of get your dang tools in place first so there’s no scrambling later.
A video editor needs editing software to get started.
A photographer needs a camera.
An artist needs a portfolio.
A web designer needs a computer to work from.
All freelancers need a way to send emails, contracts, invoices, and get paid.
If you have the time now, my hope is that you choose to be prepared so you can start from a confident, put-together place. And especially with all of the low-cost tools out there, why not?
So here are my recommended favorite tools for getting started in the freelance world. Yes, there are affiliate links here, which means I may earn a small commission for sharing these tools at no cost to you.
Far and away the best CRM platform I’ve found for time-tracking, invoicing, and sending contracts all in one place. It took me mere minutes to set up and use for the first time, and I love the user-friendly dashboard. Read more about why I love it and give it a try for free for 30 days to see for yourself!
As a designer, I’ve worked in just about every web platform out there, and my experience still shows that there’s no platform that easier to set up and launch from than Squarespace. If you want a high-end look, I recommend going with a designer, but even the templates available make it possible to DIY your first website.
Quickbooks has been around forever, and after using it for the past two years for my own business needs and thoroughly testing out the app, I’d recommend this software and the app for anyone who needs to track mileage, business income and expenses, calculate and pay estimated taxes, and even send invoices all in one place.
For scheduling free consultation calls, coaching sessions, or any kind of appointment, having a scheduling platform is a must. It reduces the headache of email tag by like 1000%. It’s legit. I’ve found that Acuity also offers a really robust free plan where you can even accept payments, which is something you can’t do with free plans through other scheduling competitors.
Adobe Creative Cloud
These tools really only apply to photographers, videographers, or editors, but people who are wanting to get into anything multi-media will find that the Adobe suite is a must-have. These are programs like Photoshop, Premiere, InDesign, and Lightroom. Having access to these programs is now easier than ever with the cloud, and apps like Lightroom and Adobe Spark are new and improved and easy to take with you on the go. Students, you can even save 65% on Adobe CC
Tip #4 Pick a Marketing Route You Like and Stick to It
Marketing can seem scary, but marketing is simply sharing what you do so that others know about it! And it’s best to go with a route that you enjoy. So this can be simply sharing by word of mouth, reaching out to past employers, going to in person events, or if you’re doing things online, starting a blog!
The key here is just consistency. If you’re sharing on social media, share consistently and don’t be discouraged if your posts aren’t getting the engagement you want. Don’t feel embarrassed or like you should back off or that this is a sign that you’re going to fail. Keep at it, and know that sometimes the most unlikely folks are actually seeing your stuff and telling their friends about you completely unbeknownst to you.
With marketing, whatever route you take, be your own best spokesperson and also know that when you are simply being of service to people and giving others a great experience, they’ll be a spokesperson for you, too!
Freelance Like a Boss
At the end of the day, you’re drawn to freelancing for a reason, so why not give it the most epic shot that you can? As the saying goes, you’ll only regret 100% of the shots you don’t take. Freelancing is like a dance that requires the willingness to be a little messy at first and learn as you go. So to recap, the main points here are:
Have contracts in place.
Be willing to try new things.
Gather your tools.
Pick a marketing route and stick to it consistently.
With all of these tips in action, you’ll set yourself up for success as a freelancer or independent contractor in no time! What did you think of these tips? Let me know which one has helped you the most in the comments below!