No matter what your freelance niche is, there’s tons of advice out there that’s considered gospel. Just as there’s popular blogging advice that doesn’t always work, there’s popular freelancing advice that doesn’t always work either.
New freelancers begin their career (if they don’t, they should) with research. They perform Google searches, scour tons of popular freelancing blogs to find out what the best freelancing practices are and have lots of conversations with established freelancers about how to start their own freelancing business.
They will probably the same advice from all these sources. Unfortunately, not all of it works, no matter how sound the advice is. Below are some of the popular freelancing advice you’ll come across that makes great sense, but don’t always work.
This is the first advice I heard when I started freelancing. No matter what you do, don’t have your office in your bedroom. Forget an office, I didn’t even have a desk when I started freelancing. I’d work in bed or on the dining table. When I did get a table a month later, it was placed in my bedroom.
The reasoning behind the advice is sound. Working in bed is bad for your posture, and it doesn’t make for a healthy work environment. After a couple of hours of working from your bed, you just feel like lazing about – absolutely not productive.
But when they are starting out, many freelancers don’t have the funds or the room to have a separate home office. So the advice is actually redundant. It’s impossible to follow the advice you can’t afford.
If you’re working in your bedroom, make sure you sit up straight and have a breakfast table to put your laptop. Get up every half hour to stretch to avoid feeling drowsy or lazy.
If you have a desk in your room, try to set it near a window. If you don’t have a window, make sure you set the table so that your back faces the bed when you’re working. Add an easy to maintain, real plant on your desk and keep it clean. The aesthetics are important when one is strapped for space.
If at all possible, avoid working in the bedroom. Instead, choose the dining room or the kitchen table. It’s closer to the coffee!
New freelancers don’t always have a portfolio. To have one, they need clients who’ll give them work and to get work, they need to find clients. It’s a vicious chicken-and-egg thing. The only way out of it seems to be to work for free in the beginning – at least for the first couple of clients!
But popular freelancing advice says that you should never work for free as it undervalues your talent and sets a precedent for future compensation. What’s a freelancer to do? How are you going to build your portfolio?
Instead of working for free, create your own samples. Better yet, volunteer your services to a non-profit organization. Not only will it look good on your resume, but the organization would also be eternally grateful to you and when you ask for testimonials, they’ll be offering glowing examples.
How many of you took deposits from clients when you started out? Me neither. In fact, this is something I still don’t do unless the project is a substantial one.
Yes, I got stiffed once and yes, I should ideally take a deposit before starting work. But clients don’t always agree to that and it also really depends on how you do business. Granted, chances of you not being paid are high if you don’t take a deposit but it’s not always feasible to pass over a client just because they don’t pay an initial deposit.
For me, this advice only works with big projects. I simply explain to the client why it’s a big risk for me to start work when a big amount is involved. They usually understand and send over a 20% deposit (at least) or whichever amount we’ve agreed upon.
Never hand over a finished project. Always hold something back. If it’s a design project, put your watermark on it. If it’s a website theme/template send them screenshots and if it’s a writing project, ask them for the payment after the draft has been approved.
Whatever kind of work you do, find a way to either put your mark on it or hold something back until you receive the full payment.
Every freelancer, freelance blog and business book out there says the same thing: Working without a contract is inviting disaster to dinner. Yet there are countless freelancers who work without a contract. I know because I was one too. Legal mumbo jumbo scares the best of us.
As new freelancers, we’re eager to get started. "What’s the point of a contract until I have clients?" you think. And then suddenly, you have a client and you’re so excited you forget all about the contract.
Or maybe you’re scared to bring up the topic of a contract. You’re uncomfortable bringing it up when everything seems to be going smoothly. Just because this advice is popular doesn’t mean it’s not right. It just doesn’t work with a big percentage of freelancers.
Always communicate via email. Even when you’ve talked to the client over the phone, send them an email recapping your chat and ask them if you’ve missed anything. An email exchange might not be a contract but it’s the next best thing.
Should you come up with any problems, you can always refer to the emails and tell the client that this was what was decided and agreed upon about the rates, scope, payment terms. Better yet, once all the details have been finalized, send your client all the details in an email recapping the entire deal.
Freelancers either charge what they’re worth or they don’t. Most often, they don’t.
The internet is riddled with advice on charging what you’re worth. We’re told that the kind of clients we attract is directly related to our rates – and it’s true.
Unfortunately it’s very rare for new freelancers to even know what the going rate is in his niche, let alone, his worth. This knowledge comes with time and confidence in your work.
Charging what you’re worth might be stretching it a bit. Stick with charging the going rates. Use Twitter and LinkedIn to find other freelancers in your niche. Check out their websites to see if they’ve listed their rates.
While not all freelancer lists their rates, a few do which is enough to give you a general idea. If you’re still unsure, email the ones who don’t have them listed and ask them. Some won’t reply because they guard their rates but there are plenty of freelancers who will.
Online forums are also a great source of information. If there’s a freelancing forum you frequent, ask about the going rates there. You’re guaranteed to get plenty of help!
The beautiful thing about being a freelancer is that we’re adaptable folks. If something doesn’t work we either work around it or find a way to make the best of the situation, without being taken advantage of. Have you ever been given advice about freelancing that didn’t work for you?