Freelancing can sound like a great option when you’re stuck at a job you don’t like, doing work you don’t want to do, and basically working to fund someone else’s retirement.
After all, freelancing can offer you the flexibility to work the hours you want, when you want. It also means you have unlimited earning potential. Right?
The dream of becoming a freelancer and being your own boss is compelling, to say the least.
But before you ditch your 9 to 5…
Here are 8 things they don’t tell you about freelancing.
There is no doubt about it. Pricing is crucial. This is because the price you charge is going to determine whether your freelance dream is financially viable or not.
However, the rationale as to what and how you should charge is not as cut and dried as it first seems.
You may be considering charging by the hour, by the project or a combination of the two or something else entirely.
Whatever you charge has to cover your costs. And now you are freelancer this covers pretty much everything in your life.
You also have to take into account the actual billable hours you will be working each month. Because believe it or not, the 40, 50, 60 plus hours per week you put in won’t all be paid for out of your client’s pocket!
One strategy which has gained popularity over the past few years is value pricing.
In short, this is charging your client for the value you provide as opposed to hiring you on say an hourly basis or for paying for the cost of your product.
So for example, if you are a copywriter and your wonderful words lead to $100k worth of business, you could charge 20% of that and pocket yourself a tidy $20k.
Of course, this all sounds great…on paper.
However, value pricing can be difficult to justify and get the buy-in from clients unless you can guarantee results, are well-established, A-list famous or massively in demand.
Whatever pricing policy you apply, you have to be able to justify and demonstrate it, and with value pricing based on results, you would need to garner a lot of information and data about client specifics in the first place.
Working out that alone can be a time-consuming job in itself.
It’s a fallacy to believe that when you are just starting out you can start earning the big bucks straight away or charging by the value you think you are providing. What’s more, the value you are providing is determined by the client, NOT you.
You might not be offering what the client is looking for, and you may not even be the right fit. When you are starting out you generally do not have the experience or the social proof to demand expert prices.
That’s why it is really important to build your brand and reputation and attract the right clients to you first and build from there.
Ultimately what you charge depends on what the market will bear, and it’s not usually mega $$$ for those just starting out.
Sure, clients don’t grow on trees.
But they aren’t hiding out on some secret tropical island either.
Your client could be the person sitting next to you on the bus, the person who comments on your social media post, or a quiet lurker who you don’t even know exists.
You are most likely someone else’s client, and you are almost definitely a consumer.
So you already know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a client relationship.
If you look at it that way, it makes a lot more sense than the whole ‘them’ versus ‘us’ scenario. A client is simply someone who you are helping in exchange for fair payment.
It’s a simple exchange of energy that you both benefit from — nothing more, nothing less.
What’s more, there is no secret sauce to finding clients. Technically, potential clients are everywhere!
However, there are strategies you can put in place and ways to help attract the right clients for you, and this again is mostly determined to how you position yourself in the market and the services you provide…and of course, that there is a market for your services in the first place.
Don’t be fooled into thinking big brands and big names will pay you the most and treat you the best either. This does not always bear out in practice.
Some gurus will make out that overnight success as a freelancer is absolutely possible and that you can have your dream lifestyle in the blink of an eye (or by signing up to their pricey year-long mastermind program).
It’s just a matter of following their secret formula to unlock a world of clients on that tropical island…
However, most success isn’t achieved by following some magical formula, but by avoidance of the things that can lead to failure.
This means having the right systems and processes in place to mitigate things that can and do go wrong.
Things such as:
• Ensuring you get paid on time (or paid at all!)
• What you should have covered in your contract as a minimum
• How to deal with client calls
• What best to include in your proposals
• How to market to the right people
• How to deal with the freelancer feast and famine cycle
You need to take into account all these aspects and many more.
Running a successful freelance business is not simply down to how skilled you are at your craft or following some mysterious ‘open sesame’ formula.
The secret to freelancing is that there are no secrets. Just lots of stuff to learn, knowing the common pitfalls to avoid and navigating accordingly.
It’s an ongoing journey.
And getting stuck in dogma can be the death of your business before it’s even got off the ground.
Collaborating and having a network of other freelancers is fantastic for support and encouragement, and I highly recommend seeking them out.
They can be great to chew the fat with, get feedback from and to generally encourage, support and network with one another.
I am a member of several communities myself and find them invaluable.
However, do not let the opinions of others sway you from your path.
Just because someone says you should be doing X Y or Z it does not necessarily mean it is right for you. There are no absolutes when it comes to growing your business and becoming successful. There’s also a lot of noise out there, and things are not always as they seem.
Other freelancers may be telling you that they have clients coming out of their ears and charging top dollar, but this simply is not always the case. And in any event, they are not you and will have different strategies, clients and core values.
Don’t get stuck with comparisonitis.
Stick in your own lane and keep focused on your goals.
Do what works for you and test, test, test, not what works for someone who is grandstanding in a Facebook group saying that their way is the only way.
It’s true that when you work for yourself, your hours are flexible. Yep, flexible right through to midnight and beyond.
When you work for yourself, you are responsible for all the things that you would otherwise leave to other departments if you were in a full-time salaried position.
Computer not working? That’s your issue.
Client on the phone just as you are about to go out? Better sort it out now.
Light goes out above your head? Best you fix it.
There is only so much you can outsource to a VA. And in any event, when starting out it is unlikely you have the funds to hire others to help you.
And that’s before we even talk about sales and marketing. Don’t get me started on those!
When you are running your own business, it can be easy to feel guilty for having any time off and the hours can run away with you. So you need to have mechanisms in place for some ‘you time’, or at least systems and processes that can run in the background and take some of that workload off you.
Flexible working is great, if you manage it well.
Branding is something that a lot of people get wrong when starting out through no fault of their own. It can be tempting to spend money on vanity purchases, i.e. a fancy website or stationery or a really cool working space.
But none of that is going to guarantee you clients when you are starting out.
This is because branding is not just about the visual appeal of your website, colours or marketing material. Sure it can help, and like everything can develop over time.
Branding permeates EVERYTHING you do.
It’s the service you provide, the added value you bring, it’s your reputation. And the only way to get a good reputation is to start doing the work and bring the value. Not worry about the font size on your website.
Leave the fancy stuff until later.
S&M being sales and marketing of course. You didn’t think I meant…?
When I said seedy, naturally I was referring to planting the seeds of your freelance business to grow and expand!
Anyway, this area is something many freelancers struggle with, especially if they are coming from a corporate background where sales and marketing was not their focus.
But the truth of the matter is, marketing is the most important part of a freelancer’s job.
You absolutely MUST be able to market and sell yourself to be successful.
Nowadays, you don’t necessarily have to do it in person either; you have the internet to do it for you.
Long gone are the days when you had to have a big budget to be able to advertise up there with the big hitters, online ads mean you too can advertise your services, and at a fraction of the cost. The only limit is your imagination.
On top of that, you can also benefit from organic reach on social media without paying a cent.
Sales meetings and calls do not have to be terrifying either. It’s just a conversation at the end of the day. By the way, a book I highly recommend on this aspect is Live it Love it Sell It by Jules White.
When it comes to marketing, a quote attributed to both Thomas Jefferson and Henry Ford that’s worth remembering is this;
“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” (More advertising and copywriting quotes here.)
You can read more about how to successfully generate leads and market yourself online here.
Remember; marketing is not part of the business, marketing is the business.
Oh yes, you do. You have lots, in effect, your clients are your new bosses.
What’s more, each time you get yourself a new client it’s like interviewing for a new position. You have to sell yourself.
On top of that, your ultimate boss can, in fact, turn out to be the most unforgiving, critical and demanding one of all i.e…YOU!
At the end of the day, running your own show and being a freelancer can be extremely rewarding and profitable, but it’s not a decision you should take lightly if you want to be successful.
If you need help getting started The Essential Guide To Freelancing – Udemy Course is targeted specifically at people new to freelancing or those who find themselves struggling in the freelancer feast or famine cycle.
It has been deliberately priced so it is affordable for freelancers just starting out who haven’t got $$$s to spend on expensive courses that promise the world…but teach you precious little about what it’s like actually running a business.
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