According to IPSE, the freelance economy in the UK has grown by 25% since 2009 and now generates an estimated £109 billion per year. With around 2 million freelance workers in the UK alone, working environments are more varied and remote than ever before. Whether you have an office at home, work in a coffee shop or maybe even in your bed, the freelance life offers a rather attractive and dynamic lifestyle. However, you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of working as a freelancer. Having worked as a freelance translator for 3 years, I would like to share my top 5 tips to help you enjoy long-lasting success in the freelance world.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Ever heard the phrase ‘creatures of habit’? As human beings, we long for routine, as it provides us with stability and predictability. What is true in general life is also true of your work. Maybe you view routine as rigid, boring and something to escape from. You like to wake up in the morning not knowing what you will achieve that day. In my experience, however, this leads to unproductive days full of stress and feeling overwhelmed. If you want to run a freelance business or be a remote worker for a company, it’s paramount that you carefully design a routine that will help you be productive and achieve your personal best. This routine may look slightly different every day depending on the work you have, but creating a to-do list will undoubtedly help. Let me list just four advantages of having a set routine:
Four advantages of having a set routine
- Alleviates stress: Trying to remember the 101 things we have to do each day can send our stress levels through the roof. Having a routine takes the guesswork and uncertainty out of our day-to-day lives, making us feel more in control. In a set routine, one task often seamlessly flows into the next.
- Fosters good habits: The more we do something, the more it becomes second nature. It’s like checking your mirrors when driving or brushing your teeth at night – good habits are formed by repetition.
- Helps us to prioritize: As we will see in the next point, we tend to complete the easy, non-essential tasks first. Having a set routine will ensure we tackle the essential tasks first.
- Reduces procrastination: Procrastination is one of the biggest dangers in the freelance world. If you are not in an environment where you feel accountable to someone, the temptation to procrastinate for lengthy periods is all too real. Once a set of activities becomes routine, we are less likely to procrastinate as it becomes ingrained into our lives and we end up doing it subconsciously.
Eat That Frog
No, I’m not saying you need to go on holiday to France! I’m talking about productivity. If you haven’t read the book “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracey, you definitely should do so, whether you are a freelancer or not. You can buy it here on Amazon. It is one of the most popular books on productivity and gives many helpful tips on how to overcome procrastination. “Eat that frog!” means to start your day with the biggest, most important, and most dreaded task. It’s also the task you are most likely to procrastinate on. As mentioned earlier, one of the temptations in the freelance life is to do many non-essential tasks first to make us feel productive, such as invoices.
However, if the 80/20 principle (that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions) applies, the key is to prioritize your most important work and finish it! Finishing a large task will give you a sense of satisfaction that many smaller tasks will not give you. I will never forget learning about the rock, pebbles and sand story at school. It is possible to fill a glass jar with rocks, pebbles and sand, but it must be done in the right order. Focus on the rock (priority tasks), then the pebbles (important, but non-essential tasks) and then the sand (small tasks that can wait). If you get this order right, you will be well on your way to a successful freelance life.
Clients Want to Know You’re Human
When going for a job interview, you are conscious that the employer doesn’t just employ you for your skills, but for who you are as a person. Your personality plays a big role in the employer’s decision to choose you. In the freelance world, however, you often don’t meet your employer face to face. You could work for someone for years and never actually hear their voice.
In a day when you often don’t know whether you’re speaking to a machine or a human being, maintaining that human touch is paramount. Clients want to know you’re human – so talk to them! Wish them a nice weekend, ask them how things are going, maybe even joke around with them. Maintain the good practice of honesty, transparency and open communication. Be willing to run the extra mile for your clients, but don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to unrealistic demands. You’re only human after all!
Don’t Undersell Yourself
When it comes to launching a freelance business, you may want to attract your first customers with rock-bottom prices. Though this may work and get you lots of customers, you will not attract the type of quality customers you desire. As a general rule, higher rates will attract the best clients, and lower rates will draw in poorer clients. Don’t try to compete with someone from a developing country who is willing to work for £2 an hour. Though it may be wise to set a slightly lower rate at the beginning, don’t stay like that. Look at your skills and give an honest assessment of what your work is actually worth – go the extra mile for your clients to make sure they feel like you’re worth your salt.
Let’s look at how much £5 can affect your annual turnover. Imagine you work for 35 hours a week with an hourly rate of £20. If you work 48 weeks per year (1 month holiday), your annual turnover will be £33,600. If you increase that hourly rate to £25, your annual turnover would be £42,000. An additional £5 may not seem like very much to one of your clients, but the impact on your annual profit will be rather noticeable.
Don’t Be Afraid to Market Yourself
In today’s increasingly digitalised world, there’s no doubt that the primary way for people to find you is on the internet. For this reason, you need an appealing and professional website that clearly outlines what you do. Creating a company page on Facebook and LinkedIn will help you reach a wider audience and showcase your work for free. Don’t be afraid of telling the whole world what you do!
I work on a platform called Upwork, one of the world’s largest freelancing platforms. Every time I successfully complete a job, my client will leave a review = free marketing! The platform has thousands of users, so with a £0 marketing budget I can effectively market myself to lots of potential clients. Upwork has many benefits, including automated bookkeeping, guaranteed payment and a profile that shows all your previous work. Though the platform does take a commission, the free marketing and security of knowing you’ll get paid make it worthwhile. Check out my public profile here!