5 Takeaways That I've Learned While Freelancing These Past 2 Years
The beginning of October this year not only brings the Fall feeling, but also marks my two-year anniversary into freelancing. To think back over these two years is pretty wild. I have lived in 4 different cities, worked with hundreds of clients, and have had plenty of bumps along the way. The freelance life is definitely not for the faint of heart, but without a doubt one of the best decisions I have made so far in life.
If you’ve ever considered freelancing, I would recommend reading on to see my 5 takeways that I have learned over these past couple of years.
1. Never Stop Learning
When you’re freelancing you can’t afford to stop learning. Over the past two years I have had to learn how to do my own taxes, expenses, create contracts (Shout out AND CO), proposals, and the list goes on. Basically, freelancing is more than just DOING, it is also taking the time out of your day and week to keep learning about any area of your business that you want to improve.
The first 6-months was a big wake up call for me because I came into freelancing thinking that I could just do the work (design + marketing) all day long and that I would get paid for it. Not realizing that I would spend more time doing the admin work and everything that I would need to do to keep my business afloat more.
The good news is that it is a process and we are all learning everyday. No freelancer has it all figured out (I still have a long way to go), and the most important thing that you can do is take each day as an opportunity to learn something new + apply it to your business.
2. Communication Is Key
Want to know how I have been able to get + retain clients over the years? Being on top of my communication. I can’t tell you how many times I have had clients reach out and hire me because communication was so bad with their old designer. I get that it is not healthy to be on your phone/email all day, but responding to your clients within a reasonable timeframe is a MUST. I’d say at a maximum I would go 24-hours (excluding vacation), but I usually aim to respond within a few hours (even at night).
Beyond just staying in touch with your clients, it is super important to also be communicative of what your expectations are. At the start of any new working relationship with a client I either send out in an email or separate document with what they can expect out of my during this process and what I expect out of them as well. One thing to always remember is that your clients don’t own or dictate your schedule (that is why you most likely got into freelancing in the first place), so you need to set ground rules and be firm with your time. However, clients won’t know this until you communicate it with them.
Having great communication is not only good business, it really helps the client and work process go much more smoothly.
3. Collaboration Over Competition
Yes, you are in a competitive market as a freelancer, but no, that doesn’t mean you need to compete with every freelancer in your field. In fact, teaming up and partner with other freelancers usually means more opportunities and more money.
Over the past two years of freelancing I have worked on a ton of projects with other freelancers, even ones that offer pretty similar services to what I offer. The point is that there are a lot of opportunities out there and you will be missing out if you are always competing and not collaborating.
A couple ways I have collaborated over the years:
A client hired me to handle graphic design (which I don’t offer), so I teamed up with a graphic designer who did the work and I did the project management. We both made money off the work.
A direct “competitor” was swamped with work and couldn’t take on this new project lead. Because I was in communication with them, they gave me the lead/project and I sent them a referral fee. Win-win on both ends.
Moral of the story: Reach out to your competition, introduce yourself + what you do, and see in which ways you might be able to work together.
4. Tell Your Story
There are hundreds if not thousands of other freelancers who offer similar services that I do, so what do I do to stand out? Tell my story. There might be a lot of other freelancers, but only one me.
I made it a goal of mine to always be open with who I am and what I do. It is easy to just list your services and work examples, but the difficult part is adding personality to your brand. What makes you stand out? Why would a client hire you over another freelancer?
It is important to ask yourself these questions. Imagine it from a client perspective. If you are looking for a designer and read a couple portfolios, are you strictly going to hire someone just based on services offered or are you going to see what they are like as a person/company?
Being open and vulnerable about myself has made it impossible for a client to compare my business to someone else’s because no one else has lived my experiences and told my story.
5. Do Great Work
This should be obvious, but still also important to note. At the end of the day, if your isn’t up to par then you won’t be in business for long. If you half ass your time that you need to allocate to your work then it is going to show and word spreads quickly. The saying “let the work speak for itself” is very true. Your work is a reflection of everything about your business, so make sure that it is always top notch.
This is not to say that your work has to be perfect from the get go because it won’t be. If you looked over my work two years ago to what it is today, you would see a dramatic difference. The point is that there is always room for improvement and growth.
Bonus Takeaway: Be Flexible + Adapt
If you are a freelancer or business owner then you know nothing ever goes accordingly to plan. It just doesn’t happen. You have to be flexible and adapt. I went into freelancing thinking that I would only have to focus on Squarespace website design and not digital marketing, but after a few months in, I realized I couldn’t sustain a business only offering one service.
It’s also important to realize that you might have a goal of making a certain amount each month, but there will definitely be peaks and valleys, so don’t let the slow months slow you down. Take that time to learn a new skill, write some blogs posts, or just take some mental health days.
Like life, freelancing is about being able to go with the flow. Definitely still have plans + goals in mind, but just be aware that plans change.
The Wrap Up
I hope that if you read this far that you have found something useful in this post. If you are thinking about freelancing or currently freelancing now, hit me up and let’s chat. This is all about community and helping each other win at the end of the day. I have been real fortunate to have great people in my life to get me where I am at today.
Thanks again for reading and for your support!