New to the freelancing world? Been here for a little while but still don’t really know what you’re doing? You’re not alone. Freelancing is a tricky business, especially if you’re new to the game. From invoices to contracts to scheduling to taxes—it can be a doozy. Your friends at CCPI know that, and quite a few of us have been in your shoes. (Recently. Very recently.) So we’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to get you started. Whether you’re a writer, editor, designer, artist, etc., these are some key business tips you’ll want to be aware of when you take on your first freelancing project.
Know your worth.
This can be one of the hardest things to grapple with when you’re just starting out. Asking people for money? It’s not something many of us have done before, and it’s easy to feel a little uncomfortable at first. But remember this: you have value. Your time and talent is worth something, so don’t be afraid to ask for the appropriate amount of compensation.
Well, yeah, but how much am I supposed to ask for? That’s where things get a little harder to navigate. There’s not really one straight answer, and this will depend a lot on your particular industry or services and your level of experience. Our best advice would be to do your research. Check out salary websites like Glassdoor or other industry-specific sites. If you’re an editor or writer, the Editorial Freelancers Association has a handy guide that might be a good place to start.
Once you know the average rate for the kind of work you’re doing, see if you can find out whether that mean rate is higher or lower in your area. For example, rates might be higher in New York City, where the cost of living is higher, than in a rural town in Vermont. Finally, consider your own experience. Is this your first freelancing gig? Maybe knock the price down a little bit because you’re a newbie. Are you an old pro with lots of previous clients willing to pay top dollar? Charge a little more for your expertise. Your price can always change as you go!
Estimate your hours before you give a quote or final price.
Okay, so you know your hourly rate, but what if a client wants to know how much a project is going to cost them before they agree to work with you? If you’ve never freelanced as a copyeditor before, it can be tricky to know just how many hours it will take you to copyedit a specific manuscript. Before you give your client a quote, request a few sample pages from them. Look them over to determine the level of editing they need and the level of editing the client is looking for. Then go through and actually copyedit some of it while timing yourself. How long does it take you to get through five pages? Use that number to figure out how long the entire manuscript will take.
Not an editor? You can apply similar principles to other types of freelance work as well. If you’re a writer, make sure you and your client are clear on word counts and writing styles. Will you have to do a lot of research? Factor that into your price. If you’re a designer or artist, get a clear picture of the project before giving the client any estimates. For example, do they want an animated logo that spins and sparkles? Ten unique cover designs for their family restaurant’s new menu? Or are they just looking for a simple poster or magazine ad? Different projects will take you different amounts of time, and only you can know how long you’ll need to get something done. Finally, remember that your estimate is just that: an estimate. Keep track of your hours during the project so that they can reflect your final price.
Get a contract.
We know, it sounds so gross and serious. Who wants to make a contract? Who even knows how to make a contract? But don’t let the word freak you out; your contract is there to protect both you and your client, and you’ll both be better off if you have one handy. Just lay out the basic terms of your agreement in writing. Unless you’re working with millions of dollars, your contract doesn’t necessarily have to be super complicated. The main purpose of the contract is so that each party knows what’s expected of them and when it needs to be done. So for example, your contract should include what you plan to deliver to the client and by what date. It should also include how much your client will pay you for your work and when that money is due. Contracts keep everyone on the same page, and they provide a clear point of reference if a project ever veers off track.
Emails, emails, emails. We can’t stress this enough. As a freelancer, you’re basically running your own business, so you’ll want to treat the people you work with like the customers they are. This means keeping them up to date on the project and being flexible about their feedback. Is the project taking you a little longer than you expected? Let them know. They might not be happy about the increase in price or wait time, but at least they won’t be shocked when they get the bill at the end of the project.
Learn to network and self-promote.
Freelancing is basically like running your own business, and if you’re using it to supplement part of your income, you’re going to want to get your name out there so that you can keep yourself busy with a steady stream of clients. That means networking. We know, we know: it sounds pretty gross. But you’ve got to do it.
This doesn’t mean you need to go to some stuffy networking event and stand around juggling fancy finger foods while trying to make nice with other professionals and avoid getting lettuce stuck in your teeth. (But if you’re into that, go for it!) Networking can be as simple as reaching out to the people you meet about your professional connections. Don’t go crazy throwing business cards at everyone you pass on the street, but if you’re chatting with someone in the coffee line at a cafe and they mention they’re a writer, you might want to tell them if you’re an editor. Politely offer your card in case they’d like to work with you sometime.
Another part of networking is being confident in your abilities. We know it can be hard to talk about yourself, but make sure you’re finding a good balance between humility and self-promotion, especially in professional settings! After all, you want those jobs to come pouring in.
If you can grasp these key ideas, you’ll be well on your way to freelancing like a pro! There are, of course, a few other things you’ll want to be aware of, but we’ll save those for a later blog post. Keep your eye out, and good luck!