If you tuned into last week’s blog post, you know a few technical tips for getting started as a freelancer. But what’s often less talked about is how to actually take care of yourself while freelancing. How do you maintain healthy relationships with your clients? What about work-life balance? We’re not exactly life coaches, but we do think we’ve learned a few things. Take a look at our tips and let us know if they help!
It’s okay to be upfront with your clients. If they want something done in a week but you know you’ll need at least three, say so. It’s not fair to you or them to rush through things. If you’re honest about your abilities, you’re going to avoid a lot of stress on your end, plus your client is likely to be much happier with both the process and the final project.
It’s okay to be candid with your clients, but don’t forget that this is a job. Even if they’re a friend, try to keep some level of professionalism in tact when you’re talking about work things. That way if things get messy or they forget to pay you on time, you still have the authority to ask for your hard-earned money without feeling like it’s going to get in the way of your friendship.
Make a website and social media profiles, but don’t let them take over.
If you’re trying to promote yourself as a freelancer, it might seem like the obvious thing to do would be to take to the internet. After all, how else are people going to find you these days? But going around making profiles and accounts willy-nilly can actually be bad for your brand, so be careful about what platforms you decide to use. There are tons of social media platforms out there, and you could easily suck your life away trying to keep up with them all. But we’ll let you in on a secret: to be on the internet successfully, you don’t have to be everywhere on the internet. You just need to make sure you do a really good job maintaining the platforms that you do keep. Besides, who’s going to want to hire you to do their social media marketing if your own profiles are haphazardly updated and scattered across the internet?
So yes: build a website, make a Facebook page, join Twitter—but think critically about the sites you’re using and choose the ones that best benefit you. Do you really need all that plus a Vimeo, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, WordPress, Youtube, Flickr, DeviantArt, Google+, Tumblr, etc.? Probably not. Choose two or three of those and build some really beautiful profiles. If you’re a visual artist, maybe try an Instagram account for art photos accompanied by a Tumblr page where potential clients can learn more about what you do. Make social media work for you, not the other way around.
Learn to separate work from your home life.
If you’re freelancing, there’s a good chance you’re working from home. Not having set hours or a dedicated work space can sometimes make it feel like your work is taking over your life. Don’t let that happen! Schedule times to work and then stick to those hours. Try setting up a small desk where you can do work instead of sitting on your bed. Get out of the house every once in a while by taking your work to a local coffee shop or library.
Another suggestion might be to keep phones and social media turned off or stowed away during your work hours. Sure, they can be tempting, and sometimes you will need your phone, but you’ve got to be able to stay disciplined so that you can get your work done in the hours you’ve set up for yourself. Otherwise, your work is going to bleed into your me-time and, sooner or later, there won’t be any distinction between work and play left at all.
It’s okay to say “no” if the project isn’t a good fit or if you don’t have time.
But shouldn’t I be taking advantage of all the opportunities that are offered to me? Not necessarily. If you’re booked up, don’t take on more than you can handle just because you feel like you have to. That extra client will either find someone else to do the project, or they’ll wait for you to become available. The same thing goes if you and a client just aren’t meshing well. Do they want a design that’s way out of your comfort zone? Are they going to provide extremely detailed instructions about what they want but you’re the type that prefers to take a little more creative license? Maybe it’s just not a good fit.
We’re not saying you should only take on projects that knock your socks off, but you do need to listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to say no. There will be other opportunities. We promise.
Bonus: Stand up for yourself!
Perhaps one of the most important ingredients to becoming a successful freelancer is to learn to advocate for yourself. Young people are arguably some of the easiest to exploit. (CCPI Writer Kiera Hufford wrote a whole article on it.) So don’t forget your own worth. You are a hardworking, talented [insert writer, editor, designer, etc. here] and deserve to be treated like one. So go on out there and rock this world!