For the past year, I have been doing freelance web programming and some web design for various clients, and I must say that the job is more difficult then I even could have imagined. I worked for in-house companies for seven years, before becoming a freelancer, and I must say that I wish I had known what freelancing entailed before I got myself into it. Now, I am not trying to be a pessimist, because the truth is that being a freelance web designer or developer is one of the most rewarding careers or opportunities you could have, but it is also packed with challenges that need to be considered before you step into the world of a freelancer. When I first decided to become a freelancer, I thought it would involved me being able to work in my boxers, watch TV, and take vacations whenever I wanted, but the truth is freelance work is challenging work; so are you up to the challenge. Do you have what it takes to be a freelance web designer or developer? Check out these 15 things to consider, and you decide!
Make Awesome Business Cards
This is a must for the successful freelancer. You will need business cards with your logo, business name, and contact information; however, I suggest taking it one step further and making this business card a true representation of your artistic ability and originality. I suggest spending a little extra money and time designing your business card, because it is a marketing opportunity that stays with a person and can really impress potential clients. Every business uses business cards as a way to network and advertise, but with web developers, I recommend using creative business cards so that prospective clients can immediately get a taste of your potential.
Get your Portfolio Ready
As a freelancer, you really need a fantastic portfolio. When you are trying to show the world your capability in the area of web design, your website design portfolio is your portal to the world. The portfolio is the most essential website a freelancer will ever create in his or her career, because its sole purpose is to show their knowledge, scope, talent, and skill. If your website design portfolio is not creative, eye-catching, or innovative, it will not matter what websites you have in your repertoire, potential clients will not give you a second look. So as a freelancer, you will need to take that extra time and effort to make an outstanding portfolio.
Learn about Billing
As a freelancer, you must know about billing and pricing. As a normal employee in a web design business, you will usually not have to worry about setting prices, billing, making estimates, making invoices, collecting payments etc. However, as a freelancer, you become more than just a designer/developer, you become your own office manager! So, it is important that you consider taking a class on billing, read some blog posts about it, or have a friend help you out in that area. As your business grows, you may even be able to hire someone to take care of the finances.
Be Ready to Work at Any Time
In a company, you usually have your scheduled hours, usually 8-5, and you can feel some bit of normalcy and structure in your life; however, as a freelancer, you have to be ready to work at any time and any hour. For example, this past weekend, I was expected to meet a client at 8am on a Saturday, at his warehouse. The truth is, I had no problem doing it, because it is a great project, but the hours of a freelances are odd, and I was not expecting that when I first started!
Update your Resume
Even with Freelance, you have to always have an updated and impressive resume, even though you are technically not looking for “a job.” Many potential clients expect to see a resume with where you have worked, experience, education, and sample projects, to see if you are compatible with their project. So, even if you are technically working for yourself, be ready to show your resume as a freelancer.
Accommodate your Clients
When you are a freelancer, you are personally responsible for seeking, getting, accommodating, and retaining clients, which can be a daunting task. So, that involves advertising of course, but I believe that accommodating your clients in the most important part, to ensure that your current clients are satisfied, so they will return. In my article, “10+ Tips to Improve Interaction with Clients,” I wrote about tips to help keep your clients happy. If your current clients are happy, they are more likely to give positive word of mouth advertising for you, as well as come back for future projects! So, make sure you do what you can to keep you clients happy.
Learn, Learn, and Learn Some More
As a freelancer, you are often expected to know about everything, and when a potential client is looking for an employee to work on a project, they will generally look at the two ends of the spectrum. They either look for the preverbal “jack of all trades” type web designer or developer who can do just about anything, or they look for the best in a certain area. In my opinion, it is obviously pretty difficult and nearly impossible to be the best at what you do, so I suggest trying to diversify as much as possible so that you can greater your possibility of getting a project. For example, try to learn as many languages, applications, etc as possible in order to be competitive in this market. So, be ready to learn, learn, and learn.
Get Your Name Out There
You must promote yourself when you are a freelancer, which was a true shock for me when I first entered the field. I am actually a fairly shy person, so I find it difficult to promote myself, because originally I thought I was bragging when I would try to get my name out there. However, when you are doing freelance, you must keep a consistent flow of clients coming in to keep your business going. I cannot speak for all web developers, but I can speak for myself when I say that when I first started doing freelance, I was not too educated in the world of marketing, and I was unaware of all the way you can advertise for very cheap and even free! The more places you get your name out there, the more chance you have to increase your client base. Furthermore, what I learned, is that try first to be social where you feel comfortable, and let the promotion grow from there!
Manage Your Time
You must be a responsible person who manages time well in order to be a successful freelancer. In my case, this was one of the most challenging areas for me when I first entered the world of freelance. When you are a freelancer, you could have more than one project to work on at the same time, as well as dealing with all of these other things you have to consider, so be ready to be overwhelmed, if you do not manage your time well. In addition, you may need to learn how to multi-task, so be ready to tighten up your time management skills.
Freelancers should really consider starting a blog, which can take a lot of time and energy, but it really pays off. Writing a blog helps to get your name out there, shows the world you know what you are talking about, and gives people another avenue to reach your work. A great suggestion, even though I have not yet done so myself, is to link your blog and portfolio together. This will give increased access to your business, and hopefully increase your clientele.
Manage Your Office Well
Though this is not a requirement, you should have a nice space where you can bring clients when you are doing freelance. Of course, most clients will not expect you to have an amazing office space, when you are only a freelancer; however, you should have a clean, well organized space where you can bring client to discuss potential projects. For example, I will bring clients to my office, or if my house is not well organized, I will ask to meet in a public place, or I will go to the client’s location. If your office place is not at least somewhat aesthetically pleasing, you will drive away your clientele.
Learn the Legality of Being a Freelancer
I am sure I am like many freelancers, when I say I did not know anything about legal business issues when I first started out. I was however, very lucky that my wife is an attorney and well versed in business and legal relations, but if I did not have her to assist me, I probably would not have made it as a freelancer when I first started. You must know about the legal issues that can affect you as a freelancer, which is out of the realm of most designers and developers. I am not saying to get a legal degree, but to the very least draft a very detailed contact to have for clients, to protect your financially and from liability.
Be Patient and Humble
So, now that you have realized that you have what it takes to be a freelancer, just be ready to be patient and humble when you first start out as a freelancer. When I first started out, I was forced to do a lot of projects which honestly I did not care for, for prices that nearly insulated me. In fact, I found out that many clients would prefer to go to a web development business, rather than coming to me as a freelancer, even though I knew I had the talent, but I did not have the clientele portfolio to show it. Even after 1 year of being a freelancer, I still have to be willing to take projects which may not be my favorite. But, be patient and humble, and you will start to get amazing projects, and realize being a freelancer is an incredible job!
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