Career

10 Ways To Totally Nail Freelancing

Considering taking the plunge to freelance? Here’s some words of wisdom to help you get there.

I have been freelancing for close to a year now and I am certain that I’ll never (willingly) return to a conventional nine-to-five job.

In hindsight, I now realise that I was getting completely burnt out in my office job. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the work that I was doing; in fact, I was working in an industry that I felt passionate about and I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues. It was the over-regulated and rigid nature of company life that was bringing me down. The lacklustre cubical walls were leaving me uninspired and unmotivated, and unfortunately these damaging feelings were seeping into other areas of my life.

The world of freelancing seemed like an elusive dream. A utopia that only a lucky chosen few were able to experience. Me, freelance? Never. But now that I’m on the other side of this extraordinary utopian world, I realise that it is, in fact, achievable and a greater possibility now than it ever was given the increasingly transient nature of the workplace.

Here are ten tips on how to succeed at the freelancing dream in whatever field you may be in.

#1 Just do it… if it’s what you want to do

This one is pretty obvious, right? However, it’s also an enormous decision to pass up your stable job in order to pursue a full-time freelancing gig. You need to think carefully about whether you are ready for the inconsistency of work, periods of financial drought and, for the most part, being on your own all day. Not everyone is suited to freelancing life and, conversely, not everyone wants to venture down this pathway. Some prefer the routine of going into the office each morning, the stability of seeing regular payments in their bank account and the social aspect of being around colleagues. This is perfectly fine; everyone operates within a varying set of values and circumstances.

But if you do feel stifled by your office job and the aforementioned elements aren’t critical to your wellbeing, don’t let self-doubt prevent you from pursuing a lifestyle choice that may make you happier in the long run. Save up a pool of money to keep you afloat during the initial months and go for it.

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What’s the worse that can happen? You can always go back to finding a regular job knowing that you gave freelancing a good shot, or even supplement your income with a part-time job if need be.

#2 Fake it ’til you make it

I’m not talking about being an outright imposter and claiming that you have the cure for cancer but, rather, being confident of your existing skill set and knowing what you can bring to the table. There are always going to be people out there who have ridiculously impressive resumes with more than twenty years’ experience in your industry. But remember: they had to start somewhere too.

Be sure of what you can deliver to your clients and sell your capabilities accordingly.

#3 Call in favours… and then network, network, network

Everyone you know could potentially be the key in handing you your next client. Family, friends, ex-colleagues, your local barista; don’t be embarrassed to draw upon your existing networks and to ask for a favour, as referrals will most likely end up bringing in the bulk of your business.

After you’ve called in favours, it’s time to build up a list of new contacts. Don’t be afraid to cold call or email key companies in your industry to enquire about potential work – it may just be a case of you contacting the right person at the right time. Be active on LinkedIn and join professional bodies relevant to your field, and attend networking events to get yourself out there.

Be brash, be bold and be known.

#4 Be proactive

The great thing about freelancing is that you are in control of everything. The bad thing about freelancing is that you are in control of everything.

Freelancing isn’t for lazy folk; in fact, you need to work harder and smarter in order to succeed. You’ll need to drum up your own business, build relationships, seek out and follow up any potential leads, and organise your projects, marketing and finances according to the ebbs and flows of an undulating work cycle. It’s up to you to seize and create your own opportunities through sheer persistence and determination and to not let any setbacks undermine your resolve.

#5 Keep learning new skills

As a freelancer, you are in charge of your own development so make sure to invest in yourself, as YOU are your greatest asset. It doesn’t ever hurt to acquire new skills because they can only add to your brand and reputation. Free online tutorials are so abundantly available these days on a variety of topics so there really isn’t any excuse to stop learning. Developmental learning is also a perfect task to undertake during those inevitable lull periods.

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#6 Aim for improvement not perfection

You might not do the perfect job but you can do a good enough job, which is good enough. Don’t beat yourself up about not submitting flawless work and always remember where your talents lie relative to the rest of the population. You can only improve and build your skills with each project that you land and there is no point in dwelling on the past when there may be other tasks to attend to.

It’s inevitable that we compare our work to others but remember that everyone has their own voice, style and flavour to contribute. If we all did the same thing in exactly the same way then it would be an extremely boring and banal cookie-cutter world.

Being the best is a difficult feat at the beginning – instead, strive to be good enough.

#7 Do something for free (at the beginning)

When starting out in the freelance world, you may need to do something for free in order to reap the rewards in future. I’m not suggesting that you work for forty hours a week without remuneration, but if you can spare a couple of hours for a gratis job or volunteer somewhere relevant to your industry, you may find that it is a good opportunity to network, demonstrate your skills and, at the very least, make you feel good about donating your time and expertise.

#8 Practise exceptional organisational skills

I can’t stress enough how organised you need to be when running your own freelance business. You need to keep on top of deadlines, finances and communications, and play the role of production, marketing and finance manager as well as office assistant – all at the same time. Time management is pivotal to your success so that you can maximise the time actually spent on completing jobs while allocating enough time to spend on supporting marketing, financial and administrative activities.

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Figure out what organisational system works for you and establish a routine.

#9 Take small steps

Document each small step that you’ve taken with your freelance business and congratulate yourself on the small successes as well as the significant milestones. There won’t be managers to review your performance and give you a promotion, nor colleagues to pat you on the back, so take the time to reflect and to recognise your triumphs and victories – both big and small.

#10 Persevere

Repeat after me: I can do it. Believe in yourself and don’t give up at the first hurdle – or even at the tenth hurdle. Freelancing isn’t an easy gig but if it’s the lifestyle that you want then you will need to find the tenacity to overcome all of the trials that come along with pursuing this challenging but truly rewarding pathway.

Find a way to make it work: it’s worth it.


Camha is a freelance editor and writer currently based in Perth. She is a wannabe word nerd, travel-addict and coffee enthusiast, and thinks that life is just one big Seinfeld episode (where Elaine is her BFF). She has written for Broadsheet, AWOL, The Big Bus and the Huffington Post Australia, and tweets at @curatedbycammi.