I’m sure I’m not the first person out there to want to quit my day job and start working on my own thing, so roughly three months ago, I did it. I took the plunge. I signed up for a few freelance sites, made a writing-only resume, pulled together some samples, and I began to apply to jobs. After some trial and error, I’ve figured out a few things that work…and a lot of things that don’t. I’ve had a lot of people ask me for tips or ask various questions about how to get into freelancing, so below are 14 things I’d recommend when you want to start freelancing. That being said, I’m sure these could apply to more than just freelancing.
- Start small. When I first started applying for jobs, I knew I needed to build up my feedback before anyone would want to hire me for long-term positions. I started by applying for small, low-paying jobs in order to get some 5-star feedback and make myself more marketable. I looked for jobs I could complete quickly, and I applied to a ton of them. Upwork has since changed its application process, but it’s also started to match freelancers up with more relevant jobs. Good call!
- Make goals. For me, these goals were financial. I set an amount that I knew I wanted to make each week, and I did whatever I needed to to reach that amount. I started with just $100 per week, but I’ve surpassed that every single week since creating the initial goal, and usually by quite a bit. That’s obviously not enough to replace anyone’s full-time job, but it’s a start. After the first quarter, I’m going to review where I’m at and create new goals.
- Follow up. Several of the clients I’ve taken on are long-term clients. That being said, they don’t always need work each week. In order to not be forgotten, I check in with them once each week, typically on Sunday night or Monday morning, to see if there’s any work needing to be done for the following 5-7 days. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t, but sending them a friendly reminder has definitely paid off.
- Go the extra mile. Whether it’s a nice email, lengthy 5-star recommendation, or a great referral, always go the extra mile for your clients.
- Don’t take on too much. This is something I learned the hard way. In addition to working from home, I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I have to do my best to keep all of my tasks balanced. I don’t work when Isla is awake and I try my best not to work nights or weekends, but if I take on too much, I lose the free time weekends and week nights provides. If you know you can only work 2-3 hours per day, only give yourself work that will fit into your schedule.
- Stick to one site. While sometimes I break my own rule and work on Elance, I usually just stick to Upwork. I chose Upwork simply because I like it better, and it keeps all my recommendations in one place. I’ve recently had some clients move off Upwork and I’ve also had people coming to me (on sites like LinkedIn, as well as Facebook groups for creative entrepreneurs), but overall, most of my work comes from Upwork. With too many sites, your feedback is spread out and it’s harder to keep track of everyone.
- Set up an email that’s strictly business. I tried using my personal email, but it was hard to keep personal and business emails separate. I am in the process of setting up a business website, and I bought a Google account with it. All my business emails now go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Keep copies of everything. All my feedback, emails, invoices, etc. are all stored not only on Upwork/Elance, but also on my computer. That way, I have everything on hand if one of the sites crash or there’s an issue with my profile.
- Take advantage of free time. While I love reading during nap time, I only get 1-2 nap times per day out of Isla. Take advantage of downtime by getting ahead on your work. You’ll thank yourself later. Plus, more free time = more work = more money.
- Explore different niches. I’ve always read that you should pick one specific niche for writing. I haven’t done this yet, and while it makes for more work, you’ll also find you prefer writing in one specific genre over the other. My favorites? Military, parenting, and advice topics. My least favorite? Well, I used to write blogs for a rug pad website, so…
- Set up a space that’s used only for work. We have an in-home office at our house, but if we didn’t have this I would set up a desk somewhere at home that was used strictly for work. I tend to get easily distracted when I’m working somewhere that isn’t my designated space–like the living room or in bed–and I find this issue is eliminated when I only work in the office.
- Take breaks. If I don’t take a 5-10 minute break every now and then throughout the day, I start to get stir crazy. On my breaks, I read something other than work-related emails/pieces, work out, go for a walk, or just relax. Of course, when Isla is awake, that entire time is a break and we play, go outside, etc.
- Use calendars. I use three calendars to keep track of due dates, money, what I’ve done each day, etc. I have a monthly wall calendar, a kate spade planner (though I use this more for personal stuff during the day, and mine is white with gold dots), and a large weekly planner (mine is bigger, purple, and from Target). I would say having this many planners, though excessive, is what single-handedly keeps me sane and prevents me from losing track of what I’ve done and what I have to do.
- Structure your days. On Monday, I figure out all things financial. Tuesdays-Fridays are for getting done what’s due that week. Saturdays and Sundays are catch-up days. I plan to have even more structure to my days in the future, but right now, having these days designated towards a specific task makes a huge difference and keeps me organized.
If you work from home/run your own business and have any tips, let me know! I’d love to hear them.