In a time when the entire world seems to be working outside the confines of offices, more and more people are turning to freelance work as a source of income. Being a full-time freelancer requires the same amount of commitment as doing a full-time job; you need to be focused, reliable, and put your best foot forward.
Perks: you get to enjoy managing your deadlines, any time, any place, any pace.
Here are some of the key things every freelancer should keep in mind.
If you’re a newcomer to the field, take notes, these could come handy. If you’re a seasoned veteran, scroll through and make sure your have your basics right.
1. Don’t Fake It till You Make It:
This is a phrase I’ve been hearing quite a bit over the last couple of months, and it leaves me flummoxed every time. Pretending to be something you’re not is definitely not the right way to go about doing anything, much less professional work.
So, rule number one: Don’t fake it till you make it. Work really hard till you make it.
You must never lie about your job title or the scope of your work. This is not to say you shouldn’t try to improve the services you can offer; by all means, do so. But make sure you can back your claims and put your work where you mouth is.
‘Dressing for the job you want’, on the other hand, makes more sense than faking it till you make it. Set goals and try to incorporate your vision into the quality of your work.
After all, you can’t possibly get very far in life by emulating the debatable actions of Mike Ross, unless you are willing to step on some toes and throw ethics out the window.
2. Listen to the Client’s Needs:
Comprehend the client’s needs fully before you get started. This is an important rule that we sometimes forget.
Make sure you understand, and I mean truly understand the client’s needs. And the only way to do that is to listen, and listen well.
Make sure to put a lid on your ideas while you listen to clients and volunteer your feedback only after they’re done. Take notes if you have to, or record the call (after telling them it’s being recorded, of course) so you have material to reference later.
3. Give It Your Best Shot:
Consider each project you handle your own. Your client has entrusted you with a task; this means they have put their faith in you. And it is your responsibility to make sure you deliver quality work, every single time. It is easy to get carried away and take on more than you can handle, so always go for quality over quantity. In fact, quality over quantity should be your constant refrain.
If you can afford to choose the type of project you want to work on, try to pick ones that you know you can deliver well in. And definitely don’t bite off more than you can chew, or you’ll eventually find yourself choking.
No matter the type of work you accept, big or small, once you undertake it, strive to deliver premium work within the stipulated time.
4. Always Have a Plan:
As a freelancer, you might have multiple deadlines to meet in a small time-frame and this can get quite overwhelming at times; but that’s not an excuse to keep extending deadlines or turn in sloppy work. This is where choosing quality over quantity comes in handy.
If you have multiple projects lined up simultaneously, make sure you set reasonable deadlines for each and also schedule them according to priority, so that you don’t find yourself forced to run a race with your shoelaces untied: unprepared, and with a risk of falling flat on your face.
5. Stick to Deadlines:
Deadlines are your best friends. Don’t let them down.
You might work in a glass cabin, straightening your tie occasionally, or you might work in a wooden gazebo in the middle of a lake, occasionally sipping a virgin piña colada. Either way, you are working and you need to remind yourself that work is a responsibility that must be taken seriously.
If you set a deadline, make sure you deliver by or within the predetermined date. Remember that your clients schedule the rest of their work according to your stated ability to get your part done on time.
And as mentioned above, having a well-structured plan helps you meet deadlines with ease.
6. Be Accountable:
Be accountable to your clients and also to yourself.
As a freelancer, you have the freedom to be your own boss; and as Uncle Ben says, with great power comes great responsibility.
Being accountable to yourself is perhaps the hardest part of being a freelancer. You may revel in the fact that you answer to no on but yourself, but this becomes a slippery slope when you undermine the importance of keeping yourself accountable at all times.
Keep track of the projects you handle and your career trajectory if you wish to move further up the freelance ladder in both quality and quantity.
7. Place Your Trust in Honest Communication:
This is a rule that might be a bit difficult to follow for most, especially when you’re supposed to pitch your abilities in order to land work. However, open communication is one of the key tools that must find a place in a freelancer’s arsenal.
If the scope of work is outside your area of expertise, convey that honestly without beating around the bush.
If you have a deadline you cannot meet, simply ask for an extension instead of making excuses.
Communication gaps with clients will invariably lead to stressful or awkward situations that you definitely want to avoid, so make sure there aren’t any to begin with.
8. Don’t be the Idiomatic Copycat:
Don’t mistake ‘working smart’ to mean that you can piggy back on real creators. Make sure your work is plagiarism free.
Now this is an important one that I see is neglected by many people, especially those masquerading as ‘writers’ or ‘artists’ or ‘designers’.
Let’s consider one of these unscrupulous ‘writers’. It takes them all of 5 seconds to shamelessly claim credit for the possible 5 hours of hard work the original writer put into it. Be it about anything from Disney movie reviews or calisthenics techniques, creating good quality content that is relevant takes effort: it involves research, analytical thinking, and of course, the whole writing and proofreading process.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but keep in mind that you are not imitating or even “getting inspired” from work you don’t credit. Rather, you are insulting, when you “forget to” or “didn’t know that you had to” give credit to the original creator.
You dismiss a person’s time and effort when you try to pass off their work as your own.
I’ve seen people lift entire blogs from online searches and try to pass it off as their own work without batting an eyelid. Which leads me to believe they were not aware of the concept of plagiarism (I prefer giving people the benefit of the doubt). This is why it is important to highlight the importance of eradicating plagiarism. It’s okay if you’re not a part of the solution, but make sure you’re definitely not a part of the problem.
You can choose the kind of freelancer you become.
Choose well and become the kind of freelancer you yourself would hire without a second thought.