Practical Advice for Brand New Freelancers

Starting out as a freelancer can be the first step in establishing career independence. It’s an exciting, stressful, creative time.

If I’m going to be honest, I can’t remember the first time someone hired me to edit for them. I was doing it in university while I was a student, and it was a pretty informal process. 

Nowadays, though, I do things a bit more professionally. I have established contracts ready to go when a client wants to work with me, I have rules for my work hours, and I use a ton of different workflow strategies to get things done. 

Anyways, I know there are a ton of you just getting started out there with your freelancing businesses, so here are some of the things that I wish I had been told when I was just starting out. 

Enjoy, and good luck!

1. Keep track of your billable hours, especially when starting out.

Sometimes, when you’re just starting out, it’s difficult to understand how long a particular job is going to take you. You may quote a client a certain price, but then discover that the job takes you way, way longer. 

By starting the practice of keeping track of your hours early, it’ll become a habit as you grow your business. This can also be very important when preparing your taxes at the end of the year. 

Log the hours that you’re spending on other work, too – not just the work for clients. There’s a ton of administrative work, marketing, bookkeeping, and other jobs that go in to running your freelance business. Keeping track of these hours will help you understand how you’re spending your time, and how you should be pricing your work accordingly. 

2. Reframe your thinking about what you do.

I read this advice recently and it totally rocked my world: don’t call yourself an editor, a writer, a freelance whatever. You run an editing business, a writing business, or a freelance business. 

Changing your wording in this regard makes it clear that you spend your time doing more than just the “work” – there are a ton of other jobs that go into your freelancing career. By reframing it as a business rather than simply a title, you’re giving more respect to all those other necessary tasks that you are responsible for. 

3. Make wise investments in equipment and supplies.

When you aren’t seeing a ton of income coming in at the start (or if your payments go towards other important things, like life and bills), investing in equipment or gear for your work can seem like a bit of a strain. 

However, making sound investments is smart here. It’s better to go for higher quality equipment that won’t need to be replaced as soon or maintained as regularly. This applies to things like computers, cameras, and office equipment, but also to specialty gear for your business.

When I was first starting out running my editing business, I was hesitant to subscribe to services like Buffer or Canva because they didn’t directly impact my ability to do the “work” of my business. However, they both made a huge difference in terms of saving time in my week for my marketing tasks. 

Everything in a freelancing business seems to come down to two costs: time or money.

Sure, you can do most things with enough time…but investing a little bit of money can eliminate hours of administrative tasks. 

4. Establish your contact hours and make them clear to clients.

Listen, there will always be clients who expect you to be accessible 24/7 to them. This doesn’t mean that they’re not good people to work with, it just means that their expectations don’t meet up with what you’re realistically able to do. 

It’s wise to create a policy that you can share with clients that clearly outlines when you’re available to contact. This should include methods of communcation like phone calls, video chats, in-person meetings, and emails. 

Don’t be afraid to stick to this policy you set out. Part of establishing a healthy work/life balance is being 100% off the clock part of the time. 

You may also want to include some policies about how frequently you can provide updates on a project, if relevant to what you do. For instance, rather than answering email questions from a client all day, set out a rule that you will send one email at the end of the day answering all of their questions. It’s okay to have rules – actually, its fantastic – so don’t feel bad establishing them up front.

So, what do you think? Have you done these things for your freelancing business already? Is there something you think I missed? Leave me a comment and let me know below!

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