Whether you’re brand new to freelancing or a long-time pro, you know how much energy it takes to juggle current projects, find new clients, and manage finances at the same time. Being a freelancer can feel frenzied—even downright chaotic—unless you find ways to make your work life run more smoothly, both in your day-to-day and over the course of your career.
Here at Skillshare, we have almost 2,000 classes dedicated solely to tips for freelancers—our class “Going Freelance: Building and Branding Your Own Success” has had more than 60,000 students! So, we’ve put together a list of our best tips that will help you become the next freelance success story.
What Makes a Freelancer Successful?
As with most careers, the definition of success is unique to each person—it’s in the eye of the beholder. For those who freelance part-time, freelance success could simply mean occasionally landing a project, one they enjoy working on that also pays well.
Freelance success for full-time freelancers could equate to bringing in enough freelance work to pay the bills (and then some). Or, for some people, true freelance success may mean being able to meet or surpass a certain pie-in-the-sky annual income goal.
No matter what your goals are, here are some freelancing tips that will help you create a long-lasting freelance career.
5 Freelancing Tips for Succeeding as a Freelancer
1. Use Web-based Services to Find New Clients
Learning how to find clients is crucial to any successful freelance practice, and the faster and easier you can do that, the more comfortable your career will be.
Online services, like UpWork, Fiverr, and Workhoppers, connect freelancers with companies ready to pay for your services so you don’t waste time searching or pitching the wrong individuals. They make it easy to advertise your skills so you can get matched with the right company (and they do it for free!). Build your client list without sacrificing your work time. Win-win.
2. Sell Your Designs Online
If you’re a freelance photographer, graphic or surface pattern designer, illustrator, or other visual artist, there are a number of online marketplace websites where you can sell your work and continuously generate income. If you’re a photographer, upload your photography into a site like Shutterstock, iStock, and Dreamstime and you’ll reach millions of users willing to purchase high-quality stock photography, earning anywhere from $500 to over $10,000 for your work. If you’re a designer or illustrator, consider uploading your digital assets to Creative Market, your website themes and templates to MojoThemes, or your graphic designs and illustrations to Society6.
Each site allows you to reach new audiences and sell your work in a continuous way that will generate passive income for the long haul. If you’re hoping to find web design clients online, these marketplaces can be a good way to get additional exposure.
3. Monetize Your Website or Blog
As a freelancer, you’re likely already thinking about how to find clients online. Starting a blog that showcases your freelance work, explains your creative point of view, or helps others in the field will help your digital marketing efforts by attracting audiences, building your client base, and providing you an opportunity to earn income from affiliate links.
Already have an established blog or website with consistent site traffic? You might be able to start monetizing it sooner than you think: Sign up for Google AdSense and you could begin to earn ad revenue with little-to-no long-term effort.
4. Outsource Your Accounting
Freelancers have notoriously complicated finances. It can be a headache to try and manage your accounting, especially while you’re working on projects and pursuing new clients. Using online tools to help track your income and expenses can save you precious time and energy.
Check out services like QuickBooks Self Employed, AND CO, and FreshBooks that make creating invoices, contracts, and the dreaded freelancers’ tax season a whole lot easier. If you have zero time or interest, you can always outsource your bookkeeping to a freelancer entirely—Workhoppers can connect you with those professionals, too.
5. Teach Online
Want to earn income while sharing your passion with the world? If you have a knack for creating great, engaging classes, it can pay dividends—literally—with every student view you attract. Plus, teaching classes online gives you an opportunity to connect with peers in your industry and showcase your skills to potential clients worldwide. Ready to get started? Skillshare’s here to help.
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Pricing Your Work: How to Value Your Work as a Freelancer
3 Freelance Success Stories
1. Chris Dixon, Freelance Web Developer
Several years ago, Chris Dixon transitioned to being a full-time freelance web developer. Today, he’s also a top-rated Skillshare teacher. Dixon has loved working on the web since age 15, when he coded his very first website.
One of the biggest secrets to this freelance success story? Dixon dedicated any spare moment he had to working on website projects. And, no matter what full-time job he had, he always incorporated website development into it somehow. For example, when he ran a car and go-kart parts company, he took full responsibility for creating and maintaining a high-quality website.
“Focus on something which interests and excites you,” Dixon said. “There will be times when you need to work long hours, or encounter problems which land on you as the owner”—because as a freelancer, you are the owner of your business!—“and this is difficult if you do not have passion for your business.”
2. Lindsay Marsh, Freelance Graphic Designer
Lindsay Marsh has been a freelance graphic designer for more than 12 years. For the first three, she freelanced part-time. But, by the time her fourth year of freelancing rolled around, she was able to quit her finance career and go full-time.
Marsh has a ton of insightful tips for freelancers, but one that has really helped with her freelance success story is creating an online portfolio that helps her land new clients. Her top tool to do this is Adobe Portfolio, which you can use to put together a portfolio very quickly. Marsh launched hers in about 10 minutes! Of course, you can use any tool you prefer, as long as you know how to use it (or are willing to take the time to learn).
On her online portfolio, Marsh only showcases the top 20% to 30% of her projects, ensuring that what’s on there represents her very best work. “There’s still a lion’s share of work that people don’t see,” Marsh says, “but I’m going to show off what I feel will sell [the clients] right away.”
3. Mimi Chao, Freelance Illustrator
After spending four years working in a law firm, Mimi Chao knew her career as a lawyer just wasn’t the right fit. She wasn’t fulfilled, and she yearned to be creative. So, she took a leap and landed a management position at a design agency. And, simultaneously, she started drawing again—an activity she absolutely adored as a child.
She shared her daily drawings on social media, where people took notice and started commissioning her work. When Chao realized people actually wanted to buy her art, she took six months off to build a freelance illustration career. She studied books and online tutorials and took a few classes at the local art school. By year three, she was getting the type of client work she wanted to do.
“I do really believe that, if you put in your side of the work and you put yourself out there, there are always these opportunities that will come and meet you,” Chao said. “And those times really are turning points in your trajectory.”
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