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5 Top Tips for Successful Freelancing

Here we provide some top tips for keeping your freelancing work organised, healthy, and successful! Although it is not possible to provide a one-size-fits-all plan, these tips will certainly help to keep your freelancing affairs in shape.

1. Draw up a contract.

Regardless of your skillset – whether it is graphic design, project management, or writing – every new client project needs to be issued with a contract. While, at the outset, dispute might be far from your mind, this is the go-to document that others will seek to review should any disagreement arise later.

If you’re new to freelancing, then a contract template is a great place to start – to avoid your getting too preoccupied with creating the perfect contract. You can then add more information where necessary and make improvements along the way.

Even the simplest contract should include all of the following key terms:

  • The nature of your engagement and the services that you’ve agreed to perform.
  • Assurances that your client’s information will be kept confidentially.
  • How much you will be paid, and when, throughout the project.
  • Details of any ownership of intellectual property.
  • Once your work has been accepted by the client, the client also accepts full responsibility for any use of the project files moving forward.
  • Details of liability insurance.
  • Cancellation procedure for you and your client.
  • Membership of relevant professional bodies.

2. Agree payment terms before starting a project.

A big issue with freelancing is ensuring that you’re paid enough, that you’re paid on time – and that you actually are paid. Therefore, to ensure that you are going to get paid, it is best to agree the payment terms upfront. This is better than diving into a new project and trying to resolve payment later.

Depending on the nature of the contract under negotiation, a successful payment structure can be to request 50% to be paid upfront, and the remaining 50% upon completion – but before you deliver the completed project files.

In cases in which the contract is of an ongoing nature, you may wish to agree stage payments, whereby money is paid after you have passed milestones pre-agreed in the contract. You may also want to consider regular instalments.

The price you elect to charge as a Freelancer should consider time spent on tasks such as sourcing clients, preparing proposals, sending/managing invoices, meetings, and other items which are required to run your freelancing business. By not considering these tasks in your pricing there is the risk of not be paid sufficiently.

3. Be prepared to say ‘no’.

When in the process of agreeing the terms of the project, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. It’s too easy to get caught up in the moment and to agree to everything your client asks – because you want the project and because you want a happy client.

But promising too much can come with a whole array of problems. It can end with you spending too long on an increasingly unprofitable project and can risk your not being able to deliver the project in the agreed timescale.

4. Create a portfolio.

Create a portfolio of projects in which you specialise to showcase to prospective clients. We encourage including projects specifically in your specialist area – rather than putting together a portfolio of everything on which you have ever worked.

If there is a particular avenue to which you want to stick, then make sure you do. Don’t take on those projects you fear you’re going to struggle to complete or that may take you too long to deliver.

This portfolio will also ensure clients best understand the work you are able to deliver and the expected standard they are going to receive. If a client is asking for work outside of this scope, be transparent about what you are, and are not, able to offer them.

5. Stay on top of your finances!

As a freelancer, it is vital to view your finances as would a small business owner. Make sure you are on top of your numbers, and ask yourself the following:

  • What is my business revenue?
  • What is my monthly living expenditure?
  • How many visits is my website getting each month?
  • What is my most popular service?
  • How much time is spent on each project, and am I providing accurate estimates?

If you are a long-term freelancer, then you may want to consider how you are allocating your earnings. For example, are you saving for VAT, business expenses, and making pension contributions? These are hugely important considerations in the long run.

If you’re unsure how to best plan for these business costs, please reach out to us for more guidance around planning for your business and your personal financial affairs!