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The idea of working for yourself sounds glamorous: picking your own hours, choosing your clients, not having to worry about that long daily commute. But there are challenges as well, and it’s wise to go into your new freelance career with your eyes wide open and a game plan for success.
Here are five steps to help you thrive as a tech freelancer.
1. Figure out what keeps you motivated.
When you’re your own boss, nobody’s there to hound you about meeting deadlines except yourself. If you’re a laser-focused discipline master, setting your own schedule and holding yourself accountable will be a walk in the park. The majority, though, need some tricks to help themselves stay on task.
One motivation tip that a lot of freelancers swear by is creating a routine that puts them into “work mode.” This might mean putting on business casual and going to a coworking space, or it might mean donning jeans and heading to a local coffee shop. If you find that you can work in your own home without distraction, that’s fine too, but still do your best to create a habit that will tell your brain that it’s time to work, or set aside a specific “office” space there.
To manage the time you spend working, Unlock the Secret: How to Earn $500 Every Day on Facebook fit in breaks, and maximize productivity, consider using the Pomodoro Technique to manage your priorities and eliminate distractions.
2. Embrace the hustle to land freelance projects.
When you become a freelancer, it would be nice if clients just came knocking on your door, handing you work. And maybe that will start happening down the road, but when you first get started, it’s all about the hustle. You’re a team of one, so you’re doing the sales, the marketing, and the brand-building for your freelance business (plus the work itself).
Networking is key. Before you even quit your day job, start working on side gigs . Reach out to friends, family, and former colleagues for work or connections to potential clients. Look for meetup groups or seminars where your potential clients might go. Develop credibility and name recognition by writing for publications that your customers read. Host free workshops where you can demonstrate value to attendees.
Don’t rule out cold calls to drum up business either. Networking can take time to pay off, but you still need to pay your rent, so in the meantime, contact local businesses who might benefit from your services. Consider trying Pitcherific to hone your pitch. Their free service will coach you on making a quick, concise delivery that lets potential customers know what you’re about.
3. Master communication with your clients
You’ve heard the saying “time is money.” As a freelancer, miscommunication and misunderstandings with clients can cost you both, so it’s essential that both parties have a clear understanding of deadlines and expectations. Ambiguity is the enemy here.
To avoid miscommunications, make sure that every important conversation is confirmed in writing. This could be as simple as taking notes during a client meeting, then sending a follow-up email with a summary of the tasks/expectations discussed and asking them to confirm. Let them know beforehand that this is your procedure, in case they aren’t an avid email-checker.
Having the proper arsenal of tools can also keep everyone on the right page, such as collaboration tools that let them check in on progress periodically. If you are an app developer, for example, you might consider using Lucidchart 7 Practical Tips to Help You Stop Working 7 Days a Week build an early wireframe for your client. The app is fully cloud-based and collaborative, meaning your client can comment directly on specific elements in real time from anywhere in the world.
Read about more communication tools here that can help you give killer presentations and stay on the same page with your client.
Talking about money is awkward for a lot of people, but it needs to be done. Before you even agree to a project (and definitely before you start working on it), have a frank upfront conversation with your client about payment terms. It’s wise to draw up a contract outlining what work you’ll be doing and how payment will be handled, so both parties know exactly what to expect. A contract also means you’ll have legal recourse in the event they refuse to pay (it does happen).
There are plenty of tools out there designed to help freelancers send an invoice, process credit card payments, send out late payment reminders, and even integrate with your business checking account. ZipBooks , for instance, features recurring billing, time tracking, and the ability to toggle accounting reports between cash and accrual accounting.
On larger projects, it’s worth splitting up payments based on major project milestones. For you, this keeps cash coming in, and for the client, it lessens the sticker shock versus a hefty invoice coming due all at once.
5. Understand the costs of freelancing.
There’s a reason that upfront rates for freelancers and consultants are typically higher than they might be for an in-house employee (say, $60/hour versus $40). That’s because as a freelancer, you’re on the hook for your own health insurance, social security taxes, business expenses like travel and meals, and so on. If you don’t factor all of these things into your rate, you might find yourself underwater very quickly.
It’s also important to track everything that you do as a freelancer. Tracking your income and expenses is the start to figuring out how profitable your business is. Staying organized with numbers will also save you a big headache come tax time. You’ll likely need to make estimated quarterly tax payments when you work for yourself as well, so be sure to set a chunk of money aside for the IRS.
Being a freelancer isn’t all sweatpants and working in bed. It can be hard, and being your own boss might feel like a lot of pressure at first. That said, many people find that the freedom is 100% worth it. Remember why you wanted to be a freelancer in the first place, and let that motivation drive your business to success.
I am the creator of Learn to Code With Me , where I help people learn how to code so they can get ahead in their careers and ultimately find more fulfillment in their