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Being a Successful Freelancer

Yesterday we held the second Wired Sussex workshop ‘Being a Successful Freelancer’ at The Skiff.  It was great to have freelancers Helen Keevy, Nilden Ozkan and PaulSilver at the event to lead the conversation and provide guidance and useful information.

Advice and support were aplenty amongst attendees and it was really refreshing to see so many people keen to motivate and inspire one another.  The discussions covered a range of subjects and addressed lots of questions and concerns, producing many a tip on best practice.  As a result, I’ve put together a list of key hints and tips on how to be a successful freelancer.

And so, in no particular order....
  • Network: get involved in your local community, and not just with other freelancers in your area of expertise; it’s essential to speak to people with different specialities in order to learn new things, keep up to date with industry trends and understand different skill sets.
  • Be passionate: about what you do and make sure this comes across when you are talking to people. 
  • Be resourceful: do your homework before contacting potential clients/co-workers.
  • Share: advice, ideas and knowledge via a blog and/or social media but be careful not to give too much away for free.  Why not set up a LinkedIn group?
  • Take on a personal project: to freshen things up.  Working on similar projects for clients can become repetitive; take up a hobby or do something fun for yourself.
  • Contingency: factor in an contingency for a complex project i.e. £2000.  If the project does over-run you can then let your client know in advance that you are going to need to use the contingency and avoid potential disputes.  It might be helpful to build in boundaries.
  • Stopwatching: accurately monitor and assess time spent on each client/project using different stop watches.
  • Fees: carefully consider whether to charge per project or per day as well as whether you should factor in additional time into the initial quote/estimate.
  • Invoice: and then remind, and resend again if there are delays in payment.  Remember that you are a business.  To encourage the timely payment of invoices, you could consider offering a discount on different payment terms, or alternatively charge 30% up front.  This could also help filter potential difficult customers.  Politely remind any late payers’ with a telephone call to check that your project is all ok and running without a glitch.
  • LinkedIn: take advantage of groups and question areas on LinkedIn, get involved in conversations, answer queries and offer advice using private messages.
  • Approaching new work: try to obtain new work through organic methods and not give people the hard sell.
  • Communication: manage client expectations.  Keep people in the loop and let them know in advance if there might be delays in a project in order to maintain positive relationships.
  • Keep in touch: with old clients, remind them about who you are.
  • Milestones: really useful for big projects.  Schedule regular meetings, contact and review time.
  • Terms and conditions: stipulate everything.  Research other freelancers’ Ts & Cs, lay out expectations and set the tone for the working relationship to avoid disputes down the line.  Map out the expectations of both parties.
  • Confirmation: don’t start any work until you have received an absolute agreement from your client.  It might be helpful to secure part of the project cost upfront.
  • Value: make sure you add value for your clients in everything you do.

Of course, the list could go on and there are many, many best practices to adopt, suggestions to be voiced and ideas to be heard.  Feel free to post your own crucial tips as a comment!

Essentially, what stood out most for me throughout the whole workshop was the feeling of community between all freelancers present.  It’s clearly important to engage with others in your situation, not only to make new connections and learn of potential joint working opportunities but also for the sake of your sanity if you ‘re working on your own at home all day!

If you are considering using or looking for a workspace, check out The Skiff for a cool coworking space with a unique community feel.  Our informal quarterly members’ meetups are also a great opportunity to network with others in the digital, media and technology industries. Keep an eye on our events calendar for more info on upcoming events.

Other Useful resources

Brilliant Freelancer, Discover the power of your own success, Leif Kendall.
• Freelancing Cheatsheet, Brighton Farm
The Wealthy Freelancer, suggested by Joanne Munro for a useful chapter on pricing.

Don’t forget to head down to Brighton Farm on Wednesday nights to chat with other freelancers about new media and technology, work referrals and potential new business.

Lastly, take a look at Nilden’s rather brilliant ToDoMagazine for creative freelancers and small businesses in Brighton & Hove.

Watch this space for a podcast of the event!

Events Coordinator, Wired Sussex

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