According to Statistics Canada, there are about 1.9 million workers in the great white north who do it all on their lonesome, myself included. There’s no getting away from the fact that freelancer work can be tough. Less security, lack of employee benefits and pension contributions are the biggest factors, but the rewards are there when it comes to setting your own hours, having a variety of work and even the financial returns (yes, really!).
Below are some tips to make it as a freelancer. Note that most of this advice relates to freelance writing, but there are some tips that apply whatever your expertise.
1. Hone your skills
In the same way that an employer will expect you to get involved in some form of professional development, you should constantly update your skills and get better at what you do. So, if you’re a writer, write. A lot. Practice, practice, practice. There really are no shortcuts on this one and there’s a reason why experienced writers command higher rates. As you improve, people will start noticing, you’ll be able to complete projects faster and you’re more likely to get repeat requests for work.
2. Keep your promises
In my experience, clients value two things above all else: quality and reliability. If you make a promise to deliver a piece of work on a particular day or time, stick to it. This is about your reputation. As a freelancer, your livelihood depends on you having a good one.
3. Value your work
If you’re good at what you do (and you probably are), charge accordingly. Negotiating your rate is a bit of a minefield, but don’t undersell yourself, particularly if you’re in demand. I tend to charge not-for-profit organizations less, or occasionally nothing. Clients that can clearly afford it pay me higher rates. It’s also important to factor in the costs that would otherwise be covered by an employer like benefits and pension contributions I mentioned earlier. There’s some good general advice out there for writers and also tips on how to draft and negotiate contracts and what rates freelance writers should expect.
4. Build your network
Life as a freelancer is so much easier if you don’t have to spend too much time looking for work. Building a strong network of clients, potential clients and fellow freelancers results in referrals. Attend events in writing-related professions like public relations, communications and marketing and consider joining an organization that can represent your interests and connect you to peers and potential clients. The Federation of BC Writers and the Professional Writers Association of Canada are good places to start.
5. Share the love
Look after other freelancers and they’ll look after you. When you’ve got more work than you can handle, give it to peers in your network. That’s just good karma.