It might seem like having a laptop, a cat, and a cup of hot coffee is what makes a freelancer. But in reality, it takes much more than that.
Working hard, being very disciplined, and doing finances and paperwork all by yourself – that is the everyday life of a freelancer.
Being your own boss is one of the greatest privileges of being self-employed. Tech freelancers get to organize their own working hours. They work from the comfort of their own home, and are free to travel – they can carry their work with them wherever they go.
But, how do you become one? Beginnings are always hard, to say the truth right from the start. Each freelancer has a different story to tell on how it all started. However, there are some basic tips to help your freelancing career set off properly. So let’s check them out.
1. Constantly Build Your Network
While convenience is a big plus of a tech freelancer’s life, uncertainty is one of the pitfalls. Unpredicted things happen all the time and a regular inflow of tasks can sometimes be hard to achieve.
Therefore, it is a good idea to know people. Don’t wait for things to go downhill before you ask a fellow freelancer if he or she could help you. Be open and find out if there are any freelancers in your neighbourhood or among your acquaintances. They might have information that can be of vital importance for you.
It often happens that freelancers forward a gig to someone else, in case they themselves can’t finish it. Being in the right place at the right time could yield great opportunities.
What’s even better is to know as many tech freelancers from your industry as possible. Sharing news and experiences with them can be extremely beneficial for your work.
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Freelancing is becoming a trend, and there are a lot of people trying to become one. That means the competition is fierce. So, as you work and get more experience, prick up your ears. Is there a growing need for some specific skill in your niche market? If yes, what can you do to learn what’s necessary?
Those who notice a lack of some specific ability in the market, and act rapidly enough to get that skill, are those who succeed.
You might think that being highly specialized narrows down the scope of tasks you can do. On the contrary. If you manage to follow the niche market closely, it will be much easier to find gigs and customers. You will be a rare good in a market where people know each other, and the word of mouth travels much faster.
3. Learn to Communicate
We all know how to speak and write, but we don’t always know how to communicate. Business communication is a skill we all have to learn.
As a freelancer, you will be communicating in a written form very often. Namely, you will send and receive lots of emails and messages. Be aware that such a form of communication is different than speaking to someone in person.
Therefore, it is easier to misunderstand implications and end up doing something other than expected, wasting your and your customer’s time.
So, feel free to ask if you don’t really understand what is expected from you. Beginners often think that they are boring or that they give an impression that they don’t know their job if they pose questions.
Truth is, if you have been doing the job for some time, it is impossible not to know anything. And the employers actually like to see you have additional questions. That means you are interested in the topic and take your tasks seriously.
4. Find Ways to Motivate Yourself
Being disciplined and starting with work in the morning is challenging for some freelancers. That’s another downside of working from home – sometimes the couch potato in us won’t allow the hard worker to emerge.
Not having a yelling boss sometimes means you have to be one to yourself. Luckily, discipline training doesn’t necessarily have to be done through yelling. It is a better idea to know yourself well, and what actually motivates you for work.
For example, some freelancers can’t work and sleep in the same place. So, when they want to start working, they leave the house and go to a cafe or a co-working space. This act sends their brains a signal that the working part of the day has started.
Planning your day in advance, regular exercise, listening to specific music, promising yourself small rewards after the job is done – those are all things freelancers do to keep themselves motivated. Listen to yourself, know your habits well, and then integrate them with your working habits.
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5. Carefully Track Your Finances
Before doing anything, agree with your customers on the payment terms. It is good to be as precise as possible regarding the amount and deadlines.
Having a contract, signed by both parties, in which all these terms are stated is a great thing to have. However, even without a contract, you should be clear on what you expect.
As a tech freelancer, you will have lots of gigs and many customers. It can sometimes be hard to keep track of all the payments. Various delays can happen – either the customer can be late with their payment, or even you could forget to send them an invoice.
In any case, you should avoid delays, as they can bring disputes and unnecessary costs for both parties. To avoid that, some freelancers started using apps that keep track of invoices and send automatic reminders.
Also, to make sure your work gets paid properly, offer discounts for early payment or penalties for delays.
6. Never Stop Learning
The world we live in is constantly changing, and technology progresses on a daily basis. This means there’s always something new to learn. Depending on the niche you’re in, it’s a good idea to always follow the latest trends.
Innovations such as AI or the Internet Of Things have the capacity to revolutionize practices in every industry, including yours. Keeping an eye on recent innovations in the market can lead you to a gold mine. For example, listening to podcasts can help you stay updated on the topics you’re interested in.
Also, as the job market changes, we have to adjust. So, the most successful freelancers are those who always seek new ways to obtain fresh skills, thus constantly improving the quality of their services.
Being a freelancer is a great thing, that requires good discipline, a specific set of skills, and, of course, knowledge. There is no magic formula to become a successful freelancer.
Although there most certainly are some general recommendations, like the ones you could read here, sometimes gut feeling is the best guide of all.