Whether you’re a writer, designer, or any other type of freelancer, you’re likely to encounter an abundance of advice. This advice is often touted as essential for your freelancing journey. However, just like some popular blogging tips can mislead you, certain freelancing advice can be ineffective as well.
If you’re new to freelancing, you’ll probably start your career with some research – something you absolutely should do. You’ll use Google, read numerous freelancing blogs, and consult with experienced freelancers to find the best practices in the industry.
While doing this, you’re likely to come across certain pieces of advice repeatedly. These tips often sound great on the surface, but they might not be effective in practice. Let’s dive into some of these freelance tips that you might want to reconsider following.
1. Don’t Make Your Bedroom Your Office
When I first began freelancing, everyone told me not to make my bedroom my office. Ironically, I didn’t even have a proper desk at that time; I either worked in bed or at the dining table. Eventually, I did get a desk, but it ended up in my bedroom.
The rationale behind this common advice is well-intentioned: working in bed can be detrimental to your posture and overall work environment. A few hours in, and you’ll find yourself struggling to stay productive.
However, not every freelancer starting out has the resources to designate a separate workspace at home. Thus, this well-meaning advice often becomes impractical for those on a budget.
Adapting to Your Space
If you find yourself working from your bedroom due to limitations, there are ways to make it more conducive to work. For starters, sit upright and consider using a portable table for your laptop. Make it a habit to stand and stretch every 30 minutes to fend off sluggishness.
If you have a desk in your room, position it near a window for natural light. If that’s not possible, arrange the desk in such a way that your back faces the bed while you work. Adding a low-maintenance plant can also enhance your workspace aesthetics, which is crucial when you’re tight on space.
When possible, aim to work outside your bedroom, like at the dining table or kitchen. After all, that’s where the coffee is!
2. Don’t Work for Free
Starting out in freelancing often comes with a catch-22: you need a portfolio to attract clients, but to build a portfolio, you need work. This leads many new freelancers to consider working for free initially, especially for the first few clients.
However, conventional freelancing wisdom advises against this. The argument is that working for free devalues your skills and sets a poor standard for future payment. So how do you go about building your portfolio without compromising your worth?
Strategies for Building Your Portfolio
Rather than giving your services away for free, consider other approaches. One option is to create sample projects on your own to showcase your skills. Alternatively, you can offer your services to a non-profit organization. This not only adds credibility to your portfolio but also gives you the chance to obtain glowing testimonials. Non-profits often greatly appreciate the help, making this a win-win situation for both parties.
3. Always Take a Deposit
When I was just starting out, I rarely requested deposits from clients – something I still don’t always do unless the project is particularly large. While it’s true that a deposit can serve as a safeguard against non-payment, it’s not always practical to turn away clients who are reluctant to pay one.
Yes, I’ve been left unpaid once, and I recognize the value of securing a deposit upfront. However, the feasibility of this advice often depends on your business model and your relationship with the client. For large-scale projects, I usually discuss the risks involved and most clients are willing to send over an initial deposit, often 20% or another agreed-upon amount.
Strategies for Securing Payment
One approach to minimize risk is to retain some control over the finished project until you receive full payment. For example, if you’re working on a design project, you could include a watermark on the final product. If it’s a website theme or template, send screenshots as a preview. For writing projects, consider releasing the content only after the client has approved the draft and completed the payment.
Regardless of the type of work you do, find a way to either mark your work or withhold some element of it until you’re fully compensated.
4. Have a Freelancing Contract
One piece of advice almost universally given to freelancers is to never work without a contract. Despite this, many freelancers, myself included, have operated without one. The legal intricacies can be intimidating, especially for those new to freelancing.
New freelancers often can’t wait to dive into their projects and think, “Why bother with a contract when I don’t even have clients yet?” Once a client does come along, the excitement can easily make you overlook the need for a contract.
Another barrier is the discomfort of discussing a contract when things seem to be progressing well. While it’s true that having a contract is wise, the reality is that a significant number of freelancers operate without one.
Finding Alternatives to Contracts
If you’re not keen on using a formal contract, at least make sure to communicate with your client via email. After every phone conversation, send a follow-up email summarizing what was discussed and ask if anything was missed or misunderstood. While not legally binding like a contract, these emails can serve as written records of your agreements.
If any issues arise, you can refer back to these emails to clarify what was initially agreed upon regarding rates, scope, and payment terms. To further protect yourself, send a comprehensive email outlining all the finalized details once an agreement is reached.
5. Charge What You’re Worth
The internet is awash with advice for freelancers to charge what they’re worth, arguing that the clients you attract are directly related to your rates. While the concept sounds good on paper, it’s not always practical for new freelancers who might not even be aware of the going rates in their field, let alone their own worth. This understanding typically evolves as you gain more experience and confidence.
Finding Your Rate Comfort Zone
As a newcomer, setting your rates according to industry standards might be more realistic than charging what you think you’re worth. To determine these standard rates, engage with other freelancers in your niche via platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. Some freelancers disclose their rates on their websites, which can give you a good starting point.
If you find freelancers who don’t list their rates, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask them directly. While some may be protective of this information, many are open to sharing. Online freelancing forums are also an excellent source of rate information, where asking openly often garners plenty of helpful responses.
Related: How to Charge Your Freelance Clients
One of the joys of freelancing is adaptability. If a certain piece of advice doesn’t fit your situation, you have the flexibility to find a workaround or optimize your circumstances without being exploited. So, have you ever received freelancing advice that simply didn’t resonate with you?