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7 tips for fresh freelancers

Embrace your fresh start

As you transition into an exciting new phase in your career, set yourself up for success. Take this period of change as an opportunity to refresh, reset, de-clutter, and renew.

Clean your desktop, empty and organize your inbox, update your resume, get professional headshots, and build yourself a website.

Focus some time and energy into health and wellness or implement healthy new habits; routines such as doing a 5-minute stretch, pouring a tall glass of water, or reading a helpful article before you logging in to your computer can go a long way.

Set a schedule that works for you

Freelancing is about freedom — but that doesn’t mean abandoning a schedule. Use your newfound flexibility to create one that is tailored to your personality, work style, and needs.

This could mean scheduling yoga, online classes, coffee breaks, errands, ‘fun reading’ breaks, and walks into your workday to stay productive, engaged, and sane.

Build a strategy, rebuild it as you go

A career change is an opportunity to redesign your work-life balance and it’s worth putting some thought into before you pour your heart and soul into it.

Find your niche. The number of opportunities out there is overwhelming and rather than applying for everything you find, it is valuable to identify the type of available freelance work that best suits your skills and experience. Instead of casting a wider net, find your niche and compete in a smaller pool.

Think long-term. It also helps to remember that thriving as a freelancer may not happen overnight. It might involve finding an income source that pays the bills while leaving enough time to chase your main goals or develop your creative projects. This isn’t a failure; it’s part of a long-term strategy.

Be the master of your time. As you get busy freelancing, remember that productivity is your friend and being mindful of your work habits goes a long way. Staying organized saves time and lets you focus on income-generating work. Be mindful of ways to work efficiently, whether it’s turning your phone on silent or using new project management apps or a notebook to stay organized.

Hold a 1-person board meeting. A working strategy can evolve over time, but it requires honest and intermittent re-evaluation to do so. Treat yourself to a solo coffee date as ‘thank you’ for last month’s hard work and while you’re there, ask yourself: Are your actions leading you to your goals? Are you prioritizing the right things for growth? If not, re-focus.

Invest in self-development

Take the time to advance your skills or learn a new one. It’s your responsibility to set yourself up for success; don’t shy away from identifying your weaker points and working on them.

Where can you learn new things? There are infinite resources out there, not to mention millions of YouTube tutorials.

How can you afford these resources? Cut down your Pumpkin Spice Latte consumption and drop that cash on knowledge. Rifle through your closet and sell some things you don’t need in the name of personal growth. It may take a little sacrifice to invest in the tools you need to get your work done well but some things are simply worth the initial expense.

For me, using FinalDraft instead over glitchy free screenwriting programs, directing prospective clients to my own domain, and having noise-canceling headphones with a built-in microphone was worth the upfront costs.

Secure your payments

If you aren’t working through a company that offers escrow protection, such as Upwork, execute a simple contract. While nothing compares to proper legal advice, there is a wealth of information available online, including templates.

A basic contract should cover pricing, payment schedule, deadline, and copyrights. Also, consider clauses specific to your line of work. This could include clauses covering revisions and rewrites (number included, cost of additional), single point of contact, scope creep prevention (ability to adjust the rate if project scope changes), and a kill fee (secures a percentage of rate if a job is canceled). Contracts also ensure you have adequate contact information in case you need to follow up on payment.

Do your due diligence and research specific jobs to find out what standard deal points are within your right to request. If you’re not sure, ask around, or ask politely and you’re more likely to receive.

Get the boring stuff in order

Whether you’re operating as a small business, independent contractor, or sole proprietorship, you need to make sure that your freelance business infrastructure is ready before you get flooded with work. This can save you from stress and unnecessary costs.

Banking — figure out whether a traditional bank, local bank, foreign bank, online bank or combination suits you best.

Accounting & Taxes — Know when you need to file your taxes and figure out how you’re going to do it. If you plan to work with an accountant, get connected early and find out what you can do to expedite the process. Don’t forget to set the right percentage of your income aside for taxes and find out how you can benefit from tax deductions.

Visas — It is absolutely essential to have the appropriate visa when working in a foreign country. Know the rules and play it safe.

Insurance— Save yourself from unnecessary trouble and get a travel and health insurance plan. I use SafetyWing as it is designed for digital nomads and renews each month.

Design your workspace

If you’re working independently, creating the right work environment goes a long way towards a happy and productive workday. Besides, you’re no longer beholden to your employer’s questionable aesthetic tastes or those standard-issue spinning chairs. Take advantage!

For me, the backdrop to my office can shift but what’s important is an uncluttered desk with a steaming coffee mug, candle, and Moleskine at my side.

Also, keep in mind that your workspace can be anywhere. It’s okay to work and walk; let your office becomes a charming cobblestone alley or a rugged mountain view—or whatever inspires your creativity.


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