5 Things I Learned as a Freelancer

ditchin’ the 9-5 to be my own boss.

Quitting your comfortable cozy 9-5 to work for yourself can be quite an uncomfortable feeling. It’s not always a matter of impassion that prevents people from throwing in the towel and leaving the corporate world. We have these crazy things called bills which come across once a month – typically at the most inconvenient moments. Random splurges which occur because we’ve given in to a YOLO moment. Brunches or events you just have to go to because of FOMO. However, we find comfort in doing these things because we know that in less than 2 weeks we’ll have another deposit dropped into our bank account to make life better all over again.

Why is it Hard to Transition?

We become complacent and settle on this lifestyle. We get used to knowing that we can spend $250 on new clothes today because in 7 days it’ll be payday and eating ramen for the next 6 days isn’t the end of the world. Once you become accustomed to this pattern, it’s hard to even fathom leaving your security blanket of a job and rely on yourself to find consistent income.

That’s the headspace I’ve been in for most of my relatively short adult life. I’ve always admired full-time freelancers and entrepreneurs who quit their 9-5 jobs and let Jesus take the wheel. However, I often find myself in a lazy spell roughly 3 days into any activity. Maybe it’s the Gemini in me? Or maybe I lack the drive of a freelancer.

…and Then I Became a Freelancer

When I launched my stickers for Vogue & Code, I started to receive requests for custom designs. Sometimes for personal use and other times for conferences. I shared whatever I was creating at the time on Twitter and before I knew it, people were asking for branding consultation and web design services. I literally became an overnight freelancer.

So what have I learned thus far? Well for starters…

1. Create a Price List

Since I don’t intend to freelance full-time, I personally never advertise my services. I have a lot of personal projects that I dedicate a hefty amount of time towards and couldn’t imagine taking on clients all month long. In any case, whenever I do get asked about my prices, I send over my price list so that prospects can get a feel for my price range.

Rather than send over a plain text email with some numbers, I took the time to create an actual branded price list for Vogue & Code. Not only does this show professionalism but it also enables me to be transparent with my clients. I’ve also carried over the aesthetic to my project proposals as well.

2. Know Your Limits

Everyone knows me for doing a lot of stuff. And I honestly enjoy all of the things in which I take on because they’re fulfilling (and usually fun). Although I try to fulfill as many requests which may come my way, the reality of the matter is that I’m only one person. Rather than set myself up for burn-out, I told myself that I would take on no more than 3 clients at a time.

We all have varying limits as well as shifting priorities. Some freelancers are able to spread themselves so much to the point that they’re working with 6+ clients at a time. Kudos to them. However, I do best by pacing myself and understanding when I’m taking on too much work.

3. Use Invoices for All Work

I’ve only ever worked in a world where project work was executed after a signed contract and a paid invoice. There was no reason for me to not take that same mentality and apply it to my freelance services. Although I initially accepted payment via Venmo, I soon figured out how to use PayPal Invoice. I now setup all payment through PayPal and collect my coins on time.

4. Create a File Structure for Client Work

I’m an organization freak. Messy desktops make me cringe and messy file structures make me cry. With the type of work that I do for my clients, I end up creating a lot of files. To help keep things organized, I made a Clients folder. Within that folder, I created a folder for each of my clients by name. And then within those folders, I create a folder for Proposals, Work Drafts and Final Deliverables.

As I work on my client projects, I can easily store files exactly where they should be. More important, I always know where to find what I’m looking for if ever needed.

5. Create Templates for Email Communication

I learned this tip from all my prior work in customer service. The more I found myself speaking with prospects and converted clients, the more I found myself repeating the same things over and over again. I felt like a robot relaying the same message. Well, I nipped that in the bud and created templates for basic email communication.

What’s great about doing this is that I can save time by not worrying about how to craft the perfect email response. I’m able to keep my email tone of voice consistent and ensure that all prospects and clients receive the necessary information.

I currently use email templates for the following:

  • Requests for Estimates/Price List

  • Onboarding New Clients

  • Delivering Project Deliverables

Becoming a freelancer has been an interesting experience and I look foward to helping others manage their clients and workload in a productive manner. To help out new freelancers (and those in search of new ways of doing business), I’ll be hosting a live-stream event on Thursday January 31st 4PM - 5PM PST - it’ll be a crash course on Getting Started with Freelancing!

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FreelanceApril Speight