As an influencer on Instagram in a web development and web design niche with a community of over half a million followers, I get a lot of questions related to freelancing. To make this article as helpful as possible, before writing it, I posted a question on my Insta story:
What are the most common and hardest problems that you face as a freelancer?
Most of the answers were the same:
- Not getting paid on time or at all
- Irregular income
- Time management
I will share my point of view on these matters and give you some advice on how to avoid these from my 7+ years of experience as a freelance web developer.
Here are some of my best tips to make your work life easier.
Make a contract for even the smallest job you do
This is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned so far and I learnt it the hard way.
When I was starting out as a freelancer, I had more trust in clients than I should. I didn’t make contracts for most of the jobs I did and always took full payment after I delivered the code.
Then I had a situation where the client didn’t get paid for the job I did. After he got the code, he just disappeared. The second bad experience was the client who wanted way too many revisions. He didn’t have a clear vision, so he played around with my time and patience.
Now, learn from my mistakes. No matter how friendly you become with clients or how much trust you have in them, don’t just blindly assume that he/she will be fair to you as you are to him/her.
The scope of work should be written very clearly with detail
For example, if a client requests 4 pages of work from you for a project,
Don’t write just
UI/UX design for the app
Be more precise
UI/UX design for the app (total 4 pages)
That way you won’t end up doing more than you agreed on, for the same budget.
Split the work into a few milestones, and take upfront payment for each
Never send the final deliverables before being fully paid
Establish the rules of collaboration with clients
Make sure that before you start the project, both you and the client understand how you will work together.
I used to be afraid to tell a client that I disagree with some of their decisions. I would just do what they want, they know best right?
NO, that is not always the case.
The client is the owner of the project idea, but you are the expert in charge of its execution. Remember that.
Many times, the client thinks they need solution A, and then by the end of the day, I help them realise they need solution B.
Before you start with any work, make sure to understand clients needs completely.
Now, what is essential in your relationship between you and your client is
- That your client grants you the freedom to propose different creative solutions. They should give you feedback in the form of suggestions, and not demands.
- You should drive the work process. By that, I mean you should organize the timeline of delivery, deciding which tasks should be done first. If you let the client distract you and dictate the order of making features, you can end up having a bad structure that will be hard to scale later. Always spend quality time explaining the pros and cons of clients’ demands.
- If a client asks for small additions that are out of scope, you can say no. Or, you can do that extra small task to put you in good stead for future collaborations. If you go with yes, I would suggest that you decide how many hours you want to give free of charge, everything after should be charged and included in a new contract if needed.
Know your expertise
When you are starting your freelance career, it’s totally expected that you put everything you know and have worked on in your portfolio and promote all skills equally.
But the more you grow your business, you should decide what you want to focus closely on. That will make you stand out among the already big competition. Clients will have more interest to hire you and not someone else.
Choose your skill focuses and master them. Keep growing in that direction by constantly practising and improving. See what you’re missing, work on that and repeat.
Build your online presence
Have you started growing your presence on social media yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Seriously, what?
You can have the most amazing portfolio in the world, but it’s worthless if it only reaches a few people.
Create profiles on the most popular social networks:
But don’t get carried away, you don’t want your followers to be made up of mostly celebrities, your high school friends and cousins. Yes, you could add a few, but know your target audience.
You want to build a network of people who would be interested in your area of expertise. Target the ones who are in the same niche as you are, and also the potential clients.
Here are a few ideas what you could share on your profile:
- Your process of work
- Finished projects you’ve worked on
- Tutorial articles that you’ve written
- Simple tips and tricks
- Hobbies and any passion you have
Now chances that people see you and hire you will be much greater.
Be stronger than the urge to procrastinate
I know very well how hard it can be to focus if you’re working from home because of all the distractions.
One day you will be fully productive and another day you’ll end up watching 12 tv show episodes in a row.
Balance is the key.
Choose 3-4 tasks that are the most important to do today. Work on these first thing in the morning, when you have the most energy. Don’t switch your focus to other stuff, stay disciplined. When you successfully finish those, you will feel much more motivated to finish the rest of the tasks. Even if you don’t, you’ll feel good because you’ll have completed the hardest part and can do the easier tasks later.
That way you will release more free time, to do what you love and you won’t feel pressure or guilt.
I know it sounds easier to say than to do, but there’s not much you can do about it.
You could use the apps that will track your productivity and keep you away from other apps. But honestly, that doesn’t work for me, if I want to check social media on my phone, nothing will stop me, just my brain and willpower. Many times I force myself to work because I don’t want to end up in a situation where I have to do it all last minute.
So, before you decide to leave work for later, just remember that bad feeling you get when you end the day without checking off critical tasks. Each morning you will wake up feeling worse.
Regain motivation through emotion
When we feel tired, we forget why we love what we do and lose our ideas that once used to make us so excited that we couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning. And why do we feel tired? Because all we do is work, work, work for those goals we have. Most of the time we stop having fun on the way and we socialize less and less. That results in demotivation that is hard to regain.
First thing you want to do when you are out of motivation for days is to accept that feeling. Don’t fight it.
Take a few days off and just do what makes you feel good. Even if it feels like a total waste of time, don’t feel guilty! Just be happy and rest well.
In that time, the tiredness and pressure of all that previous work will disappear. Now, use that free mind space wisely. Don’t go from taking a battery charging break state to a lazy state.
When you start feeling happier in the morning, start with meditation and imagination. Think about what your ideal life would look like. While you think or write about it, you should feel some excitement and warmth.
Use those feelings to write your goals and plans for execution. Spread it into monthly, weekly and daily goals.
Next time when you feel low, just imagine your perfect future again. It will put a smile on your face every time and give you fuel to go through bad days.
Every job has its pros and cons, ups and downs. You can never be 100% satisfied all the time.
Don’t let that scare you or demotivate you. It’s all part of the process that leads you to success.
Also, have this in mind:
You can do the job that you love the most, but if you don’t create a balance between work and free time, you will start hating it.
Learn to organize your time, make no excuses, stay curious and grow yourself endlessly.