How to Become a Successful Freelancer in 7 Simple Steps


If you are thinking of starting a solo career, you will need two important things: clients and an awesome portfolio.

But it might be scary to get to it straight away. It will be a great idea to start preparing for your career while you are still at your full-time job.

Here are some thoughts gathered by successful and experienced creative freelancers.

To start freelancing or not?

Some creative professionals start working as freelancers right after graduating. This is a great idea for people who already know the direction they are going to follow and already have a great database of contacts or young graduates that have won an award two as students.

For the designers, it will be a good idea to work in a design studio for a while before jumping into the unknown. It will give invaluable experience in terms of managing projects, dealing with clients, preparing offers, following a brief etc..

It really doesn’t matter whether you are going to dedicate yourself 100% to the freelancing or you just want to earn some additional cash, the time is now to give it a try.

How to set the ball rolling?

There is no way to figure out if you are going to be a successful freelancer. You never know how the things are going to turn out. But if you are sure you want to see what is like you can try to be as prepared as possible.

  • Set some goals: Think about how much money you will need to save before leaving your full-time job. Also, do you plan to leave at a specific date or when you have some substantial list of clients? Do not pressure yourself really hard. Think it through…
  • Your contract: Some people completely forget about checking contracts regarding taking additional jobs in their free time. Make sure you check whether there is a clause in it that will stop you from working for the same clients. Consider also talking to you boss, you never know what the reaction will be.
  • Side projects: Allow yourself some time to do side projects, especially if your boss is cool with that. There are many companies that allow their employees to work on their own stuff when there is not much work. This is a great opportunity to add some fresh projects in your portfolio.
  • Use your contacts: There is no time like the present to call ex-colleagues or clients you worked with at some point in the past. But do not be too pushy. Be delicate and honest. Just let them know that you will be available to take projects as a freelancer and ask them politely to consider you when an opportunity comes up.

Consider the equipment and budget

When going freelance, you need to set up a small office at home or rent a space somewhere. Working at home can be quite challenging and you need to figure out where exactly you will work. Renting a space somewhere is an option but at the beginning every penny counts so you can postpone this step for now.

Get yourself a good computer depending on the work you are planning to do. Consider the fact that your future is a bit uncertain and you might not be able to buy a new machine soon enough so invest your money wisely. Do not take a cheap or really expensive machine. Figure out what will get the job done.

Don’t struggle alone with projects

Join the creative community of UX, graphic, web designers and developers to get help with any design or dev project.

In terms of budgeting, you will need to take into account the Adobe Creative Suite. You cannot do your job without it. You can choose the Adobe Creative Suite CS6 which currently is £1,499.99 on Amazon or take advantage of Adobe Creative Cloud 12 month licence which is £548.78.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~ Thomas Edison

7 steps to successful freelance career

#1 – Think it through

Freelancing sounds really exciting but think carefully before taking this important step. Are you the kind of person who is motivated enough and truly believe that you can pursue people to trust you with their projects? Do you have the creative knowledge and self-discipline to get projects done? Aren’t you too scared of not having a monthly salary?

#2 – Make a business plan

Writing a business plan can sound like a mundane task but it will help you figure out the main principles of the process of you new career. It will help you figure out how much money you will need to live normally and what is the creative path you want to follow and develop yourself.

#3 – Create a list of potential clients

Do your research of potential clients who you would like to work for. The list should include old clients, ex-colleagues, art directors, friends etc. Think about everyone that can help you get some work. Consider meeting everyone in person and tell them you are a freelancer and looking for projects.

#4 – Make a website

It doesn’t matter if you are building a website from scratch or using a platform such as Talenthouse, Behance or Dribbble, you will need an online presence, a place where all your great projects will be available for potential clients. There are three important things that needs to be present on your website: projects, clients you worked for and contact information. Ask trusted colleagues for honest feedback.

#5 – Profits and Taxes

Unfortunately, when you are a freelancer you need to have some knowledge of the boring aspects of freelancing. Such things are taxes and accounting so you need to research what documentation you need to keep and what are the taxes you need to pay. FreshBooks is an online platform that handles invoices and accounting and it is worth checking it out.

#6 – Promo materials and selling your services

If you are targeting art directors, you have to think about how you are going to brand yourself. Sending print materials is a good idea so thing carefully how these will look. Be consistent on your website and you promos. If you do not have a business card, now is a good time to think about it.

#7 – Save and prosper

There is no doubt that it will be hard and uncertain in the beginning and the cash flow might be scarce. The best way to deal with it is to have some cash saved at least for three/four months. They will give you a bit of comfort at times when there are unforeseen expenses or the work is a bit slow.

So should you go freelance or not?

It is a difficult decision by no means. No matter what you decide you need to feel happy, appreciated and successful. If you choose to stay on a full-time job, there is no harm. You will have the stability and the comfort of a regular income. You might be some of these lucky creatives that have a great boss who allows them to do side projects so you can develop in your chosen direction.

If you decide to start freelancing you will need a lot of courage and determination. Feeling confident in your abilities will help you a lot to become a successful freelancer. Bear in mind that if something goes wrong you can always go back to a full-time job. If you feel like doing it, just go for it. You never know….

And I wish you all the success whatever path you choose…

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