While freelancing has been a popular employment choice among creative professionals for some time, events in recent years have spiked the number of remote workers across many different industries. Working as a freelancer provides a level of freedom and flexibility that traditional employment cannot always offer, though there are challenges to working independently. The Freelance Forward 2020 Report from Upwork found that 1 in 3 people in the United States workforce participates as freelancers, increasing by almost 2 million people since the 2019 study. Working as a full-time employee offers benefits like insurance or retirement plans, but workers are looking to gain more control over their careers and income.

Working as a freelancer can seem intimidating to those that are new to the industry, especially if they are just starting out in their specific niche. Below you can learn ten tips for freelancers to help independently working professionals build their clientele and reach their career goals.

1. Set Your Schedule Each Week

Many professionals opt to work as freelancers due to the freedom and flexibility it provides with a work schedule, though this can be detrimental for those who fail to plan their tasks in advance. Managing all of your projects without a set schedule can lead to missing important deadlines and being late for meetings with clients. It can also cause you to procrastinate on important tasks, which can cause your work/life balance to suffer if you are scrambling last minute to finish a project.

You can buy a standard planner to hand-write your weekly schedule or utilize a free online tool like Google Calendar. It’s unnecessary to splurge on fancy tracking tools with Google Calendar, as it can send notifications directly to your phone, sync with your email, and provide a clear schedule view for each week.

2. Keep Portfolio and Website Up to Date

It’s common for freelancers to let their websites or portfolios grow stagnant as they gain new clients and workflow, but designers need to keep these resources current to continue reaching their target audience. A freelancer’s portfolio or personal website is often one of the first impressions a potential client will gain about you and your work, which is why it’s so important to have a solid representation of your skills. Using an online platform like Adobe Portfolio allows for portfolio hosting and management all on one interface to really simplify the process.

3. Set Goals for Your Business

When freelancers first start working independently, it can be overwhelming to try and manage different tasks each day while still making strides to reach long-term business goals. Setting goals and objectives for your freelancing career is an excellent way to track your process throughout time and build a reputation that supports your career as a freelancer. There are resources for freelancers like GoalsOnTrack that organize professional goals and provide helpful motivation along the way.

4. Get Testimonials from Past Clients

While building a portfolio and personal brand helps secure new clients, providing testimonials from past clients supports your reputation and shows your reliability as a freelancer. A study from Demand Gen Report shows that 97% of users feel that user-generated content like peer reviews is more credible than other content sources. If you use a platform like WordPress to host your site, various plugins are available that can showcase your past testimonials.

5. Build a Contract for Every Project

Regardless of the project size or overall rate, it’s recommended you build a contract that covers every detail determined between you and your client. A contract can cover most aspects of project communication including set rates, time frame for completion, expectations, and other various factors. It can also prevent freelancers from running into legal troubles due to miscommunication or a client’s failure to pay determined rates. Websites like LegalZoom offer excellent options for freelancers, including contract templates, assistance with forming an LLC, and legal advice from a licensed attorney.

6. Define Marketing and Branding Strategies

Freelancers that build solid marketing and branding strategies are taking the steps needed to create a good reputation in their field and reach their target audience. In addition to securing new clients, a solid personal branding strategy helps build trust with new and potential clients, as a solid brand image communicates reliability. If you are new to marketing or want to sharpen your skills, a live online digital marketing course can help you to master fundamental techniques.

7. Register with Different Job Boards

While marketing and branding strategies are helpful for securing new clients, using job boards or online communities is another excellent way to make new network connections and gain new projects. There are many job boards for design freelancers, with some options even offering portfolio hosting or feedback on current projects. Some of the most popular choices among creative design freelancers are Dribbble and Behance.

8. Find a Legal Advisor

Working as a freelancer either independently or with a company means that you are not a W-2 employee, losing eligibility for health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. If you are new to working independently, it can be overwhelming to try and learn all of the different legal requirements of working as a freelancer. Many freelancers start working without handling these factors and end up in a worse scenario over time. If you need help finding legal resources, sites like LegalZoom have great options for freelancers in nearly any industry.

9. Set Boundaries for Work and Personal Time

Similar to setting a schedule each week, it’s important to set strict boundaries for your working time and personal time. Losing a sense of balance between these two is common among freelancers, leading to burnout if left unaddressed over time. Setting boundaries doesn’t need to be overwhelming if you delegate your tasks to fit within specified working hours throughout the week. For example, if you plan to work and communicate with clients each day between 9 am and 5 pm, turn your notifications off after this time. This will eliminate the feeling that you need to respond instantly and allow you to enjoy both the time spent working and away from work.

10. Create a Newsletter or Marketing Email

Many design freelancers are surprised to learn that marketing emails are an excellent way to reach a wider audience and secure more clients. A recent study shows that emails reach the intended sender about 85% of the time, while social media engagement falls at just 0.58%. This means that a newsletter or marketing email sent out on a regular schedule may be more effective at reaching your audience than posting marketing efforts on social media. While this can vary between industries, it’s clear that creating a newsletter can provide increased conversions than using social media to market alone.

These tips can help freelancers across a wide range of industries, though some of the most common include design, writing, editing, and technology. It’s common for freelancers to become complacent when gaining a steady clientele, but it’s essential to continue your education to remain current on industry trends throughout time. Even with professional education or certification, taking a few graphic design courses each year will ensure you are up to date on the latest software and trends needed to excel in your field. 

If you want to make a complete career change to a new industry as a freelancer, consider signing up for a live online graphic design bootcamp. Live online bootcamp classes are remote, meaning you can learn all the skills needed to jump-start a new career from the comfort of your home. If you are unsure of the options for classes, search for graphic design bootcamps in your area to find the best choice for your specific goals.