At its heart, freelancing is no different than any other job. However, the rules of the game change slightly when you’re working for yourself. There’s no employee handbook waiting for you, no training manual, and no good-natured yet slightly annoying employee willing to show you the ropes.
There are no shortage of “how to” guides out there on the internet to help get you started on your freelance journey. Presented here, a different approach.
We’ll assume you’ve already dipped your toe into the freelance water and know a few things about where to go and find clients and get started.
At the risk of being sacrilegious (apologies in advance), here are the 10 Commandments of Freelancing. Consider this to be “the freelancer’s credo” if you will. If you abide by the following, I can almost guarantee you a successful run as a freelancer.
Always strive to improve your craft.
- A good freelancer always looks to better themselves through additional training, education, self-guided study, and more. This is 2017. What you learned last year may already be outdated. Stay current.
Be polite, professional, courteous, and kind.
- Even (and especially) when you really don’t want to be. Always make sure to represent yourself and the freelance industry well.
Treat the small jobs with as much care and dedication as the large ones.
- Each client is important no matter how much they’re paying you. Plus, you never know which client will be the “golden ticket” that leads to more clients, more work, or more opportunities. Treat each client like they’re the most important one because they are.
Treat deadlines with the care and respect they deserve.
- Deadlines are as important in freelance as they are in a “real job.” It is also one of the biggest things clients fret over. They are set in stone unless otherwise stated. Above all, keep an open line of communication with your client and if you have a good reason for needing more time, have that conversation. Note: the time to have that conversation is before, NOT after you’ve already missed the deadline.
Practice good time management and organization.
- You are solely responsible for keeping yourself on task and accountable.
Thou Shalt Not…
Misrepresent your skills, education, or abilities just to land a job.
- You do yourself no favors if you lie about what you can do just to get the job. The client won’t be happy, they may not pay you, and your reputation will suffer. There’s no shame in passing on a job you aren’t qualified for. If it’s a skill you can acquire and add to your skill stack; go out and get it.
Plagiarize, copy, steal, or spin another’s work and pass it off as your own.
- Don’t do it. Ever. Under any circumstances.
Take rejection personally. It will happen early and often.
- You won’t get every job you go after. Sometimes it will be for the best. Sometimes you’ll lose out to someone you shouldn’t lose out to. It will happen. Make peace with it and move on.
Sell yourself, your talent, and your abilities short.
- You have a skill that someone is willing to pay you for. Do not act as though someone is doing you a favor by letting you work for them. Command a fair rate and stick to it.
Forsake your work / life balance.
- There is a world beyond the laptop. Remember to enjoy it!
There is a wonderful world awaiting you as a freelancer. It is a world punctuated by highs and lows, acceptance and rejection, satisfaction and rejection. In other words, it’s like a real job. And it’s like real life. While there is no guarantee of success in any field, if you follow the above guidelines you will maximize your chances. You will also remember to take what comes in stride and to not neglect the rest of your life for the sake of work.