Is being a freelancer difficult? Tips for running a successful freelance business

Being a freelancer can be difficult, but also rewarding. Here are some tips for running a successful freelance business.
Is being a freelancer difficult? Tips for running a successful freelance business
Share it!

Hero image by

There are few things in life that bring as much joy as the freedom of working for yourself. Starting your own freelance business is one of the best ways to do so, as it allows you to control when and where you work.

You also have complete control over how many projects you're willing to take on. This level of flexibility is what is so enticing.

For those who haven't quite made the jump yet, running a freelance business can seem like an intimidating prospect. Fortunately, it's not as daunting as you might anticipate.

Let's dive into all you need to know to make your freelance business successful.

Treat your freelance business like a business

Many new freelancers tend to get caught up in the freedom that this career path offers. This easily leads to them becoming disorganized, failing to capitalize upon leads, etc.

Unfortunately, failing to treat your freelance business like a business can easily lead to difficulty in staying afloat. As most of us know, most small businesses fail within the first five years of starting.

Within this time period, the first year or two are the most crucial. As a freelancer, you are essentially a business owner, so you'll need to think like one in order to succeed.

This means that you should establish a handful of short-term and long-term goals to help keep you on track as an entrepreneur. You also need to consider certain aspects like branding, the rate you charge for projects, and what areas you specialize in.

This latter point is especially crucial since each freelance discipline has many different niches that you can focus on. To elaborate, let's take a look at a typical freelance writer.

This professional could specialize in creative writing, technical writing, product reviews, etc.

But, it's important to fully understand your areas of expertise so that you can avoid working on projects that you don't necessarily enjoy. Keep in mind, though, that you will likely have to accept projects that you don't prefer in the early stages of your freelance career.

The tools that Hectic offers allow freelancers to retain full control over their ongoing projects. This is achieved by providing detailed insights, your progress toward established goals, and even suggested actions to help keep you on track.

You'll also be able to seamlessly generate vital documents, such as contracts and client invoices.

Stay as organized as possible

Properly managing your projects and documents is a key attribute of a successful freelancer. This allows you to minimize the time you spend searching for a particular file or asset, something that can help prevent certain obstacles from arising in the future. 

For this reason, many freelancers choose to take advantage of specialist software that is dedicated to helping organize your projects and files.

One of the most significant obstacles freelancers encounter is a lack of work-life balance. Although you have the freedom to work when and where you would like, this can very easily turn into a situation where you spend the majority of your day in front of a computer.

A common scenario involves a freelancer making a bit of progress on a project, browsing the Internet, and then getting up to take care of chores or other responsibilities. If the cycle repeats throughout the day, it may take you 10 or 11 hours to complete your work for that day.

It might seem daunting, but staying organized as a freelancer is it has difficult as you might believe. First and foremost, you'll want to develop some sort of personal system to help keep your digital assets organized.

A reliable strategy to implement involves creating different folders for different years, months, and even weeks. Using the aforementioned freelance writer example, this individual may have folders dedicated to technical writing and a different set of folders dedicated to creative writing.

The most efficient way, however, is to take advantage of an organizational tool.

This software is specifically designed to serve as a centralized location for all of your ongoing projects. So, you'll have no trouble finding the data you need, and you can even search documents for specific keywords.

Double-down on your most profitable niche

So, you finally decided what niche you'd like to put most of your effort into. This is a large step for any upcoming freelancer, but there's another question you need to ask yourself— is this niche the most profitable one you could focus on?

Working as a freelancer is still work, meaning you won't always be able to support yourself through the type of projects you would most prefer to work on. A graphic designer, for example, may have a strong passion for creating fantasy artwork.

But, they also find that the projects that pay the most are more corporate and rigid when it comes to overall creative freedom. From here, the individual could either take upon projects aligned with their main passion or pursue ones that pay the bills.

It's also highly recommended to choose a niche that allows you to support yourself without being unhappy during the process. This graphic designer may prefer to work on other types of projects, but corporate logo and marketing asset design provides them with the financial freedom to build upon other areas of their life.

In contrast, pursuing their main passion would provide them with a great creative outlet but would offer very little monetary return at first. Fortunately, there's a way to incorporate both.

You can use your most profitable niche as your main source of income while focusing on different paths as side jobs. Over time, you may even find that your secondary niches allow you to secure enough projects in these areas to go full-time.

Additionally, you will eventually reach a point where your level of experience in your primary niche provides you with enough compensation to make it enjoyable. 

Showcase your client testimonials

As previously mentioned, the early stages of your freelance career will be the most difficult. This is simply a result of not having an established reputation in your industry.

Imagine that you're looking for a local place to eat and you search for a certain type of food on Google. Four restaurants come up in the search results, and most of them have five stars.

One of them, however, has no rating at all. Under most circumstances, it's highly unlikely that you will choose a restaurant that has no rating. The same situation is often encountered while working as a freelancer.

Although you may be capable of great work while minimizing turnaround time, many clients will need a bit more reassurance before they hire you. So, you'll need to make the most out of every client relationship you're able to secure by encouraging client testimonials.

There should be a section of your professional website that allows past clients to seamlessly publish feedback about the experience they had working with you. As your testimonials begin to accrue, you can leverage them to help you secure more work in the future.

In the event that somebody had a negative experience, you should publicly respond as soon as possible and offer some sort of resolution. This will illustrate that you take your feedback seriously and also have a plan to accommodate dissatisfied clients. 

Cultivate a stellar portfolio

Even if you have a large number of positive reviews, you'll still need to develop a solid portfolio if you want your freelance career to prosper.

Not only does it need to contain some of your best work, but it should also be constantly updated with more recent projects. Additionally, you should cycle out your weakest projects in favor of stronger ones.

This will allow your portfolio to evolve over time and accurately represent the type of work that you are currently capable of producing. Your portfolio should also have a substantial amount of variety within it, if possible.

If the majority of your projects that you work on fall into a single category, you could have a second section of your portfolio that contains your independent projects. This will help showcase that you have a diverse set of skills and make you appear more well-rounded as a freelancer.

Maximize your client experience

Conveying a sense of professionalism is crucial when it comes to maintaining long-term client relationships. One of the greatest ways that you can do so is by streamlining the onboarding process that you go through with your clients.

This means you should have all of the necessary documentation prepared, have established terms when it comes to invoicing, etc. It's also in your best interest to consider what type of questions your clients may have for you so that you can prepare the answers ahead of time.

Put simply, you should strive to make their experience while working with you as effortless as possible. You should also maintain this level of vigilance throughout the entire duration of your relationship with your client.

This means staying communicative with them and offering to make exceptions or accommodations if necessary. 

As previously mentioned, Hectic offers a tool that provides automatic contracts and invoice generation. But, it also streamlines the discovery process and allows clients to quickly enter a large amount of relevant information.

This typically includes data like their total budget, and goal, projected timeline, etc.

Always strive to improve your productivity

Eventually, you will hit a wall when it comes to how much work you can get done in a single day. The good news, though, is that this is typically something that you can improve upon.

This can be accomplished by consistently looking for ways in which you can boost your productivity. To get started, you need to decide what time of day you find yourself to be most productive.

Some people work best as soon as they wake up in the morning, while others get the most work done during the evening. Then, you can set aside a block of time within that segment of the day that's dedicated to working.

You also need to consider the conditions in which you work best. Although many freelancers work from a desk and their bedroom, this often isn't an ideal location due to all the distractions that come with it.

Although it might sound overly simple, even a minor change of scenery can provide a dramatic boost to overall productivity. This could even be something as straightforward as working in a different room, on the patio, etc.

Lastly, you need to hold yourself accountable for lost productivity and eliminate as many distractions as possible. If you're somebody who can't keep their hands off the phone, you may need to keep it in another room while you work, for example. 

Hectic's time tracking tool is a particularly notable way to improve your level of productivity as a freelancer. Not only will this help ensure you stay on the right track, but you also gain insight into how you spend your time throughout the project.

As you work on more projects, you can optimize your workflow and increase the total number of projects you can handle within a given timeframe.

Interact with your community

When it comes to establishing longevity as a freelancer, this is a crucial step to take. Not only will it provide you with a large number of opportunities, but it will also help you feel less isolated as a freelancer.

There are many people who work for themselves and never interact with another individual who has a similar lifestyle. This can easily lead to feeling like you can't relate to others, and it can even result in loneliness.

By joining a community (such as a Facebook group), you'll get to interact with thousands of other people with career paths highly similar to yours. From here, you can exchange ideas, get feedback on some of the latest work, or simply discuss current industry trends and how to navigate them.

Keep in mind, though, the communities are often not a place for self-promotion. Many have rules against promotional content, and you could find yourself blacklisted from them if you don't respect these guidelines. 

Is running a freelance business as difficult as they say?

It may seem so at the beginning, but the above info will help ensure that you hit the ground running and build your freelance business upon a strong foundation. 

Want to learn more about how you can grow as a freelancer? Feel free to reach out to us today and see how we can help.

Share it!
Darryl Kelly
More By This Contributor
Hey, Freelancer.
Control your freelance business so it stops controlling you. From client to project management, time tracking, invoicing, and everything in-between — Stay on top of it all in one intuitive platform with Hectic.

I highly recommend this platform if you're a freelancer seeking a client/project management system that allows you to focus on nothing else but the quality of your work.

Jason Little