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8 Tips On Starting Your Freelance Career And Being Your Own Boss

8 Tips On Starting Your Freelance Career And Being Your Own Boss
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Who doesn’t want to make their own hours, decide what work to take on, and determine their own pay?

The idea of ‘being your own boss’ is attractive, so why don’t more people take the leap and go freelance? Because it’s scary. As a freelancer, you’re essentially running your own small business—you’re responsible for finding clients, convincing them to hire you, and delivering quality work on time.

Not having a regular paycheck to rely on isn’t for everyone, but working as a full-time freelancer is much more doable than many people think, as long as you have the marketing and management skills to go along with the primary service you plan to sell.

If that still sounds like something you’re interested in, read on for 8 tips for starting your freelance career.

Get Organized in Order to Show Off Your Skills

Before you quit your day job and dive into the world of freelancing, it’s important to gather together all the tools that you’ll need to succeed.

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For most freelancing careers, like copywriting or graphic design, you’ll need to have an impressive portfolio if you want to convince clients to hire you. Start going through your previous work and select the pieces that you think best represent your skills to be part of your portfolio.

Then start investing in any equipment or technology that you need to complete your job, and decide where exactly you’ll work. Having a dedicated area to work (even if it’s a local coffee shop) can make a big difference for your productivity.

You’ll also want to cultivate a professional image online by having a LinkedIn profile and your own website, ideally with a blog that you update regularly.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

We’re taught that bragging is bad, but if you don’t talk yourself up, you’ll never convince clients to hire you. The trick is to back up the claims you make about yourself with facts. For example, if you’re trying to convince a potential client that you’re excellent at developing content for business blogs, send them samples of business blogs that you’ve written before. Actions speak louder than words.

And this also means that your skills are worth more than you think. Whatever you’re making at your current day job? Start by doubling it. Does that number seem crazy? Maybe, but it’s a good starting point. Remember that you don’t come with the overhead of hiring a full-time employee (benefits, health insurance, and even the cost of a physical desk space), and you won’t be paid for a lot of tasks that are required for running your business, like invoicing, marketing, and preparing proposals. Your rate has to account for that.

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Set Goals and Develop a Plan to Meet Them

Before you start freelancing, you need to decide what you actually want to accomplish. If you’re quitting a full-time job to start freelancing professionally, one of your primary goals should probably be to make enough money to support yourself. Figure out how much you can charge for your work, how many projects you’ll need per month, and how many potential clients you’re going to need to reach out to in order to land those projects.

Since you’re managing your own projects, you may find that you need to use inexpensive or free organizational tools, like Google Calendars, Toodledo, and Insightly, to help track assignments and figure out how best to schedule your time.

Market Yourself Across Multiple Platforms

Don’t just sit back once you’ve set up your website and assume that clients are going to find you. Advertise to targeted clients using LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter, and any niche social media sites that you think will appeal to the people and businesses you want to work for.

And list your services anywhere and everywhere you can. Here are a few places to start:

Odesk
LocalMart
Guru
Freelancer
Angie’s List

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Although it sounds old fashioned, you should also create business cards and look for opportunities to connect with potential clients in the real world, which leads me to my next point…

Be a Networker, Not a Loner

Just because you work alone doesn’t mean you should let yourself become completely isolated. Not only is that unhealthy, it also makes it a lot harder to get your name out there.

As mentioned earlier, people tend to trust recommendations that come from people they know, so by attending local networking events and conferences, you can introduce yourself to potential clients and practice some word-of-mouth advertising. Professional networking events are also a good opportunity to meet other freelancers and get advice about working in the industry.

Ask Satisfied Clients for Testimonials

You don’t just have to talk up your skills yourself—you can have satisfied clients do it for you. Getting a recommendation from a client is a great way to win over new clients because it shows you’re not the only one who thinks you’re good at what you do.

The next time a client calls or emails you to thank you for the good work you’ve done, politely ask them if they’d be willing to write a short testimonial for you. Most people understand how important these testimonials are for small businesses and will be happy to help.

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Develop Your Brand and Start Pitching

There are thousands of freelancers out there, so what sets you apart from everyone else? Your brand is your identity, and it needs to clearly show clients why they’re going to get the best work if they hire you.

Keep updating and developing your website, blog, social media profiles, and portfolio to show off your best professional self, and start pitching projects to potential clients instead of waiting for them to come to you. When you send a pitch email, include a link to your website, LinkedIn profile, and relevant project samples.

Get It in Writing

One major mistake that many new freelancers make is failing to have their clients sign a contract. If you only have a client’s good word that they’re going to pay you for your work, there’s nothing to stop them from stiffing you. Taking this extra step also helps clear up any confusion about what the pricing includes, such as the number of revisions or types of file formats that are provided.

Create a contract that clearly outlines your rates, payment schedule, kill fee if a project gets canceled, revision fees, and deadlines. This will help both you and the client understand exactly what you’ll be getting.

Featured photo credit: Josh Galemore via flickr.com

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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