Are you an aspiring Freelancer or looking to become one? After a total of over 10 years as a freelancer, and 19 years total in web design, allow me to give you a few of the most important tips. So you can avoid mistakes I made, which cost me a lot of nerves or money.
1. Define a price for your work, and stick to it
In the beginning, it was hard for me to define my hourly rate. I was unsure and also not specialized at that time. I took too little because I thought I was a "beginner" and not yet worth so much.
This later turned out to be a mistake, because if you offer yourself too cheaply, it creates a certain distrust in the client.
Especially in Germany, where I started, the principle is:
What's cheap can't be all that good...
My tip: Take enough time, and if in doubt, let an experienced freelancer help you define your work value.
2. Have a proper internet presence
My website was already the best way to attract new customers 10 years ago. Then, over the years, a few social media channels were added. But actually it was always my website that acquired most customers automatically. And that without really much work.
Very often you hear from freelancers or even agencies: "We don't have that much time for our own website". And in fact, many freelancers don't have a proper internet presence or website.
My tip: invest a little more time in the beginning, especially in keywords and SEO, as well as the right texts for your website. Make sure that they address exactly your desired target group. Use call-to-action elements and start an email list where your visitors can sign up. Your email list will allow you to generate jobs whenever you need them.
3. Don't worry too much about competitors
Personally, I don't care about competitors. Or let's put it this way: I only ever try to learn from them and don't see them as a threat to my business. Of course, not everyone has to share this mindset, but it is my personal experience.
My philosophy is simply that there is enough work for everyone. You should always try to get better and satisfy your customers. Then you don't have to worry about competitors.
My tip: Don't get involved with so-called "pitches", or customers who ask for quotes everywhere just to get the cheapest price in the end. You'll get a feeling over time which requests are interesting and which are not. Many customers already write a copied request text at the first contact, from which you can immediately see that it is only about a price pitch. It is better to stand out from the crowd as an independent expert!
4. Learn to say no to customers
Some call them the "customers from hell", i.e. customers who only waste your time, are resistant to advice, or make your life difficult in some other way.
This topic would be worth a separate article, but there are already enough of them. Over time, you will learn how your target group works.
If you take a job that is absolutely no fun, it wastes too much energy that you could use for further education or acquisition, or your own website. So think carefully about whether you really want to do it "just for the money". Also important: Will this job be a reference for you that you can show to others?
My tip: Say no and turn down a job if you have a bad feeling. As soon as you have cleared your head, and then focus on new and more interesting jobs again, you will get a new request. This is really my personal experience.
5. Become an expert in one field
My success really came when I decided to specialize. In the beginning, I offered everything I could do a little better. Okay, that was sometime in the early 2000s. At that time, there weren't that many divisions and categories that people worked in. So it was kind of normal to offer everything.
It wasn't until I presented myself as just a TYPO3 Freelancer a few years ago that my career took off to a new level.
- I received less customer requests, but more high quality
- I increased my hourly rate enormously
- Clients who book experts are also more professional themselves
- As an expert you have fewer competitors
- Experts in a field can also publish professional literature
6. Don't work too much for friends and acquaintances
The more you are an expert, the more interesting you are to friends and acquaintances as well. Almost everyone would like to have a website or at least computer support at some point, even if it's just for fun.
From my own experience I know that I couldn't say no when a friend asked me for help. But with time you learn that people just want to save time and money because they know you. Over time, it just became too many for me. So at some point I said I won't do it anymore.
My tip: Don't waste too much of your precious working time on projects that you don't get paid for and that don't offer you any other added value. It sounds hard, but as an entrepreneur you simply can't earn money from friends ;-)
7. See yourself as a full-fledged business partner
I became a freelancer because I didn't like the structures in the agencies that employed me. I don't like complex hierarchies or organizational charts on the wall that define the status of each employee.
Even though as a freelancer you can live pretty freely: Some agencies or clients try to fit you into their hirarchy. But you are an entrepreneur on your own account and with much more responsibility than an employee.
My tip: Make your terms and conditions clear right at the beginning. Also write down terms and conditions that you give to the client, where everything you would like to specify is noted. Always remember: you are a company, and a full business partner, not an employee.
8. Create multiple sources of income
For "dry times" when you don't have a job, you need small sources of income that pay your rent, for example. Here you can use affiliate programs or service contracts that you can sign with your customers. This is also where the email list comes in. With a smart newsletter strategy, you can "warm up" customers so that they at least give you small jobs that keep you afloat.
As an expert, you can also create content on the web in many ways, through which you can generate revenue through advertising, or new customer leads.
My best additional sources of income:
- Web Hosting
- Own SaaS product
- Donations through open source codes
9. Bind the customer, but do not overdo it
If you have a good customer who also has jobs for you in the long term, of course you should keep this up. My experience has shown that quality and honest advice is the best way to do this.
Many service providers deliberately create workload to earn more or to keep the customer. Gaps are deliberately created, for example in software development to be able to fix new bugs again and again. I have seen this many times myself, and it is absolutely not my philosophy.
My tip: It is a German saying: "Ehrlich währt am längsten" and it means honestly lasts the longest. Advise your customers honestly, even if it means you can do the job faster and earn less. In the end, it pays off when the customer keeps giving you new jobs. Just remember your price. Of course, the price should remain stable.
10. Listen to what experienced freelancers recommend to you
When experienced entrepreneurs tell you something, it's often worth its weight in gold. Sometimes it's that crucial little tip that you think about a bit and then implement. And then bammm, your business gets a boost.
When I became a freelancer, it wasn't quite as big a topic as it is today. A lot fewer people than today were freelancing back then, at least in Europe. I didn't have many experienced contacts. So I helped myself, and learned a lot of things the hard way myself.
Today, in addition to helping my clients, I also like to help aspiring freelancers get on their way in the right direction. I hope this article gives a little insight, and maybe even helps some of you.
You want to learn more, or planning a freelance business?
I can be your mentor: https://simon-koehler.com/en/contact
Here's what we can do together
- Define your price and skill level
- Find your niche together
- Personal video coaching
- I'll show you real life projects
- I'll teach you how to get clients
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