Being a freelancer means you have the ability to manage your own time and work from home, a coffee shop, or even the beach. On the other hand, being a freelancer also brings with it a certain level of uncertainty. With more Americans getting into the gig economy, the market is becoming more competitive than ever. As such, getting the right skills to stay ahead of your competition is vital. Besides talent, however, there are a few other things you can do to thrive while freelancing — and not just survive. Here are some tips to put you on the path of success and stability as a freelancer.
5 Things You Can Do to Thrive while Freelancing
1. Have an Emergency Fund
This cannot be stressed enough. Having an emergency fund will make you less vulnerable to financial changes, like when a client doesn’t pay you on time. Business Insider explains how 45% of freelancers aren’t paid on time — and with no fixed income, you’re always faced with the possibility that a client may not pay you. You can’t thrive while freelancing if you’re worried about finances falling through.
Since your bills and expenses don’t take a day off, a financial cushion to mitigate this risk should be your number one priority, so start saving as soon as you can. Even saving as little as $25 a month can help. If you want to maximize your emergency fund, there are various tools available that can help your finances. Marcus’ guide to high-yield savings calculators highlights how you should use such tools to ensure that your emergency fund will continue to grow instead of remaining stagnant in a normal account. An emergency fund will also give you much-needed peace of mind — allowing you to focus on your work and your clients, rather than constantly worrying about paying your bills every month.
2. Prioritize Client Relationships
Never underestimate the power of client retention and the impact it can have on your business. While you may be your own boss, your clients are the ones feeding you, so don’t treat them like a one-off. Instead, keep in touch with them periodically and suggest a project if you think their business will benefit. Satisfied customers give you an edge to thrive in this business. In fact, a mere 5% increase in your client retention can increase your profits by up to 95%!
Loyal customers are more than likely to hire you again because they’ve already done business with you. They can really become one of the factors that help you thrive while freelancing. Return clients can also save you time and money by not having to continually acquire new ones. Additionally, depending on the industry you’re in, you can bet that they know others in the industry to whom they can refer you to.
3. Build a Budget and Cut Expenditure
Unless you’re able to consistently bring in a high monthly income sufficient to maintain your lifestyle right from the start, you’re probably going to need to come up with a budget and cut your expenses. Even though you say you have an emergency fund, it’s important to be disciplined when it comes to spending.
For starters, it’s good practice to learn to live on 50% of your income. For the remaining 50%, set aside 30% for expenses (including taxes) and 20% for savings (like an emergency fund). You’ll also need to make sure you watch your money carefully and limit frivolous expenses as much as you can. Specifically, online shopping can be a bane, as it’s easy to spend money and waste time buying things you don’t need.
4. Manage Your Schedule
Being in control of your own time can be a double-edged sword. While you do get to dictate your own hours, if you’re not disciplined about your schedule, you’ll quickly find that you’ve wasted an entire day doing nothing. When you first start out (especially if you tend to be a procrastinator), have a rigid schedule until you get into the groove of being your own boss.
Plan your week out every Sunday and write a to-do list that you must complete every day. If you work from home, it can be difficult at times to separate your business life from your personal one. For example, your schedule should reflect personal affairs from, say, 7 am to 11 am. And then from noon to 6 pm is when you take care of your business affairs, clients, etc.
In addition, you should always be selective when accepting projects. Before accepting any gig work, be sure to consider the deadline, pay rate, and other factors thoroughly. By doing so, you can filter projects where you have minimal growth and be more prepared for jobs that can help propel your career.
5. Be Flexible and Tailor Your Services
You’re no longer an employee so get out of the one-size-fits-all mentality. To survive and thrive in the gig economy, you need to customize your approach and do what’s right for your particular client. In their piece on surviving as a freelancer, Medium notes how you have to be prepared to be a consulting chameleon. In this sense, it’s important to carefully assess your client’s objectives, resources and budget and market yourself as an expert in that particular niche to deliver their needs.
Focusing on a specific expertise, rather than a jack-of-all-trades approach, also reduces the number of freelancers you have to compete against. Remember, “the riches are in the niches.”
You can thrive while freelancing if you can find balance in these five places. It’s not impossible and doing a little work to help you live life to the fullest will always be worth it.
About the Author: Joyce Beanie is a freelance business and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her training for her next triathlon or in the nearest dog park playing with Speedy, her 5 year-old Beagle.