The ultimate freelancer’s survival guide

Little house on the precipe

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So you decided to go the freelance route and you know it’s not going to be easy, but having control over your time, your work and your life – as well as being your own boss and being able to virtually do whatever you want to do whenever you want to during the office hours, including streaming movies and programmes whenever you feel like can be incredibly rewarding.

No matter what industry you work in, the challenges freelancers face are likely to be centred around three main issues: how to find freelance work, where to find freelance work and how to avoid procrastination. You also need how to decide your pay rates, especially if you work, for example, as a freelance translator.
This is why I have put together a basic freelancer survival guide with a handful of tips for freelancers to help you get more work and keep your clients happy.

7 survival tips to become a successful freelancer

1: Make a schedule and stick to it

The first thing you need to do – no matter if your problem is getting work or getting the work done – is to make a schedule, which starts by deciding on a set time for when you go to bed and when you wake up. If you still were in a regular 9-to-5 office job, this would be what you’d be required to do.

Waking up at the same time every day (it doesn’t really matter exactly when) will make you incredibly more productive. Furthermore, you might schedule breaks, meetings and interviews in advance as well, and you can use an app or a planner to keep track.

2: Never stop learning and improving

If you want to get repeated freelance work, you’ll need to present yourself properly. Learn how to dress to impress and always work to acquire new skills. Get the latest certifications related to your industry. Work hard, improve your social and communication skills (go to the gym, catch up with friends, attend industry events and especially don’t be like Sheldon Cooper!) and always strive to improve your CV.

3: Minimise distractions

  • While you’re busy working, it’s imperative to minimise distraction: this means no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter during your set working hours. Keep the TV off, and maybe play some music that has no vocals (or vocals in a language you don’t understand).
  • Try out the Pomodoro technique. You work for 25 minutes, then rest for 5, and then get back to 25. By using a timer, or an app on your phone, you will, over time, train yourself to just jump to work once you hear that Pomodoro sound.
  • Also, try to work somewhere peaceful. Find out what peaceful actually means to you, though. Some find it very easy to work in a crowded café when the chatter actually works as a sound blocker. Others need complete and total silence. It’s up to you to figure this one out.

4: Learn how to get motivated

  • Another problem for freelancers is how to keep nurturing their motivation. At first, all that freedom just gives more wind into your sails, but over time, it may get hard to actually push yourself to work. You start getting up later and later, you start sleeping in, losing focus, when you’d actually need more motivation to be able to search for freelance work. Sending offers, resumes, proposals, emails, going to face-to-face interviews, being on LinkedInrejection is inevitable, and you need to learn how to push yourself again and again and again.
  • You can keep your motivation levels high by making continual reminders about why you are doing what you do. Write down your goals, and write down the things you would lose if you went back to regular employment. Set very clear and achievable goals for yourself, every day. We can continue listing out these examples, but at the end of the day, motivation falls only onto yourself and your choices. Make them count.

5: Organisation is key

  • You always need to be on the ball. You must never forget to call a potential client, or – God forbid – miss a meeting. At first, freelancers tend to take all the work they can get on, so sometimes they can end up working for as many as 13 hours per day.
  • Having a good organisation system, like an Excel spreadsheet, or a Google Calendar, can really save your bacon.

6: Create your own desktop

  • This one is all about you setting a place just for work. This can be at home, in your garage, or even in a café or a bar that you enjoy going to. As long as it’s a space where you can work every day, at almost any time, it’ll be fine. This isn’t just for convenience’s sake – it has some psychological basis. When you go to your “office” you will instantly switch to work mode, making it easier to focus.

7: Cover all your bases

  • One of the very few advantages of regular employment is that you may be eligible to get benefits. As a freelancer, instead, you need to pay for your own pension and medical plan by yourself. Get dental insurance as well, and keep a little rainy-day-nest-egg, just in case. And if your line of work may expose you to the risk of getting injured, keep the contact of a personal injury lawer always with you, at all times.

★ For more useful resources about freelancing, also read how to work and travel the work, the impact of Brexit on British freelancers and how to live (and survive) as a freelance translator 

★ To hear two diametrically opposed opinions on freelancing platforms, read both The Hitchhiker guide to the Upwork Galaxy and why freelancing platforms are crap

About The Author

Startup adviser

Alexander Hunkin is an Australia-based startup adviser with in-depth experience in growing businesses. His advice have helped a lot of startups setting and growing their businesses in Brisbane and Perth. He is currently an external consultant with a group of NSW compensation lawyers.