The Ultimate Freelancer Guide: Tips to Get Organized, Get Clients & Get Paid

freelancer guide

Free spirits rejoice.

If you’ve always wanted to become a freelancer but didn’t know how to get started, you’ve come to the right place.

There are 55 million freelancers in the US alone. As America, and the rest of the world shifts to a gig-economy, you’ve got to shift with it. You are your own business now, but are you prepared to take that on? You may think you are, but you need to educate yourself.

Knowing yourself, getting yourself organized, finding clients, and getting paid are some of the steps in the first days of freelancing, but what does any of that really mean?

Here, we’ll dig in on what you’ve got to do to get yourself up and running in a world that, as you’ll realize, is a slog for freelancers. You’ve got to stay on top of your game and one step ahead of your competition.

This is your one-stop freelancer guide.

Day 1 of the Freelancer Guide

So, what is it that you do? And why are you doing it? How are you going to get by in the beginning? There are many questions you need to ask yourself before you jump into the freelance pool head first.

Types of Freelancers

Freelancers are usually referred to as one of the following: an independent contractor, a moonlighter, a diversified worker, a temp worker, or a freelance business owner. If you don’t know what they mean, read below.

An independent contractor is who you probably think of when you imagine freelancing. They do work on a project-by-project basis for their income.

A moonlighter has a full-time job but a side-gig as well. Like, a teacher-by-day-tutor-by-night kind of thing.

Diversified workers have part-time jobs and do freelance work the rest of the time to make up their income. This is how many freelancers operate.

A temp worker is employed for a set period of time, then released back into the job market. 

Lastly, a freelance business owner is a successful freelancer that needs to hire other freelancers to keep up with demand.

What Are You?

Which of these categories do you aspire to fall under? Many freelancers have a romantic notion of staying home and working for themselves but quickly come to the realization that it’s hard to obtain clients right away.

Whatever it is that you’re doing; whether it’s writing, graphic design, social media, web development, etc., you will need to accept the inevitable lull that you’ll face at the beginning. Becoming a diversified worker is a good place to start out when freelancing.

This way, you can devote half your working hours to getting yourself organized and finding clients, and the other half making money to invest in yourself and, well, pay the rent.

Organization Is Key

Speaking of organization, you’ll need to become a very organized, calculated person to be a good freelancer, if you aren’t already. Forgetfulness and clutter will make it hard to get off the ground.

A freelancer’s best friend is a spreadsheet. A well-managed google doc will allow you to keep track of your clients and what they owe you, as they start rolling in.

Even starting out, you should approach freelancing as professionally as you possibly can. Create a brand for yourself, have a memorable logo made, and promote yourself across all of the major social media platforms.

You should also purchase a web domain and get a professional looking site up to showcase your portfolio, your rates and services, and post on a blog using up to date SEO practices to draw people to your service.

Portfolio & Rates

Setting up your portfolio is an important part of the “getting started” process. You should only display the work that you’re most proud of and choose a diverse selection of works to show that you can do multiple things within your discipline.

When you set up your portfolio on your website, you need to know what to charge customers when they arrive at your page. There are many ways to determine your rates, but a good rule of thumb is not to go too high or low.

High rates will obviously scare people away, but low rates can also paint you as an amateur. Depending on what service you offer, you can get an idea of what materials cost and then add your labor on top.

For harder to define things like writing or web design, check out freelancing sites like Upwork to get an idea of what other writers charge for similar work. You should also vary your prices to accommodate the client that you’re dealing with, i.e., don’t charge a coffee shop the same fee you would charge a web hosting company.

Day 2 and Beyond

When you’ve got your freelance business planned out with promotional materials, your portfolio, and your rates, you can start looking for clients. Again, it won’t come quickly. Many freelancers don’t start making real money for several months.

Finding Clients

As a beginner, your network of potential clients is going to be very small. To rectify this, relentlessly search the job boards. There are dozens of freelance-specific job boards for you to build your client base with.

The freelancer community is pretty supportive, so join online groups and go to networking events to try to find clients. Eventually, with dedication and a good amount of self-promotion, you’ll start to see work come in.

Working Well With Clients

Communication is key. Often, you won’t have a face-to-face meeting with a client at all, so you’ll need to answer questions and concerns promptly over email so that they know their project is on your front burner.

To ensure that you are aware of the client’s needs and most importantly, to ensure that you get paid, urge your clients to sign work contracts. Put a clause in the contract to protect yourself in the event of the termination of a project for reasons outside your control. This will let your clients know that you mean business.

Upon completion of a project, present your clients with an invoice and make sure that it’s paid promptly. Try out an online service to help you keep track of your invoices.

As a freelancer, you’ll also come to realize that you have to be flexible with your clients. They could change their mind at a moments notice, so you should be prepared to set aside time every day to deal with said changes. 

It’s good practice to utilize productivity apps on your phone to set reminders and keep track of various clients’ requests when juggling multiple projects. This will keep you organized when it gets busy.

You’re Ready to Freelance

Use the tips laid out in this freelancer guide, and you’ll be on your way to making big money on your own terms. Remember, don’t be discouraged when you start out, every freelancer goes through a rough patch at the beginning.

As long as you’re organized and professional, there’s no reason that you won’t succeed in the long term.

Visit our blog for more freelancer tips and advice on how to run your business effectively.