How to overcome the eight most common hurdles of freelancing

Are you launching yourself as a freelancer? Or trying to find more clients for your existing business? Here’s how to overcome the eight most common hurdles of freelancing.

Working as a freelancer can be challenging. Among the most common problems for those just getting started is developing good time management skills and learning to balance all your new responsibilities.

When working solo, staying focused and completing projects on time is critical.

Equally important is maintaining your workload from existing customers while also securing new work to keep the business growing. Here are eight simple tips to help you stay focused and on track as a freelancer.

1) Find a professional work space

If you’re serious about establishing a freelance business, you need a dedicated place to work.

And luckily, having a professional work space doesn’t mean you have to pay rent for premium downtown office. Instead, most freelancers enjoy the benefit of reduced overhead by working out of their homes.

The key to staying focused when working from home is having the right work space. Here are some things yours work space needs:

  • It should allow for plenty of privacy (especially if you share the house with family or roommates).
  • It needs to be in a quiet area so you can concentrate on work or talk to clients without being disturbed.
  • It has to provide plenty of working room (or desk space) for your line of work.
  • It should include all working necessities – such as phone, fax, computer, desk and file storage.

If meeting clients in your home, you also need to ensure that you have the appropriate space and that the office is clean.

2) Work out your fee structure

It may seem obvious, but many freelancers neglect to establish a written fee structure for work. Ideally, you want to create a firm price list for your services that you can readily provide to prospective clients, or refer to when submitting a proposal for work.

The most common pricing method for freelancers is to set a fixed, hourly rate. In addition, you may want to set a flat fee for certain services or projects. For example, a freelance PR agent may have an hourly rate of $125, but may also have a flat fee of $350 for writing a two-page press release.

Similarly, if you provide discounts for non-profit organizations or other types of customers, decide that upfront and build it into your fee structure.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of charging too little. When working out your pricing, make sure you take into account ALL your costs (and your time) and price for the quality of the work you offer. Never assume that being cheap will win you more work and more grateful clients; the opposite is usually the case.

And when you are working for clients, make sure you nip any signs of service creep in the bud, too.

3) Establish set working hours

You may be working for yourself, but it is more important than ever to maintain a set schedule.

Whether you work primarily at dawn or at dusk (or every hour in between) is completely up to you. However, determining a standard time that you are open for business provides a much-needed routine to keep you focused from day to day.

Of course, you still have the flexibility to take off at a moment’s notice, but that should be the exception rather than the rule. Maintaining a fixed work schedule is simply a way of creating a good, consistent work habit.

It also provides consistency for your clients. They know you are available and can be reached before noon every Monday through Friday, for example.

4) Develop a complete portfolio

Depending on what type of freelance work you do, it is recommended that you create a professional portfolio of your work.

Whether you are a copywriter, a graphic artist, landscaper or photographer – you should assemble examples of your previous work in a nice binder or portfolio book. This allows you to have work samples readily available and neatly organized to show prospective clients.

Not only does it enhance your credibility as a freelancer by having completed projects under your belt, but it is a good way to showcase the range of your capabilities.

In addition, you may also want to include short customer testimonials along with the work samples for an added boost of credibility.

5) Create and use a professional business card

How many times have you been at either a professional or social function and met someone you may want to do business with, but neither of you have a business card?

Scribbling contact information on a cocktail napkin is not the best approach for marketing yourself as a professional freelancer. But this scenario is pretty common.

Too many people today assume they can forego the expense of printing business cards, and instead depend on other means to get your name in the hands of a potential client. But carrying business cards with you today is as important as ever – if not more so.

Keeping a simple business card with basic information on-hand at all times, remains the best method for trading contact information. It also shows that you are a legitimate freelance professional, and it is not a hobby you do on the side of your “real” job.

6) Build a website

Most professionals are now in the habit of turning to the internet for basic information about a business. And freelancers are no exception.

Your prospective customers expect to see a website, even if it is very basic. Today, it is very cost-effective to get a basic website that includes a few pages with an overview of your services, case studies or customer testimonials and contact information.

It’s also important not to neglect your LinkedIn profile. Freelance clients use the platform to find professionals to hire, and they will almost certainly check your profile out on the platform, even if they find out about you elsewhere.

Not having a profile (and not writing and using it correctly) could cost you valuable freelance work.

7) Schedule time for marketing

Sometimes you get so busy working on an existing project that you forget you are also responsible for finding your next project. And before you know it, you have a lot of downtime in between projects.

The best way to combat this situation is to schedule time on a daily or weekly basis for marketing activities. Your marketing schedule should include time for making cold calls, networking, meeting with prospective clients, and developing and distributing marketing materials.

8) Write an abbreviated business plan

Finally, one of the most important tools you can create to help keep your freelance career on track is a written business plan.

Unless you are pursuing outside financing for your business, you can write an abbreviated version of a business plan. The main items you want to include are:

  • An overview of your freelance business (what services you provide).
  • A year of financial projections or financial goals for the business.
  • A very brief overview of competitors and how you differ
  • A marketing plan for promoting and selling your services.

The goal of an abbreviated business plan is to simply write clear objectives for your business and have a point of reference to ensure you stay on track.

David Hoang works as a copywriter for Write Any Papers.

Photo by Jamie Brown