A Few Things Every Freelancer Needs to Know Before Their First Project
As you start off on your digital nomad journey, there are tons and tons of articles and blog posts covering the basics: how to find the best places to work (stand outside a cafe and check your phone for their wifi name before going in), top destinations for freelancers, where to find work online (for the love of god, get the hell off of UpWork and try networking instead–it makes ALL the difference), what to pack in your bag, etc.
To be quite honest, these are just a few of the many things you will fuck up and figure out as you go. Creating an online community that you can rely on for support and work comes with time and experience (although I’ve got a useful little guide coming to help you get your foot in the door). Learning to talk about your services and pitch on the fly confidently comes with practice. No freelancer ever started off in the perfect position, they’ve all had to self-educate, ask a billion questions, seek out help, and find their weaknesses as they go.
But if there are any things you can do right straight off the bat, it’s these four:
Find a reliable time-tracker AND STICK TO IT
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a stopwatch on my phone, forgotten about it for 3 days, gone back and had no idea when I started, what I was working on, or how long it took. Ask any freelancer out there–we’ve all been there. Instead, find a FREE online service that not only tracks your work schedule, but offers tools to track your time and tag your activities. My personal fave? And.Co . While they will continuously promote their Pro-features, their free account does the trick. (note: it’s tempting to want to upgrade and access their invoicing services but I’d rather use this invoice generator for FREE). Plus, you can even download your timesheet onto a handy-dandy spreadsheet to share with clients who insist on reviewing your hours and work summary.
Stay organized from the beginning…without paying for any online services.
Anyone else been confused by the complexity of Notion.io or frustrated with Asana boards? Instead try…
- Daily/Weekly Planners
Remember this post?
- Client Google Drives
Organization is key. Before starting on any project, set up a folder dedicated to your client. Put in your questionnaire, contract, invoices, inspo, and designs. Later, once your project is finished, put in any tax forms and client info/guides they’ll need once their site is live!
Stop Fussing over your portfolio…
I have re-built this website over 5x. In fact, most times after I finish a project I think of new ways I can update my site. Hell–when I first started building it, it took me almost 6 months to finally take the plunge and just launch it!
I always found reasons to hold off, update, re-make and re-structure my portfolio but at the end of the day I had to decide: launch the site and see what happens, or keep putting it off and miss ALL potential for new clients. Which one would you choose?
Think about what kind of work you WON’T do when writing your contract
Just like time-tracking and invoicing, there are a billion resources for building your contract. Basically it goes something like, services + scope + relevant parties = contract. But there is no drop-down menu or text box for limitations on project scope. What won’t you include as part of your services?
Now, you don’t necessarily need to write in what you will not offer, but defining this for yourself will help you communicate what you can and will offer as part of your services.
For example, as part of my web development services I offer 3 free alterations/month. This includes small updates ranging from changing font-types to uploading new files (7 files per alteration, actually). However, alterations do not cover any new pages or full-page re-designs. Nor do they include blog posts (since this is something my client can do themselves). I also note that I only allow 2 web design revisions before moving onto the build and 2 revisions post-build. If clients want more changes after their revisions are completed, they will have to accept the additional charges.
Knowing this and adding a small disclaimer into my contracts protects me from being pushed towards doing extra work I would usually charge for–and in fact it even lets me charge for it instead! Plus, it helps get your clients a bit more organized before you jump into a project instead of “seeing how it goes” AKA clients not having any content ready for months or wanting complete re-designs of pages you spend hours building.
Alright. Now, the rest is up to you. And remember, you will make mistakes. But then you will learn from them and no matter what, you will survive them. What are you waiting for?