How to Succeed as a Freelancer

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Learn to Recognize a Red Flag Client

Some clients will be more trouble than they are worth. You can usually see them coming a mile away. They ghost on you after you agree on a start date, and then show back up ready to work. Then they want to change something in the contract. Maybe they are rude from the start, or they are condescending. You will feel your stomach clench each time their email shows up in your inbox.

It it helps to develop a script you can use when clients start throwing those red flags. “Sorry, I just don’t think I am a good fit for your needs” or ” I cannot accommodate you at this time, but I would be happy to refer you to another freelancer.” (Only say this if you can, in good conscience, pass them along to someone else.)

Learn to Say No

When you work for someone else, you don’t get to say no very much. You get assignments, and you do them. It can be very difficult to flip the switch in your head and learn to say no. When you are hustling and hungry, it can be hard to say no to gigs, even when you see the red flags.

You need to learn to say no when a job just doesn’t excite you, or when it really isn’t a good fit for your skills. Or if the client is obviously going to be a headache. Say no, and remember that time really is your most precious resource. Sure, you might have to take those ‘boring’ gigs occasionally to pay the bills, but don’t sell your soul.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Referrals

Asking for referrals felt awkward to me at first, but it is one of the most effective ways to build up your client base. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Send an email to current or former clients: “Hey, I really enjoyed the project we did last (month/week/year). I currently have a few slots open in my calendar, so if you need any additional help, please let me know! If not, please keep me in mind if your friends/colleagues are looking similar work. I would greatly appreciate it!” Don’t spend a lot of time hemming and hawing, just get to the point.

Just Do It

There may never be the ‘perfect’ time to make the jump to full-time freelance status. There is a good chance you will try to talk yourself out of making the jump because you didn’t budget for it, or you want to wait until someone comes to save you.

All of those are viable reasons why you might put off making the jump. But, at a certain point, you need to set a date and just do it. Don’t let fear hold you back.

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