Ali: This is a guest post from Karol K. of Writers in Charge, who got in touch and offered to share these great tips with us. Like Karol, I started freelancing without really noticing. In fact, it was almost an accident: at the start of 2008, I got in touch with a blog to write a guest post, and they offered me a regular, paid position. I had no business name, no website, no plan, and no experience in running a business! If you’re in a similar position, Karol’s tips should help.
Over to you, Karol!
It took two months for me to realize that I was a freelance writer: I suddenly had three clients waiting for my articles, and there was a deadline to meet. Even then, it took a while for me to figure out a few things that make freelance life much easier.
1. Have a “Hire Me” Page
This is the first item on the list because I truly can’t stress enough how important it is. Unless you have a domain name like freelancedesignerforhire.com or freelancewritingservices.com, the people who visit your site won’t get a clue that you’re a freelancer who’s happy to exchange their services for money.
Even though I don’t like the phrase “hire me”, I have to say that the number of requests I get has skyrocketed since I created a “hire me” page on my blog.
The best thing is that your “hire me” page doesn’t have to be fancy at all. A standard blog page will do. What matters is your sales copy. Yes, sales copy. Your “hire me” page is just like any other sales page, only this time you’re selling yourself, so to speak.
Focus on the benefits you can provide, your area of expertise, your portfolio, provide some proof that you can deliver results. Basically, explain why a prospective client should hire you.
2. Claim Your Expertise
I very much like the idea of claiming expertise, instead of earning it or building it. However, some people don’t like my point of view on this. And you are free to disagree too (let me know in the comments).
My opinion is this: You can successfully claim expertise in any area and be able to write great, valuable articles if you just commit yourself to success.
Now, what this means in plain English. I don’t believe that expertise in a given topic is reserved only to the Stephen Hawkings around us. You don’t have to be a genius in a given field to be able to share some valuable advice. You just need research, time, and the ability to focus on what you want to achieve.
Claiming expertise basically means one main thing. It means writing with confidence. Not being afraid that someone might call you out on any shortcomings. If you’re not writing with confidence then people will notice.
3. Half of the money up front
If someone is serious about your work, they should have no problems paying you half of the money up front.
First of all, this gives you some safety and certainty that no one will try to trick you out of your money. And I’m not saying that there are a lot of shady businessmen out there, but this is just a way to guarantee yourself some better sleep at night.
To be honest, I personally never had a client who didn’t pay me, but one of my friends experienced such a situation, so the scenario is real and likely to happen if you’re not careful.
[Ali's note: I've only ever had one non-paying client. I felt stupid afterwards for not asking for half up front, but I'd Googled him and saw that he had a few websites, so it seemed he knew what he was doing. I eventually got half my money out of him, but gave up on chasing the rest. Like Karol, I recommend asking for half up front unless you're working for someone you already know and trust.]
4. 50/50 Work Balance
What I mean by this catchy name is the following: I believe you should spend an equal amount of time working for your clients and on your own projects.
The fact is that freelancing is a great way to make money, but it’s more of a short term strategy. For instance, what happens if you suddenly lose the ability to write? How will you be able to make a living?
This is where your own projects come into play. The goal is to build something that can make you money long term or, better yet, on autopilot. You can, for instance, start building traffic to your own blog, offer products, or launch a traditional business based on your skills.
5. Keep Raising Your Rates
I’m sure you’re happy to see this piece of advice here!
I know that many of us writers are not in business purely for the money, but at the end of the day, we all want to put some food on the table and buy something nice every once in a while. And the simple rule is this: the more money you make per assignment, the more time you’ll have to spend with your family or friends doing cool things.
There’s only one problem with raising rates. You can’t do it with your existing clients. They simply won’t understand why your services are suddenly more expensive. So how to handle this? List higher rates whenever you’re pitching new clients.
[Ali's note: I've successfully raised my rates with existing clients, though I do always give them at least a couple of months' notice that my rates are going up.]
6. Back Up Your Data
This is really really important. Probably the most important technical advice I can give you.
Imagine that one day you wake up and your data is gone … I don’t know, hard disk fail, a fire, whatever. Would you be able to restore your data quickly and continue to work shortly afterwards?
First of all, your hard disk failing is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Trust me, I’m an engineer (no, really).
The easiest way to do this is to sign up to SugarSync - a data synchronization tool (like Dropbox, only better).
7. Realize That Your Brand Matters
Here’s what I mean. No matter what kind of work you do, if you sign it with your name, it stays for the whole world to see.
In a nutshell, don’t you ever take a job you’re not sure about just because it pays well. If something can hurt your brand in the long run then it’s a project not worth taking. In other words, don’t ever release a piece of writing you’re not going to be proud of.
8. Get Clients Who Need Your Articles for Their Own Use
(This is of course up to you.) From my experience, it’s a lot easier to deal with contracts that require you to write articles for your client directly and not, say, guest posts or something similar.
When you’re writing a guest post, you have to not only create a great piece of content, but also manage to get it published on a website you have no control over … and this can be very difficult at some times.
If you’re just sending the articles to your client directly then your task ends right after crafting a great piece of content (yes, this step is still mandatory).
9. Don’t be Too Focused on Social Media
My point of view on social media can be a bit biased, I admit. However, from what I have found, there’s very little value in heavy social media interactions for a freelance writer – at least in terms of getting clients.
You’re way better off working on your content and promotion through guest posts, for example.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use social media at all. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t spend most of your non-writing time there. I can be wrong about this, though, so feel free to disagree and share your opinion.
This is basically it for the things I wanted to share with you. So, do you think that social media is an essential tool for a freelancer? And what’s your opinion on claiming your expertise?
Karol K. is a freelance writer and blogger. He writes and publishes posts about freelancing and writing for a living. If you’re interested in various online opportunities revolving around writing for money then feel free to visit him at Writers in Charge.