Creative freelancers deal with problems nobody ever taught them how to solve.
They don’t teach you how to write a proposal in design school, or how to negotiate with clients, or even how to calculate how much you need to earn in order to break even. And they don’t teach you how to sell yourself or your work—or the fact you need to present “terms” before you start a new project.
“Without business skills, you won’t make it as a freelancer.”
Those are all business skills, and they’re essential to a successful freelance career. It doesn’t matter if you’re amazing at what you do—if you don’t treat freelancing as a business, you just won’t make it.
Related: Designers shouldn’t code—they should study business
Here at The nuSchool, we’ve spent years creating content, teaching classes, and building tools for freelancers. In an effort to help creatives build a long-lasting career they’re happy with, we’ve created the 7 principles agenda. Every freelancer should adopt this agenda. It’s simple:
- Charge what you’re worth. Price your work in a way that includes your talent, time, and the value you create for your client.
- Work with clients who value your work. Some clients don’t get why you’re charging more than $5. Stay away from them. It will harm your brand in the long term. Don’t join the “race to the bottom”—it’s hard to move away once you’re in.
- Manage your time. Your projects need to be time-managed. Your day and week need to be time-managed. Otherwise the work will take twice as much time than expected. Use milestones and coordinate those with your client. Use buffers so you can deal with unknown or unwanted events.
- Understand your client’s business so you can offer more value and do a better job.
- Learn to sell yourself. Knowing your strengths is the first step. Then, learn how to present it to potential clients, how to be proud of who you are, and what makes you unique. Make sure you and your work are memorable.
- Learn to sell your work so you don’t fall into a client’s endless change request loop.
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance so you don’t burn out. Don’t answer your clients at 2AM or on a Saturday morning. They’ll treat you like running water.
“You and your work must be memorable.”
What have you done to improve your freelance career? Tell us on Twitter @InVisionApp.
Psssstttt… The nuSchool also built a product around the 7 principles agenda. Find out more about it here.
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by Lior Frenkel
Lior is Head of Fun and CEO at The nuSchool. He thinks doing business as a freelancer can be fun—he's a mentor at the Designer's Pricing Class and the author of Value For Money.