When pursuing a freelancing career, it’s very easy to feel lost or confused with so many things to do and remember. For that reason, I’ve come up with a list of what I feel are the 5 essentials for any freelancer to make life easier.
I didn’t have a contract for the first year of my freelancing career. To me, it always felt like this big scary thing that would cost a lot of money and would most likely scare clients away (which is the last thing you need when you are first starting out).
How wrong was I?! There are plenty of free contract resources and templates online to get you started. I’ve also had a handful of very friendly freelancers offer me their templates too. It doesn’t need to be filled with legal jargon either, as long as it covers the main points and protects both you and the client, it will do the job. There is an excellent guide from Work Notes that goes into more detail about what a contract should include.
Since having a contract in place, I have been so much more confident about expecting payment and not being worried that a client will leave at the drop of a hat (I usually ask for 30 days notice).
To make life easier for you and your clients, I would recommend using something like Docusign (I use Hellosign as it’s free if you only send out a small number of contracts each month). This is an easy way to request e-signatures and it saves all of the signed contracts for you.
Savings can help in so many ways. Freelancing can be unpredictable, so if you have a bit of a quiet month, there's no need to stress about it, as you have some funds stashed away to rely on.
It can also be used as ‘fuck you’ money. After a few months of freelancing, I eventually got sick and tired of taking on shit jobs just to pay the bills. Having money set aside for a rainy day allows you to say fuck off (politely) and focus on jobs that you enjoy.
The amount you need to save will be different for everyone, but I’ve seen numerous recommendations to have at least 3-6 months worth of bill money stashed away. It may sound like a lot and may take you some time, but it’s crucial if you don’t want to have any sleepless nights.
A recent study found that 72% of freelancers consider unpredictable income to be a source of concern. So do everything you can to not be one of them.
To me, this one is a no brainer. But I’ve been so surprised with how many newbie freelancers I’ve met that are managing their projects using a notepad and pen. There are so many tools to choose from, and a majority are free. I’ve been using Asana for many years now, but some people struggle to gel with it. A big trend at the moment is Notion, so be sure to check that out too.
These are just a few reasons why I love using tools like Asana:
- can schedule in tasks for weeks or months ahead
- can make sure that you don’t overbook your schedule
- can set repeat tasks (daily, weekly, monthly, annually, etc) to save you lots of time
- some tools allow you to invite clients to projects, allowing you to keep comms all in one place
When I first started freelancing, I didn’t really see the importance of using invoicing software. Mostly because I was sending no more than 10 invoices a month, so it was fairly straightforward to keep track using a spreadsheet.
Eventually, I got to a point where I was spending so much time sending out 30+ invoices a month and needed to become VAT registered. After speaking to an accountant, he recommended that I sign up for an invoicing tool (I choose Freeagent). I hated it to begin with, as it was so different from my old fashioned approach. I hated the idea that I was no longer in control, no longer seeing the invoices as I sent them out one by one.
But now, I love it. It saves me so much time and makes submitting my VAT returns and self assessment so much easier, as it does all the calculations for you.
Being a freelancer can feel lonely, especially if you have migrated from a busy office environment to working in your spare bedroom. But I very quickly realised how friendly the freelance community can be. Even the freelancers in your industry/niche who you would consider your competitors, can be so helpful and friendly, often referring work or being there to offer advice.
Freelance communities are spread across so many platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Slack and more. Now I might be biased (as I am one of the original members) but I highly recommend The DMU to any digital marketing freelancers out there. There are so many great things about it that I would be here all day if I tried to list the, so all I can suggest is that you sign up for a free trial and dive right in, we are a friendly bunch!