The freelance nation is a quickly growing sector of society. More people are taking a more freedom-oriented approach, switching stable employment for more flexible options. Today, freelance professionals make up 35% of the global workforce. That number can grow in the next couple of years.
Some of the most common careers in freelancing now include designers, video production staff, consultants, life coaches, accounting professionals, writers, virtual assistants, and so on.
Finding Livelihood and Fulfillment in Freelancing
Every year, fresh graduates are looking for the best companies to work for out of college. For some people, however, becoming self-employed seems like a better option. But it’s important to note that freelancing is not for everyone. It takes a lot of initiative, and there can be a level of uncertainty since most freelance projects come in droves.
But there are ways to create a thriving self-employed career as a freelancer by tapping into the best practices and tools. The key lies in maximizing one’s workflow. Freelancers have more control over their day, and that isn’t always an advantage. It only becomes beneficial when freelancers know how to manage their day and operation right.
For independent contractors looking for the best tools for freelancers in 2021 and practices that will help them grow their online careers, here are some top tips for freelancers to optimize their day-to-day operations.
1. Use productivity tools
The pandemic has changed the way we see remote work. Six out of ten work-from-home professionals say they’re more productive now. A lot of today’s freelance jobs have a remote or hybrid aspect to them. And that’s not always easy ground to tread, especially for newbies.
The trick to remaining productive while working from home is to tap into productivity tools for freelancers. There are many available today, but these are the staples that every freelancer should have.
- Task trackers — To track deliverables and deadlines. (Examples: Notion, Trello, Asana)
- Time trackers — To check how much time one spends on a particular task or project. (Toggl, Jibble, Hubstaff)
- Note-taking software — To jot down notes from meetings or research. (Evernote, Notion, Google Docs)
- Communication tools — To better communicate with clients and collaborators (Slack, Whatsapp, Zoom, Google Meet).
2. Search for recurring clients
The greatest challenge for freelancers is finding clients. For most freelance professionals, their income is only as good as their next client. A lot of freelance work comes on-demand or per project, so freelancers are always looking for new clients. But what most don’t do is focus on the current list of existing clients.
Maximizing customer lifetime value has become a growing practice for freelancers today. This strategy means working with clients long-term and building an ongoing relationship. For example, a graphic designer could move past creating a logo for a client and offer to do their social media content, which could be a recurring thing for many months or even years to come.
3. Set priorities
One challenge when juggling multiple projects is getting overwhelmed with all the tasks that need to get done. When we’re overwhelmed with tasks, the mistake is to think they’re all equally important. That’s where the importance of prioritization comes in.
Categorize deliverables based on urgency and importance. Focus on the more urgent and essential tasks first, then defer those that aren’t as pressing. Use freelancer tools that help prioritize your tasks and allow one to set deadlines on these tasks.
4. Build margin into your day
Burnout is a real problem that freelancers face nowadays. Because the sky is the limit in terms of growth opportunities, some make the mistake of stacking up on clients because of a fear of missing out. But margin and rest are things that should remain non-negotiable for a freelancer. So ensure that you still have moments to rest and rejuvenate.
For creative freelancers like graphic designers and writers, too much work can often lead to creative blocks. So, deliberately build-out time in your schedule to consistently learn and look for new pegs and inspiration. This best practice ensures that you don’t run out of fresh ideas that will wow your clients.
5. Set up automations into your workflow
Self-employed professionals have the liberty to control their time and how they get work done. Some of the most seasoned professionals in the independent workforce tap into freelance management tools that automate repetitive tasks.
Some great ideas for automations include:
- Autoresponders for social media accounts for when potential clients might send a message.
- Social media scheduling tools.
- Calendar management tools that help set appointments.
- Expense trackers.
6. Template your contracts and documents
Top-level freelancing requires that we take contacts and documentation seriously. Of course, it’s always best practice to design a compelling proposal and other necessary business documentation. But these tasks can often be time-consuming, especially if freelancers have to build them out from scratch every time.
The better option would be to template your contracts, so you don’t have to start from scratch every time. Then, use invoicing software to help keep track of these contracts and invoices and automate delivery to your clients.
7. Collaborate and network with other freelancers
Learning how to manage work in challenging times and search for growth opportunities should be on the top of every freelancer’s list. The best way to do this is to join a community or network of other professionals ready to teach what they know. There are thousands of highly supportive communities online today for freelancers.
These communities can come in the form of Clubhouse groups, LinkedIn pods, Facebook groups, Reddit communities, Slack channels, Discord servers, and so on.
8. Get referrals from existing clients
Another fundamental strategy to getting more work is to ask your existing network of clients for referrals. 41% of the information for new clients comes from existing clients. More often than not, your existing clients have other business owners, friends, and executive or director-level connections looking for an independent contractor like you. The only thing that holds you back from reaching them is failing to ask for a referral.
If you have the infrastructure for it, build out an affiliate program for your clients to get a commission from every closed deal. Consider putting in free work as an incentive too as long as you keep strict parameters on what that work might be. For accountants, for instance, you can offer a discount on your retainer or even a free month if they refer a large client.
9. Tap into cloud-based and AI-based technology
The future of freelance software is cloud-based and artificial intelligence-based technology. Cloud technology is software that one can access online without taking any of your local storage. These kinds of software make it easy to access information through any device, wherever one is.
Artificial intelligence is another growing section of the tech web that is helping freelancers and other professionals streamline their operations. AI tools give freelancers access to solutions that can even act as virtual assistants of sorts to do repetitive tasks.
Why Freelancing Could be For You
Not everyone is cut out to be a freelancer. There are unique challenges and downsides. But for anyone who’s looking for a career with adventure and unlimited growth opportunities, becoming a freelancer could be a great option.
There are dozens of industries that have independent contractors. The key is finding what value you can bring and creating a network of recurring clients who want to work with you via a contract-based arrangement. Also, it helps to use freelance software like Indy to manage your freelance business. Once you can do that and apply all the tips given above, there’s a big chance that this career will give you a lot of growth and fulfillment.