I could happily give out freelancing tips all day long.
Sadly it wouldn’t pay the bills.
However, inspired by some recent emails and conversations, I’ve put together this article to provide some really crucial freelancing tips for beginners.
Just to keep things interesting, I’ve presented this advice as a list of “don’ts.”
Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of people do things I’d strongly advise NOT to do. As regular readers will know, I don’t much believe in sugarcoating reality, so as with last week’s piece on freelance writing, you’ll find plenty of honesty here!
These tips are relevant to ANY kind of freelancing or home working.
Freelancing Tips: What NOT to do:
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Don’t be a “Passenger”
It no longer surprises me (but it still amazes me) that I frequently get single-line emails simply asking “what work can I do from home?”
The only real answer to that question, when I’m given no context and know nothing about the person posing it, is another question: “I don’t know, what work CAN you do from home?”
I won’t labour the point too much, but just based on some of the topics we’ve already covered on this site, you could be a photographer, design fashion items, do microwork, fill out surveys, become a freelance writer, set up an ironing business, make crafts, make cakes, look after children, sell products online, or start a portfolio career with a mix of as many activities as you like.
OK, so perhaps I did labour the point…But the reality is that the list above barely scratches the surface of how many ways people can and do work from home – either as freelancers or by working for a company remotely.
Now I’m not saying that everyone has total freedom to do anything they want and that success is a given. Opportunities vary tremendously in different countries, and it’s perfectly normal for people to fall into jobs due to the need for a paycheck, rather than for any sense of personal fulfilment. Sadly, the statistics back this up, with polls suggesting that around 70% of people admit to disliking their jobs.
However, the decision to work from home, especially in the form of a career in freelancing, provides the opportunity to do something you actually want to do.
So, what you WANT should always be the starting point.
Decide what you’d most like to do, think about what inspires you, what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at, and what you have experience of – and THEN start hunting for opportunities. Sure, you may discover that what you’ve picked out isn’t going to pay you a full-time wage, but then you can look at supplementing it with something else.
If you take the decision to DRIVE your freelance career yourself, rather than letting it carry you, you will do your best work and look forward to Monday morning instead of dreading it. And you will convince potential clients and employers that you’re a good fit because you’ll believe in what you’re doing.
This doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay your dues and do tasks you dislike – that’s just life – but it’s way more rewarding if you’ve actually chosen the goal you’re aiming for.
I love getting emails from readers. You can send me one now if you like 🙂 But it’s far easier to respond to people who’ve thought about what they’d actually like to do – the people who are sitting in the driving seat.
So if, in your heart, you know you’re behaving like a passenger – try to work to change it – or you’ll never have much control of where you end up.
- You’ll find information on auditing your skills and considering what to do in my Ultimate Guide to Homeworking Freedom.
- There’s more on the “freelance lifestyle” here.
Freelancing Tips #2: Don’t Communicate Badly
Almost every day I receive emails from people who want to get involved with HomeWorkingClub in various ways. I get similar communications regarding other websites and businesses I’m involved in.
Many people want to submit guest posts. Some people want me to review their products. Some of the communications are just straight-up marketing emails trying to sell something.
The shocking part is that, more often than not, these communications are dreadful.
I’m well-used to seeing all of the following:
- Messages with terrible spelling and grammar.
- “Boiler-plate” emails with incorrect names or other details.
- Pitches that completely ignore clearly published guidelines.
Now, just in case you think I’m being a massive pedant, I should point out that I’m not alone. Statistics show that 50% of employers throw away job applications with poor spelling and grammar. (A related statistic is that poor grammar is a “deal breaker” for almost the same proportion of people when it comes to dating!)
So put aside any notion that anyone who complains about such things is a “grammar nazi.” The reality is that if your communications lack attention to detail, at least 50% of them will be headed straight for the trash.
There’s actually a great flip-side to this. When I DO receive business-related emails that are clear, properly written and appealing, I do read them, and I often respond. (If you read this article you’ll see that I’ve even commissioned a paid series of articles based on a single well-written pitch.)
I can also say, with a reasonable degree of confidence, that it’s not just me who will read well-conceived communications. I’ve personally pitched all kinds of large businesses and well-established websites, and often get replies, even when guidelines suggest it’s unlikely.
The reality is that every business receives hundreds of crappy, spammy emails. So many, in fact, that the good ones are the ones that stand out.
So don’t allow your personal brand to be tainted with poor communication. It won’t get you anywhere fast. If you struggle with spelling and grammar, take a look at Grammarly. There’s a full review here, and even the free version will save you from the worst mistakes, and will definitely help if English isn’t your first language.
Freelancing Tips #3: Don’t Buy Stuff, Do Stuff
As I’ve discussed numerous times before, there’s a big industry around freelancing and home working.
And when I say “big industry,” I don’t refer to the work itself. I mean the industry of selling things to people who want to earn a living in this way.
Many of these products – from books to courses – are valuable and useful. I recommend some of them myself, after all, and will probably release a few of my own eventually!
However, there comes a point when you have to stop buying and start doing.
I know it’s easy to say something like that. But consider this: I love being shown around gyms and don’t even much mind paying the subscription fees. I love buying new sportswear. Committing to actually going to the gym regularly? Hmmm, not so much.
It’s exactly the same with freelancing and home working. It’s way easier to sign up to a course, buy a book or join a membership scheme than it is to start preparing a portfolio or to begin sending pitches to prospective clients. But it’s only those things that will actually turn your dreams into a business.
So, by all means, read the books, take the courses, and – if you want – sign up to services like Writers.Work, so long as you actually go forward and use what you learn. Buying stuff alone will never turn you into a successful freelancer.
For more on working freelance, check out my beginner’s guide. And if you have any freelancing tips of your own to share, please let us know in the comments below.