What I’ve Learnt From 2 Years Of Freelancing
May 24, 2020
Consistent content creation has always been a struggle of mine, and I think the fact I missed the 1 year and 18 month points to write this post backs that up pretty well ?
Freelancing has been a pretty fun experience, and it's something that I get asked about a fair bit so I figured it deserved a blog post. Most of my work has been in the web design/development space, but hopefully this still makes for an interesting read if you're in a different field. Here's what two years of working as a freelance web designer has taught me...
Pick Something And Go With It
When I first started out freelancing, my offering included digital marketing services which were pretty random to be honest (think Pinterest strategy and Instagram audits). For a bit of context, prior to this, I ran a blog for about five years, so whilst I did have digital marketing experience, not having a defined offering really wasn't the way to go about things.
I was working in eCommerce when I started freelancing, and so that directed me towards taking on more work in the eComm space. I took on Shopify projects and became a Shopify Partner. Pretty quickly my preference for any kind of development work became sites that used Shopify (as opposed to WordPress) and that's really what's guided where I am now.
Currently my recommendation for most eComm sites is Shopify, and then WordPress for sites for service based businesses. This makes up the bulk of my work now, and aside from the odd blog post, is pretty much all I take on. It means I can stay way more involved with the work I do (think of the boring stuff, like knowing what WP version's being released next and when), which enables me to provide a better service.
You're Pretty Much Solo
So this one's fairly obvious, and it wasn't really a shock for me, it was more just what running a business by yourself meant. I've got a couple of different points around it...
Everything's on you
Think acquisition, sales, taxes (urgh), networking, project management, client communication and everything else. On the plus side of this, you get to see new areas, be exposed to the running a business side of things, and gain experience managing a project from start to finish.
The downside, is that you are by yourself. When you're not sure how to deal with a client, or whether your project quote includes you making a profit, you're the one that has to deal with it. This is where the importance of mentors and your network comes in, but that's a whole post in itself. There's also the fact that you can outsource areas that you're not great with, but that's another topic I'm going to leave for now.
You shape the work you do
This one's a big plus. You get to pick the projects you work on, the industries you work with, the clients you take on, and the rates you charge. You've got the opportunity to work on projects that you enjoy, with clients that you enjoy working with.
You Need to Back Yourself
For me this one's definitely a work in progress, but I think that gaining experience really helps with it. Aside from the fact that there's no one else to do it, here are a few reasons why backing yourself is important...
Chances are, at some stage you'll have someone tell you that your rates are too high. It happens. It also most likely means that they're just not a good fit for your business. I feel like the question of "how much should I charge" is a super common one when you're starting out freelancing and it's also a really hard one to answer. There are lots of different price guides out there and they will all tell you a different way to figure out your rates. Then if you start looking at your competition, you might find that pricing between them is inconsistent. So it's definitely a tricky one.
There will be projects where you're not 100% sure you're fully across executing the entire brief. Now, I'm not talking about having no idea about the service you're selling, but for example, I don't know every WordPress plugin out there. Some projects require investigating different plugins and then figuring out how to best implement them. That doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing. You just need to back the fact that you've got the skill-set to figure out the best plugin to meet the business requirements (or whatever the project entails).
I struggled with this one initially, and I think it's a point that people handle very differently. I'm of the opinion that it's okay to not have all the answers. Not knowing everything off the top of your head doesn't make you unprofessional, but how you handle it can do. When asked something by a client that I don't know, I like to take the approach of jot it down and send a follow-up. It makes you look more professional and allows you to provide a more helpful answer than if you'd just fumbled your way through a response or shrugged it off saying you didn't know.
Projects Go Wrong
Maybe there will be warning signs, maybe the website will crash for some completely unforeseeable reason. It happens. As a general rule of thumb I'd suggest getting on a call with anyone that's looking to sign on as a client. It's something I haven't always enforced
and regretted, but you can definitely get a better idea of who you're going to be working with if you speak to them. But back to the original point, projects can, and do, go wrong.
Cold Calling Doesn't Work
Or maybe it's just not for me... but it's one I'm not going to be trying again anytime soon. On the flip side of this, I think it's important to find the marketing/lead gen strategy that does work for your business. I know some people that have success posting on LinkedIn, others that swear by Instagram. Personally, I'm pretty big on Facebook groups.
You Learn Super Fast
I'm one of those people that's big on the idea of practical learning. Theory's great and all, but the quickest way to learn something is to do it. Which is exactly what freelancing gives you the opportunity to do. You've also got the added perk of being able to work on projects that are relevant to the things you want to learn.
I'm not sure how this is my first blog post in over a year (also think that's probably the longest I've gone without hitting publish in over 7 years ?️). Hopefully it's a somewhat helpful post!
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If you're freelancing or thinking about getting into it, drop a comment and let me know if any of these resonate with you.
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