How to be a better freelancer

When you want to make yourself into a better freelancer, it can be tempting to focus on your main business practices and look for ways to improve your contracting services or drum up more business.

But more business isn’t always better. At some point, realistically, you’re going to reach the limit of how much work one person can take on, and if you don’t want to employ anyone else, you need to know the alternatives.

Here are our top tips for how to be a better freelancer, especially when the workload is starting to put pressure on your time and capabilities as an individual.

Take your free time

Firstly, and most importantly, don’t let yourself get pulled into working 24/7. Yes it’s good to be able to put the extra hours in when there’s a big order and an opportunity to earn more, but you shouldn’t be aiming to do that week in, week out.

Take free time when you can get it, but do it your own way. For some people that means sticking religiously to working only in office hours, and not evenings and weekends, while for others it might mean working 16-hour days three times a week and taking four days off.

Only you know what feels best and allows you to recharge your batteries, ready to face the next day, week or month and whatever your clients decide to throw at you.

See your friends

If you work from home, staying indoors can rapidly become the desired option, and when you have invitations to social gatherings, the effort of going outside and physically getting there can seem like more than it’s worth.

Keeping in contact with friends and loved ones is important though. As well as giving you some much-needed human contact, friends can act as a sounding board for your worries and business ideas, helping you to see ways to improve what you are doing for the future.

If you already keep in regular contact with friends, that’s great – this one’s just for the people who prefer to keep the curtains closed some days.

Stay connected with yourself

Not to get too spiritual, there’s a reason why you became a freelancer, and it could be anything from unplanned redundancy to a genuine passion to try and build something off your own back.

If you’re surviving in business on your own, that’s a great start and proves you are more than capable of making a success of it – so look to your own inner strengths and build on those.

Try to keep that flame burning inside you, and if you feel like a particularly bad or overly busy month has poured water on your passion for your work, take some time to think back to when you first started as a sole trader, and rekindle those embers once again.

Get organised

Managing your finances is one area where many freelancers struggle, especially if you’ve always been used to a fixed monthly salary paid into your account on the same date each month.

With freelance work, you’re more likely to be responsible for drumming up business, invoicing for it when the job’s done and making sure you get paid – often as much as 30 days or more after you actually did the work.

Getting your head around this rolling interval between working and getting paid can take some flexible thinking at first, but remember in most permanent employment you only get paid at the end of the month for the work you have done, so it’s not a major difference, it can just feel more visible sometimes.

Get help

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This doesn’t necessarily mean financial help – if you need people to bail you out month after month, perhaps you have chosen an industry where freelancing just isn’t going to prove profitable.

But it means reaching out in other areas, for example hiring an accountant to file your tax returns for you, or an admin assistant to invoice customers and chase payments.

They say ‘no one is an island’ and that’s certainly true in business where you have to work with suppliers, service providers and customers if you’re going to thrive.

But it all comes from you when you’re a freelancer – so take an honest look within and identify any of the areas where you think you could use some help.

It’s at those times that you sometimes recognise a major area you have been neglecting, which in the best-case scenario could unlock an area of profitable business or even lead you to hire staff and move from freelancing to become a fully fledged company.