I didn’t set out to be a freelancer.
It found me – kind of like the flu.
But it turns out … I like it, definitely more than the flu. Like any job it has its days when I wonder why I do what I do, but it definitely has more good days than bad.
The perks of being a freelancer are numerous. But I think tippity-top of the list is the flexible schedule. Imagine making money as you punch away on the keyboard when you can’t sleep at night, or working out when you want to, or taking every Tuesday morning for study or time with friends.
However, one of the downity-downs of freelance also comes in the form of flexibility. It is the ever-flexible income. The needs of clients ebb and flow, and as a result, so does your income.
When I accidentally got started “writing for hire” over four years ago there was a lot I didn’t know and since then there is a lot I have learned, but here are three things I never thought I’d say:
1. “I appreciate the opportunity, but I’ll have to pass.”
As a freelance businessperson and ringmaster of your own circus, you have the option to pass on projects. This was certainly never an option when I was at Sprint or Hallmark. You completed every project you were handed. Not as a freelancer.
Passing on projects may seem a bit crazy and a recipe for destitution, but in some cases passing may save you time and money better spent on a different project or elsewhere.
Say “thanks, but no thanks” to any project that seems to be:
- Beyond the scope of your capabilities or best talents.
- A poor fit – professionally or personally.
- Unable to be clearly defined by the team hiring you.
- Doomed from the start – i.e. marketing surfboards in Montana.
- At odds with your values or belief system.
To avoid some poor fits, make sure your website helps potential clients vet you. Explain your freelance offerings and your business well enough on your site to help them opt in or out based on who you are, what you do, and how you do it. I’m a huge fan of the website builder, WIX. It is very intuitive and a refreshing option from the cumbersome, linear Word Press.
There are only so many hours in the day, so work with people you enjoy whom you can help and see clear, forward progress.
2. “Please pay your invoice.”
I hate owing anyone money. Debt hurts my insides so I’m not especially familiar with the mindset of not paying bills in a timely manner.
But I had a former client who was quite familiar with paying late. I guess I thought companies would pay their freelancer in a timely manner because, a. it’s not going to break the bank, b. it’s the right thing to do, and c. the freelance worker is not exactly Apple with a gazillion dollars in the bank.
I don’t like reminding clients about payment, but I do. And you should too.
Make sure to include your terms on every invoice. Keep in mind some payments really do get lost in the mail. But remind yourself, you provide a service and you deserve to be paid in a reasonable amount of time.
I am very fortunate to have the privilege of working with quality clients who pay their bills on time.
But if you have a late payer and it becomes a habit, refer back to Point #1 “I appreciate the opportunity, but I’ll have to pass.”
3. “I love this job.”
The last thing I never thought I’d say was, “I love this job.”
But I do.
With one kiddo still at home and the other gone from the nest, there is no doubt in my mind how invaluable my time at home is. Flexibility is priceless to me. I can always make another pile of cash, but I can never get today back.
So I love this job because it allows me the opportunity to put my family first and serve others with my talents too.
p.s. My freelancer gigs were so plentiful I’ve now made a full-time business out of it and I employ several freelancers to work for me.
LinkedIn recently launched a “freelance-for-hire” service they’ve dubbed “ProFinder”. The service matches people looking for a service or product with a qualified freelance professional.
LinkedIn’s search function links the client to the best freelance option based on categories, keywords, search terms, connections, and physical location, if it’s pertinent.
As of now the ProFinder service is 100% free for both the searcher and those wanting-to-be-searched.
It’s free, but if you would like to be “featured” in certain categories pull out the plastic. Yes, being featured will cost you, but prominent placement on LinkedIn may be just what your freelance shop needs.
For the cost – free – and the exposure – 420 million members in 200 countries – ProFinder is probably worth looking into.
Let’s assume you already have a stellar LinkedIn profile. If not, hop over there and take care of that. (Here’s a piece on how to create a profile in less than 5 minutes that people will want to read. Note: I’m NOT a fan of his all caps suggestion).
Making sure your LinkedIn profile shines is even more important now because your ProFinder profile pulls information from your LinkedIn profile.
The interface and correspondence you receive from LinkedIn about ProFinder is a bit ugly, but we’ll forgive them that if they let us market our services to 420 million people for free.
Make sure you have a few recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. Recommendations are key in the LinkedIn universe to getting a look from a potential freelance client.
Rid your mind of junior high dance rejection and ask current or former clients or co-workers to recommend you on LinkedIn. If you’re afraid they won’t know what to say, toss them a bone. Ask for their help saying,
“World’s Greatest Client,
Hello. I hope the [insert project name] continues to go well. It was a pleasure to work with your team [timeframe]. I am currently looking for other fun freelance opportunities. Would you mind writing a recommendation for me on LinkedIn? The brief recommendation could mention what specific obstacle I helped the team overcome, the benefit you experienced from my assistance, and an endorsement for others to employ my services. Thanks so much for this favor. Let me know how I can help you.”
Sure, it might not be a ton of fun asking someone to “tell me I’m great”, but that’s not what you’re doing. You helped solve a problem and you would like that recorded. Wipe off those sweaty palms and ask.
If it is appropriate for you to recommend that person, do that. Seems only fair and right, and if you do it without them having to ask, they will appreciate it. Save them the sweaty palms.
To make sure the recommendation ends up on your LinkedIn profile, follow these steps:
- Go to your profile and click the down arrow to the right of the button near your profile picture.
- Click “Ask to be recommended” from the dropdown.
- Follow the prompts to request the recommendation.
- Click Send.
With your LinkedIn profile fluffed and buffed, some recommendations added, you’re ready to click a few buttons to sign up for ProFinder. First select which general service you provide, i.e. Writing and Editing, Marketing, Accounting, etc. Then click a few more buttons to highlight your expertise within that area and you’re set.
If you get one lead from it, it will be worth the investment. And we all know one lead leads to another (does anyone else hear the song from The Fixx One Thing Leads To Another in their head when I say that?).
Let me know if you’d like help writing, editing, fluffing, or buffing your content for your LinkedIn profile, resume, website, or print projects. I’d be happy to help.
Enjoy the free, freelancer.
Editor’s Update: This post was originally crafted in 2016. LinkedIn has changed this function multiple times since then. But one thing hasn’t changed. There is PLENTY of money to be made and people to serve as a freelancer. I turned my freelancer gigs into my own business and I now several freelancers work for me.