So you made your choice to become a freelancer. You saw the work landscape, weighed the pros and cons, and accepted that you work best with minimal supervision and with your time completely in your hands. Congrats on taking that risk! Freelancing is not the most stable of career paths, but it can be a satisfying and liberating career move.
Being a freelancer is tough, but with perseverance, it can be rewarding. Here are a few tips on how to turbo-charge your earnings while enjoying the freedom of the gig economy.
1. Don’t quit your day job
Here’s a secret some freelancers won’t tell you. A significant portion of people who take on freelance projects still work day jobs. This is a good way to dip your feet into the freelance world while holding on to the safety of a regular paycheck. If you’re not a hundred percent sure that freelance life is for you, stay with your day job and work freelance projects on the side.
Before you do this, check your contract! Are you legally allowed to work on side projects during your free time? Do you have a non-compete clause? Are you required to tell your employer that you’re taking on side gigs? As long as you’re sure that you can legally work on the side, then there’s nothing stopping you.
How do you balance a nine-to-five job and freelance work? It’s all a matter of time management. Consider this: you have free time during your lunch break, during your morning and evening commute, and during weekends. You could take this time to rest or spend time with friends and family. Or you can choose to use this time to hone your skills and earn money on the side. You can easily supplement your regular income this way.
2. Get your paperwork sorted out
When you decide to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer, it is important to elevate your game. As a professional freelancer, you will have to register yourself as a self-employed individual, and your services as a business. To whom will you register all this? To the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) of the Philippine government.
Taxes are inevitable and inescapable, even to freelancers. Fortunately, the latest tax reform laws exclude anyone earning less than P250,000 per year from paying taxes. If you earn more, then you’ll have to pay taxes.
Get yourself a Tax Identification Number, and register with the BIR as a self-employed individual and business. Once you get this done, you can secure a permit to print your own receipts. Make sure your receipts are printed by a BIR-accredited printer and keep an eye on when your receipts will expire. Issuing expired receipts will earn you fines, and you don’t want that.
The good news is that having your own receipts opens you up to a broader world of freelancing that may not have been available for you before. Many large companies only deal with freelancers who can provide receipts. Now that your work is above the table, expect higher paying projects.
As you’re issuing receipts to your clients, make sure to clarify and follow up on whether or not they will give you a BIR Form 2307. This is a form that shows the tax that the company withheld from your pay. You’ll need all of these and your copy of receipts when tax filing season rolls in by April of every year.
If all this sounds complicated, consider hiring yourself an accountant who has experience with freelancers. An accountant who can help you figure out what to do and how much taxes to pay is a Godsend to any freelancer.
3. Be professional
Treat it as one. Just because you can control your schedule doesn’t mean you can ignore deadlines. Clients and potential employers will bring their business to freelancers who can treat their time and field with respect. No matter how good you are in the service you provide, approaching your work in a slip-shod manner is a surefire way to lose clients.
Respect deadlines, turn in quality work, and speak to clients and collaborators in a professional way. If you have to go to meetings, or speak to clients via video calls, make sure you are prepared and presentable. You can be as creative and free spirited as you want, but it’s your work ethic that can bring you success or failure in freelancing.
As much as you can, don’t burn business relationships. Satisfied clients can recommend you to their friends, and widen your network. Eventually, your work ethic can be factored into the your asking price. Sure, there are other freelancers who can probably do the same job for a lesser price, but you can assure clients of your elevated quality of work, solid work experience, and hassle-free, professional output.
4. Specialize your service and level up
If you choose to work freelance, be sure you know what services you are prepared to offer, and what type of jobs you want to accept. Freelancer websites and job portals will show you all the possible freelancer jobs available, and it can be tempting to apply for most of these. But make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Nothing is worse than landing a project and realizing you’re way over your head. Just because the work is freelance, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Are you a voice actor? Do you have the training and experience? Can you do translation work? Can you encode subtitles for videos? Can you write computer code and design websites? Are you knowledgeable in SEO? Can you produce music or edit videos? Can you do Quality Assurance for indie video games? Or are you more of a virtual assistant?
The job market for freelancers is wide, but competition is stiff too. It’s best to find your niche market-- something that you are sure you can excel in-- and level up in that field. With more expertise to offer, you can corner your target market and make the most money in that field. In freelancing, as in many other aspects in life, mastery of a specific field easily outweighs a jack of all trades.
This is basic supply and demand. If you can offer a specialized skill set that not a lot of other freelancers can offer, you can increase your fee.
5. Create a portfolio and market yourself
Turning in good work is only half the battle in freelancing. You’ll have to keep looking for job opportunities as well. To do this, you should build your portfolio and learn how to market yourself.
Every successful project and satisfied client boosts your credentials. Prepare a visually appealing portfolio website that potential clients can find. Let the world know what you are capable of doing! Make sure you and your work are searchable online. Make sure your contact details can easily be found. You can’t land jobs if clients can’t drop you a line.
Put yourself out there! Go to workshops and network events, pass business cards around and introduce yourself. Get online and share your portfolio website on industry Facebook pages, or put it up on LinkedIn - anywhere where people who might need your services can find you. Get your name out there!
6. Master the pitch and package
As a freelancer, your immediate market are people who already know you, as well as their networks. As long as you provided former clients with a good working experience and quality output, you can ask them to refer you to their friends.
But to further broaden your market, you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone and actively approach strangers to offer your services, See a potential job opportunity? Send them your resume, portfolio, and a solid cover letter. See a company that you feel would be interested in your services? Send them an email. Let them know you exist and what you can offer.
Master the pitch. Pitching is a business presentation. It is your opportunity to let people know what you offer, and what they can get out of you. Pitching is an art form as well.
Get straight to the point: introduce yourself and what you can do. What do you bring to the table? What makes your business stand out? Why should this company or client be interested in working with you? First impressions last, so make all pitches count. Put your best foot forward, be confident, and do your best. And if the client decides they would rather approach someone else, thank them for their time, and move on.
Besides the pitch, learn how to package services as well. If you’re a wedding photographer, why not throw in a same-day edit into the package and give clients a discount? Are you a video editor? If you can throw in free copyrighted music into your package, you can provide clients with a competitive price. Make your services irresistible. You can get more jobs by offering your clients a good deal for your services.
7. Invest in yourself
So you’re a freelancer with a respectable portfolio and a healthy client history. Don’t be satisfied with what you already can offer. Invest in yourself so that you have more skills to speak of!
Investing in yourself can mean staying up to date with the equipment and software you use in your work. It can mean attending workshops or taking classes to learn more about the field you’re working in. It can also mean literally putting some of your hard earned money in investment plans so that idle money can keep earning while you stay on your grind. Securing your future is a great way to ensure that you don’t have to worry about your finances, so you can focus on churning out good quality work.
The more you invest in yourself, the more you can offer to your clients. Taking care of yourself and your business means making sure you’re in a good position to make the most of any opportunity. Hone your skills, work on your portfolio, and put your idle money to work-- that’s the freelance secret to success.