Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala
If you set it up right, freelancing can be a fulfilling career giving you the freedom to do what you want when you want, but that comes with a price tag. You have to be your own boss which means making sure you set work hours, take vacations, and get paid what you deserve. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you out.
Do have a website and write a blog. If you have a personal website and blog, you are published, and you have a portfolio to show others what you do whether that is web design, creative writing, or photography.
Don’t ever do work for free. Several people will trick you into doing work for free even well known magazines and companies under the guise of “helping to get your name out there” or “making sure you are a good fit.” Your work should never be free unless it is a personal labor of love. Freelancing is work, and you should be paid for it.
Do order some business cards. On Vistaprint, you can get your first batch free. You never know when you might meet with a future client.
Don’t limit your options. All your skills can be used in freelancing. The awesome thing about it is you can be whoever you want to be, and you will learn along the way what you are good at and what you are not, what you love to do and what you don’t. The best thing is you are in charge. You don’t need a degree to freelance, you just need to be good at what you do so that people want to work with you. So pick what you are good at and do it well.
Do read the fine print. A job may say you will make $20/hr, but then offer you contracted pay instead of hourly pay. Be careful to do the math and make sure it really equals up to $20/hr. It is always a good idea before a job to calculate the estimated amount of time it will take you to complete and then negotiate a fair price. At the very least, charge whatever the hourly minimum wage is where you live. If you are experienced, have a degree in your area of freelancing, and have a well developed portfolio, you should be making a livable, even potentially six figure annual income depending on the area of freelancing you are in.
Don’t take a freelance job without a contract. Make sure you will receive credit for what you do if this is important to you, make money that is worth the time and effort you will put into the job, and regain the rights to your work if the person does not fulfill their end of the bargain. Usually, you can regain your work as long as you do not receive payment from the client or refuse/return payment. Know your rights. Each client will have different rules. Make sure they are in writing.
Do work creatively on your own terms outside of your freelance jobs without the intention to make money. Doing so will keep you fresh. Join a community of fellow artists to encourage and challenge you. You can send your independent creative work and portfolio to companies and clients you admire outside of your regular bill paying jobs that can often be tedious. You never know when your dream publisher or business will take notice maybe hiring you on as a regular freelancer with better pay.
Don’t take rejection personally. Learn from it. Stay true to yourself but also be open to change. Outside perspectives are not necessarily correct, but they do help you see your project with new eyes allowing you to create something completely different that can often be better than what you or the client even thought possible.
Written by Beth Ann Nyssen