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New? Here Is What You Need to Know About Freelancing

by Laura Spencer

on July 12, 2012

in Freelancing Basics

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer – Free Test Drive

You’ve just decided to freelance, but you have no idea how to go about it. Now, that you’ve made that first decision, what’s next?

There’s a lot of information online about freelancing. Much of it is good, but much of it is confusing. Where should you start?

In this post, you’ll find the essential information you really need to get started.

10 Important Things All New Freelancers Must Know

While a lot has been published about freelancing, what do you really need to know to get started as a freelancer? Here is a list of some essential facts.

  1. Your Start-up Costs. You will have some start up costs as a freelancer. (And you should keep a record of these costs for tax purposes.) Your start-up costs will likely include (but are not limited to) your computer equipment, your phone systems, your internet connection, your webhosting costs, and your business stationary (including business cards).
  2. You Need a Web Presence. Being online is not optional. While you may not necessarily need a freelancing blog (at least at first), most prospective clients will expect you to have a website that contains your portfolio and contact information. A web presence tells your prospects you are serious. Having a strong social media presence is also for useful for finding new clients.
  3. Some of Your Clients May be Local. The image of the freelancer working from a home office in pajamas or a ratty tee shirt and sweats is a popular one. And sometimes it’s true. But beware. For many freelancers, the best place to find clients is in their own home town. That means that you may have to meet clients face-to-face (and you better not be in pjs when you do).
  4. Freelancing Isn’t Free. In any discussion about freelancing, one of the hottest topics is always what to charge for your services. Your freelancing rate must cover not only your living expenses, but also your business expenses. Plus, it must be competitive with the rate charged by other freelancers who similar skills and experience. Make sure you charge enough.
  5. You Are Responsible for Taxes. As an employee in the U.S., your employer likely withheld part of you pay to help cover your income taxes. As a freelancer, nothing will be withheld–yet you are still responsible for paying your taxes on time. In fact, due to the self-employment tax, you may find yourself paying more taxes. Don’t let your tax liability creep up on you. Pay quarterly estimated taxes.
  6. You May Not Receive a Steady Income. Another big difference between being an employee and a freelancer is that your income will not be the same from month to month. In some months you will earn more, while in months you will receive less. This is known as the “freelancing feast or famine cycle.” You can fight the cycle by not spending everything you earn.
  7. To Survive You Must Sell. When they start out, most freelancers think about how great it will be to do what they love. Whether it be web design, writing, graphic design, photography, or translation–the new freelancer expects to spend all their time on their passion. The hard fact is that, as a freelancer, you must learn to market yoursel if you are to survive.
  8. Get It In Writing. You’ll be talking to clients on the phone. You’ll be talking to them face-to-face. Some of those conversations will result in gigs. One of the most important policies you can set up early on is to get every work agreement in writing. If you can’t get a contract, at least get your client to acknowledge your agreement in an email.
  9. You’ll Constantly Be Learning. There’s no such thing as “done” when it comes to learning your trade and you’re a freelancer. What you need to know is constantly changing and you need to stay on top of it to remain competitive. Fortunately, there are news articles, blogs, and courses (both online and off) to help you stay current.
  10. Relationships are Important. The best freelancers are people people. The successful freelancer knows how to get along with a wide variety of types of people. Remember that business is based on trust and trust is based on relationship. If you want to have a successful freelancing business, you must first build successful business relationships.

Your Turn

Are you starting out as a freelancer?

What questions do you have for us?

Image by jakeandlindsay

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer – Free Test Drive

About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Lauraâ??s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.