Whether you’ve decided to go freelance full-time or are keeping it as a side venture, the first year is tough. You’ve got a lot to learn about running a business and there are going to be plenty of ups and downs along the way. Here are some tips on how to survive your first year:
Step Away from the Content Mills
This means taking a step back from sites like Fiverr, which offer convenience of having clients all in one place but with the catch of getting little money for your hard work.
It can be difficult to let them go and make your own way in the freelancing world but most freelancers agree that it’s the best way forward. You’ll have to work harder to find clients but then you can charge what you like and grow your business.
Stick to a blogging schedule
If you’ve set up a blog you should try to make a plan or schedule so that you can keep on track with it. The best blogs are consistently updated. Blogs that end up failing are usually unorganised with sporadic posts that eventually lead to a forgotten blog. It’s good to have a few ideas already noted down so you don’t run out of them when you need fresh content.
Get social media savvy
You have a lot to learn over your first year as a freelancer, particularly the role of social media in your marketing plans. During your first year you can afford to experiment a bit with different platforms and find what works most you.
Eventually you should try to settle on one or two that work best for your business. This means that they’re where your target audience is, where you’re getting the most engagement and website traffic from. It’s also important that it’s a platform you like being on. If it’s just another business chore, then your followers will most likely pick up on that too.
Keep on top of your finances
In your first year, you’ll still be finding your feet but it’s best to get your finances in order as quickly as you can. You might find it useful to use a bookkeeping software to track your finances and input income and expenses.
You don’t want to be caught out when tax deadlines come up and HMRC come knocking. Make sure you’re always setting aside a percentage of your income for taxes so that you don’t get lumped with a big bill that you struggle to pay. You should be aware that the current way of doing taxes is changing with the government’s Making Tax Digital scheme which will see businesses moving towards doing quarterly accounts as opposed to one at the end of the year.
Many freelancers also set aside a small percentage of their income for an emergency fund. Freelancing can be very unpredictable so it’s important to be able to cover quiet periods where the work dries up a little. Also be aware that because you’re working for yourself you don’t get holiday or sick pay. You’re going to have to cover this yourself which usually means you need to be charging higher fees than you think.
Stay firm on price
Every freelancer comes across this moment in their career when a potential client either asks to pay a much lower rate than you quote or even asks for free work. It can be tempting to give in, especially when you’re starting out and you’re struggling to find clients. Whether you choose to do it is up to you but try not to get in the habit of it. It’s no way to build a business and you’ll end up feeling less confident about charging what you’re worth.
One of the most difficult parts of working for yourself is keeping on track, especially if you’re working from home. It’s so easy to let the day turn into a jumble of work and watching TV or doing housework. You might feel like you’ve been busy but then take a look at the work you’ve done at the end of the day to find that you’ve not made much progress.
The best way to tackle this is to set strict working hours for yourself, like you would have in an office job. You don’t have to work 9-5 if that doesn’t work for you. Maybe you work better in the mornings or evenings, maybe you need longer breaks. It’s up to you to find your best pattern of working and then stick to it. This might also mean having a word with friends or family who think you’re “free” when you’re actually working.
Remember that freelancing is no easy task. There will be ups and downs. Those who make a success of it keep moving forward and don’t let bad luck or mistakes stop them from building a business.
Have you got any tips for beginner freelancers? What have you found most difficult about your first year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.