The freelance economy has grown vastly over the past decade. New ways of working triggered in large part by the global financial crisis of 2006/07 have become widespread. Some workers opt to go freelance, while others have been forced into it by circumstance. Regardless of the motivations, freelancing has grown so large that governments are sitting up and taking notice of it.
In New York, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act is evidence of the political and economic importance of freelancers to the local government. In the UK, the government’s latest Budget sought out new ways to tax the self-employed, in order to avoid loss of revenue by the HM Treasury as a result of freelancing (estimated by the Trade Union Congress to be a loss of some £4 billion).
Whether you’re a freelancer providing professional translation services, writing articles or designing videos, no doubt you want to maximise your success. To help you out, here are our top five secret tips for freelancing success.
1. Define success
Success means different things to different people. To one person it might mean becoming rich, to another it could mean freeing up as much time as possible to spend with family. Until you define what you mean by success, it will be hard to achieve it. Think through what success looks like for you personally, then plan your freelancing life in order to achieve it.
2. Manage your time effectively
No matter what your vision of success may be, managing your time effectively will help you to achieve it. For all but a handful of freelancers, sick pay, holiday pay and similar benefits are just a distant memory. Even paid lunch breaks are out of the question – if you’re not working, you’re not earning. That means it’s essential to manage your time carefully. Three quick ways to achieve this are to:
• Minimize life admin tasks that interrupt your working day – either race through them first thing in the morning or deal with them after work or at the weekend.
• Avoid multi-tasking – studies have found that the brain can’t switch between tasks efficiently and effectively, so you lose time when you try to juggle several tasks at once. Instead, have a list of tasks to complete and work through them in order.
• Put your phone on silent. Bings each time you get an email, message or other notification are the ultimate distraction. They interrupt the flow of your work and tempt you away from what you’re supposed to be concentrating on. Ignore them all until you have completed the task at hand and only then check your email and essential messages. And unless you’re using social media for work-related purposes, ignore it until the end of the working day!
3. Take breaks
This may seem counter-intuitive, given the not working/not getting paid issue that freelancers have, but a few minutes spent away from the screen can do wonders to boost your energy levels. Whether you leap into action with twenty star jumps every hour, or just grab a drink or snack, taking regular screen breaks can help you to stay alert and focused. They can also help with formulating your thoughts when you have a particular problem at hand. For professional human translators, this might be a tricky choice of word. For writers, it might be how to phrase the start of an article. Whatever the issue may be, stepping back from the problem for a few minutes can often help to solve it.
4. Cut out caffeine
Many workers swear by caffeine in order to give them the boost they need first thing in the morning. And mid-morning. And at various other times during the day. However, caffeine is no friend when it comes to concentration levels. Cutting it out entirely can be surprisingly hard work. Caffeine is a powerful drug and withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, lethargy, sleepiness, irritability and more. The good news is that the symptoms usually only last for a couple of days, after which you are free to start enjoying a more focused approach to work. Be sure to stock up on decaffeinated tea and coffee first, so you don’t feel you’re missing out on your usual beverages!
5. Put your rates up regularly
Most employees benefit from annual salary rises that reflect the increasing cost of living. Make sure that you award yourself the same rises. If not, you are effectively earning less as each year passes, as the cost of living goes up but your rates don’t. Putting your prices up can be a daunting prospect, but explain clearly to your clients that you increase your prices by a small percentage each year in order to reflect the cost of living and they’ll find it hard to argue. Increasing your rates is about having confidence in your abilities and your value – and that confidence is one of the keys to successful freelancing.
Have you put all of the above into practice? What are your other top tips for freelancing success? Share them in the comments section below!