My five golden rules of freelancing

I find I come across a lot of freelancers who don’t enjoy their job as much because of a variety of different things. They aren’t living by a set of golden rules as I do, so I thought I would share the rules that I live by whilst freelancing in order to benefit future and current freelancers a like experiencing problems in their day-to-day work.

Golden rules are simply something that you stick by, they are your code of ethics and they are how you conduct yourself in day-to-day business.

1. Keep it interesting

Working the same job over and over is always going to get boring eventually. That’s why I tend to diversify what areas each job is in and the specifics of those jobs. Occasionally I’ll see a job which is completely out there and send a message about it on the spot. This will either allow me to meet somebody new or just experience what it’s like to work with that area of the web.

It’s all about breaking the routine that every freelancer drops into from time to time. It shouldn’t feel like your copying and pasting what you did last week for a new site and changing the name on top - it should be that your adding something to your skill set, experiencing something new and dealing with different people on a week to week basis.

2. Don’t work with people that you don’t like

There’s nothing more aggravating than working with people you don’t like. It demoralises you, makes work a chore rather than a passion and basically makes you question why you do what you do.

Always be sure to save up your money in the background and have a backlog of pay stored away. This gives you a position where you can turn down clients you aren’t sure about and pull out of deals that are making your life hell.

The last thing you want to do as a freelancer is to break a relationship with a client by pulling out of a deal. But I feel that if it’s no longer fun or interesting to work (or even aggravating to work) with that client then you should be moving on and finding work else where.

3. Know when to escape

Knowing when to take a break and when to stop working is a key part of freelancing. Otherwise we’d all be doing 12 hour days every day and just get burnt out all the time.

Take weekends off, read a book, get some DVD’s, join the gym, walk the dog, visit the local shops to get a sandwich … all of these things you can do to escape working.

(This is all of course outside of work hours and during breaks.. not to avoid working in the first place.)

4. Treat every job as if it’s your first

Don’t get comfortable with a long term client, your standard should be as high as it was when you first worked for them. The day you decided that if you did a good job on the first project there may be more in it for you. This should be how you treat every job - as if your out to impress in a job interview and need that job to survive. That hunger to impress the client and keep them happy is how you deliver consistently and how you keep that client wanting to use you in the first place.

Think about this - are clients going to refer you to a friend if a friend needs work? Are they more likely to refer an excellent freelancer, or one that delivers average results?

Of course there is a twist to this rule - we all know our first jobs weren’t the best and were possibly even sloppy. That is something you’ll have to refrain from doing with this rule of course.

5. Communicate beautifully

Spell checks and grammar checks are vital for the less than able English speakers here. I often find clients talking about how poor ex-hires were with their English and it will always be off putting when a client wants to deal with the client with long conversations about jobs.

Another important part of this rule is to put communicating with the client as a priority. If they send you an e-mail it’s not ‘I’ll do it later’, it’s ‘OK I’ll respond now’. This is any time of your day you're at the computer and this is what can set you apart from the rest. Having an instant reply or instant action towards the e-mail they’ve sent (if they want/need something doing) is always going to be something that a client likes - and it’s something that’ll win you over if your trying to impress them.

So there we have it, my golden rules of freelancing. I hope to have benefitted a few freelancers with this article.

Article kindly provided by PHP freelancer Jamie Huskisson. The original source can be found here.


21st March 2007

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