The Misfit’s Guide to Freelancing
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Throughout this Misfit’s Guide to Freelancing, you’ll find clickable text and images. These will take you to articles that explore the subject further. Wowsers!
What is freelancing?
Freelancing is the joy of being self-employed. You get to pick and choose clients you’d like to work with. (You probably already know this coz you’re a freelancer, or nearly one, that’s why you’re here but this is my featured snippet, y’know, for SEO.)
Taking a dive into the uncharted waters of self-employment is daunting so let this guide to freelancing be your life jacket.
Freelancing can be especially frightening if you’ve been employed for bloody ages. You swap the security of a fixed wage to never knowing if you’ll eat again.
Don’t panic, you WILL eat again! Try to recall why you chose to be your own boss in the first place (to ensure that the fish-fragranced communal kitchen remains a distant memory).
Welcome to The Buck Stops With You and other terrifying realities. Freeing yourself from the shackles of the 9 to 5 also means you can’t blame your boss when things go belly up. You now have to take full responsibility. Such fun!
Hello to filing your tax return—it’s totally lame but unavoidable (unless you’re a tax-dodging bastard). Getting to grips with Self Assessment, VAT and National Insurance contributions will become part of the new freelancer you so I hope you look good in hats because you’re about to wear a dress-up box full of them.
Being you in business.
Well, who else are you going to be? It might appear to be a stupid thing to say but hear me out.
Most of us present different versions of ourselves. The version we are will depend on our audience. For example, I bet you’re much more reserved with people you’ve only just met. (Unless you’re one of those annoyingly friendly people who chats easily with strangers.)
So how will you act in your freelancer life? Are you going to be unapologetically you or a more typically business-like version?
Calling the shots.
You’re a leader, a decision-maker.
Does that sound like you?
So many freelancers are rubbish at taking charge but if you don’t, prospects won’t take you seriously as a business owner.
A reason why freelancers are useless at taking control is because they have no boundaries. It’s not until things go south that they realise they need deal-breakers in place. Creating a set of non-negotiables should be one of your first priorities. For example, you decide how and when you work. You pick the hours and you choose how you communicate.
I get it, I sound grumpy (and that’s because I am grumpy) but I don’t care. I won’t lower my standards and I don’t think you should either. It’s no secret that I’m particular about my process. And the same can be said for the clients I work with.
You might have gone into freelancing coz you’re good at something. Maybe you’re turning a hobby into your new job—doesn’t matter, what matters is this: does anyone want what you got? Is there a need for it? If not, any efforts to flog it will be in vain.
Identifying your market and understanding where they hang out is muchos importanté. But here’s the kicker: not all those people are going to be your people. There will potentially be lots of frogs to kiss before you find your prince charming. In those cases, it’s imperative you stick to your guns when it comes to boundaries.
Your awful client persona.
Think of this as your prospect boogeyman.
Before you get giddy about your ideal client persona (the person you want to do business with) get a clear image of the person you do NOT want to do business with. Write down their shit attributes and add them to your business boundaries and non-negotiables.
If you’re not confident in your abilities, you’re much more likely to attract (and be manipulated by) douchebag clients. For me, a crappy client has the following characteristics:
- Fails to supply info
- Changes project scope
- Thinks freelancers are employees
- Never satisfied
And there are many more I could add.
These types of prospects are not worth the headache. Give those buggers an inch and they’ll take a mile, your soul, and any sense of self-respect you ever had. But be prepared to encounter such people, freelancers attract them. The key is to avoid working with them.
I’ve never worked with god-awful clients.
I’ve had a couple of mediocre ones, and yeah, plenty of prospects wasted my time at the start of freelancing. I recall the endless games of email tennis and the pick-your-brains phone calls that didn’t lead anywhere. But luckily I didn’t have the misfortune of working with these time-wasters. I flatly refused one guy because he wouldn’t trust the process (my process). As for the others, they eventually realised I wasn’t the content person for them.
No one likes their time being wasted.
My process saves me some. It also speeds things up for the prospect. My marketing helps to actively repel the people that I’m not going to play nice with. That’s what I call emitting the right kind of client-attracting pheromone.
WARNING: There are also potential clients that, on the face of it, seem ideal. They blow smoke up your arse and say you’re the perfect fit for them. That’s nearly always utter bollocks.
Your perfect client persona.
Now you can start thinking nice thoughts. All those qualities you want in your perfect business person. Maybe write a pretend Tinder profile for them (no, I’m not kidding). This will help you discover what you most desire in a client.
Working for free.
I can save you time reading this section by saying this: don’t work for free.
But if you need me to qualify that statement, well, ok, stick around.
I don’t beg but on this occasion, I’ll break a principle and beg you NOT to fall into the trap of offering your services for nada. Nothing diminishes your talent/expertise more than saying to someone, “what I do ain’t worth paying for.”
Also, accepting the ‘offer’ of free work (a literal oxymoron) will NOT bring forth legitimate (paid) work. It is a lie, a myth cooked up by unscrupulous people who only seek to take advantage of your good nature.
If you’re a woman, I urge you to be especially cautious about performing free work, because, dear, you probably do enough of that shit already.
Charging for services.
This is the tricky bit innit, I mean, you don’t want to scare people off but then you don’t want to be barely breaking even…
Ignore that last paragraph, it’s bullshit.
Straight off the bat, you need to remove all emotion when it comes to cash. Thinking about money dispassionately will help you understand that your main priority is to run a viable business, and that’s a business that makes an actual profit.
You absolutely want to scare people off with your pricing. Unless your unique selling proposition (USP) is ‘cheap as chips’, actively discourage the price buyers. Those cheapskates only care about the cost, they’re blinkered to anything else about your offering.
Running a business is expensive. Those expenses will include things like this:
- Boozy business lunches
It all adds up doesn’t it and that’s just a quick list.
We have different financial business burdens to consider and that’s before you factor in your skill and expertise. (So think on before you offer the lowest price.)
That brings me nicely to a thing called positioning. You can position your product or service based on things like this:
- Price (budget/middle-of-the-road/high-end)
- Lifestyle (selling a way of life)
- Characteristics (stuff a product can do)
- Prestige (luxury/exclusivity)
There’s also a thing called premier positioning which means being the market leader of a product or service.
You might long to be the go-to business for that thing you sell but that isn’t always possible. In my freelance career, I could never hope to become the market leader. SEO is dominated by giants of the industry—there’s no way I can compete with Neil Patel, Semrush and Ahrefs. I’m a one-woman show, not a huge corporation. Not only that, SEO is a broad profession with lots of specialisms (it takes a village to boost traffic).
So what is even the point of me?
Well, perhaps I could be the market leader within a smaller market. I don’t have to be the big fish in the big pond but rather the shark in a child’s paddling pool.
I could also choose to focus on a particular thing within my industry, let’s say I could demystify SEO for business owners who struggle to understand it. Yeah, that sounds good.
And whilst I’m at it, why not convey all this in a style unlike any other SEO content writer? A style that makes it fun and interesting, yes, that’s a brilliant idea.
And how do I know my business blurb is unlike any other SEO content writer? Because when I google ‘SEO content writer’ (and also ‘content writer’) the results that land on the first page all sound the same: ie not like me.
This sounds suspiciously like niching, oh, hold up…
Freelancers love to talk about niching.
If you’ve read any guide to freelancing, you’ve probably already heard about it. Some folks love to niche down whilst others will give up their generalist title when you pry it from their cold dead hands.
It all comes down to perception.
Working within a niche can mean literally ANYTHING. It isn’t just about the industry you choose to make your money from. I’ll say that again, It isn’t just about the industry you choose to make your money from.
The big question is this: who’s your target market? Because friend, it simply will NOT be everyone.
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I’m a freelance business content writer at The Sarky Type®. My thang is SEO-informed blurb that sets your words on fire (ablaze with LOLs and engagement not to be confused with real fire that destroys everything in sight. Metaphors are better when they don’t require explanation. Note to self).