Today, anyone can set out to work as a web freelancer, but there’s a big difference between being web freelancer and being a freelance web professional. The obvious keyword is ‘professional’ and it’s ultimately what separates those who fail from those who excel. Companies, project managers, and HR teams have no shortage of options when it comes to hiring freelancers for their design and development needs, and it’s not too difficult to spot the difference between a hack and a trusted professional. So if you want to succeed as a web freelancer it’s imperative go the correct route to becoming a web professional. Start by reading our top web freelance tips.
Becoming a freelance web professional takes more than just skill and talent, you’re going to need to be committed, well organized, and patient, and on top of that you’ll need to be business smart! Working as a freelance professional you need to be more than just good at your job, you also need to have a set of standards and principles you work by, as well as developing strong communication skills.
This isn’t something you can do overnight, it’s something you need to invest time and energy into, setting high standards which you can work by. In order to get you started here are our 8 key web freelance tips to becoming a freelance web professional:
1. Web Freelance Tips – Have in demand skills
Before setting out to become a freelance web professional you need to be sure you have the skills and talents to survive. As a freelancer you live and die but what you can and can’t do , and while you won’t be expected to master ever skill of your profession, you will be expected to have a broad knowledge and produce work to certain standards.
If you don’t have a core set of skills then you are not ready to venture out on your own, which means you need to invest more time in studying, research, or gaining more experience, so you need to be aware of what skills a professional in your field is required to have.
Do your research and make a list of all the core skills needed to do every possible aspect of your job (you will also want to look at similar freelancing web professionals and see what skills they are advertising). Now compare this to what skills and experience you already have and list what key skills you have missing. A strong freelance professional will have 1 or 2 core skills which they excel at but they will also have a wide range of other skills and knowledge. If you notice there are several key skills which you do not have or are not competent at, look into doing further study in these areas. The best plan of action is to consider doing some short courses, and online lessons, to broaden you range of skills and raise your value as a freelancer.
Stack Exchange have an excellent article on the necessary skills and knowledge a freelance programmer should have. They discuss the necessity of having skills in Interface and User Experience, SEO and Analytics, and bug fixing, to name but a few.
‘The idea here is that most of us should already know most of what is on this list. But there just might be one or two items you haven’t really looked into before, don’t fully understand, or maybe never even heard of.’
Stack Exchange – What Technical Details Should a Programmer.
2. Web Freelance Tips – Do the research
There’s no fast track to success as a freelance web professional, you may be fortunate in having some strong contacts in the industry and fall into your first projects, but the first step on the path to success as a freelancer is research, which should not be avoided no matter what starting position you find yourself in. The objective of this initial research is to understand the costs, legality, and challenges which you are likely to face, and there will be many, and no one she head into the world of freelance web work without fully having a good understanding of what is expected and how to survive!
The best form of initial research is to talk to those already freelancing as web professionals. If you don’t know anyone with any experience take to your social media accounts and reach out to all your contacts. Alternatively, there are a number of great forums out there where people are happy to share their advice and tips, such as webproworld website and designerstalk website.
You’re not going to know and understand everything right away, but the more your research the better prepared you will be. Through a solid base of research into life as a freelance web professional you’ll get a good idea of whether this is currently the right career choice for you, and whether it fits your personality, goals, and lifestyle.
‘The absolute first step into any freelancing career is to do the needed research ahead of time. Freelancing is a huge life and career change, and one needs to look into exactly how it will change [your] life before diving in.’
Smashing Magazine – The Road Map to Becoming a Professional Freelance Web Designer
3. Web Freelance Tips – Create a portfolio website
It’s very hard to be taken seriously as a web professional if you don’t have a dedicated portfolio site that showcases your skills and talents, especially if you are a web designer or developer. Not only do you need to create a portfolio but you need a good once, and should invest a serious amount of time and effort to create something that is a fair reflection of what you can do.
If you don’t have the skills or confidence to create a portfolio from scratch, there’s no shame in using a portfolio hosting site as a home for your best work. Sites such as carbonmade.com and behance.com are well respected within the industry and offer help with templates and layout, leaving you to concentrate on choosing your best work.
It’s also important to get in the habit of keeping your portfolio regularly updated, not just as a way to show off your latest projects, but it also helps rank your site. You’ll find a good article on creating your first portfolio at CreativeBloq. They also preach the importance of keeping it updated with new and regular content..
‘Google loves fresh content, so a great way to improve the search ranking of your [portfolio] site is to keep it up-to-date’
Creative Bloq – Tips for a Portfolio Website
4. Web Freelance Tips – Become a brand
When creating your portfolio you should also start seeing yourself as a brand. Branding will play an important part of your professional career, and most projects you undertake will require you to understand a product as a brand, and in some cases leading the creation and development of the branding. With this in mind it’s important that you also understand that as a freelancer you are a brand, and take the right steps towards branding yourself.
Branding yourself isn’t just about choosing a style and image, and it goes beyond a personal logo and portfolio design. You need to set personal goals and future targets, while deciding on the type of projects you want to work on. Essentially it is the projects which you complete and are most proud of that will be the backbone of your brand image, and it’s important that your online image reflects this (from your portfolio and online images of yourself, down to the contant and approach you use on social media).
Personal branding is not too different from product branding and will play a key part in how you attract business and build relationships.
‘The overall goal with branding is to differentiate yourself (the product) in the market so you can attain your objectives, be those landing your dream job or becoming a famous singer. The process includes defining your brand and brand attributes, positioning your brand in a different way than your competitors and then managing all aspects of your personal brand.
Forbes.com – Personal Branding 101
5. Web Freelance Tips – Find a starting rate
There’s a certain knack to pricing your jobs and coming up with an hourly rate. This is something that you’ll develop over time, knowing how to price jobs and set your rates, but it will take time to get it right.
In order to find your starting rate you need to look at the going rate of similar professionals in your field, taking into account their experience and skills. With this info you should then set a strict scale of rates to work by. You should also take into consideration whether to price projects for the job or set an hourly rate.
The obvious temptation is to offer low rates in order to get started and land those early projects, however; just as over-pricing a job will take you out of consideration, under-pricing a job can have an equally detrimental effect, suggesting that you will rush the job, cut corners, or that your work is lacking in quality.
‘Deciding on a personal starting wage is difficult, because we never truly know how much to pay ourselves. As anyone can guess, someone just starting out in freelancing won’t be making much. A new designer just has to make sure they have basic living expenses paid, and a bit of cushion room for emergency costs or budget mishaps.’
Smashing Magazine – ‘The Road Map to Becoming a Professional Freelance Web Designer’
6. Web Freelance Tips – Prep your legal documents
It’s important to not only understand what legal documents you will need as a freelance professional, but to also have them prepared before you accept your first job.
Research all the possible documents needed and then find good templates which you can cater to each project and client. Legal documents you should seek out include Work Contracts (which should detail your legal requirements, responsibilities, and fees), Terms & Conditions (which should further detail your basic rules and requirements), and Copyright Agreement (which should be used when you wish to retain or hand over the copyright of any work you produce).
Once you know what you want, docracy.com is a very good site for searching for legal document templates.
7. Web Freelance Tips – Generating business
When it comes to attracting your first clients there’s certainly no set way to go about it. In fact, the key to finding your first freelance jobs in today’s market is to put yourself out there and explore as many avenues as possible.
There are a number of ways to get out there as a professional and try to secure your first paid jobs. Here are some first steps you should take:
- Join professional networks and advertise your services (LinkedIn is a great starting point).
- Reach out to friends and family in search of referrals and useful connections.
- Contact prospective companies to advertise your service and don’t be afraid of cold calling.
- Advertise your services on freelance boards and local classified sites.
The key to finding clients is to be persistent and adventurous, exploring all possible avenues and putting in the hours. Searching for your first job is a full time job in itself and the more you put into it the better your chances are of finding work.
Forbes.com: 5 Tips For Generating Business Leads On LinkedIn
8. Web Freelance Tips – Get organized
I’ve always been a big advocated of the importance of being organized. For me, organization is one of the core skills needed to succeed as a freelance web professional. Clients will be impressed by freelancers who show great organizational skills, and a lack of organization is often the demise and cause of failure for many unsuccessful freelancers.
The key to getting organized is to keep records of all your work and work diligently to schedules. This includes keeping daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedules, making a habit of keeping an updated calendar, using a to do list, and setting reminders to make sure you keep on top of your work and don’t miss deadlines.
To make life easier there are some really great tools out there for keeping organized. It’s worth testing out several different apps and software and try to find those which best fit your needs and lifestyles.
We recommend trying:
An excellent story boarding software and app. Fantastic for brainstorming and managing several projects at the same time.
Our favourite software and app for managing your day to day to-do list. This app is a big help in keeping on top of your many tasks, big and small.
Perfect for organizing your weeks, months, and year. Set deadlines and reminders, and sync it with all your device to make sure you don’t miss an appointment or deadline.