7 Creative Freelance Business Tips

Advice for Operating and Growing a Successful Freelance Business

Running a freelance business can be challenging, particularly if you have never had to deal with invoicing, follow-ups or contracts before. These tips and resources may help you feel less overwhelmed in your freelance career.

The business side of freelancing is something that can be easily taken for granted. Finding freelance clients and understanding what to charge is important, but there is much more to the business of operating as a freelancer. Being able to have proper communication with your clients and systems in place for capturing and documenting funds are just as crucial to your success. Using the following 7 key creative freelance business tips to maximize your opportunities and keep your clients happy.

  1. Set Up a Standard Creative Brief
  2. Use Skype to Contact Clients Face to Face
  3. Capture Money Upfront and Use Invoicing Software
  4. Utilize Contracts to Protect Yourself
  5. Work with Other Freelancers
  6. Network to Gain Referral Business
  7. Have System for Client Follow Ups

1. Set Up a Standard Creative Brief

Having a standard creative brief for starting new client projects is going to save you a lot of frustration in the long term. Many clients may not understand how to communicate their needs and goals to you. They also may not grasp what information you need from them to get started on a project. Having a standard creative brief (and a few basic questions you ask when they engage you), will help ensure that you have what you need and avoid confusion. Clarity of communication is essential to manage expectations on both sides.

7 Tips for Your Freelance Business

2. Use Skype to Have Face Time with Clients

There is something to be said for being able to look someone in the eye when you do business. With freelance landscape growing and creating more opportunities to work remotely, many freelancers take client anxiety about working with a stranger for granted. When you are not a local hire, doing everything you can to ease a client’s anxiety about working with you is essential.

Skype is a great way to help clients feel comfortable and to be able to communicate with them more effectively. You can screen share and explain things to them in real time, and there are several apps that allow you to record a Skype call (with permission) so that you can reference the information accurately later. Skype also allows you to share links with clients in the chat section.

3. Capture a Deposit Upfront from Your Clients and Use Invoicing Software

When it comes to capturing money, many creatives become uncomfortable. Initially requesting a deposit to begin work on a project makes sense for both parties and helps set appropriate expectations. This also protects you as a creative, while keeping you accountable to the client. Using invoicing software like Freshbooks or Quickbooks can help you keep track of payments and expenses, and have a paper trail should payment be disputed with a client at any point.

7 Tips for Your Freelance Business

4. Protect Yourself and Your Work with Contracts

Contracts can feel intimidating, but they are the best way to protect yourself and your work. If contracts are something you struggle with, or you don’t have the funds to acquire a lawyer to draft a contract, consider using Docracy or HelloBonsai for free. If you want to acquire freelance contracts on a budget, consider utilizing LegalZoom.

In your contracts be sure to include information about the rights usage, and how it only transfers to the client after final payment is made. This creates an incentive for clients to take a project to completion.

5. Work with Other Freelancers

Sometimes a project may be too much to take on alone. Rather than turning away work (or overwhelming yourself), consider enlisting some additional help by collaborating with other creatives. You should cultivate good relationships with other freelancers, rather than viewing them purely as competition. This puts you in a position to refer clients that may have projects outside of your comfort zone, or to build a team to take on much larger projects and more prestigious clients with higher budgets.

7 Tips for Your Freelance Business

6. Network to Acquire Referral Business

Many freelancers prefer to work in isolation and underestimate the power of networking. Having a strong a strong network means that you are in a position to get referrals and introductions to future clients. This is what helps freelancers avoid the “feast or famine” scenario.

Networking is also going to be a more practical method to grow your business than paid advertising, since it allows you to narrow in on your ideal clients, sometimes with no upfront cost.

7. Have a System for Follow-ups

Following up with clients is important for maintaining a healthy relationship and making sure that nothing has been left undone. Client follow-up is also one of the best ways to ensure you get referral business and more opportunities to work with those clients in the future.

Consider setting follow up reminders using your email system or CRM Software (Customer Relationship Management) like Capsule or Sugar CRM.

7 Tips for Your Freelance Business

There are also low-tech alternatives, such as notepads and sticky notes, but be sure to keep your files organized!

Final Thoughts on Freelancing

Being a freelancer presents certain challenges. Putting the appropriate level of thought into how you operate the business, is just as important as thought put into the creative work itself.

Positioning yourself for success means having the right tools and systems conduct your day-to-day business, and knowing how to maintain client relationships. If you consistently keep these things in mind, you will find that you enjoy your work more and avoid frustrations that create barriers to creativity.

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Posted on: June 10, 2016

Roberto Blake

Roberto Blake is a Graphic Designer helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses improve their branding and presentations. Roberto also teaches Graphic Design and Adobe Tutorials through his YouTube channel and community. Roberto's Photoshop artwork has been featured in publications such as Advanced Photoshop and Photoshop Creative Magazine. See robertoblake.com

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