How to Work Smarter Not Harder
When I first started freelancing, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. At first, it was fun flying by the seat of my pants. But pretty quickly it became clear to me that I needed a better game plan if I wanted to sustain my income and stay engaged in this newfound career. Since I’ve already been a freelance marketer for three years, I thought it was high time for me to share my do’s and don’ts of being a freelance marketer.
Tip #1 - Decide your freelance marketing niche
As marketers, we are viewed as the swiss army knives of the professional world. Because of that, so many times clients have unrealistic expectations as to what you can do. Knowing your niche inside and out is better than agreeing to everything asked by a client. And with that being said, don’t be afraid to say, “that’s outside of my wheelhouse” or “I’ll get back to you”, and then enlist the help of a trusted colleague (by tacking on an additional fee to your payment to cover the cost of that help).
Tip #2 - Market yourself armed with a plan
Create a content calendar and strategy before you kick off your marketing efforts for yourself. I got so excited to start working for myself that I didn’t allow myself time to really plan. I knew that the perfectionist in me would never allow me to just begin. So I ripped the bandaid and dove in headfirst on Instagram and Facebook without more than just a couple of weeks of content planned out. Bad idea! If I can bestow anything to you, it would be to create a content calendar for at least a month, batch all your content creation in the month leading up to your launch, and schedule those posts so you can move on.
"Either you run the day, or the day runs you." - Jim Rohn
Tip #3 - Research your pricing
Do your research on pricing ahead of time. When I kicked off my freelance career I knew what the average rate was for my niche, years of experience, and the nature of the projects I’d be working on. But I also know that not everyone has that luxury. One really great way to gauge what you should be charging is by asking in Facebook groups geared towards marketers and freelance marketers. You can also dig around in your local area as part of your research into competitors. Pricing can be broken down by hourly, flat fee by project, a flat fee monthly retainer, or commission/bonus.
Some words of wisdom on pricing for freelance marketers:
Hourly: If you are going to charge an hourly fee, don’t forget to include a little bit of padding to account for your taxes. Since you’re freelancing, you are in charge of your own taxes.
Flat Fee by Project: This can be beneficial if your rates are on the higher side. You can ask for a percentage at the beginning of the project and the remainder at the end of the project.
Flat Fee Monthly Retainer: There are pros and cons to charging clients this way. The biggest pro is that you’ll be able to budget your income to match up with your bills better. The biggest con is that you are at your client’s beck and call sometimes unless you spell out those boundaries ahead of time. I always list my office hours in my contracts and add a disclaimer for emergencies. If it falls out of the scope of work that I do regularly for them, I let them know it’ll be an additional X amount per hour of work.
Commission/Bonus: This can be helpful as an incentive to get the work done. If your client is paying you $1000 for X amount of quality leads generated, you are going to work even harder.
My biggest suggestion though since you are just starting out is to go hourly and move your way into flat-fee monthly retainers as you build trust with your clients.
Tip #4 - Set Your Schedule
Creating a consistent schedule for yourself (even if you keep it loose), it’ll help you ensure that you meet your deadlines and allow for flexibility in your day-to-day. Knowing ahead of time how much time it will take for each of your tasks will also be helpful when creating that schedule. It can also help you keep working hours to present to your clients as boundaries. For example, I will work Monday-Thursday 10:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M., Friday 9:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M. I tell my clients they can reach me via cell phone between those hours. Anything that is not an emergency outside of those hours can be communicated via email. This also allows you to shut your brain off and live your life with more ease.
Tip #5 - Save that money!
It is going to be extremely important that you save around 40% of your income for taxes, subscriptions, memberships, licenses, etc. for your business. Additionally, save a little bit for retirement, rainy days, etc. so that you aren’t shooting yourself in the foot down the road. If you get sick or need to take a personal day but you work hourly, shifting client work a bit may not be feasible if you are relying on every single penny you earn. If you can, stow away a little bit each week to account for those types of days. You’re human, you’re going to need it.
Tip #6 - Teamwork makes the dream work
Don’t be afraid to enlist help. Outsourcing to other fellow freelance marketers can be such a huge help! Not only are you able to ask for more money when establishing a new client, but you are creating a team where you are leading the strategy and helping another freelancer out. As a freelancer, we often feel pressure to wear all the hats. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I didn’t learn this until I was almost two years into being a freelance marketer. Once I did though, it was so much easier to juggle projects and only work on the parts that I really loved.
Tip #7 - Avoid burnout
Sometimes because we are trying to juggle multiple projects at once, we get lost in our work and forget that we are human. Some ways you can prevent burnout are:
Listen to your body - rest when you need rest.
Pad your schedule with breaks - switch gears to other tasks or take a walk
Make sure you get proper rest/sleep, eat healthy, nutritious foods, get exercise, and drink water. You no longer have a water cooler to take a walk to or a cubicle friend to go and talk with. Taking care of your body is going to help make freelance marketing that much better.
Have fun - No one is going to stop you from wearing a silly hat while you type, or if you decide to work from a park or a beach. You get to decide how you want to spend your working hours.
I am sure there is an even bigger exhaustive list out there of what to do or not to do, but I think after spending so much of my working life as a freelancer, these are the most important parts. The rest will fall into place once you get your rhythm going. Too often we freelance marketers jump in headfirst without even realizing that we could use a few pointers now and then. We tend to be the most strong-willed, enthusiastic people, but also the same people who hit imposter syndrome, burnout, and dead ends. We fall victim to feeling as if we need to step away from this work that we have fallen in love with because of those pitfalls. When in reality, there are smarter ways to work and approach our work.
If you would like some time management tips, head to 3 Simple Time Management Tools to Help You In One Day!