Tips and tricks for freelancers: how to become a freelancer and grow as a freelancer

As a part-time freelancer myself, I spend a good chunk of my week thinking about how to grow my freelance business. This doesn’t just mean just growing its income (although that’s always nice when it happens), it also means improving the infrastructure and systems that enable me to run all of its different parts.

If you’re just starting out on your journey as a freelancer, congratulations on taking the first step toward independence and flexibility! Freelancing can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice, but it also requires careful planning and strategic decisions.

Being your own boss is great for a bajillion reasons, but it also means that you are taking on the responsibility for the entire shebang: marketing and sales, bookkeeping, contracting, admin, website maintenance, content creation, and service offering. All of this is on you! So, in this article, I am laying out my best advice for how to grow your freelance business in a way that is achievable and sustainable.

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links below and I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post, but these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t put anything on this page that I haven’t verified and/or personally used.

What is a Freelancer? 

Before diving into the practical tips, let’s clarify what a freelancer is. A freelancer is a self-employed professional who offers services to clients on a project-by-project basis. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to choose your clients, projects, and work hours. If you want to groe your freelance business, you should be fully aware of what a being a freelancer entails, and the advantages and disadvantages of this way of working.

Pros of Being a Freelancer

  1. Flexibility: freelancers have the freedom to set their own work hours, choose their projects, and work from anywhere they choose. This flexibility allows for a better work-life balance (if you stick to a routine and don’t overbook yourself with work!) and the ability to pursue personal interests alongside work commitments.
  2. Independence: freelancers have the opportunity to manage themselves and their work. They can make decisions about the type of work they want to take on, the clients they want to work with, and the direction of their business.
  3. Variety of Work: freelancing offers the chance to work on a diverse range of projects and with different clients. This variety keeps the work fresh and exciting, allowing freelancers to continuously learn and develop their skills and choose which projects to work on.
  4. Potential for Higher Earnings: as a freelancer, you have the potential to earn more compared to traditional employment, if you think carefully about your income model and streams of income. You can set your own rates based on your skills, expertise, and the value you provide to clients. With experience and a strong reputation, freelancers can command higher rates and increase their earning potential.
  5. Professional Growth: freelancing provides ample opportunities for professional growth. You are responsible for managing your own career and can choose to pursue projects and clients that align with your professional goals. This allows you to expand your skillset, explore new industries, and develop expertise in specific areas.

Cons of Being a Freelancer

  1. Irregular Income: freelancers often face the challenge of inconsistent income, especially at the beginning of their career, before they are fully established in their sector. For some freelancers in specific sectors, income volatility can be a lifelong challenge. Projects can be sporadic, and there may be periods when your income may take a nosedive. It’s important to budget and plan accordingly to manage cash flow during lean times.
  2. Lack of Benefits: unlike traditional employment, freelancers do not typically receive benefits such as health insurance, sick leave, pension and national insurance contributions, or holiday pay. It’s crucial to factor in these costs when determining your rates and to make provisions for your own time off and retirement savings. Freelancers also don’t benefit from the mentoring and coaching a line manager usually provides, and they don’t have an HR department to report to if they are treated unfairly by a client.
  3. Self-Employment Taxes: contrary to employees, whose taxes are paid at source and receive their salaries net of any taxes owed, freelancers are responsible for paying self-employment taxes, which involves having to file a Self Assessment every year. It’s important to keep track of your earnings and expenses, and consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance with tax obligations.
  4. Client Acquisition and Marketing: as a freelancer, you are responsible for finding and securing clients. This requires marketing your services, building a strong professional network, maintaining relationships with your peers, and consistently promoting yourself. It can be time-consuming and challenging, especially in the early stages of your freelance career when you are still figuring out how you work and who your target clientele is.
  5. Workload and Time Management: balancing multiple projects, deadlines, and client expectations can be demanding. Freelancers often juggle several projects simultaneously, which requires effective time management, organization, and the ability to prioritize tasks.
how to become a freelancer

10 Tips for Freelance Beginners: How to Grow Your Freelance Business

1. Register as Self Employed with HMRC 

As a freelancer, it’s important to register yourself as self-employed with HMRC. Registering as self-employed ensures you comply with tax obligations and allows you to submit your tax return. 

If this is your first year earning an income as a freelancer, you should register as Self Employed as soon as you can: it takes a few weeks to receive your UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference) from HMRC once you register, and you need this in order to submit your Self Assessment. Don’t leave this to the last minute!

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2. Set up a Proper Bookkeeping system

You won’t be able to stay on top of your finances if you don’t create a proper finance system to keep your books tidy. This includes keeping all invoices and receipts of your business expenses, raising and chasing sales invoices, and tracking your actual spend by category. These are tasks that, if scheduled and resolved every few weeks, will help you build a robust infrastructure that will help you track and project your sales and expenses.

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3. Identify Your Business Model

In a nutshell, a Business Model is the structure you put in place to earn your income and make a profit. If you are serious about growing your freelance business, you should spend some time thinking about how you will sustainably make sales and achieve your target turnover.

There are a few examples of business models you can consider as a freelancer:

  • Hourly Rate Model: in this business model, freelancers charge clients an hourly rate for their services. The rate is typically based on factors such as their expertise, experience, and the market rates for similar services. Clients pay for the actual time spent on the project, and freelancers provide detailed time tracking and invoicing.

I usually discourage freelancers from adopting an hourly rate model, unless the service they offer is shift-based. For example: a freelance barman who is called to cover a bar shift should quote their price hourly, as that’s the unit of work they are being paid for. However, a graphic designer should refrain from doing the same, as what they are selling isn’t their own time – rather, they are selling a service with a specific output. The time they take to produce their output is just one of many factors to consider when pricing their service.

  • Project-Based Model: in the project-based business model, freelancers charge clients a fixed fee for completing a specific project. The fee is determined based on factors such as the scope of work, complexity, and estimated time required. This model provides clients with a clear understanding of the project cost upfront and allows freelancers to focus on delivering results rather than tracking hours. For example: a freelance web designer charges a company £2,000 for building them a new website, regardless of whether it takes them 2 days or two weeks to do so.
  • Retainer Model: in the retainer model, freelancers establish an ongoing agreement with clients to provide a set number of hours or services each month. Clients pay a monthly retainer fee to secure a certain amount of the freelancer’s time and expertise. This model offers stability and predictable income for freelancers while providing clients with consistent access to their services. It is a good model to adopt if the level of service that is expected doesn’t change month to month. For example: a freelance bookkeeper charges a fixed £450 per month to run payroll, and process all invoices and bank renconciliations.
  • Value-Based Pricing Model: in a value-based pricing model, freelancers set their rates based on the value they bring to the client’s business or project. The pricing is determined by the desired outcomes, the impact on the client’s bottom line, the cost of inaction, or the potential value the freelancer’s services can generate. This model requires a deep understanding of the client’s goals and the ability to communicate and quantify the value of the freelancer’s work.
  • Subscription Model: in this model, freelancers offer their services on a subscription basis, where clients pay a recurring fee to access a specific set of services or benefits. For example, a freelance artist designer may offer a monthly subscription that includes a set number of designs or tutorials. This model provides clients with ongoing support and allows freelancers to establish long-term relationships with a predictable revenue stream.

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4. Create a Budget 

Friends, if you have been exploring my content at all, you will know how much I harp on budget creation. The budget is the DNA of your business: it shows how you intend to spend your resources, and your plan for how to make your business financially sustainable. You need to plan for all of this if you want to grow your freelance business

Predict your Expenses

When creating a budget for your freelance business, it’s important to consider various expenses and financial obligations. Here is a list of items that freelancers should include in their freelance business budget:

  • Operational Expenses (rent, utilities, office supplier, memberships and subscriptions, insurance)
  • Direct Costs (costs of materials, transaction costs, subcontractors or collaborator fees)
  • Marketing and Advertising (website hosting and development, advertising, graphic design, networking events)
  • Taxes and Accounting (bookkeeping services, accounts filing costs, accounting software)
  • Professional Development (training courses, workshops, conferences, books, certifications)
  • Travel and Transportation (business-related travel, parking fees, local transport costs)
  • Contingency Fund (emergency savings, investment reserves for new equipment or technology)

Set your Sales target

Based on how much your business is set to spend, you should set your sales target, and work out a way to get there within the financial year. 

This includes creating a pricing model, and drawing up a strategy to reach more clients and sell more of your products or services.

grow your freelancer business

5. Create a Self-Hosted Website 

Having a professional website is essential for establishing an online presence and attracting clients. You can’t grow your freelance business without your own website to share your work on. Your website should showcase your services, portfolio, testimonials, and contact information. Invest time in creating a visually appealing and user-friendly website that reflects your brand and expertise.

It is quite important that your website is self-hosted: this means that you own the virtual space where your website sits. It is the equivalent of owning the land on which you build your house: no one can take it away from you, and you own everything you put on it.

I recommend getting SiteGround hosting: that’s the hosting platform I currently use for this website, and it’s been working great for me. Their customer service is excellent, and it is absolutely affordable by people who are just starting out.

6. Set up a Weekly Workflow

Creating a structured routine and workflow can help you maintain productivity and balance in your freelance life. Set specific work hours, allocate time for client communication, project management, marketing, and personal development. A routine will keep you organized, help you meet deadlines, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

My work routine and productivity completely changed for the better when I decided to invest in Mix Brox’s course called Dream Plan Do: it is one of the best investments I’ve made for myself. Dream Plan Do teaches you how to run your business through a free app called Clickup, which is a project management app whose tagline is: One App to Replace Them All. If you Like Asana, or Trello, or, you will adore Clickup.

I took this course because I have never been as busy as I am now: I am juggling a part-time job where I am employed, my freelance business as a Finance Manager/Bookkeeper, and my content creation strategy, which sees me planning blog posts, digital products, and online courses for my audience.

Dream Plan Do gave me a structure to organise all of my tasks, goals, and to-dos on Clickup, and helped me devise a routine so that I would always know what to work on next without that dreaded sense of overwhelm and to-do paralysis. It is more than just a step-by-step tutorial: it feels more like an online consultancy and coaching done by a friendly and reassuring expert. It will help you restructure how you organise your workflow and how you keep track of all the different projects and clients you are dealing with. I loved it, and continue to refer back to it as my business changes and develops.

It also definitely doesn’t hurt that Mia is a sweetheart, and her courses are an absolute delight. I highly recommend investing in Dream Plan Do if you have a hard time organising your work week and keeping on top of your duties as a freelancer. 

  • Dream Plan Do Mia Box
  • Dream Plan Do Course

7. Learn When to Say No 

One of the challenges that freelancers face is the temptation to take on every project that comes their way. However, it’s important to learn when to say no. Taking on too much work can lead to burnout, compromise the quality of your work, and hinder your ability to grow your freelance business. 

Assess each opportunity carefully, considering factors such as project scope, timeline, and whether it aligns with your expertise and values. Don’t be afraid to decline projects that aren’t the right fit for you.

8. Network with Peers from Your Industry 

Building a strong professional network is invaluable if you want to grow your freelance business. Connect with other freelancers and professionals in your industry through online communities, social media platforms, and industry events. Networking not only opens doors to potential collaborations and referrals but also provides opportunities to learn from others, share experiences, and stay updated with industry trends.

9. Collect Client References 

Positive client references and testimonials can significantly boost your credibility and attract new clients. Whenever you complete a project, request feedback from your clients and ask if they would be willing to provide a testimonial. Display these testimonials on your website and portfolio to showcase the value you have delivered to previous clients.

10. Invest in Your Development 

Continual learning and professional development are essential to grow your freelancer business. Stay updated with industry trends, enhance your skills, and explore new tools and technologies relevant to your field. Invest in courses, workshops, conferences, and online resources that can expand your knowledge and help you offer even greater value to your clients.

Conclusion on how to grow your freelance business

To grow your freelancer business requires dedication, perseverance, and strategic decision-making. By following these tips, you can set a strong foundation for your freelance career. Remember, success may not come overnight, but with consistent effort, a focus on delivering quality work, and building meaningful relationships, you can thrive as a freelancer. Embrace the freedom, take calculated risks, and enjoy the journey of growing your freelance business.

Good luck on your freelance journey!

This article was all about how to grow your freelance business and how to become a freelancer

About the author : Susie Italiano

how to grow your freelancer business
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