Don’t worry, this is not another boring blog post about obvious things a freelancer should or shouldn’t do. This is GOLD for any first-time freelancer and also a MUST READ for any pro freelancer because you can never know too much, right?
We’ve curated this list based on years of very varied experiences working as freelancers, speaking to freelance peers and digging into what freelancers find more overwhelming, especially during early stages.
The truth is, some freelance jobs will suck the living soul out of you and some will be the best work you’ve ever done with the best people you could ever imagine. It’s crucial to learn how to build confidence from the beginning, set clear boundaries and never doubt whether your work and skills are valuable or not (THEY ARE!).
So take a deep breath, pen and note block out, and discover the freelancing tips you wished you’d known a long time ago.
Whilst this is very basic, you can’t start empty handed and you want to have something to show to your potential clients. If you’ve done some (even very small) freelance jobs or projects, it’s important to show it and be vocal about it.
If you’re a freelancer who’s already done some big or small project before, we’d recommend you to put your work together and create a portfolio or a simple website. For that you can use tools like Squarespace, Wix, Carbonmade, Behance, or Journo Portfolio.
If you’ve got nothing to show, make sure you create a top notch CV or 'spec' projects of projects you’ve worked on personally. This will give your future clients a good idea of your thinking, vision, skills and abilities.
As part of this foundation building, you should also think about what you will charge for your services. You can do some benchmark research, ask other freelancers you might know and even use AI tools like ChatGPT to get a clear understanding of what your skills and expertise is worth.
When pitching services to clients and offering your services, we tend to list our skills and abilities, and chances are they sound very similar to many other candidates pitching to your potential client as well. Instead, try to talk about value.
When you talk about the value you provide, instead of what you do, you’ll position yourself as a premium freelancer and your work can command a premium fee.
Example: I have helped over 5 startups improve their performance, operations and productivity of their teams by 35%.
This is another topic that can overwhelm new freelancers right away. When you first start out, you’ll possibly feel unconfident and you might find yourself offering low rates, chasing and asking. This is also a disadvantage as client’s will automatically assume you’re desperate for work or even that you’re not valuable enough.
Try this mindset shift: You’re offering to bring tremendous value to your clients, not asking to be hired. The right client will see this straight away and you won’t feel like you need to beg for work.
As a freelancer (and especially as a new freelancer), you need to know your programs and pricing well enough so that you can have the price conversation in the first chat with your client without having to go away and think about it.
When you go away and think about it, that’s when you start to second-guess yourself on price. You might want to create one slide or a brief document listing your pricing, packages, hourly rate or whichever way you prefer to use to charge for your services. This is something you can share with your clients upfront or simply know it by heart so you can stick to it and share it confidently.
Yes, negotiating as a freelancer is also part of the job and rest assured that this is an art you’ll also learn to master.
If you get lucky, your clients will love and see lots of value in your pitch and proposal and they’ll accept your terms and rate straight away. On some occasions, you’ll also encounter less respectful clients who will try to devalue your services, and question your abilities in order to make you doubt and get a discount.
It might sound crazy, but many freelancers will look down and offer a fee reduction straight away only out of fear of losing the client.
We suggest only offering a discount if your client hesitates based on price and if you’re really interested in the project. But try not to do it voluntarily from the very beginning and especially not if you feel the client is pushing you too far.
Remember, new freelancers and even pro freelancers find negotiating hard and awkward, and that’s ok. But the more you do it the more confident you’ll feel and it will eventually become a more natural process.
When it comes to mistakes new freelancers make, this is very common. Even if it’s ‘not affecting’ your work, it affects your professional appearance. It might even make your client think that you’re a bit careless and unprofessional.
Don’t panic! We’re all human, and as a freelancer you’ll make some mistakes every now and then, the key is to make as few as possible.
Afloat’s invoice generator will let you create an invoice online and thanks to the autocomplete feature you’ll avoid errors in your invoice. Afloat will complete your invoices and expenses for you so that errors are avoided. All you’ll need to do is fine tune the last details and relax.
So here's one of our best tips for first-time freelancers: do not ask for your client’s budget.
As a freelancer, you’ll find yourself having price conversations with your potential clients but don’t ask about their budget. If they understand your value, then they’ll either be able to pay your fee or they’ll find a way to pay it.
If they still can’t afford you, you can consider adjusting your proposal by removing services (this is when having different packages may come in handy) but avoid devaluing your work by offering random hourly rate discounts or percentage discounts. If they still can’t afford you after that, then they’re not your client.
Another common mistake we tend to see new freelancers make is not believing in themselves and their talent. We know it might seem cheesy, but this is something that contributes to an unconscious self sabotage.
Whilst working on point number 4 (defining your pricing and packages) more than once, your mind will wonder and you might find yourself thinking “Oh, they’ll never pay that!” and reduce your fee before the client ever sees it! 🚨
This is also a mistake pro freelancers make sometimes when self doubt hits you, but hey, you’ve got this. Just propose the price you want, and let the client negotiate if they want to. That simple :)
As a freelancer, it’s also in your interest to provide clarity, simplicity and zero complications. Chances are your clients will agree to higher fees if you make it easier for them to pay them, like offering a smaller deposit or multiple payments.
You can include this when you define your pricing and packaging, and it can be extremely helpful as an alternative to discounts as well as to support clients cope with higher fees.
This is incredibly important for new freelancers and pro freelancers to keep in mind: you have to look (and be) reliable, professional and trustworthy to your clients. Always.
A common mistake first-time freelancers make is sending invoices with lots of errors. This generates a long email thread between you and your client with new and edited versions of the invoice. This could mean red flags for your client 🚩🚩🚩
Make sure you get all the necessary details from your client upfront (you can check our blog post on How to make a simple invoice here.
You can use Afloat to make professional looking invoices and quotes in minutes, free of errors and with beautiful designs. It will serve you well as the ultimate invoice template and you’ll look like a pro to your clients.