Whether you are contemplating enrolling in college, actively working towards your degree, or already employed in your field, accepting freelance projects can be a great way to gain experience and build your portfolio while earning a bit of extra cash. As you consider taking on freelance clients, through local contacts, Craigslist, or more formal sites such as Upwork, there are four important rules that can ensure your freelancing experiences pay off for both you and your client.
Before taking on clients make sure to build a full, easily accessible portfolio of work you have done in the past. Potential clients that review your work and maintain their interest in your services are easy to work with because you are both on the same page about what they can expect in your finished product. Don’t include the semester long project that your mentor held your hand to complete unless you include a caveat explaining the circumstances surrounding its creation. The items in your portfolio should include clear descriptions and should always note the number of hours it took you to complete them. Including a variety of items can show clients that you are creative and able to handle a wide range of projects.
Don’t Embellish Your Skills
Being confident in your abilities is key in recruiting paying clients, but nothing can cause a freelance relationship to crash and burn quite like overpromising. As long as the amount you are charging corresponds with your ability level, there should be no reason to tell a client that you are able to do something that you can’t do. The internet is full of tutorials and YouTube is a treasure chest of learning, but you shouldn’t ride the learning curve on someone else’s dime. Of course, it is never inappropriate to ask a client if they are willing to allow you some creative freedom to experiment with techniques that may enhance your finished product. Offering these “learning hours” at a reduced rate may pay off for you and your client.
Only Agree to Do What You Are Willing to Do
The excitement that comes with attention from potential paying clients, especially early-on in your freelancing career, can lead you into one of the biggest traps out there- agreeing to do work you are not willing to do. You have to be realistic with the value of your time. A few hundred dollars may sound like a great payday, but if the amount of time and effort it will take you to earn the money isn’t worth it, you will find yourself burnt out. Even worse, you may be unable or unwilling to complete a job, which will hurt your reputation with future clients. Take a close look at your schedule, your interest in the proposed project, and how long it will take you to complete it before you agree to get it done.
Communication is Key
As with any working relationship, communication is key. Be available for your clients as much as possible. If you work or attend school full-time, don’t go into radio silence mode for the full business day. Find time between classes or at lunch to quickly check for messages from your clients. Even if you don’t have time to respond with a full answer, a quick message touching base with your client that includes an estimate of when you will be able to address their issue can put even the most high maintenance client’s mind at ease.