First Time Freelancers Guide
For the context of this guide, I’ll be writing this from the perspective of a freelance designer. Almost all of it should be applicable to any kind of contract work. There are probably plenty of things I’m missing but for the sake of simplicity I’ve attempted to focus on the big things that sometimes get overlooked or seem overly confusing.
so, two major approaches. charging per project vs charging by time. the arguments are charging by project leaves you open to scope creep and working for free, you have to be really strict about number of revisions, etc.
The argument against charging by the hour tends to be things like clients are afraid that you’ll drag the project along and if it’s not a set price it’s harder to sell since the client doesn’t know what they’re paying upfront.
I would strongly recommend charging by the hour, especially if you’re just starting out. this lets you make sure both parties are taken care of and allows you to control a single metric for what’s making people turn away and what # should be going up/down. it also lets you estimate projects. you can ask yourself, “last time I did something like this it took me about two weeks working full time. at 80hrs, that is $X for the project estimate” boom you have a number you can sell.
i’d suggest #1. however long you think something will take, multiply by 1.2–2x the time depending on how confident you are. even if you know how long something will take, estimate 1.2x the amount. #2. don’t use clean numbers when you estimate, those numbers never look trustworthy. the difference between an $8000 quote and $8172.50 is huge. and #3. you should be charging high enough that at least 1–2/5 potential clients are turning you away because you’re charging too high.
there is no metric for how much x years experience is worth. Your time is worth the most people are willing to spend.
you’re gonna need a unified place where people can see the work you’ve done/can do. they need to simultaneously be informed and sold on your business being right for their business. a few case studies will go along way. I can try to find a few good examples.
(my portfolio is good in that you can see my work in one place and know how to contact me but it doesn’t show my process or what someone can expect when they hire me so it’s still 👎🏼)
but basically 1. what do I get after I finish paying him. 2. what does the process look like to get from a to z. 3. what does the process look like on my end as a client. 4. what have other people said about him. 5. how do I get in touch.
those 5 questions should be answered I think.
have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract. have a contract.
nail down your workflow from the point someone says “I am ready to hire you” and when that final invoice is paid. document it for yourself. something like, free consultation call, contract with accompanying scope of work document that dictates specifically what you’ve been asked for and what the final deliverable will be (include when and in what format).
have a common invoicing schedule. what’s common is once at project start (and/or once at a midpoint defined by the scope of work) and then once right before the final deliverable is given.
and here is really the worst news: having a website that answers those questions is a requirement for 99% of freelancers. but it won’t really get you work.
platforms like dribbble and working not working can help, and there are a lot out there. the best work you’re going to get is when you network with people and try to catch spillover. Other freelancers turning down work and giving it to others, knowing a person who knows a person.
thats how I kept the lights on in the past.
not always the case, but I’d say actively networking will be where 50–80% of your work will come from and probably 95% of your best clients.
Resources & Final Thoughts
Freelance is hard, but not in the sense that like it’s hard to do, it’s just a lot of emotional labor. You’re going to go through bouts where finding work seems impossible, especially at first. Then you’re going to hit these sprints where you have to turn work away because you don’t have time and then you’ll hit another dry spell and feel like an imposter all over again.
everyone goes through it. talk to people, vent, take care of yourself, and dont stop networking.