The Craft guide to going freelance

So, you’ve decided to become a freelancer… As a young business, we understand the courage needed to start your own independent career plans. Whether you’ve already handed in your notice, or it’s just something you have plans for in the future, it’s beneficial to have a strategy in place. We have compiled our best tips, tools, and techniques for securing your place in a lucrative market.

Personal brand

As a designer or developer, you will already know the importance of an impressive portfolio to showcase the work you can produce – contracts are signed and relationships built on the evidence of your case studies, so this is a vital asset.

Of course, the best way to do this is to brand yourself, and create a website which shows off your work. However – it’s easy to spend too much time at this stage on crafting a personal identity, when you could be missing out on valuable work and growing your freelance network.

If your offering isn’t within graphic design, find a freelance designer locally who can create your identity – making connections at this early stage might mean you can recommend each other for work later down the line!

As for the website, keep things simple, especially if you haven’t built a website before – simply invest in a portfolio site without any external branding on it, and make sure the focus is on your work. It’s also a good idea to have a simple PDF portfolio of your work to hand, as a lot of potential clients might ask for it in this format. Make sure there is a simple narrative of the project on each page, as the nature of freelance can mean there isn’t time to talk people through your work. Keep these up to date.

Get yourself on relevant social media channels to ensure your presence is felt where potential clients are active – you could become known for having an awesome Instagram account, or a lively Twitter feed, full of relevant content.

Network

When starting to create a positive reputation for your freelance offering, creating a network of potential clients is pivotal. Begin by striking up a conversation with a trusted recruiter in your area, like Craft. That way, freelance enquiries will come to you, while you’re also actively drumming up business.

Remember that work doesn’t just come in from one avenue – we know people who have introduced themselves to clients at events, through friends, or even on train journeys. Because of this, it’s beneficial to get yourself out there – making connections, not necessarily ‘selling’ but naturally building your network. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, consider going to informal networking events to get the ball rolling without pressure. 

Have a think about who you already know in the business – drop people a line to let them know that you are going freelance, and that you would love to work with them again in this capacity. With this in mind, make sure you don’t burn bridges when you leave your job – word can spread quickly within the design industry and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation.

Enjoy getting to know clients, and say yes to things! A lot about this transition can be daunting – but by trying different approaches and skills, you will learn what works for you, and embrace the freedom freelancing gives you.

Admin and finance

If you have come from an established agency background, this could be something you’re not used to – pricing yourself and discussing finances might be a professional hurdle you need to nail, but it’s a vital skill.

Price yourself competitively, making sure you don’t price yourself out of the market early on – this could cut off opportunities way too early. Remember, people are much more accepting of a price increase if they already trust the service you offer. If possible, speak to others in the industry about what they charge for their work, or how much they expect to pay a similar freelancer.

Be aware that payment can take time, and can be unexpectedly delayed – it can be 30 – 45 days (or more!) before you get paid. To help this, consider invoicing your client weekly rather than monthly, even if you have a long-term contract in place. Make sure you have a plan in place personally to ensure you can weather these irregular payments. Alternatively, work through a recruitment agency such as Craft, which generally means a quicker payment turnaround.

Make sure your timesheets are spot-on by using an app such as Hours on your phone.

We would advise using a tool which simplifies contracts and streamlines invoicing and payment, such as Bonsai. This means you need to have less of those awkward conversations about money, and make sure your focus is on your craft. 

Be flexible

As if you were starting a new job, make sure you are flexible, especially in the early days when you are building a reputation. Go the extra mile for your clients – work a little over agreed times in order to impress and it will be remembered.

Bear in mind that most agencies will want you to work on-site – just make sure you’re a friendly face in the studio, and we’re sure you’ll be invited back! If you’re looking for an established agency to help find you digital and creative freelance work in Leeds and Yorkshire, you know where we are.

>