Top Freelancing Tips for Success in 2024

Top Freelancing Tips for Success in 2024

If you’re considering branching out into freelancing, you’re not alone. In 2023, freelancers contributed $1.27 trillion to the U.S. economy, a $50 billion boost from the previous year.

As remote work becomes increasingly common, the number of new freelancers is expected to rise in the coming years. One recently released study predicted that by 2027, freelancers will make up over half of the U.S. workforce.

Some beginners start freelancing part time to supplement a traditional full-time job. Others start their own freelance business and leave their day job in the rearview mirror.

Regardless of which is the case for you, don’t be alarmed if the idea of striking out on your own initially feels intimidating. We’ve compiled a collection of 22 tips to help guide you along the path to freelancing success.

22 best freelancing tips:

  1. Define your expertise and what you want to offer
  2. Consider and perfect your skill set
  3. Stay ahead in your field by regularly updating skills
  4. Showcase your best work by building a strong portfolio
  5. Use online platforms to help you find clients
  6. Build your digital presence
  7. Improve work quality by investing in the right tools
  8. Set your prices and adjust as needed
  9. Achieve fair agreements through effective negotiation
  10. Manage expectations by setting realistic deadlines
  11. Avoid misunderstandings by communicating clearly
  12. Use contracts to clarify expectations
  13. Safeguard intellectual property
  14. Ensure client satisfaction with excellent service
  15. Update clients regularly
  16. Learn and grow from client input by seeking feedback
  17. Don’t be shy in requesting referrals
  18. Maintain personal well-being with a balanced work life
  19. Balance multiple tasks for effective time management
  20. Keep track of earnings and taxes to organize finances
  21. Stay flexible and adaptable to changes
  22. Keep the passion alive in your work to stay motivated
Best freelancing tips

1. Define your expertise and what you want to offer

Before you can start attracting your first clients, you’ll want to sit down and get clear about the services you intend to offer. Consider not only your work history and expertise but also the type of clients you hope to attract.

From writing and design to accounting and software development, clients from a wide range of industries now use self-employed professionals on a regular basis. If you’re just starting, don’t be afraid to draw on your past work history to set yourself apart from the competition.

For instance, let’s say you want to become a freelance writer. If you also happen to have a decade’s worth of experience as a plumber, don’t be shy about mentioning it. You’ll quickly discover plenty of plumbing businesses would love to find a copywriter or content creator with a solid knowledge of their industry.

Keep in mind that starting a freelance career doesn’t mean starting over from scratch. Any past experiences and expertise you have can go a long way toward attracting freelance clients.

2. Consider and perfect your skill set

Highlighting any special skills you may have is another key ingredient to becoming a successful freelancer. When it comes to what to include, try to be as specific as possible.

For example, you might want to pursue administrative support. However, just saying that you’re familiar with Microsoft Office won’t tell potential clients much about why you’re the best choice for the role.

Mention any specialties you have, such as project management, tech support, or expense reporting. While it’s vital to stay honest, it’s equally important to give clients a thorough overview of why you’re the best person for the job.

3. Stay ahead in your field by regularly updating skills

You don’t have to be a master of every skill in your field to start freelancing. But you’ll enjoy far more opportunities by continually evolving the skills section on your freelance resume.

Regardless of your industry, your ability to market yourself to potential clients will make all the difference in your freelance career. The more new skills you master, the easier this will become.

The good news is that there are plenty of online courses and tutorials to expand your skill set. Many even offer certifications you can add to your profile or resume.

For an IT freelancer, this might mean training in a new program, while a freelance writer might decide to master the art of search engine optimization (SEO). Equally important is ensuring you stay on top of the latest trends and innovations in your field.

4. Showcase your best work by building a strong portfolio

If there’s one thing every new freelancer should learn, it’s the importance of building a strong portfolio. While a resume offers the opportunity to tell clients about your past work, a portfolio gives you the chance to show it off visually.

For creative professionals like designers, writers, and videographers, a portfolio is a particularly vital tool for attracting potential clients. Not only can a portfolio provide solid proof of your skills, but it can also give clients a much better idea of your unique style.

That’s why platforms like Upwork offer each professional the chance to create a personal profile and portfolio that demonstrates their skill set. When creating your portfolio, select your best projects and be sure to include interesting descriptions. You might detail the programs or tools you used to create each piece or talk about the results they produced.

Even professionals in less visual fields can use a portfolio to further their freelance careers. Many independent professionals use graphs, project descriptions, or testimonials to demonstrate their past success.

5. Use online platforms to help you find clients

One of the most nerve-wracking challenges for many new freelancers is figuring out how to find potential clients. Fortunately, platforms like Upwork were created to solve this issue.

Upwork allows independent professionals to build profiles that showcase their skills and connect with top clients from all over the world. For many freelancers, the ability to bid on various jobs in one place proves an invaluable tool for building a client base.

Work marketplaces like Upwork are equally beneficial to businesses. When a client is ready to hire, they can post a job, collect bids from various professionals, and choose the right candidate for their needs.

6. Build your digital presence

While Upwork is a great place to build a client base, make sure you also use other top digital platforms.

Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are a great way to spread the word about your freelance business. You may even want to create business pages dedicated to your freelance business.

There’s also LinkedIn, a social media network designed for professional networking. It’s an excellent tool for staying in touch with past clients, cultivating reviews, and connecting with others in your industry.

One of the major perks of freelance jobs is that they allow you to work with clients from all over the world. It’s important to use all the tools available to attract potential clients in search of your unique skill set. Every job gives you an opportunity to build your reputation and expand your market.

7. Improve work quality by investing in the right tools

Depending on the day, being your own boss can feel like either the best or worst part of freelancing. As you build a solid client base, there might be days when you find yourself juggling multiple freelance projects.

Luckily, plenty of productivity tools are available to streamline your workflow. From client communication tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to project management platforms like Asana and Trello, the right tools can make all the difference.

Familiarizing yourself with popular professional tools can even make you more marketable. Some clients prefer working with independent professionals familiar with their platforms of choice.

As your list of projects grows, you may incorporate AI tools into your workflow. Artificial intelligence is evolving at a rapid pace, and tools are appearing every day that are designed to improve efficiency.

8. Set your prices and adjust as needed

Set your prices

One of the biggest questions on the minds of many new freelancers is how much to charge prospective clients. While there’s no one right answer, the trick is to find a balance between underselling and overselling your services.

Remember that clients want to work with professionals they can trust to manage their project confidently and with a high level of skill. Pricing yourself too low can hinder the confidence of potential clients and set a low bar for your services.

But overpricing can be equally unhelpful, especially for beginners. Instead, compare your professional experience and expertise to benchmarks in the industry. Consider the types of similar jobs you’ve completed, the results you’ve produced, and the typical rates in your industry.

Price yourself honestly when you bid on jobs or reach out to clients for work. Whether you charge a fixed-price or hourly rate, make sure to calculate the time needed for revisions, communication, and research.

9. Achieve fair agreements through effective negotiation

Don’t be discouraged if finding the right rates to charge requires a bit of trial and error in the beginning. As you move through your freelance career, you’ll get more adept at picking the rate for various types of projects.

You’ll also become more skilled at spotting offers with unfair rates. In these instances, don’t be afraid to ask potential clients if they’re open to negotiating freelance rates.

High-quality clients are usually willing to pay fair rates for high-quality services. If a potential client isn’t willing to pay you a reasonable rate, they may not be worth adding to your client base in the long run.

10. Manage expectations by setting realistic deadlines

In addition to setting reasonable rates, make sure you and your clients can agree on achievable deadlines. While it’s important to only accept as much freelance work as you can complete in a reasonable time frame, be careful not to overpromise and underdeliver.

If a new client needs an expedited turnaround, it’s not unreasonable to ask for an additional fee. That said, make sure you’re ready to pull an all-nighter if needed to complete a last-minute project.

On occasion, a client may make a last-minute request that you’re simply too overloaded to accommodate. If that happens, explain the situation and reject the offer.

11. Avoid misunderstandings by communicating clearly

Concise and clear communication are core factors of successful freelance projects. Understand that some clients will be more skilled in the art of effective communication than others.

Never hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification on a project. Whether you want to make sure you understand what pain points a digital ad hopes to address or the type of music a client plans to include in a podcast—when in doubt, ask.

After all, there’s nothing worse than spending hours on deliverables that turn out completely different than what the client imagined. Remember, clients want you to succeed just as badly as you do. Most are happy to answer key questions and clarify their vision.

12. Use contracts to clarify expectations

When used effectively, contracts can be a great ally of self-employed professionals. Most new clients will be happy to work out a contract at the beginning of a working relationship, as the process is a great way to avoid miscommunication down the line.

Some examples of clauses commonly addressed in freelance contracts include:

  • Description of the project or services to be provided
  • Delivery date
  • When, how much, and how you’ll get paid
  • Number of revisions and any additional rates they may incur
  • How and when you and the client will communicate

13. Safeguard intellectual property

Having a proper contract in place for every project is one of the best ways to protect yourself on the legal front. Whether you draft a contract yourself or sign one provided by your client, make sure you understand who will retain the rights to your project.

In many instances, it’s common for ownership rights to transfer to the client upon the project’s completion. Just make sure this transfer of ownership hinges on the client paying the agreed-on rate by a specified deadline.

You may also want to clarify whether you’ll receive credit for your work. For example, freelance writers who work for ghostwriting clients often have their work published under the client’s byline. While this isn’t unusual, it’s something you’ll want to clarify before starting the work if you would be uncomfortable with the arrangement.

14. Ensure client satisfaction with excellent service

There’s no substitute for providing excellent service, regardless of your field or specialty. This is one of the many reasons you should never misrepresent your skill set or accept work you aren’t certain you can complete to a client’s satisfaction.

In today’s digital age, word of mouth travels very quickly. Producing subpar work won’t do your freelance business any favors in the reputation department.

Additionally, each new client has the potential to become a repeat customer you enjoy working with for years down the line. While it’s important to establish boundaries based on mutual respect, you should always bring your A-game to each and every project.

15. Update clients regularly

Throughout your freelance career, you may encounter some projects that take longer than others. In these instances, make sure you outline a schedule for regular client updates in your contract.

Some clients prefer weekly updates, while others ask to be informed when a project reaches important milestones. Updates are an easy way to put both your and your client’s minds at ease that the project is on the right track.

Many freelancers are open to any notes the client may have during updates, as they can prevent the need for much larger revisions down the line. If you come across any unforeseen circumstances or need to adjust your deadline, make sure you alert the client immediately to ensure an open line of communication.

16. Learn and grow from client input by seeking feedback

As a freelance professional, use all the opportunities available to build your client base and network. Ask for any feedback a client may have after you deliver their final project.

Does constructive criticism sound a little nerve-wracking? We’re not going to lie—it is. But it’s also one of the most valuable learning tools at a freelancer’s disposal.

Not only will post-project feedback help you learn a great deal very quickly, but it’s also a great way to show your clients you really care about their satisfaction. It can also help build your brand and reputation as an independent professional.

17. Don’t be shy in requesting referrals

There may come a time when you choose to request referrals from satisfied clients. Referrals can come in many different forms, from asking for a referral letter to casually inquiring whether a client has any contacts who could use your services.

Regardless of the situation, use proper tact and time your request wisely. Additionally, try to be as specific as possible about what you’re asking for and include an opt-out to avoid any potential awkwardness.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking a client for a referral, asking for a review can be a great alternative. Whether it’s on your profile or a social media site like LinkedIn, reviews are just as important for freelancers as they are for any other small business.

18. Maintain personal well-being with a balanced work life

The idea of becoming your own boss may conjure images of unbridled freedom. However, many beginners are often surprised at how tricky it can be to establish a work-life balance when they first embark on their freelance career.

The good news is that freelance work offers plenty of flexibility. But you may discover that winging it from day to day can get frustrating very quickly.

Many freelancers find it helpful to sit down and map out a schedule that works for them. Regardless of when you want to start and wrap up each day, creating a reliable schedule will save you stress in the long run.

Using time-tracking tools like Harvest and Toggl can be a solid way to stay on track. Additionally, they’ll keep you from falling into either underworking or overworking as you solidify your schedule.

19. Balance multiple tasks for effective time management

Mastering the art of time management is one of the keys to maintaining a freelance schedule that works for you. After all, you can sit in your home office for eight hours a day, but that time won’t be productive if all you do is scroll through social media!

Try to find a project management tool to help, including the kanban-style Trello and the popular Asana. Notion is another good choice. It’s packed with a full range of productivity tools, from to-do lists and notes to templates and calendars.

20. Keep track of earnings and taxes to organize finances

Keep track of earnings

Before you embark on a freelance career, be aware that taxes work a lot differently. Whereas the normal day job automatically deducts taxes from your wages, freelancers must file in much the same way as small business owners or startups. You may also be able to take advantage of freelancer tax benefits and deductions.

You’ll need to become adept at financial organization and tracking your own earnings and expenses. Take the time to research various solutions, such as QuickBooks or FreshBooks, each of which makes tracking your finances easier.

Digital banks offer tools designed for freelancers. For example, Oxygen allows you to open separate personal and business accounts or even file for an LLC from the app.

21. Stay flexible and adaptable to changes

If you’re freelancing for the first time, understand the ever-evolving nature of the market. Unlike traditional employment, freelance jobs have a way of ebbing and flowing that can take some getting used to.

For this reason, we recommend building a financial nest egg. Additionally, resist the urge to equate a lack of looming deadlines with a day off.

To stick to your schedule, you might have to network, catch up on finances, or expand your skill set. In hindsight, you’ll often find that taking advantage of these opportunities plays a vital role in furthering your freelance career.

22. Keep the passion alive in your work to stay motivated

While a freelancing career can be an exciting track to long-term success and satisfaction, some days require more self-motivation than others. Keep in mind that this is true in any career. Resist the urge to panic if you have a rough day or week.

Setting and visualizing a long-term goal can be a helpful way to get through such slumps. Try making out a gratitude list that details the perks of freelance work that inspired you to pursue it in the first place.

If you’re feeling a little burned out on a particular project, it might be time to set it aside and focus on another for a while. After all, the average freelance career is never short on variety.

A platform to empower your freelance success

Whether you want to be a marketer, copywriter, programmer, or anything in between, plenty of freelance jobs are out there waiting to be filled. If you’re ready to take the first steps toward freelance success, consider creating an account on Upwork.

You’ll find all the tools you need to set up your profile and start bidding on jobs immediately. Be sure to also check out the Upwork resource section where you’ll find plenty of articles to help kick-start your path as an independent professional.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Top Freelancing Tips for Success in 2024
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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