May 31, 2022

The Do’s and Dont’s of Freelancing: How to Succeed as a Freelancer

Freelancing is on the rise. 30% of Canadians participated in some form of gig work in 2019 and that number has increased dramatically since the pandemic. If you’re considering giving freelancing a try, here are some actionable tips on what to do and what not to do when you start.

Do: Have a website, social media account or portfolio

Your profile is your calling card. It’s essential you have some kind of online presence, even if it’s just a simple website, PDF portfolio or social media page that shows off your work. If you don’t have any samples of past work, it’s completely acceptable to use creative projects to give potential clients an idea of your style and skill set.

Do: Have a contract in place before starting any job

The best way to avoid future disagreements with your client is by stating everything in writing before you start. A contract should include what you will do, how much you’ll charge, how many revisions are included and when payment is due. Not only does this protect you against non-payments and scope-creep, but it signals your professionalism.

Do: Beware scope-creep

It may come as a surprise, but clients often don’t know what they want. They may ask for one thing, and change the scope completely once you start working on their project. The scope-creep can eventually scale to a point where the price you originally agreed upon is significantly lower than the amount of work you have to do. Make sure that the scope of work is broken down in a contract to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Do: ALWAYS take a deposit upfront

The most important thing you can do before starting any project is take an upfront deposit. This makes sure that if your client doesn’t like the result, they can’t run off without compensating you for the already completed work.

Do: Stay on top of your finances

When you work for yourself, it’s easy to let your business finances slip through the cracks. You may feel like you don’t not have enough time in your day to keep track of every single expense. But if you don’t stay on top of it all, you could lose money—and possibly even run into trouble when tax season rolls around.

Do: Join freelance networks, find your community

Freelance networks can be invaluable for establishing an active client base, meeting fellow freelancers and finding out about job opportunities. Start with a quick search on Facebook groups or it’s very likely that you will come across a local freelancer or entrepreneur community, If not, starting one may help you build relationships with fellow freelancers in your city (Fun fact: this is how Women Who Freelance was born!).

Don’t: NEVER work for free

If you’re new to freelancing, you’ll probably want to build up your portfolio by taking on as many clients and projects as you can at a discounted rate or even for free.

Don’t make this mistake. All work should be paid for; particularly if it contributes to a business generating an income. Bartering services skills with fellow freelancers can be a great alternative to free work.

Don’t: Be afraid to say no

It’s not always easy to decline work. As freelancers, we’re conditioned to take on every possible project to feel secure with our income and prospects and saying no

can certainly feel risky when we want to be sure our bills will get paid. Be honest about what you can and cannot take on, and don’t be afraid to turn down business that falls outside your expertise or simply does not seem like the right fit.


Don’t: Drop your rates

Ghosting is real in the freelance industry. It happens way too often that when you disclose your pricing to a potential client they tell you that another freelancer had quoted them a lower price or disappear altogether. Think of it this way. If you’re competing with someone who’s going to deliver a lesser service at a lower quality, why should you compete with them? If communicating your value to the prospective client simply doesn’t convince them, it’s likely a bad fit.

Don’t: Forget to save 20%-30% of your income for taxes

Failing to save money for taxes is one of the biggest mistakes new freelancers make—and it can really add up over time. Taxes are due on every dollar you earn, so spend wisely. It is recommended that you set aside 20% to 30% of your yearly income to account for taxes owed.


Don’t: Quit your job before you’re ready

Though it seems counterintuitive, make sure you don’t make the mistake of jumping into freelancing full-time without a financial cushion and a few clients under your belt. A lot can go wrong if you start out with no steady source of income, so make sure you have several months worth of savings before you quit your job.


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