Want to be a successful freelancer? Here are 3 things you need to know

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In September 2018, I left my full-time job and decided to set up a copywriting business. I knew nothing about the world of business, and to be honest, I still don’t know a lot. But I’m learning. And when I think about how clueless I was just a couple of months ago, I have to admit: I’ve already learned so much.

Credit where it’s due: I’d still be miles behind where I am if it wasn’t for the support of my family, friends, ex-colleagues, and even podcasters. They’ve shared their successes, pitfalls, methods, mantras and motivations with me, so that I can learn from their experiences.

I’m all for sharing knowledge and ideas, so I’ve decided to publish a post full of their advice, so other freelancers can benefit too.

I’m a copywriter, but this advice applies to freelancers across all industries, because when it comes down to it, we’re all struggling with the same stuff, right?

If you find this post helpful, don’t forget to hit the share button.

Here are three pieces of advice I’ve been given from people I consider to be mentors. All of them are startup owners who are rocking their own businesses (plural!).


1. ‘When you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to other things’

As freelancers, we know work can dry up at any moment. It kind of makes us feel like we have say yes to everything: every client, every project, every opportunity – because who are we to say no?

I asked a startup owner what he thought.

‘Don’t say yes to everything,’ he said. ‘Because when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to other things.’

Don’t think of yourself as needing all work that comes your way. Instead, respect your time, your craft, and your ambitions. Carefully select what you’ll work on, because when you say yes to that project that you don’t really want to do, you won’t have the time or energy to do the projects you actually want to do.

In short, it’s okay to say no.

[ctt template=”12″ link=”PDU4E” via=”yes” ]’#Freelancers: It’s okay to say no. Respect your time, your #craft, and your #ambitions.'[/ctt]

Spend some time thinking about who your ideal client is. Once you know what that client looks like, you’ll be in a much better position to decide who you want to work with, and who you don’t want to work with.


2. ‘If everyone says yes to your rates, they’re too low. If everyone says no, they’re too high.’

We all know how difficult it can be to decide on rates. It’s easy to go too high or too low, and both these mistakes can be fatal for your business.

Belinder Weaver from the Hot Copy Podcast says:

‘If everyone says yes to your rates, they’re too low. If everyone says no, they’re too high.’

Before I listened to this podcast episode on setting rates, I’d thought success was every potential client saying yes to my proposal. Realising I should expect to get some no’s was a big moment for me.

[ctt template=”12″ link=”Yd92v” via=”yes” ]‘Some people won’t be able to afford you – and that’s okay.’ #hotcopypodcast #freelancers #money #business[/ctt]

Belinda and her co-host, Kate, say some people won’t be able to afford you – and that’s okay. The great thing is: other people will be able to.


3. ‘What’s an expert, anyway?’

You struggle with imposter syndrome – which creative freelancer doesn’t?

I’m talking about that annoying little voice in your head that tells you you’re actually no good at what you do, and that somehow you’re just fooling everyone into thinking you are.

It only gets worse when you start comparing yourself to people you think are better than you, more expert than you.

When I shared these feelings with one startup owner, he asked me:

‘What’s an expert, anyway? And who decides what an expert is?’

Is it someone who’s been working in their field for 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? Is it based on the number of projects a person has completed? Is there a certain point in someone’s career when people start saying: ‘Yepp, that person’s an expert’?

‘Doing the work someone else doesn’t do makes you an expert,’ this mentor told me.

Right now, you might not see yourself as the expert you want to be, but your clients do – because you have skills they don’t. That’s why they’ve decided to pay you for your work, instead of trying to do it themselves.

So the next time you’re feeling like an imposter, stop comparing yourself to other people and focus on all the brilliant ways you can help your client with your very real expertise.

Over to you

Do you have some advice to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Eman Ismail is a UK-based copywriter and the founder of InkHouse. She works with businesses and non-profits across the world, writing marketing materials and content that increases their exposure and attracts their ideal audience. When she's not writing or delivering copywriting workshops, you'll find her glued to a podcast in the corner of a cosy cafe.

There is 1 comment
  1. I just can’t believe you started a business 2 months ago!!!! Huge progress!

    I fully agree with point 1 – we need to find our focus area to push it further. We can’t do everything and we should learn how to say NO on behalf of our focus field. Develop it, grow and get better at one thing, rather than trying to be an expert in everything. You should also watch Sam Owens; he has the same opinion to ours and he is a successful millionaire. Some time ago, I didn’t actually know what my focus area was because I wanted to do tens and tens of different things in my life. I accepted every job on offer. This is wrong! We need to find our focus point and keep to it throughout our life. We should nurture and develop our specific area. The one. The only. Now, I’d rather be an expert in one thing than just avarage or good at tens of things.

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