5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Freelance Projects

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Freelance Projects

A freelance project can be the first step to a long lasting, ongoing relationship with a company. Learn how to maximize the potenital of new projects.

Ron Toledo

Aug 15

iStock-876861822

Freelancers often get into freelancing because they want to focus on doing the things they love the most, on the skills they’ve worked hard to build, without all the structure, rules and politics that can infuse full-time employee life. Unfortunately, the freelance life can still contain a fair amount of bureaucracy, just of a different stripe. Freelancers, especially when they are starting out, can struggle to find new clients and book big projects. This means they are constantly scrambling to piece together work, which can result in as much time spent pursuing work as actually doing it.

Understanding how to maximize the potential of each freelance project is key to freelance success. By cultivating a steady stream of regular consistent work and identifying projects that provide more bang for the buck, freelancers can balance the money they need with the lifestyle they want.

 

Here are five ways to make the most out of your freelance projects:

 

Figure out what makes you special

It’s natural at the beginning of a freelance career to cast a big net. There’s always the lurking concern that you won’t be able to find enough work and don’t want to limit your options. However, by carving out a niche for yourself, building up a specific expertise, and/or focusing on a particular skill set, you can make yourself stand out from the crowd. Specializing will look different depending on your profession. Maybe as a copywriter, you focus on creating branded fashion content, while a software engineer markets their Ruby on Rails capabilities. This will make it easier for clients with those needs to find you.

 

Conversely, specializing enables you to build up a focused portfolio and knowledge base that makes work easier going forward. A freelance designer who focuses on, say, restaurant websites will quickly pick up on the ins-and-outs of the business, so the learning curve isn’t so steep with every new project. Specializing can help you get more out of your time and do better work.

 

Cultivate long-term relationships

Hustling for new clients can be incredibly time-consuming and exhausting. Of course it’s important to network and generate leads, but freelancers should aim to minimize the amount of time they spend on non-paid work. By cultivating strong, ongoing relationships with employers, freelancers can guarantee that they always have work coming in. This means you don’t have to spend hours searching for new leads, interviewing, pitching, and onboarding. It also provides peace of mind because it’s a buttress against work drying up.

 

Moreover, becoming more familiar with a particular client, their needs, and their preferences allows freelancers to deliver exactly what they are looking for, which reduces back-and-forth and miscommunication. You will be able to get projects done more efficiently. Ongoing clients are also an incredibly valuable source of referrals, which increases the pipeline of freelance work without requiring much effort from you.

 

Define your ideal client

Not every client is a good candidate to work with, much less build a long-term relationship with. As a freelancer advances in their career, they can afford to be more picky about who they work with and the work that they do, but that doesn’t mean that new freelancers shouldn’t consider their ideal client from the get-go. To make the most out of freelance projects, define your ideal client. This could mean in terms of subject matter, like companies in a certain industry or space, or in terms of size. Or maybe those factors matter less than what a client is like to work with—hands on versus hands off, remote or in-office, strict about assignments or flexible. The ideal client could also be one that pays quickly or has a manager that you really connect with. Regardless of the criteria, identifying the clients that enable you to do your best work and feel satisfied will help you get the most out of every project.

 

Don’t be afraid to say no

Because of that lingering freelancer fear that work will dry up, freelancers can find it hard to say no to projects that come their way. But saying no is critical to a successful freelance career. If the project or client sounds super boring, you may hate doing the work, and that will show. If you don’t have the right skillset to execute a particular project, that will show too, and reflect back badly on you. If you are totally swamped, accepting a project you don’t have the bandwidth for could also result in bad work, not to mention stress and missed deadlines. If you’ve worked with a client once and they burned you, perhaps by being rude or failing to pay promptly, you have no obligation to work with them again. Saying no can be as impactful on your career as saying yes.

 

Be assertive about what you need to be productive

Freelancers often view themselves, and are viewed, as somewhat tangential to an organization. You are an outsider and as a non-full time employee, don’t have access to the same rights or benefits and full-timers. That said, clients have a vested interest in enabling you to be productive, so don’t be shy about asking for what you need. That could mean more money, access to desk space, a company email, or flexible working hours, but you will get more out of projects if you express your needs, especially if they are not being met.

 

A big part of the appeal of becoming a freelancer is the freedom and autonomy. These tips can help freelancers, at any stage, optimize their time and effort to reach their full potential on their own terms.

Understanding how to maximize the potential of each freelance project is key to freelance success. By cultivating a steady stream of regular consistent work and identifying projects that provide more bang for the buck, freelancers can balance the money they need with the lifestyle they want.