How To Go Freelance

Freelance Job Advice and Work Tips for Freelance Writers, Designers and Consultants

Page 2 of 10

Freelance Briefs: how to write a brief, what to include

Freelance Brief

Writing a thorough brief for a freelancer is one of the best things you can do during a project to make sure that you get the results you need.

Freelancers appreciate being given a detailed brief as it lets them understand exactly what is required from the project and what they need to deliver.

Having a detailed freelance brief is also great for the company making the hire, as briefs help make sure that the freelancer has the skills and experience to deliver on the job and that they are clear about delivering the project on time, on budget and to spec.

But what should you include in a freelance brief?

The specifics may change but the concepts are the same whether you’re briefing a freelance designer, freelance developer, freelance copywriter or other.

Use the guide below to create your own freelance brief and adapt for your project as necessary.

Project overview

Every project needs to start at the beginning and this is your chance to set the scene. Why are you starting this project? What’s the context for the project?

You may want to include some background on your organisation: the who, what, where and why of your business and whatever else might influence the freelancer’s approach to the project.

Business objectives

I’m a strong believer in tying any project to the success of the business. If a project isn’t furthering the business or organisational aims, then it will more likely be a lost project that doesn’t add value.

Define how the project helps your business from the start and the freelancer you hire will understand how they will make a bigger difference to your business.

Project objectives

Flowing under the business objectives are the aims of the project itself. The project overview and business objectives will have painted the bigger picture. This is the place to define exactly what you want the project to achieve.

You may want to include deliverables here that have to be achieved in order for the project to be completed. For example:

  • Achieve 5 sales leads per month
  • Gain $5,000 in product sales per week
  • Generate 10,000 unique visitors per month

The more specific you can make each objective, tied to a particular length of time, the easier it will be to measure the success of the project.


There are a few basic questions you can put in place that will help narrow down who the project is for. Who is the project aimed at? What economic group do they belong in (ABC1, etc)? How old are they? Male or female? Profession?

You can even go a step further and create user personas for each audience section, which defines things such as what their individual needs from the project are, what they go online for, what device they’ll use to go online, what magazine they read, films they like, food they eat, area of the country they live in, car they drive – the list could go on!

The more specific you get, the better the freelancer will be able to tailor the project towards that audience.


Is there any existing work that you can point people towards?

For example, there may be a website or two that you really like and would want the freelancer to achieve a similar site for your company.

Or there might be some company logos and branding that you think would suit your organisation.

Even if you only have one or two examples, giving your freelancer an indication of the kind of work you like will help them complete the project with what you had in mind.


What does the freelancers absolutely have to deliver as part of the project? These are the minimum requirements that will be completed as part of the project, but whatever else comes on top of this will be dependent on time and budget left after this work is finished.

For example:

  • A Wordpress website with customised theme and e-commerce solution
  • A complete social media strategy for Facebook, Twitter and Youtube
  • An 8-page A4 colour brochure with full copy and pictures


You may have project objectives but how will you know if they’ve been achieved? In the measurement section of the freelance brief, make sure you give specific, achievable goals.

For example, for a web site project, this may be the increased number of visitors to a website, the increased value of purchases per user or the number of sales leads generated.


You’ll want to put a timeframe on the project, even if it’s a general guide as a minimum.

Do you need the project delivered by a certain time? Put that don as a starter.

Breaking down the project further into milestones will help you and the freelancer agree on what is achievable in what time.

Agreeing a set of milestones also means that you can get work delivered in stage, which helps avoid any big surprises coming at the end of a project.

Needless to say, the more time you give to a project, the more it will likely be delivered to a higher quality or to budget.


An indication of budget is essential. Even if you’re unsure of what budget to give to a project, putting down a ball park figure will allow the freelance to respond appropriately and discuss how the project could work – or push back if you’re estimates are way out.

Even if helps put your mind at ease, ask the freelancer to break down their budgets line by line – accounting for each part of the project. This gives you more detail to work with and makes it easier to ask questions about what they’re charging you for each part of the project.

These are the main headlines I like to see when receiving a brief and I’ve advised others to do the same. Is there anything you like to add when writing a freelance brief?

Want more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox:


When freelance projects go wrong, keep calm and communicate

Freelance projects: Keep calm and communicate

When you win a new client and start working on a fresh freelance project, it can be one of the most exciting times for any freelancer.

You spent time and effort putting together a project plan and strategy that you know the client should go for. When they do and you get that call to give you the go ahead, that’s when all the hard work pays off.

But then again, the hard work is only just beginning. Especially if the project starts to go off course.

It can be easy to bury your head as someone new freelancing when something goes wrong with a project. You’re inexperience may show when you’ve overestimated on what you can deliver and you don’t want to lose any clients.

If anything happens with your freelance projects when you’re just starting out as a freelancer, keep calm and don’t panic.

Follow the steps in this post and you’ll be back on your feet before you know it.

How do I spot when my freelance project is going off course?

Estimating how long a project will take is incredibly difficult, not just for new freelancers. There are always hidden obstacles, unexpected problems and tasks that were completely unaccounted for.

  • If you wait until there is a problem, you’ve waited too long. Risk often show up way before it they turn into real problems. Be aware of risks and raise them early on with your client.
  • Checking in on yourself on a daily basis is an easy way to notice problems. Ask yourself “how is the project I planned for aligning with the actual work left?” Once you know there is something awry, the most valuable way to discuss is focusing on work left.
  • Take it easy on yourself. You don’t make it as a successful freelancer because you’re solving easy problems. Estimating when the project complicated is most often hard and can often be inaccurate.

Freelance projects may often go off course. The key is getting them back on track again.

What should I do if I’m not going to make a deadline?

How you bring up the fact that you underestimated part of your project isn’t as important as communicating straight away. Be honest with everyone about where you stand and follow these guidelines:

  • Communicate immediately with your client. Never delay facing up to the fact that you’re going to have to talk to them. Most people will be less upset about the project timelines changing than the fact that they weren’t told. If you’re honest with the client and communicate when there is good news, as well as bad news, most of them will understand.
  • Explain exactly what’s going on. This means you need to be completely honest with everyone on your team and speak up early. If you wait until the last minute to say something, after you tried working long hours to make up time, there isn’t much that can be done. They may not like it, but once they make a decision, they feel more a part of it and you will have bought some goodwill for a while.
  • Be aware of any knock on effects on projects elsewhere. You may need to communicate any necessary changes to keep those projects on schedule. Your client will appreciate that you think beyond your own project and this will offset some of the potentially bad feelings about the project going off course.

Why should I be communicative and honest about freelance projects that are going wrong?

Even when you know that a deadline has been missed, you may find it difficult to communicate with a client. But no matter what freelance area you come from, you need to learn how to just say it as soon as possible.

Here’s why:

  • Your client may have others within their organisation to update. It doesn’t reflect well on your client when the higher ups find out last minute something won’t be on time. This can play havoc their internal plans about the project.
  • Delays pile up. Two days here, four days there, a week on that other problem. Before you know it you’re a month behind schedule. It’s much easier to discuss obstacles as they arrive rather than save them all up towards the end of the project.
  • Most clients are willing to negotiate. Though we’d all like to think otherwise, clients often make some changes during projects. When those changes occur and you’re already on the same page, it’s much easier to discuss how the changes that you’ve flagged are going to affect the delivery date.

How should I communicate when a freelance project is going wrong?

How you bring up the fact that you underestimated part of your project isn’t as important as doing it right away. Always open the communication lines as soon as you know you are behind.

If you are behind on a milestone, speak up now. Here’s how:

  • When you speak up early, this is also good for everyone else involved in the project. Work with your client to make adjustments to the project timeline to keep things on track. Othwerise they can delay other parts of the project if the project involves more than just your part of the work.
  • Don’t assume you can just make up the time during the rest of the project. The worst thing you can do when your project is running behind is make it a surprise to everyone on the day of the deadline.
  • The ultimate goal is to be part of successful project, not looking like a hero. You look a lot better if you give everyone a chance to come up with a plan to get the project back on track.

How can I make sure I don’t miss a project deadline again?

This advice is all well and good, but how can you make you don’t underestimate how long your projects are going to take?

Here are a few ways to make sure you estimate your projects accurately:

  • Thinking about work in how complex it is, rather than time allocations. More difficult and complex work increases time it takes to complete.  Any work that is relatively is best broken down into smaller pieces of work.
  • Firm up the project definition of “complete.” Having a well known definition of when a project is complete –  that everyone agrees on – will help when deciding that the project is done.
  • Use your instincts. Complicated projects are often too complicated and deep to really have any idea how long they are going to take.You went freelance because you are an expert in your field and have confidence in your own abilities. Trust your gut instinct.

How do I ensure the freelance project will be completed while I’m working on it?

It’s hard for people to actually know they’re going to miss a deadline and they might feel that they can correct their course. But if you have a clear definition of what a completed project looks like and work broken down into pieces that fit in a week and you plan each week’s work, then you will know as soon as you get behind that you are behind.

Here’s a simple guide to make that process easier:

  • Break your freelance project down into logical pieces of work, each one small enough for you to understand how to roughly complete it
  • Order the pieces of work such that you are doing the most important tasks first.
  • At the start of each week declare what you will finish that week, always starting the most important things you could
  • At the end of the week, see whether you finished everything you said you would. If you haven’t, you are behind and it this will impact next week’s work. This is where you communicate openly and honestly with your client

The key is to divide your milestones into small tasks and communicate this detailed plan within the context of your overall project. Update your client about your progress as frequently as possible to help keep you on track.

Frequent communication is the key

During a freelance project, if you realise that your original plan was wrong, communicate immediately with your client so you can fix any problems as soon as possible.

If you follow the above advice, you’ll be back on track to running a successful freelance project before you know it!

What tips do you have to make amend when freelance projects go wrong? Do you have any personal anecdotes where this advice cam in handy? What other things should you look out for when projects go off course? Let me know in the comments below.


Want more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox:


Find freelance work online with these freelancer job sites

Find Freelance Jobs Online

Finding freelance jobs and projects can be a mammoth task, but with the proliferation of online jobs sites you’ll never be stuck for options for finding freelance work online.

I’ve compiled this list of 21 freelance job sites, covering everything from web design and IT contracts to photography projects, graphic design to copywriting jobs.

While you will want to build up your own network, referrals and repeat business, these freelance job sites can help you build up your experience and get you used to the ins and outs of working as a freelancer.

Each entry has a link to the job site and a brief description. I plan to return to the list and update it with further details, like how much the typical project pays and which areas / countries the freelance jobs tend to come from for each job site, but I hope this is a good start and is useful for those looking to find freelance jobs online.

These lists include sites where you bid for projects, as well as  job sites and forums. For sites where you bid for projects, the sites often take a commission – usually a percentage of the project fee. In case of forums, you get the ability to contact the client directly and work out a project fee from there.

Don’t forget to check out my post on 28 tips from freelance job sites that you can use to be a successful freelancer to make the most out of these freelance job sites.

Also read this comment on the Freelance subreddit if you want to escape low paying gigs on sites like these.

There’s a lot freelance job sites out there and I’m sure I’ve missed some, so leave me a comment or get in touch if you want me to add another freelance job site.

To make it easier, you can click on these links to skip to the section most relevant to you:

The Main Freelance Job Sites

Elance – One of the biggies, with over 25,000 jobs posted weekly. Free registration. No cost to apply to jobs. 100% payment protection on all your jobs.

Odesk – Similar to Elance, with 100,000+ jobs are posted every month, with a variety of job opportunities that can be long-term or short, paid hourly or per project, expert to entry level. – While not as big as Odesk or Elance, posts impressive numbers, with 13,548,918 members, £1,163,903,727 worth of fees from 6,635,751 projects.

Craiglist – While you might think of Craiglist of being the place to buy and sell furniture or find a new flat, there are actually lots of jobs posted to their site that are perfect for freelancers – especially if you’re looking for freelance gigs from a particular location.

Gumtree – Similar to Craigslist, but may be even more useable, Gumtree lists local jobs for people and businesses looking for freelancers in their area.

Freelance Writing Job Sites

Textbroker – Founded in 2005, Textbroker has thousands of registered authors and customers from around the globe execute more than 100,000 content orders through their site every month. Their clients include publicly traded corporations, small business owners, ecommerce websites, social media communities and publishers.

Writer Access – Earn 2 cents to $2 or more per word depending on your rating, on their site – a ranking that improves with certifications, solid performance and customer reviews. Their fully transparent pay policy means 70% of every dollar a customer is paid to you.

The Content Authority – While looking less professional than other freelance job sites, this site has the potential to earn you more per word as the amount a writer is paid for an article is determined by the number of words requested by the client, article type, and level of quality listed for the article.

Zerys – Offers no monthly fees, unlimited access to writing jobs and no need to submit bid proposals. You simply get notified when new jobs are posted that match your profile and you can even develop long-term relationships with clients and build a steady source of work.

Scripted - You’ll find higher quality writing jobs here as becoming a Scripted writer requires a high proficiency in the English language. Their English proficiency test consists of a combination of word scrambles, idioms, and multiple choice questions that have been carefully reviewed by their data scientists.  This level of difficulty means that 80% their writers are from the US.

Media Bistro – Their freelance marketplace is a great place to publicise yourself to’s 3 million unique visitors a month, including 100,000+ editors and managers in their member database.

Duotrope – An established, award-winning writers’ resource,  they currently list 5,000 fiction, poetry, and non-fiction markets that you can applications and bids to.

Journalism Jobs – Founded in August 1998 by Dan Rohn, a former copy editor and business writer with The Washington Post, receives between 2.5 to 3 million page views a month.

Contently – A tech startup based in NYC with the mission of building a better media world, and empowering the three groups that have a stake in that: publishers, creative people (journalists!), and readers. Contently have talent scouts who look at portfolios from time to time to recruit freelancers, then they broker your work with their clients.

Freelance IT and Web Design Job Sites

Smashing Jobs -Smashing Magazine has more than 4 million monthly users and is known to be one of the most successful magazines for creative professionals. Smashing Jobs Smashing Magazine’s job board for freelancers.

Computer Assistant – Very much geared at IT freelance consultants, Computer Assistant offers on-site technical support for companies across the US.

GetACoder – AS well as offering the usual bidding system for freelance projects, GetACoder has a Milestone payment system, which allows you to request a buyer to place funds in advance as milestone payments, giving you the added security of knowing you will get regular payments across larger projects.

Freelance Digital Marketing Job Sites

Digital Point – While predominantly a discussion forum, Digital Point also has plenty of job opportunities posted to its messaging board.

Warrior Forum – Another forum like Digital Point, but geared heavily towards Internet Marketing. Take a look at their Warriors For Hire thread for an idea of the kind of jobs available and how other freelancers are selling their services.

Freelance Graphic Designer Job Sites

Dribbble – Dribbble is a community of web designers, graphic designers, illustrators, icon artists, typographers, logo designers, and other creative types who share small screenshots that show their work, process, and current projects.  Their jobs board is an easy way to show off your freelance work and other “shots” to potential clients.

Behance – Less comprehensive than Dribbble and with lots of full-time offers among the freelance work, but still contains loads of freelance job opportunities – mainly US-based.


Want to get more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox:


Less freelancing, more consulting: how adding value leads to added income

Less freelancing, more consulting

I’ve been thinking recently that a lot of the success that I’ve had as a freelancer to date is that I’ve position myself as more of a consultant and less of a freelancer.

Freelance work tends to be transactional, where you’re delivering directly on a service that a client had asked you to provide – whether that’s online copywriting, web design, graphic design or social media work. The client asks you to complete a project, you deliver on that project.

The difference that comes with being a consultant is that you are looking to deliver value to a client, not just delivering on what they ask of you.

Yes, a client might have asked you produce the design for a new section of their website, but if there are fundamental issues with their website that would bring demonstrably more value to the client and their business, then as a consultant you should be confident enough to offer that opinion and back it up with sound reasoning.

A freelancer may simply do what the client says, even if they know it’s wrong.

It’s a subtle difference, but I hope you can already see that this approach can mean a large difference in the amount of value a client sees in your work and, ultimately, the value you bring to their business.

Consultants are indispensable, freelancers are a commodity

Positioning yourself as a consultant gives the impression that you are in the profession for the long run. As a consultant, you have dedicated yourself to specialising in your field and excelling at delivering value to your clients. This added value that you deliver as a consultant makes you indispensable them.

Positioning yourself as a freelancer means that you may be viewed as disposable, as there are many other freelancers out there that can replace you. You work will be seen as a commodity.

Think about the glut of freelancers on bidding sites like Elance or Odesk, all fighting for the same projects, driving down value across the board. These are buyers markets and even if you manage to win a bid for a particular project, you’re likely to be earning less for that product than you would be if you earned that client relationship away from that site.

As a freelancer, you might be seen as someone who hasn’t specialised in a field and so won’t deliver truly exceptional work in that area – especially if you offer multiple services, from web design to graphic design to copywriting.

Even if you are good at all of those things, you are effectively positioning yourself as a jack of all trades freelancer, not a specialist in one particular area. Your clients will likely value you less as a result.

Become a premium consultant, charge a premium fee

If you can demonstrate the value you bring to a client by being a premium consultant, beyond the transactional value of the services you provide, you can start charge a premium fee for your consultancy. And charging based on the value of the project rather than on the amount of time it takes is one of the simplest ways you can increase your income as a freelancer.

Increasing your freelance rates is easier said than done though, so take a look at my post on how to set your freelance rates for more advice on value-based pricing strategies or take a look at professional development for freelancers.

Of course, being seen as a consultant is more than just adding the job title to your business card. It means being professional in all aspects of running your freelance business.

That means:

  • being prompt to reply to client communications, whether that’s by phone, email or otherwise.
  • setting freelance contracts and client agreements at the beginning of a project, and invoicing promptly throughout.
  • consistently appearing to be a professional, from turning up to meetings punctually, to being well groomed and dressed, to having a well designed and regularly updated website.

It can help to register as a company and set up a consultancy business under a different name than just using your own.

I previously ran my freelance work under my own name – and not even that, it was actually my Twitter name – Benrmatthews Ltd. I also ran that company as a sole trader, which may have saved a small amount of taxes, but I was earning enough to have justified registering as a fully-fledged business.

Having a consultancy name, registers business and tax registration number helps to give potential clients that impression that you are a company professional consultants, not a group of freelancers for hire.

That’s what we’ve done with Montfort, the digital consultancy I run, which has allowed us to bid for bigger projects for bigger clients – both of which come with bigger fees.

This approach has also made it easier when it comes to finding new client leads and turning proposals into concrete projects. The bottom line seems easier to sign for clients when they have the confidence that they’ll be working with professional consultants who will look after their business interests.

I’m sure there are lots more ways to position yourself as a premium consultant, so let me know of yours in the comments below.

In the meantime, isn’t it time you spent less time freelancing and more time consulting?


Want to get more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox:


Finish freelance projects on a high with these 8 client pleasers

freelance projects

The inevitable happened this week. A fantastic client that we’d been working with for 6-months on a great campaign let us know that they would be winding down the freelance project we’d been working on.

We have a great working relationship with the client. We were consistently adding value, respected each others’ work and were productive in achieving the aims of the project. But now it was clear that it was time to move on from the project and our work as freelancers was coming to an end.

This was fine for us. The project had expanded from a smaller project brief, so we had earned more and learned more over that time than we thought we would have at the beginning.

All great freelance jobs can’t last forever, but there are ways to develop long-term client relationships – even as a project comes to an end.

I’d love to give more details about the client and project, but for now I’m going to concentrate on the main part of this story: how we are finishing this freelance project on a high.

This means more than sending the final invoice, handing over any last work and then shaking the client’s hand as you say goodbye.

This means making sure that the project is wrapped up tightly with no loose ends, that the client is very satisfied with the project work right to the end, and added value is delivered to the client so that they have no hesitation recommending you for more work or thinking of you for new projects when the time comes.

We’ve already received an email from someone on the project team saying they’d happily refer us business from elsewhere and give us recommendations, but here are a few more ideas about how to finish freelance projects on a high.

1. Provide a project summary

It might be more obvious to create a case study or get a client testimonial, but the first thing you should be thinking about when wrapping up a project is thinking of the client and how you can make their work better and life easier – all the way to the end of the project and beyond.

When you deliver a final invoice for the project, think about including a project summary to go with the rest of the work completed.

Not only will this remind your client of the work you have done, but you can use it to highlight the value you have delivered during the course of the project, making it easy for them to see the importance of your work to the success of the project.

If the project is being handed over to someone else or might get picked up again at a later date, make sure to include any lessons learned or final recommendations so others can learn from the work you’ve completed.

If your work is visual, make sure you create a nicely formatted presentation or a hardback book for them to keep around, as you never know who the client will show it to.

2. Update your portfolio with a  case study

Once you’re sure that the project has been wrapped up well, it’s time to update your website, portfolio and whatever other marketing materials you use with a case study.

If you do ask your client to feature the project on your site and elsewhere, make sure it makes their company look good so the company will promote the project and you in the process.

Here’s a basic structure that works well to highlight the project from beginning to end and what value the project delivered, rather than just what work was completed:

  • The Objective / Brief: What did the client originally want you to achieve from the project? Were any benchmarks put in place at the beginning of the project?
  • The Approach: What work was actually completed? Did you take a particularly unique or insightful stance?
  • The Results: What was the outcome of the project? What value was added to the company’s bottom line or elsewhere? Did the project outperform the original objectives and by how much? Did the project outperform industry benchmarks? Did the project win any awards?

Always ask permission from the client to feature their name, logo or case study on your marketing materials.

Some clients will be more sensitive than others as to what exactly you disclose about the project – anything from not being able to use their name or logo at all through to featuring an in-depth case study and entering for awards is possible.

3. Get a client testimonial

Going hand in hand with a case study is the need to get some personal client testimonial.

Asking the client to provide a quote can be difficult, especially if they’re busy or can’t think of anything to say.

The approach I always take is to write the quote for them, then send it across in an email to ask for their permission to use it or invite them to edit the testimonial if they’re not happy with it.

My client’s have normally been happy for me to use the quote as is, meaning I can craft the messages in the quote how I like them.

Once you have the testimonial, make sure to use it on your website or marketing materials sensibly. This means including the client’s name, company and a profile photo of the client if possible. This adds social proof to the testimonial and makes it look less like something you’ve just made up.

4. Offer related services

Just because you’ve finished one project with a client, it doesn’t mean you have to stop there.

You probably offer lots of related services that compliment each other, so make sure to pitch those services to the client once the project is finished.

  • Designed a logo for a client? Offer to create a set of brand guidelines that put the logo into practise.
  • Designed a website for a client? Offer to design a brochure, business cards, letterheads or other marketing materials to compliment the website.
  • Designed a brochure for a client? Offer to expand their marketing materials into flyers, postcards and more. Think of every single thing that they have that’s branded and offer a redesign.

Just make sure that the related service you offer is actually related. Offering a random service without justification and seemingly out of thin air might not go down so well.

5. Offer a free consultation

If a client won’t bite at a related service or there isn’t a complimentary service immediately available, offer to give that client a free follow-up consultation on their next project. As you’ve just finished working with them on a project, they’ll be more likely to take you up the offer.

It’s also much easier to go to you first for any new projects that come up, rather than go through a wider tender process, and you’ll be able to give your opinion and bid before anyone else even gets a look in.

After all, why would they go anywhere else after you’ve built up a great relationship with them and have delivered excellent value on previous projects?

Alternatively, you could offer a percentage off their next project to encourage the client to use you for repeat business. Rather than thinking of the project as on a reduced budget, think of the repeat business as cutting down on the amount of time and money you have to spend looking for that new bit of business.

6. Say thank you

It’s amazing how far those two little words, “thank you”, go in finishing a freelance project on a high.

The simplest way to say thank you is to send a gift to the people who hired you or those you worked with with a handwritten thank you note. Simple and thoughtful.

If you want to be a bit more clever, why not think of something you can give the client related to the project you’ve done for them?

For example, if you’ve design a new logo, why not order some pens or other promo materials with the new logo on them for the client to use?

One of my favourite examples of this approach is from Nixon McInnes, who designed a set of business cards for every new website they built for clients, with the website adress on them. Their clients would receive the business cards with a thank you note, appreciate the gesture and use the business cards to hand out and promote the new website.

A win for the client to get some visitors to the new website and a win for the agency to promote their lovely new work.

7. Offer minor ongoing support

If you’ve done good work for a client, you should be looking to discover how you can keep helping them once the project is finished.

You can also tell your clients that you will provide minor support – such as keeping a website updated, touching up some artwork or similar minor fixes – in return for a small fee.

This way, you and your client will stay connected long after the initial work is finished and the project will continue to perform as it should have once the initial project was completed.

As you’ll be doing the minor things, they will be more likely to ask you for a quote on any new projects that come up.

8. Follow up at a later date

This is all about keeping the channels of communication open with that client. It will make them feel like they’re receiving more value and make them more likely to return to you for more work.

Mark your calendar to follow up in 2 or 3 months after the project has finished to see how it’s going. You can check to see if there are any issues you could help with, any refinements they need done, or other projects they may have coming up.

Ultimately, although this specific project is wrapping up, your relationship with a client is just starting. Try to think of this as the beginning of your long and fruitful client relationship, rather than just the end of a project.


Want to get more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox:


The 2014 Freelance Checklist: 25 questions to answer before you start your freelance career

freelance checklist

Every time someone gets in touch about what they need to prepare to go freelance, I typically find myself telling them the same things over and over, in order to lay the foundation for a solid freelance consulting career. So, I’ve created a freelance checklist.

This list covers the top 25 things you should consider when it comes to going freelance. It uses a simple script to tally everything you check off. Once you’ve completed it, it will give you a score out of 25 possible points at the bottom of the page.

I’ve put together the questions based on what people normally ask me, but it is an un-ordered list. I’ll put it into a more logical order later, grouped by areas of running a freelance business.

There’s one thing I want to reiterate before you embark on your freelance checklist journey: you don’t have to have all of these in place before you begin and these points are best thought about as incrementally beneficial. The big mistake people tend to make is that they find a checklist, they go through every thing on it, they read each one line-by-line and say “Oh no! I’m missing one thing – now I can’t go freelance and everything is ruined!”. That’s not really the way to think about it.

If you can get everything on this list, that’s great! If you can only get most, that’s okay too. You want to make you’re as ready to go freelance as possible. But in general, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to do all these things. That said, try your best!

Oh, and don’t forget to read my series of interviews on how others went freelance to get more of an idea about what it feels like, the risks and rewards of becoming a freelance consultant.

The 2014 Freelance Checklist

Check off items as you go along.
Feel free to keep this page open so that you can refer back to it.
These all might not apply to your situation.


That last item is particularly important – if you’re not passionate, hard-working or excited about the work you do, then you’ll find freelancing very hard.

Here’s some more advice from other freelancers on Twitter on what should be added to the freelance checklist:

As I said at the beginning of this checklist, you don’t have to have absolutely everything in place before you go freelance, but this freelance checklist will help you have most of your things in order before you do make the switch to go freelance.

What else would you add to the freelance checklist? If you’ve gone freelance, did you have a checklist? How ready were you?


Enjoy this post? Sign up for my free newsletter to get the newest articles delivered straight to your inbox:


Personal and Professional Development for Freelancers: Learn More to Earn More

Professional Development for Freelancers

When you first go freelance, you’re likely going to build your business on your existing skill set and knowledge. Whether you’re a freelance photographer, web designer or writer, you will have built up the confidence to go freelance as you know you are good – no, excellent – in a particular field.

But after a few years of freelancing, you’ll find that the skills and knowledge demanded by clients (and so needed by you) will change. You’ll also find that new and younger freelancers, with knowledge of the latest techniques and technologies, will come through, adding further pressure in an already competitive market.

This is where professional development comes in.

As a freelancer, you’ll need to update your skills every so often, in line with client demands and the market in general, to make sure that you can keeping getting new freelance work.

But there’s more to professional development as a freelancer than getting new work as keeping competitive.

Phill Chambers, a freelance web designer, contacted me about his own interest in professional development:

“I’m really interested in learning, so finding the right resources, practices and making time to develop new skills is something I strive to do and really enjoy. It also makes work more fun when you start on a new project and you can put new skills to use. “

Yes, you can enjoy learning new skills and enjoy the fruits of our labour when you see a new project using your new abilities come to life.

What have I done to develop my freelance skills?

I like to walk the talk when giving out freelance advice, so here’s what I’ve done recently to further my freelance career:

  • Built on my WordPress skills to launch our digital agency website at
  • Combined my personal blogging with learning how to optimise a WordPress site for SEO purposes
  • Learnt Ruby on Rails to build a series of MVPs of web projects (“scratching my itches”) – see Why I Learned To Code for more on this
  • Learnt the basics of email marketing and marketing automation to launch a 30-day course on how to go freelance

WordPress development, SEO, Web development, email marketing – all useful, practical skills that will stand me in good stead for years to come.

And some of those new skills have been out to use in client projects already, giving me extra opportunists to earn on top of existing skill sets and freelance offerings.

How can you develop your freelance skills?

Here’s a few ideas on how you can develop your skills as a freelancer and start to broaden what you can offer to clients.

Identify new skills to learn or areas where you need to improve

Your personal development as a freelancer starts with identifying exactly what areas you need to specialise in.

As your time is precious, any time out from producing client work needs to be valuable. It’s wise to find what you areas need to know more about or skills you need to learn, before you waste time that would otherwise be billable to clients.

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to discover what skills and knowledge you need to develop:

  • Has a client mentioned that they are looking into a related area to yours?
  • Have you seen competitors or other freelancers move into new areas that you could too?
  • Have you seen more articles in the media or online about an area that you want to know more about?
  • If you don’t develop in a new area, will your clients move elsewhere?
  • Will you start to lose new business if you don’t brush up your skills in a new area?

Once you’ve answered those questions yourself, you cancome up with a shortlist of identified area, knowledge or skill set that you want to learn or find out more about.

For example, Econsultancy has published the Digital Skills Index, a digital marketing quiz they allows you to see what areas you are strong in and which areas you need to develop in.

Many professional membership bodies run training programmes relevant to your profession. Take a look at what training is on offer, either to find areas that you could learn about or to take the training courses themselves. Have a look around online to see if there’s a similar professional development plan for your freelance career path.

Make time to learn new skills

Once you’ve identified a subject you want to learn, it’s recommended that you create a learning plan. This means that your time wi be used most effectively when you’re learning and keeps you on track to where you want to be.

Learning small amounts on consecutive days has been proven as much more effective than learning large amounts sporadically. Try to set aside time to learn every day – however little.

Repeat “focus bursts,” where you give your best effort for a short period, then take fulfilling and refreshing breaks.

It can be as little as 15 minutes, but as long as you are practising or studying little and often, you’ll start to make big gains within a few weeks.

Learn about ways you can speed up the learning process.

Take an online course

There are a whole load of online education sites now available covering just about everything you could want to learn as a freelancer.

Here are a few I my favourites that I’ve used before and a brief description of the subjects they cover:

  • Codecademy: Interactive courses on how to program. Courses are created by the community and cover CSS, Java, HTML and more.
  • Code SchoolTeaches web technologies in the comfort of your browser with video lessons, coding challenges, and screencasts. Slightly wider range of courses than Codecademy.
  • Dash: New platform from General Assembly. Dash teaches HTML, CSS, and Javascript, but also offers training around digital marketing and running a digital business.
  • Tuts+: More geared towards design, there over 5 million people using Tuts+ each month to learn skills including code, illustration, photography, web design, and more.
  • Futurelearn: A coalition of British universities offering free courses on a range of topics; from Science & Technology to Arts & Humanities, from Body & Mind to Business & Management.
  • Khan Academy: With over 17 million people using this free site, Khan Academy is probably the original (and best?) free online learning site. Take a look at their “You Can Learn Anything” hub for inspiring stories of how people are using the platform.

There are lots more sites out there, many with a free trail period, so take a look around and try out a course in a skill that appeals to you.

Attend a training day or course

There are plenty of training courses out there for all areas of interests, running from a few hours to several weeks.

While a day course will only be able to cover the basics of whatever subject you’re learning, it will give you a good idea if that area is worth pursuing for you, how steep the learning curve is, and what kind of opportunities that subject will open up for you.

Longer courses that run over several weeks will give you a deeper understanding of a subject and means that you’ll be more dedicated to learning in that new area. If they offer a recognised certificate or professional qualification at the end of the course, even better, as you can use this to prove to future clients your credentials in that new area.

Training courses are also a great place to meet other professionals and freelancers, strengthening your network while you learn at the same time.

If you don’t want to take a course, perhaps you can look to teaching one instead. While looking for training courses that might be of interest to you, you might spot a gap in a training provider’s offering where you can line yourself up to teach a course on an existing skill set you have.

If yore strapped for cash, you could even offer to teach a class in return for getting a different course for free (although it’ll likely be more valuable to teach a class of 15 students and not take a class as an individual student!)

Test your new skills on your own freelance business

Before testing out your new skills on your clients, it will be easier and safer to practise those skills on your own business.

Have you learnt web design? Try updating or improving your freelance website.

Learnt email marketing? Start your own email newsletter to keep clients and colleagues updated on your freelance business.

Learn social media marketing? Start up your own Twitter / Facebook / Google+ profiles and boost your own presence on the main social networks.

Not only will you be able to put your newly acquired skills to use, but you’ll be able to learn more I n the fly about what works and what doesn’t work in this new area.

An alternative option is to offer consultancy at no cost to charities or new business in your new area. A small, well-defined project will help you create a case study or piece for your portfolio, while helping out a new business or startup that might not normally have access to someone with your skills.

Stretch yourself with existing clients

Rather than try out your new skills on new clients, it makes more sense to work with existing clients.

You’ll already have earned your client’s trust through other competed work and can be a better judge of how running a project in this new area will work for them.

Just make sure you more confident that you can deliver excellent work for them, otherwise you risk losing your existing work as well as the new area you’re trying.

Time to win new business and clients!

There is lots more to professional development for freelancers, but once you are armed with a new skill set, confident that you can deliver on the project and that it armed with case studies proving you can do the work – and do it well – it’s time to get out there and win some clients in your new skill area.

What professional development have you undertaken as a freelancer? What has been the most effective method of learning? Has learning a new skill or subject opened up more opportunities for you?


Enjoy this post? Sign up for my free newsletter to get the newest articles delivered straight to your inbox:


Freelance Statistics 2014: The Freelance Economy in Numbers

freelance statistics Freelance statistics are a great way to show you how you’re not alone in wanting to go freelance, how others are finding the freelance environment and how freelancers contribute to the overall economy. Following yesterday’s post and discussion on the 5 new types of freelancers, I’ve pulled together more freelance stats from the US, UK and further afield for you to get an idea of how freelancers are faring across the world. Arm yourself with these stats if anyone asks you “Why would you want to go freelance?” and show them that you’re not alone!

US Freelance Statistics

The Freelancers Union “53 million” report contains data results of the most comprehensive survey of the U.S. independent workforce in nearly a decade. Here are a few of the main stats from the report:

  • There are 53 million people doing freelance work in the US – 34% of the national workforce
  • People who freelance contribute an estimated $715 billion in freelance earnings to our economy
  • Twice as many freelancers have seen an increase in demand in the past year as have seen a decrease – 32% experienced an increase versus 15% who have seen a decrease
  • 80% of non-freelancers say they would be willing to do work outside their primary job to make more money
  • Earning extra money (but not financial necessity) and schedule flexibility are the top drivers of freelancing
  • Finding work and, correspondingly, income stability are the top barriers to doing more freelancing work
  • 69% of freelancers said technology has made it easier to find freelance work
  • 77% of freelancers say the best days are yet ahead for freelancing
  • 65% said freelancing as a career path is more respected today than it was three years ago
  • 36% of moonlighters who have a primary job have thought about quitting to work completely independently

UK Freelance Statistics

In the UK, the Professional Contractors Group estimates that:

  • There are 1.4 million British freelancers working across all sectors
  • This has grown 14% in the past decade
  • The flexibility offered by Britain’s freelancers is worth £21 billion to the UK economy in added value
  • 78% of the UK public think that freelancing and flexible working help promote a good work/life balance
  • 72% think freelancing has a positive effect on family life

According to a report by freelance job site, Elance:

  • In 2013, the number of businesses hiring freelancers online increased 46%
  • Payments to freelancers increased 37% year on year
  • The average hourly rate for UK freelancers increased 6.7% in 2013
  • IT & Programming (at 41% of all hires); Design & Multimedia (24%) and Writing & Translation (18%) make up the majority of freelance jobs online

A February 2014 report on Gen Y and Freelancing looked at “the transformation of UK graduate career aspirations and what this means for businesses”. Here are the key stats from the report:

  • Freelancing is now seen as a highly attractive and lucrative career option by 87% of students with first or second class degrees
  • his compares to 77% of those with lower class degrees.
  • 21% of graduates with first class honours say they have already chosen to work as a freelancer, suggesting that the freelance economy’ is beginning to take hold among those graduates with the strongest degree results
  • 29% of all graduates say freelancing is part of their career strategy for the next five years, a fact that suggests the freelance economy will continue to gather pace in the UK
  • The flexibility offered by freelancing is cited as the biggest career draw, with over two thirds (69%) of all graduates saying they feel independent work offers them a better work-life balance.
  • The opportunity to work on a variety of different projects and across sectors is also appealing, with over a third (38%) saying this is a significant pull
  • Respondents are also attracted to the earning potential of freelance work with 38% saying they feel they can earn as much, if not more than they could in a traditional job
  • Elance data shows that the average hourly rate for UK freelancers increased 6.7% in 2013

The Labour Force Survey, conducted by the Office of National Statistics, showed a breakdown of the self-employed by sector:

  • Senior Managers – 15% self-employed
  • IT Professionals – 13% self-employed
  • Engineering Professionals – 12 %
  • ‘Associate Professionals’ in Design and Media – 40%
  • ‘Skilled tradespeople’ in construction – 56%

European Freelance Statistics

According to a report called “Future Working: The Rise of Europe’s Independent Professionals“, the European freelance economy looks like the following:

  • Freelance numbers have increased by  45% from just under 6.2 million to 8.9 million in 2013, making them the fastest growing group in the EU labour market

According to the Professional Contractors Group:

  • Spain and Slovakia have both have 13% rates of self-employment
  • Italy has a 21% rates of self-employment

I’ll keep adding to these as I come across more research, but if you find any freelance statistics that would be worth adding here then leave a comment and a link below.  


Enjoy this post? Sign up for my free newsletter to get the newest articles delivered straight to your inbox:


The definition of freelancer is changing: meet the 5 new types of freelancers

definition of freelancer

There are many different variations on how freelancers are working and defining their work today.

According to the Collins English Dictionary, “a freelancer is a self-employed person, especially a writer or artist, who is not employed continuously but hired to do specific assignments.”

Seems fairly straightforward to me.

But a new report argues that is there are now 5 different types of freelancer and that there are more than 53 million Americans are doing freelance work – a sixth of the U.S. population.

The 5 Types of Freelancer

Starting with the general U.S. workforce, each survey respondent went through a series of questions that qualified their employment status and income in order to definitions of freelancing that might otherwise go unrecorded.

Here is how the report breaks down the new types of freelancers.

1. Independent Contractors

Independent Contractors

(40% of the independent workforce / 21.1 million professionals)

These “traditional” freelancers don’t have an employer and instead do freelance, temporary, or supplemental work on a project- to-project basis.

2. Moonlighters


(27% of the independent workforce/ 14.3 million professionals)

Professionals with a primary, traditional job who also moonlight doing freelance work. For example, a corporate- employed web developer who also does projects for non-profits in the evening.

3. Diversified workers

Diversified Workers

(18% of the independent workforce/ 9.3 million professionals)

People with multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employers and freelance work. For example, someone who works the front desk at a dentist’s office 20 hours a week and fills out the rest of his income driving for Uber and doing freelance writing.

4. Temporary Workers

Temporary Workers

(10% of the independent workforce/ 5.5 million professionals)

Individuals with a single employer, client, job, or contract project where their employment status is temporary. For example, a business strategy consultant working for one startup client on a contract basis for a months-long project.

5. Freelance Business Owners

Freelance Business Owners

(5% of the independent workforce / 2.8 million professionals)

Business owners with between one and five employees who consider themselves both a freelancer and a business owner. For example, a social marketing guru who hires a team of other social marketers to build a small agency, but still identifies as a freelancer.

Is this the right definition of a freelancer?

The report argues that “the old way of working isn’t working”, that more than 53 million workers in the U.S. are “showing a new way”. But are these numbers accurate?

As you can see from the 5 types of freelancer above, the survey groups together moonlighters and temporary workers, 19.8 million that would have previously fallen outside of the definition of a freelancer.

The diversified workers group is also a new addition to the definition of freelancing. With 9.8 million in this group, these people might previously have been categorised as part-time workers – working multiple jobs to make up a full time equivalent (and that’s before we get into issues such as zero-hour contracts).

If you take the above groups away, you come to perhaps a more traditional number of Freelance Business Owners and Independent Contractors, which is 23.9m or 8% of the US workforce – 45% of the number the survey is suggesting are “freelance”.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is the more accurate definition of a freelancer and just how many people can count themselves as freelance, but the survey results worth a flick through for insight into how freelancers across the US view their freelance work and prospects.

Here’s the full presentation of the survey results from the Freelancing in America report:


You can also view the whole report at


Enjoy this post? Sign up for my free newsletter to get the newest articles delivered straight to your inbox:


Freelance PR Consultant Q&A: Katie Moffat, PR and Social

This is the ninth in a series of interviews with freelancers, telling us their stories on how they went freelance. The aim is to help others who are thinking of becoming freelance learn more about what it takes, as well as get advice and inspiration so they can get the confidence and understanding to find out if freelancing is right for them.

If you want to take part in the series, simply head here to tell us your freelance story

Katie Moffat

  • Name: Katie Moffat
  • Freelance Area: Social media strategy & training, copywriting, digital marketing
  • Freelance For: 10 years
  • Website:
  • Twitter: @katiemoffat

What made you decide to go freelance?

Having a child and not wanting to go back to work full-time while children were very small.

What steps did you put in place before you went freelance?

Um, nothing really, I’m more of a leap before you look person. Also 10 years ago it wasn’t really obligatory to have a website or whatever, which I’d say it is now.*

How did it feel before you went freelance?

I was slightly worried that I’d miss the office banter and working as part of a team but the nature of PR meant that I was out about fair bit, in addition to always being on the phone. This was pre-twitter remember, seems another world now.

How does it feel now you are freelance?

I’ve worked for myself for so long that I can’t imagine being a salaried employee now.

Very occasionally I see a job that tempts me but the flexibility of working for myself outweighs any negatives.

What are the positives of freelance life?

Flexibility, variety, control.

What are the negatives of freelance life?

Cash flow, sometimes not getting to work really at depth on something, not working with others in an office (but twitter replaces that for me now anyway).

Any advice for others looking to go freelance?

Contacts are really important, build up (through twitter/Linkedin or whatever) a really good network.

In 10 years of working for myself around 95% of my work has been through recommendation and word-of-mouth.

Also, it’s not as financially scary as I think some people believe. I always take the view that you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow anyway, even in salaried employment.

*Yes I know my website is old and unloved looking, a new one is in the works honest.


Thanks for taking part, Katie, and for sharing your tips and advice. Make sure to check out her website at and follow her on Twitter at @katiemoffat

If you want to take part in the series, simply head here to tell us your freelance story.


Want to get more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox:


« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2014 How To Go Freelance

Copyright Ben Matthews 2014Up ↑