What does it take to be a successful freelancer?

Here are 5 top tips for keeping your freelancer work organised, healthy, and successful! Although it’s not possible to provide a one-size-fits-all plan, these tips will certainly help to keep your freelancing affairs in shape. 


1. Draw up a freelancer contract

Regardless of your skillset – whether it’s graphic design, project management, or writing – every new client project needs to be issued with a contract. While, at the outset, dispute might be far from your mind, this is the go-to document that others will seek to review should any disagreement arise later. If you’re new to freelancing, then a contract template is a great place to start – to avoid you getting too preoccupied with creating the perfect contract. You can then add more information, where necessary and make improvements along the way. Even the simplest contract should include all the following key terms:

  • The nature of your engagement and the services you’ve agreed to perform
  • Assurances your client’s information will be kept confidentially
  • How much you will be paid, and when, throughout the project
  • Details of any ownership of intellectual property
  • Once your work has been accepted by the client, the client also accepts full responsibility for any use of the project files moving forward
  • Details of liability insurance
  • Cancellation procedure for you and your client
  • Membership of relevant professional bodies

2. Agree payment terms before starting a project

A big issue with freelancing is ensuring you’re paid enough, you’re paid on time – and you are actually paid. Therefore, to ensure you’re going to get paid, it’s best to agree your payment terms upfront. This is better than diving into a new project, and trying to resolve payment later. Depending on the nature of your contract under negotiation, a successful payment structure could be to request 50% upfront, and the remaining 50% upon completion – but before you deliver the completed project files. In cases where the contract is of an ongoing nature, you may wish to agree staged payments, whereby money is paid after you have passed milestones, pre-agreed in your contract. You may also want to consider regular instalments. The price you choose to charge as a freelancer should include time spent on tasks such as sourcing clients, preparing proposals, sending/managing invoices, meetings, and other items which are required to run your freelancing business. By not considering these tasks in your pricing, you run the risk of not being paid sufficiently.

3. Be prepared to say ‘no’

When in the process of agreeing the terms of your project, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. It’s too easy to get caught up in the moment and agree to everything your client asks – because you want the project and you want a happy client. But promising too much can come with a whole array of problems. It could end with you spending too long on an increasingly unprofitable project, and risk you not being able to deliver the project in the agreed timescale.

4. Create a freelancer portfolio

Create a portfolio of projects, in which you specialise, to showcase to prospective clients. We encourage you to include projects specifically in your specialist area – rather than putting together a portfolio of everything you’ve ever worked on. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to stick to, then make sure you do. Don’t take on those projects you fear you’re going to struggle to complete, or that may take you too long to deliver. This portfolio will also ensure clients best understand the work you’re able to deliver, and the expected standard they’re going to receive. If a client’s asking for work outside of this scope, be transparent about what you are / are not able to offer them.

5. Stay on top of your finances!

As a freelancer, it’s vital to view your finances as a small business owner would. Make sure you’re on top of your numbers, and ask yourself the following:

  • What is my business revenue?
  • What is my monthly living expenditure?
  • How many visits is my website getting each month?
  • What is my most popular service?
  • How much time is spent on each project, and am I providing accurate estimates?

If you’re a long-term freelancer, then you may want to consider how you’re allocating your earnings. For example, are you saving for VAT, business expenses, and making pension contributions? These are hugely important considerations in the long run. If you’re unsure how to best plan for these business costs, please contact us for more guidance, around planning for your business, and your personal financial affairs!  


Lotuswise Chartered Accountants and Business Consultants can help you and your business succeed. To find out how, please contact us. To also get even more useful business and finance information and tax advice tips, check out our app on Google or Apple stores.

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