July 21, 2016
Want to become a freelancer? Well it involves a whole lot more than sitting around at home waiting for inspiration while you work to pay the bills. Here are some survival tips you need to know in order to become a successful freelancer in Malaysia.
Being a freelancer means becoming your own employer. So being disciplined and keeping yourself motivated may prove to be a challenge for some. Yes, everyone feel motivated when you are getting paid, but if your discipline and motivation reach a low point, you might start missing deadlines and fail to secure new jobs.
First up, you will need to start off by getting organized. Designate a working space in your home and set a working schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Make sure you get proper rest and make sure your work doesn’t cross the line into your personal time.
Keep track of time and take note of how long it takes for you to finish one project. Use that as the basis for how much time you will allocate for each project. If you tend to slack off while working at home, get out of the house immediately. Try working at co-working spaces which you can rent where the environment may increase your productivity. (It may also encourage you to work harder because you’re paying for rent.)
If you are just starting out, you can try websites like Fiverr or Freelancer.com to secure your first project. These websites allow employers to post jobs and freelancers can bid the amount of payment they would like to be paid for each project.
Depending on your skills, platforms like Kaodim and ServisHero are a good way to advertise your services as well. By signing up with them as a service provider, they can match your skills with clients who are seeking out similar services such as graphic design, photography, event planning and more.
Don’t lowball the other freelancers out there just for the sake of getting work. Not only is it rude, but when you later try to raise your rates, employers will just move on looking for another sap who’s only shortchanging themselves in the long run. Be smart and charge a fair rate for what your work is worth.
Here’s another tip from our Content Manager who worked as a freelancer for three years:
“Lowballing in the freelance community is more common than you think. I’d like to add that NEVER EVER start off by lowballing and try to take advantage of your clients by threatening to withhold the work if they don’t raise your payment. Firstly, it’s extremely unethical and once word gets around, no one will ever trust you or want to work with you ever again.”
“You’ll probably run into clients who pull the same stunt on you by refusing to pay unless you do extra work. It’s pretty much a long walk off a short plank as the freelance industry is a lot smaller than you think.”
Do consider offering your services at a slightly lower price and focus more about building a network of regular clients. Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling and built a solid reputation for yourself, you can negotiate with your clientele about increasing your charges. However be realistic and understand that not every client can afford a multi-million ringgit budget. After all, that’s the main reason why most are looking for freelancers in the first place.
Another tip is to start with a base fee then include additional costs based on the complexity and time needed to complete each project. You should also do some research on what your competitors are charging to get a better idea of whether you are under-charging or over-charging your clients.
As a freelancer, you are bound to experience problems with a client about the payment process or specific project details. But if push comes to shove, make sure you have all of the details in black and white in a formal agreement to protect both you and your client’s interests.
Always keep a copy of all your conversations with your client via email, phone messages and even social media. For example, deal with your clients directly and issue a job quotation or payment order to have them acknowledge it and return it to you before work even begins. This is to ensure you have all of the paperwork in place to fall back and protect yourself whenever necessary.
Becoming a freelancer means that you will no longer have regular income and there will be months where you earn more money and there will be times when business is slow. Therefore, you will need to be on top of your finances at all times. Being prudent with your money is just as important as meeting deadlines and delivering your work on time!
The first step would be to have a budget, where you begin by tracking all of your spending and set a monthly budget for yourself. You will then have a clearer picture of your expenses versus your income. You should also set aside some money to put towards your savings, as it will also help your out during the “slower season”. You should also take note of your cash flow even more so when you are a freelancer so that you can be sure you can survive the next few months even if you have less work.
It may take some time to achieve work-life balance when you are a freelancer. However, recognise the potential problems that can arise in freelancing and make adequate preparations to overcome these problems, you can then make your career as a freelancer smoother and more rewarding.