As of July 2019, I’ve officially been self-employed longer than I’ve held down a full-time job.
This fact is still a little wild for me to think about. But I must say, I’ve learned more (and earned more) in my time freelancing than I have at any other point in my career.
However, one of the side effects of full-time freelancing is that you tend to get a lot of questions when you tell people what you do. I also get a lot of people sliding into my DM’s wanting to learn how I got started with freelancing and how I’ve managed to sustain it.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been happy to take calls and help people out when they ask. However, the busier and busier I get, the less time I have for these conversations and coffee chats.
This bums me out because I want to help all of you who are at the early stages of your freelance journey and need a little bit of direction. But of course, there’s only one of me and a lot more of you.
So if you’re curious about freelancing (or have been seeing my posts on social media and wondering how the heck I do what I do), this handy-dandy freelance FAQ post should give you a lot of insight.
Alright, let’s get into it!
How long have you been freelancing?
I have been freelance writing professionally (i.e. getting paid for my writing) since 2011, aka my second year of university. I went full-time freelance in 2018.
When did you decide you wanted to switch from freelancing on the side to doing it full-time? How did you go about making that happen? What preparations did you make?
In 2017, I was fortunate enough to meet somebody through a Facebook group who was doing exactly what I wanted to do – copywriting and content consulting. Before talking to her, I didn’t think it was possible to make a living as a freelancer. When I was side-hustling, I made okay money but never enough to make me want to do it full-time.
I tried to go full-time freelance about a year before I officially started Jasmine Williams Media. I had gotten laid off and needed to make money so I picked up a few freelance writing gigs. But I quickly realized I was not making enough to live on and started looking for jobs and went back to the corporate 9-to-5 life.
But after talking to this person (aka Shauna, my mentor, and now dear friend) and getting advice from her about what I should charge, what types of clients I should be working with, and more, I knew that it was possible. So I tested the waters by starting an Instagram account to see if anybody was interested in my copywriting and social media services.
Right away, an old colleague reached out and offered me a part-time freelance gig! I was shocked and super excited. While the money was half of what I was making at my job at the time, it was enough to start and it would give me a bit of security and stability while I grew my business. After accepting the gig, I registered my business, opened a business bank account, and set up accounting software so I could start working. And I quit my job, of course!
How do you get clients?
One of the first things I did was reach out to old colleagues and clients from my side-hustlin’ days and see if they needed any support with copywriting or content writing projects. I got a few projects right away just from those initial emails.
Referrals are also pretty big. I’ve had friends, family members, even people I don’t really talk to refer me to their friends who are looking for people who do what I do. I’d say this is one of the biggest reasons why it’s important to be active on social media, especially in the beginning. If people don’t know what you’re doing or that you’re available for work, they can’t recommend you.
Speaking of social media, that’s also an important marketing channel. I’ve had clients find me through my social media and also landed clients by reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn.
Last but not least, there’s networking. I joined a coworking space (shout out to Make Lemonade!) and try to go to networking events a couple of times a month, at the very minimum. However, networking doesn’t have to always be a formal thing. For example, I met one of my clients last year when I was volunteering for a political campaign.
How do you price your services? By hour? By project?
I price by project. I do have a go-to hourly pricing formula that I use as a starting off point and from there, I build out custom package rates.
Do you work with a contract?
Yes. I always work with a contract. I used AND.CO and Wave at first for contracts and payments (because they’re free #realtalk). But now I’m levelling up and switching over to Dubsado and Quickbooks (consider this your official Freelance FAQ recommendation!)
Do you charge for discovery calls?
Nope. But I use a discovery form to vet my leads before I get on the phone so I can see if they’re a fit first.
Did you register your business?
Yes, I did. And if you use my referral link, you can get $50 off when you register or incorporate your business through Ownr (#shamelessplug).
How do you accept payments?
In the beginning, I used e-transfers. Now, I use Wave payments so my clients have the option to pay me via credit card. Soon, I’ll be switching to Quickbooks and Stripe as I have several international clients and these platforms are better equipped for that.
How many contracts do you have ongoing?
It depends, but typically anywhere from four to nine clients at one time. My clients fall into three categories: retainers, recurring and one-off projects. Retainers are ongoing client engagements, often for social media management or content writing. These projects are pretty high-touch. I basically become a (virtual) member of their marketing team.
My recurring clients are ones where I typically write a blog post or two a month. It’s not guaranteed work but it’s consistent. And lastly, one-off projects are bigger engagements that tend to span one to two months.
To keep track of all my projects, I created a project tracker spreadsheet (creative name, I know) so I can see my projects, monthly sales goals, and time availability all in one place.
Do you want to turn your business into an agency?
Ahhhh, tough question! I see myself as an uber-freelancer. I can’t do all the things that a digital marketing agency can do, but I run my business with the same level of professionalism and accountability (and my clients can attest to that). I also like that I get to work in my zone of genius and write cool stuff for cool companies. For me, it honestly doesn’t get any better than that.
I do subcontract designers and other writers to support my bigger client engagements. In the future, I can see myself doing this more as my business grows but I’m not sure when or if I’ll turn my business into an agency. I like the freedom and flexibility of being a solopreneur. I just don’t like being tied down, ya know? And right now, I’m much more interested in growing my business differently. More on that in a bit.
Did you use a business coach?
Yes, I did. His name is Wins McDonald and he helped me get my marketing and sales processes in order. I honestly might not still be freelancing today if I didn’t have him in my corner guiding me and keeping me accountable.
Is freelancing sustainable?
100%. I’m still here 1.5 years later. My friend Shauna has been doing it for over 2 years. My friend-in-my-head and idol Kat Boogaard has been freelancing for 5 years. It is possible to make a living from freelancing… if you are committed to doing the work.
So now that I’ve gone through this freelance FAQ, some of you might have some more questions. Maybe you’re wondering…
- What’s the best way to reach out to old colleagues when I’m starting?
- How exactly do you land clients through LinkedIn?
- Can you gimme that “go-to pricing formula” you mentioned?
- That discovery form sounds great too, can I get that as well?
- Might as well throw that project tracker in there as well, yeah?
My answer: yes, absolutely! After tweaking my scripts, templates, forms, and calculators for over a year, I’m super close to being ready to share these tools with all of you.
These are the *exact* tools I’ve used to scale my business to the point where I now regularly secure four-figure retainers and write for top companies like Patreon, Unbounce and Zapier.
And now, you can have them too.
If you’re tired of …
- Googling late into the night trying to hack your business together
- Stalking freelance Facebook groups for potential clients
- Taking on low-paying gigs to keep the lights on
And ready to …
- Get all the tools you need to start your freelance business in one simple package
- Stop chasing after low-quality leads and have top clients coming to you
- Start charging what you’re worth
- Go beyond this freelance FAQ page and get more support and guidance as you grow your business
Then you should check out my online freelance mentorship program, Click-worthy Creative Academy.