14 Freelancing Golden Rules

When I tell people that I’m freelancing, I get one of two reactions:

  1. A look of total pity, usually underscored by muted whispers about how I could possibly afford to eat or live in anything more than a cardboard box at the bottom of a river.
  2. Total awe and admiration at the fact that I, obviously, do nothing all day.


Having done it for more than a decade, though, I couldn’t be more convinced that this is the only way I could ever be. Freedom, independence, accountability. Sigh. I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about how much I love my job. And I want to share my happiness. I want others to love their jobs too. And, if you choose to freelance, even more so.

14 Golden Rules for Winning at Freelancing

  1. You are a professional, running a business. Don’t let the “freelancer” title fool you or others. This isn’t a hobby or a game.
  2. Know your product or service inside-out. This is how you get a good reputation and grow.
  3. Don’t skimp on your logo and website. Get it right, keep it consistent across all your corporate material, and others will take you more seriously. Please, please, please don’t try to design business cards or websites yourself, unless you’re a freelance graphic or web designer.
  4. Keep your finances and admin in order. This is a BIG ONE when you’re freelancing. If you can’t, then pay someone else to do it. I can recommend people to you, if necessary.
  5. Learn how to use social media to your advantage and do it, even if that means setting aside time to focus on just this one aspect.
  6. Separate your personal social media accounts from your business one and keep both of them tidy! Every second person is a 007 these days; so, if there’s dodgy material on your profile(s), someone is going to find it.
  7. Include a blog on your website. This keeps your website current and dynamic, and the search engines demand nothing less. When you’re freelancing, you need to be proactive about having your brand seen online.
  8. Network, both in real life and online. This means more than making friends and contacts. It means being an ambassador for your brand at all times – while you’re trying to land new projects as well as when you’re dealing with service staff or fetching your kids from school. You’re never off the radar. Don’t burn bridges or cause conflicts and be disillusioned that it won’t affect you in a professional capacity.
  9. Save your money because freelancing, by nature, is inconsistent. Good months are followed by bad months. Don’t assume that every good month is just the beginning of an upward spiral. Rather, be smart with your money to survive the famines.
  10. Charge properly. Find out what others in your industry offer and charge. Don’t undercut them massively just to get business. This casts doubt on your work ethic and abilities.
  11. Know where your weaknesses are and compensate for them. If you’re great at installing eco-friendly lighting but could improve in your admin, get someone to help you with your admin, or to teach you how to do it properly. Freelancing is multi-faceted and often requires that are flexible and can wear different hats.
  12. Be willing to learn from other professionals. Ask lots of questions, welcome constructive criticism, and change the way you’re doing things when you need to.
  13. Remember that your clients are your clients, not your bosses or friends. They deserve respect, and your best quality of work and service. They’re not obligated to be loyal to you and they owe you nothing but payment for the work that you produce. Put the work in and don’t let those lines be blurred.
  14. Maintain integrity and honesty. Pay your taxes, deliver on time, honour your agreements. Your reputation really counts when you’re a freelancer and independent business owner.

Obviously, there’s a lot more that goes into freelancing. There are do’s and don’ts, yesses, no’s, and PLENTY of maybes. It’s an adventure and a terrifying rollercoaster all in one. It’s a BLAST!


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