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Making the decision to become self-employed can be daunting. By foregoing the safety net of a full-time employer, you become responsible for your business’s success. That said, the time for freelancing is now.

With the internet available for marketing your skills and searching for new clients, becoming a successful freelancer is far simpler than it has ever been. Even with increasing competition, there’s always someone out there looking for the skills that you have. If you market yourself correctly and deliver on promises made, you should be able to become your own boss.

1. Important First Steps

Assuming that you already have the skills necessary to begin working as a freelancer, then the first thing you need to consider is how much you value your time. Research your competition and find out how much they charge per project.

It is a good idea to place yourself near the lower end of the scale when starting out, but as your reputation grows you will be able to increase your prices. You may be surprised by the amount of work that you are approached to do.

Although it may be tempting, never take on more than you can reasonably handle. If you do, it is only a matter of time before you are forced to let down a client, and this should be avoided at all costs.

2. Marketing to New Clients

You don’t need a large budget to market successfully. Getting a website up and running can be extremely inexpensive and there are plenty of excellent how-to guides available to help you. Getting your website optimized (so that potential clients are able to find you) is also a good idea. If you don’t have the skills to do this, outsource the work to another freelancer.

Business cards still have a place in modern marketing, as does networking. Attend industry events and get your name out there.

3. Maintain Expectations

Freelancers need to be familiar with service contracts. Terms and conditions should be spelled out clearly so that you and your client know exactly what is expected of you.

Things to remember include:

• A deadline for delivery
• The exact work that you will be doing (word counts, etc.)
• How you will be paid
• Guarantees from both parties
• Any liabilities

It is not uncommon for clients to go back and attempt to force more work upon a client than they originally asked for. Do not feel obliged to do this. Any extra work required should be charged at an additional fee.

4. Getting Paid

Learning about invoicing is essential for freelancers. To help you when starting out, there are plenty of money software programs available that contain sample invoices for you to adjust.

This guide to small business invoicing from Xero Invoicing Software is a great resource for those not sure where to start.

Your invoice should include:

• The service or items provided
• A short description of this
• Hours worked (or flat fee)
• The price of each item
• The total

Include the date by which payment is expected, and, if you accept checks, include “make checks payable to (your business name)”, and make sure you send your client a receipt as soon as they’ve paid. A lot of freelancers choose to use PayPal to invoice their clients quickly and securely, however they do charge a small fee. Another point to remember is that when you are self-employed, you are responsible for paying your own income tax.

Check out our previous articles!

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Posted by Rob Toledo

Rob Toledo loves all things design, enjoys CSS3, no longer supports IE7 and can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo

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