6 Essential Things All Freelancers Should Be Doing

6 Essential Things All Freelancers Should Be Doing

Awful situations can teach us a lot, and it’s almost inevitable that at some point in your freelance career, you’ll suddenly be dragged into tough client situations — situations in which you find yourself standing in no man’s land, with no alternative plan at the ready.

I’ve always been able to retain two or three clients because of my flexibility and humble behavior. I’ve worked with them for ages and never thought about increasing my clientele, just because of stress and workload, I suppose.

The worst situation imaginable knocked on my door just a few days ago, when one of my trusted clients suddenly flew off with no firm reason. He came back a few days after that, but that span of time was a nightmare for me because I depended on him for a large portion of my bread and butter. He was once a reliable client, and his reasons for leaving are still vague.

Freelancing is a notoriously unpredictable business. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I know that every problem has a solution. This article discusses actions you can take to ensure you’re ready for when the tide turns.

1. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

The first thing to learn from the experience I shared above is not to work with too few clients. Always keep an eye out for prospective clients. Not all clients are unreliable, of course, but if you want to gain exposure and reduce some of the risk, work with several reliable clients or even with an agency.

2. Update Your Profiles

Regularly update your user profiles on every website that you generate business from, so that everyone who sees them will be updated about your services, availability for freelance work and your current skills.

3. Keep Your Portfolios Current (Online and Offline)

The key to winning new clients is to regularly update your online and offline work portfolios. Include URLs to your online portfolio wherever you can, such as in your business card.

4. Market Yourself

Many people in this business have a lot of potential but not the skills to market themselves professionally. It’s not rocket science, though. Marketing yourself doesn’t mean wearing a two-piece suit and putting gel in your hair, but it does take confidence. Be honest with clients about your skills, but don’t be afraid to promote your accomplishments and abilities.

Make use of all the marketing tools at your disposal. Send newsletters to prospective clients and companies, socialize on multiple platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Fly your flag everywhere you can.

5. Use Various Platforms to Get Freelance Gigs

These days, if you have potential, people won’t let it go to waste. There are so many ways to apply for freelancing jobs and to increase your clientele. A few worth mentioning are oDesk, Elance, GetACoder, iFreelance and To keep up with freelance job boards, subscribe to these 10 RSS feeds for design and development jobs.

6. Be Honest with Clients

Being honest with your clients is the key to a long-lasting relationship. Be yourself, and be open to criticism. Be humble and flexible, and remember: it’s a competitive market — if you won’t do the job, then someone else will.

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About the Author

Farhan Zafar is the founder of, and works as a senior visual designer and UI expert. He specializes in front-end development (HTML and CSS). To connect with him, follow him on Twitter (@desyni) or email him at

This was published on Feb 2, 2011


Pickle Feb 02 2011

Really great article here :)

Vivek Parmar Feb 02 2011

one more thing i like to add is that never make fake promises with clients

Hasham Feb 02 2011

Hey…. it’s a nice article for starters….. looking forward to read few more informatory stuff.

owais Feb 02 2011

Nice Effort. Its really work

Very well constructed pharhaaan, nice article. Just the developers dont have much to show in their portfolio as developers design applications, web designers literally hang curtains so this is a plus point for your department.

Amitabh Choudhury Feb 02 2011

There is a seventh essential action item which becomes very essential as the freelancer gets a repute. Project Management system.

As a freelancer gains reputation, projects of higher value(monetary or otherwise) follows. Few freelancers tend to jump on to the next project without prior intimation or closure of the existing project.

As (most of) the freelancer is a single person unit. Such jumping to higher value project before closure (or proper realignment) of current engagement leads to nullify marketing efforts.

As I outsource projects developed to freelancers, I found that a person who was highly dependable (and recommendable regarding technical skills) at one time, disengaged from the project without prior notice and is avoiding interfacing. Later its found that the person is engaged in a project that provides wider visibility.

As I was a freelancer earlier and also managed international projects under employment, I went into a review of the situation and found that lack of project management system drains all the goodwill generated through marketing and learning technologies.

Another freelancer, I outsource project to, has placed a system that enables multiple project execution and also generate good will.

Darren Feb 02 2011

Another one:

Be prepared to alter your quote. Missing out on a hundred at first (to get the client) usually means lots more work in the future.

Young Feb 02 2011

I’m so with Amitabh. In my opinion not taking on too much work for yourself should be #1. Freelancers are people too – you need sleep :)

A little inappropriate but I saw the girl in the picture then the headline “things freelancers should be doing” and I told myself “yes I should be doing”…you know where it’s going.

sonny Feb 02 2011

great article, very timely.

keeping the online portfolio updated really takes effort but its something very important too. it’s a very essential part of marketing the whole services being offered through the site.

Barry Feb 02 2011

Good advice. Being humble and marketing seem to be at extremes although I suppose one could argue that being humble and marketing have nothing in common. That’s the hardest part for me, marketing myself. I worked in medicine before where people found me because I was in the book. Ah, now to use that same approach in design.
Great tips. Thank you.

Houdas Feb 02 2011

Really useful advice in this article. I have been an enterpreneur and freelancer for about 10 years now and it never hurts to repeat some key ideas and advice from time to time. Thanks.

Hernan Feb 02 2011

Muy bueno el articulo como para tener en cuenta al principio!!!!!

Burhanuddin Tezabwala Feb 02 2011

Let your client know your actually potential rather than having window dressing. Provide quality work and keep your portfolio updated.

Belkis Feb 02 2011

So true. Love this post. I have made my mistakes in freelancing. I definitely depend on a few clients as my main source of income but as you reiterated, that should never be done. Thank you for the reminder.


Daquan Wright Feb 03 2011

Great article, simple and to the point. :)

Lol@Young. =P

It’s good if you network in real life too. While marketing yourself on the internet is great, someone over the internet will never trust you as someone who knows you will. This includes people at your job or your college, just talk to people (and mention you make websites, it’s that easy). There are generally three sides to freelancing: creativity, technical, and marketing/finance. Each skill takes time to craft, but if you focus on the important aspects, eventually you be versed in each one.

Selling yourself is key, and building a portfolio that sells you is one way to get over competition (which you shouldn’t be focused on anyway). Focus on being good at what you do and you will find work.

For developers, if a portfolio isn’t the answer, a blog is. Blog about your projects and talk about code (and how to secure it, optimize it, etc). Just as a portfolio showcases your creativity, a blog highlights your technical expertise. There is a solution for every problem.

Seenu Feb 03 2011

This is good article do’s and don’t of freelancing

Graham Feb 03 2011

Thanks for the great post Farhan. Sometimes we seem to forget to do these things. It is really great advvice.

Jocuri Feb 03 2011

An other tip for freelances is not to sell themselves cheap, if they know they are doing a great job then they should charge more.
Also this helps getting flooded with work and not being able to deliver.

Marcus S Feb 03 2011

I agree with Amitabh, overlooking the need for good management software can be harmful!

As a freelancer being able to handle your clients, projects, and finances using software, you can save time and stay on top of potential leads, errors, and other opportunities.

Many freelancers do this through a list of applications, but it’s better to do it all through one, if possible. WORKetc combines CRM + projects + billing and is extremely affordable. You can manage everything you do as a freelancer under this program, from client organization and lead management, to help desk support, to email marketing campaigns, to gantt projects and client collaboration, as well as invoicing and expenses.

Farhan Zafar Feb 03 2011

Thanks everybody for added suggestions and compliments.

Cheryl Ellemberg Feb 04 2011

Maintaining good relationships is difficult and valuable! Listening to your clients’ needs and following through is important. It all starts with your own strategy, problem solving skills and critical thinking ability.

Jordan Feb 04 2011

Yeah, hooked me up with some pretty decent gigs. Whenever my clients dry up, I spend a couple days posting to every job offer and usually end up with 2-3 new clients.

Don’t be so quick to undercut somebody else. The net result of that is that everybody- including YOU will end up doing more for less. Your time and skills are worth more than minimum wage.

Phillip Dews Feb 05 2011

great Article farhan, another couple of things i would suggest is to not use your actual home adress for your business but to invest in a PO Box, in the UK this is about £25 a year and also to remember that when registering your domain to opt of of WhoIs.
I had a similar thing when I spent 2 weeks building a website for a client and in the end they decided that they did not want it in the end as they had got a (more crappy) one from another web designer which rendered me being out of pocket its always usefull to come up with a contract and to ask for a deposit of between 20 and 50% so that if they decide they dont want it all is not lost!
And lastly i always recomment you have a support ticket or email for clients!
thanks for sharing buddy!
Kindest Regards

-Phillip Dews

Farhan Zafar Feb 07 2011

@Phillip, great advice though, thanks

Jeffrey Gross Feb 07 2011

I agree with Farhan! Communication & Honesty is something that really makes a working relationship last longer period of time. i have had some very lazy freelancers, they do the work and they assume that the client will know what they have done in the day, they are not communicative. in such cases all the efforts gets wasted and mutual trust really shakes

Hannah Hurst Feb 07 2011

A nice article to read with some great tips for people starting out on the freelance road. Another tip I might add would be time management. This is probably one the most crucial aspects of generating a successful business. Thanks for sharing.

Thankyou for the useful tips, it will be useful in my web design career

Scott Baxter Feb 09 2011

Great post man! Thanks

madiha Feb 11 2011


I see -one thing- I should be doing in this article. ;)

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