The 3 Most Important Habits Of Successful Freelancers

Implement these habits today for a successful freelancing career

Don’t make resolutions, make habits. When it comes to our freelancing careers, we often set goals- but what about our plan to actually get there?

Mapping the path to success is a tricky task, as it’s different for every person, and quite frankly — if there was a map, we’d all be using it and we’d all be as successful as we want to be.

We can look at what other people did and didn’t do to get to where we’d like to be, but ultimately there are a few simple habits that every freelancer must follow to be on their best footing towards success.

I’ve taken the liberty to research what everyone from Forbes to Tim Ferris has to say on the topic of habits for freelancers. I’ve tried almost all of them, some for a long time, some for a little — and I’ve compiled the top 3 habits based on the following criteria:

  1. Universality — Habits that most reputable resources and industry leaders agreed on.
  2. ROI — Habits that produced the highest reward/return for the effort.
  3. Accessibility — Habits anyone can start today.

With that, these are the 3 most effective habits any freelancer can, and should, start today to give their career the best chance at success it can have.

#1. Practice Daily

People we admire didn’t just get out of bed and become that person, they spent countless hours practicing and developing their talents. The day you stop practicing, is the day you start falling behind.

No matter your craft, practice every day. Even if you don’t have work, pretend you do — create the type of project you wish you had, and execute the project as if it were real. No one said your portfolio has to be work other people paid you for. Create for yourself, and be proud to display any portfolio-worthy materials you produce.

I set aside at least 1 hour a day to practice my skills. My craft is digital marketing and design, so sometimes that hour is spent making up logos or practicing writing. When I’m unable to tap into my creative side to practice the logistics, I swing over to the knowledge side and spend my hour reading articles or studying what industry leaders are doing to ensure I’m staying relevant with my knowledge and practices.

As freelancers, we’re often in hunt mode. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that we either have to be working or finding work, and anything else is just a distraction. But we have to shift our focus to the bigger picture and realize that practicing and further developing our craft is an invaluable use of time. Spending an hour or so a day to create a made-up logo for a fake company doesn’t have direct monetary value. But the compounding education and growth that practice develops can produce a career-changing monetary value.

#2. Bid Daily

Freelancers usually fall into 3 categories:

  1. Just starting out and trying to build their reputation and convince people to work with them.
  2. Getting a steady amount of work but still not sure where next months rent is coming from.
  3. Has too much work and doesn’t have the bandwidth to take on more projects.

No matter where you’re at with your business, my advice is to continue submitting proposals for work on a daily basis. Whether it’s one proposal a day or 5, bid on at least one job a day.

Even if you don’t have the bandwidth for any more projects right now, eventually the projects will end. Keeping your pipeline full and healthy is the best way to minimize dry periods of work. And there will be dry periods, so doing everything you can to keep work coming is the best way to limit the damage of those dry periods.

Submitting proposals isn’t just about bidding on jobs, it’s a business tool for you. Staying in touch with the jobs people are looking for is an opportunity for you as a freelancer to understand what your target audience wants and needs, and gives you chance to further develop your skills for those trends.

For example, when I first started my freelance career everyone wanted brochures and fliers, but I noticed a growing trend towards powerpoints and social media ads. If I just checked in with the market every 3 months or so I could quickly fall behind in knowing what my potential customers are looking for. We want to be the experts in our industry, and we want to be able to position ourselves as the solution to our client’s needs — and knowing what they’re needing and wanting is the 1st step. Knowing what people want is so easily achieved simply by looking at the job requests every day.

Submitting proposals daily gives you a chance to test and analyze your offering and proposal strategy. I personally create a few different templates for various types of work, and I note which ones work and don’t work. A sort of A/B testing on my proposal strategy. What I’m doing is honing in on my offering and proposal language and growing towards continually higher success rates. Even if I’m booked for work and can’t take any more on right now, I can still continue to grow my offering and acquisition strategy which will inevitably prove useful.

A few of my favorite places to bid for work are:

  1. Upwork
  2. Thumbtack
  3. Dribbble

#3. Automate, Automate, Automate

Time is money and the more time you can put back into your business, the more money you can make. If there are tasks you find yourself doing often, see if there isn’t a way to automate it.

A few examples of things I automate are:

  1. Proposals — These are of course modified to the specific job.
  2. Trello boards — I’ve built my project management system into a template that I then slightly modify to the specific projects.
  3. Onboarding worksheets — I have a template for collecting all of the information I need to start projects.
  4. Google Drive — I have an example file structure I like to use for new clients, and I just copy that file structure for each new project.
  5. Reports – All of my projects that require reports or weekly check-ins have a template.
  6. Marketing Campaigns — All of my marketing efforts for social media and my blog(s) are planned out in advance. I spend a day to create all of the content and set up a calendar to push out the content at certain times throughout the month.
  7. Invoicing + Accounting – I like to use to automate both my invoicing and accounting. It’s a great way to track and categorize expenses, send and collect invoices with seriously little time and effort.
  8. Robo vacuum -Because vacuuming takes time, and a clean space is a conducive space.

There are dozens of other things I, and I’m sure many others, automate to keep working as efficiently and effectively as possible — but you get the point. Find ways to eliminate waste from your daily routines so you can put more time into generating a successful freelancing business for yourself and experiencing a healthy work-life balance. If there are tasks you can’t automate that aren’t a good use of your time, consider outsourcing them! You can likely outsource those tedious admin tasks for a fraction of the cost it’s taking from your time- allowing you to put your focus where it is more impactful.

At the end of the day, only you can find what works for you. Based on my research and testing, I’ve found these three habits to be very simple while producing magnificent results. These habits help grow you in every aspect from personal to professional development and ultimately put more time and money back into your day.

What habits work best for you?

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