Some days, freelancing can make you feel like that song – you know the one where you’re on top of the world looking down on creation (or staring over it as you flat lay your creation). Other days, becoming a bear and hibernating for the winter (a.k.a the client from hell period), sounds like the finest idea you could ever have magicked up.
Freelancing can be sunshine and rainbows, but it can also be damn difficult. But we can make this a helluva lot easier by establishing systems and processes.
Stick with me, they’re not dirty words. They help free up your time so you can do more creative work (or even actually see your friends and family). They establish boundaries and ensure you focus on the things you’re good at, and help the rest tick on in the background.
To help you navigate the creative process, I’ve pulled together a list of things you can put into practice to make your life as a freelancer a lot more free.
The first and super important step to take is to create a process lifecycle map. You want to list out all the steps you take from the moment a potential client contacts you to the completion of a project. List out everything into a flow chart. They contact you, then what happens? You send them an email? A questionnaire? You arrange a meeting? You get the idea.
Our aim is to streamline this entire system because this is your creative process. You have a start (intake), you have a middle (creation) and you have an end (completion). So let’s cover a few of the biggies.
Initial Inquiry – Can you streamline people into one main communication channel? For example this might be a contact form on your website where you glean some information from them that’s useful to your reply and so you can personalise it.
Email replies – Start creating an email template system. You’ll probably already feel like you often write similar-ish emails. Save them as a draft and just tweak them when you need to use them. It saves a ridiculous amount of time and stops you having to re-read an email obsessively to make sure it’s perfect.
Quotes & invoicing – I like specificity in quotes. It means you’ve got it clearly outlined, you’re transparent and everybody is on the same page. This doesn’t mean you need to price out every line item (package up your services!) but just make sure you’ve been clear in what’s included. Automate this system. Use something like Harvest (super simple) or Freshbooks, and you can reuse quotes and manage your clients easily.
- THE WELCOME PACKET
When you start with a client, it’s good practice to welcome them in – especially when you’re working with them for a longer or intensive period. Of course the level of this will depend on the services you offer but you can always create a nice looking one-pager. The idea is to reassure your client, make them feel comfortable in the process, assure them you know what you’re doing and provide helpful information to make your project as smooth as possible.
- PROJECT MANAGEMENT
I cannot stress the importance of this enough in managing your creative projects. Take a look at some of the best solutions out there – Trello, Asana, Teamwork PM, Wrike or Basecamp. Most have free initial accounts so check out the features and take a look around. You need to find something that you’ll be happy using every day but don’t get frightened off by anything – implementing these things take time. I suggest you start with one project and then move them all over one by one from there. Soon enough you’ll wonder how you ever did without!
Do it well and create templates! Presenting things nicely shows you give a damn, and that’s not such a common trait. Whether you’re sending photos through for review, logo concepts, interior design palettes, illustrations, copywriting – whatever it might be create something you can present it nicely on.
- WRAPPING UP
Once you’ve delighted your client and you’re ready to wrap this baby up (however big or small) add a little touch of ‘you’ at the end. There’s two parts to this – handing over everything you need and potentially outlining next phases that can be taken (recurring clients are fantastic – if you loved working with them) and saying thank you. For the latter, a handwritten thank you note, a special offer for their next project, a gift package or an online voucher go a long way.
Everything in this process is all about doing your absolute best possible work, freeing up your time AND allowing you to charge properly for your services – you’re creating a professional, easy and fun working environment – and that puts you on top! Too often we get caught up in everything that isn’t the actual crafting of what we do and in the end, we end up nearly resenting what we love doing but this is still the creative process. It’s all part of it. So put a few things on your to-do list and let’s get it done!
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