How do freelancers make a living?
April 11, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Freelancer filter: How do you keep enough work coming in to make a living?

I am going to try freelancing (web design and photography) for a few months and see if I can bring in enough work to make a living.

As a freelancer or self-employed person, what advice can you give about getting enough work for it to be sustainable?

What strategies have you used when there was not enough work coming in?
posted by mtphoto to Work & Money (6 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
make sure you line up a few regular clients/gigs before quitting the day job...for photo these could be: local artists or craftspeople or interior decorators who need regular portfolio work shot, catalog work...hit up local manufacturers and sell them on your portfolio, clubs or restaurants that have weekly parties might bring in some work, too...dont forget to run the headshot ad on craigslist ;)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:01 PM on April 11, 2010

Best answer: > "make sure you line up a few regular clients/gigs before quitting the day job"

Seconded. I have a regular client that gives me webdesign gigs every week. I work for a design firm 4 days a week, and freelance one day a week. You should have a few of those "regulars" before you consider going freelance full-time.

> What strategies have you used when there was not enough work coming in?

Haven't encountered this yet, but I would a) improve own website b) go to local meetups and talk to people c) blog d) ask other freelancers you know if they have some work to send over
posted by wolfr at 1:22 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Doing it for a few months won't be a very good litmus test to see if you can make a living, because those first months are the months when you're building your brand and your business and aren't yet making any money.

Really, you need to commit to at least a year, figuring the first few months are going to have next to no income while you network, bulid your brand, work with your first few clients, and send out your first few invoices.

Ideally, you'll still have a full time job while starting to freelance "on the side" and then after you're starting to make money freelancing you can segue into freelancing full time.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:31 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I made the switch from a regular office job to freelance (photog) about five years ago. Before I made the switch I realized all of my free time from the office job was being spent freelancing (nights weekends etc). Once I was fired from the office job I dove in head first.

I told my existing clients I was now full time and then asked friends and peers if they had some other contacts and began calling. Got some more regular clients and made sure I NEVER turned down work unless there was a conflict with another client. I am now at the point where I can comfortably turn down work from my regular clients but only because they now know me and trust me and can usually depend on me. When I get a new client, I do the same thing. They call, you bet I will do it. No matter when or where. I don't want them calling the next person on the list. Ever.

When it is slow, and it will be, well you need to make calls, build your website, market yourself, network, blog, etc. If you are smart, you will have money saved to pay the bills that don't slow down, but if you aren't well then things will get a little nerve wracking. If it is still slow, then think outside the box. Pimp yourself on craigslist, call local photo companies that may need shooters for weddings, events, sports, etc.. Do whatever it takes.
posted by WickedPissah at 2:38 PM on April 11, 2010

Best answer: Nthing the importance of a few key regular clients. Oh god, so important. Knowing you have some kind of 'bare bones' work that will - at a pinch - pay your groceries and rent, even if nothing else, is absolutely crucial.

Secondly, I personally found that the idea of having a "bank roll" - like in poker, was quite important. If my monthly "bank roll" was 2k, I really shouldn't spend on anything but essentials until I know I've crested that 2k. Some months that was easy, some months that was very hard, and some months it was impossible - and that's why it's important to have (depending on life stage, dependents etc) at least another 1-2k of 'emergency' money. Keep that account full as priority number one is very important.

Don't get a credit card; the temptation will be too strong to use it "until that invoice gets paid, then I'll pay off the whole lot". Beware, down that route lies madness.
posted by smoke at 4:08 PM on April 11, 2010

Doing some charity / pro bono work is a good way to market your services, make connections and give something back to the community.

Also, resist the temptation to splash out on a lot of new equipment when you're starting out. You can rent, buy used, borrow or trade services for a lot of stuff.
posted by quidividi at 6:22 AM on April 12, 2010

« Older How much should I charge as a tutor?   |   Does anybody know what happened to the Rachel... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.