No matter the freelancing website you use, here are a few tips that will help you to be a successful freelancer in Africa. Not only have these tips helped me to be successful in the freelancing world, but they are also key characteristics that clients will look for when hiring you.
How To Be a Successful Freelancer in Africa
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela
1. Know that you can learn anything and keep learning
The beauty of freelancing is that you’re not limited to one career or skill. No matter what your teachers might have said to you at school, at university, or college, the truth is that you can learn anything.
If you’d like to work as a freelancer but need to work on improving your skills, the Internet and the local library have a wealth of information that’s completely free.
From taking an online course to following podcasts to reading books, there are endless ways to learn. Immerse yourself in whatever career or service that you’d like to offer and learn as much as you can.
2. Be professional in every area from your profile to the ending of contracts
From the way you present yourself on your freelancer profile to how you write your proposals, be professional in all you do no matter what service you are offering. Most importantly, see yourself as a professional and take pride in your work.
Here are a few tips:
- Use free tools such as Grammarly to check your work and to catch any errors. It’s free to sign up and you can load the extension onto your browser so that it can check your writing for you.
- Get a friend or family member to take a profile photograph that looks professional.
- If you’re submitting samples or portfolio pieces for proposals, make sure that they are of the highest standard. Check and recheck your work before submitting it.
- Most importantly, be professional and polite in the way you communicate with your clients. Always thank a client for giving you the opportunity to work with them and, if possible, end a contract on a good note. (You might want to reach out to them for future work.)
3. Don’t be afraid to start small and build up your rate
When you first start freelancing, it might be tempting to set your profile rate at a high rate and only select projects that pay well. However, don’t underestimate the power of starting small.
Start with a lower rate so that clients are more likely to hire you. Work your rate up slowly as you complete projects. Complete short fixed-price projects to build up your work history and profile. Don’t be hasty, start small and diligently work your way up to success.
When I first started working as a freelancer, I would apply for short fixed-price projects. For example, the odd blog article for US$20. I found that it was quite easy to build up a good work history by completing the shorter projects. It also helped to bring in a steady trickle of income which slowly grew.
4. “Under-promise” and over-deliver
It’s much better to give your client a realistic expectation of your ability to deliver a service. New freelancers might be tempted to make bold promises on what they can and can’t do. This then sets an unrealistic expectation for your client and, if repeated too often, can result in him or her not hiring you again.
Make sure that you give him or her a clear understanding of what you can and can’t do.
In fact, it’s better to give them more than what they were expecting. For example, if you are a writer and you promise to hand in an article in 10 days, aim to hand it in early.
5. Communication is key
One of the secrets to being a successful freelancer is communication. Make sure you stay in communication with your client. If you’re uncertain or have questions, be sure to ask your client so that you know exactly what to do. If you’ve experienced an unforeseen delay or situation, let your client know so that he/she can plan if needed. Clear communication is one of the characteristics that will make clients want to hire you again.
6. Be prepared
Always have a backup plan when it comes to equipment and working online. If possible, try to have 2 internet connections from different sources. For example, you might have a connection with one provider and an internet package on your phone. That way, if you’re in a middle of a call with a client or potential client, you can still meet with them.
Although it’s not always possible to have two laptops or computers, one way to work around a potential issue is to save your work on Google drive. That way, if something goes wrong, you don’t lose all your work. Also, if for example, a situation occurs and you’re unable to finish a project, you can also share the work you have done with your client.
7. Put in the hours
If you want to be a successful freelancer, it goes without saying that you’ll need to put in the hours and work hard at it.
Even if you don’t have any current projects, you can still put in time in refining your profile, building your portfolio of work, and reaching out to previous clients to see if they need help with anything. I found this very effective in getting more work and this helped through many lean months.
Part of the hours can also be building up your skill and continual learning.
8. Stay positive and have faith
Lastly, don’t give up. It can take a while to build up a good work history and profile. Sometimes it can take up to 30 proposals before you land a project, so don’t give up. If you’re on a platform like Upwork where you need to purchase “connects” to apply for jobs, be sure to leave a little cash in your Upwork account so that you can purchase connects if needed.
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less
than the one you are capable of living.”