At the age of 15 I started with this web design stuff. Here I am, almost 7 years later and I wish I knew a lot more about this field rather than learning just by my own mistakes. But you don’t have to pass through all of this, dear Padawan.
There are a few particularities in our field that unless you have a geek dad you would never think about… So if you are aware about what you need to do you can have a much simpler, more productive, and happier freelance life.
The crazy thing is that success is not (just) about coding skills alone. You have to build a whole environment to compensate the instability that you probably won’t face in a regular job.
Finally, here we’ll see a few tips for novice and experienced freelancers, ranging from controlling your finances to networking. And I really want to hear your advice and tips after reading this, because we always have something to share, right?
So, let’s rock!
1. You’ll earn much less than you imagine
Last month I earned barely two-thirds than what I committed myself to earn. And it doesn’t mean that I have worked less than the plan, it’s just that I overestimated how much I could actually earn.
We tend to think that something magical will happen and we’ll go from zero to a million overnight. Just forget about it, don’t lose too much time thinking about how much you can earn in a month and put that time into getting things done!
2. Things takes much more time than you imagine
One thing that just comes with time is realistic time estimates. I’ve seen myself billing 1 hour for something that took me much more than 8 hours. There are plenty of reasons to get good at estimating time, but you’ll be good with these points:
- How much it took to do before + 50%
- How much you depend on other people and how long it takes to get a useful response from them
- How many unexpected problems you can handle (like accidentally deleting all your DB)
- How many other things you have to do
- How much continuous time you have to deal with this (if you have to take breaks it takes longer to get back to the point you were)
3. You’ll never know everything
I’m sure you have laughed at a crazy dumb user fail. If you haven’t, you should.
But you have to keep in mind that sometimes clients are right, and you are wrong. Sometimes they actually know more about something than you.
A client of mine, for instance, taught me a lot about cool WordPress functions (crazy, huh?).
So be open-minded enough to take good advice, and expert enough to block crazy requests.
4. Distractions are your worst enemy
In other words, you are your own worst enemy. You’ll always find a cool flash (or why not, JS) game, TV show or any other excuse to keep you away from hard work. It’s human nature man, don’t be ashamed.
Once I took an Aikido class. I learned something amazing that day. The teacher said:
“Your body is lazy, kid. Your mind has to control your body. Your body will want to stay in bed for 15 more minutes, and will find all kinds of excuses to keep you away from those crazy physical exercises. But you have to control your body. You have to ignore those distractions and keep moving.” – Myiagy San from Curitiba, Brazil
The ironic fact is that I didn’t take a second class. But I took his advice.
5. Join the right tribe
My very first web design job paid me around $175 per month for full-time work. Don’t know about you, but today it would be just impossible to live on that.
So you have to be around people who see value in what you do. Run away from small gigs, or people who think that your job is just to paste things from DOC to Dreamweaver. Be around of people who you can help, and that will help you in return.
6. Learn to take the garbage out
With all this free stuff out there it’s pretty easy to have your own garbage collection without even noticing.
Links, templates, old stuff, social media overdoses, obscure folders that you’ll never even visit again.
Unless you just want to fill a 1TB drive with psds that you’ll show to your grandkids, get rid of them all and just keep what makes your life better and is useful to your job.
7. Survive with active income, but keep your eye on passive income
Active income is good to balance daily bills, but nobody gets rich with billable hours alone. If you don’t want to stay working 16 hours a day, every day, for the rest of your life, you’d better start thinking about passive income.
Here are a few options:
- Sell templates
- Create apps
- Create plugins
- Take amazing shots and sell them (highly recommended to be a pro for this one)
- Start small services, like resell hosting for your own clients
- Write books
8. Be a backup freak
What’s the price of losing all your current projects data? All your knowledge that is stored just in your files? All your family photos that make you remember that amazing trip last year?
I bet it’s less than any backup option out there.
9. Use the right tools
It’s not just about the image or code editing software you use. It’s all about the structure that you make use of.
Relying on the big boys is a safe bet, since I really doubt you can do a better job optimizing your system for one client than they have been doing for millions. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, start working with jQuery, WordPress, Drupal or anything else that make you feel comfortable.
10. Don’t stick with the tool, learn the roots
Besides those tools, you may be asked to use a new one. And by this time unless you know the basics of the language (or concepts of design) you’ll be in big trouble.
So try to read a good book on the roots of the language you are using every now and then , I bet it can even help you to be more productive while working with those tools!
11. Sh*t happens. All the time
Don’t take it so hard. At some point you’ll screw things up, lose a client, or mess up someone’s else job.
Just stop for a moment and think about how this will affect your life in 1, 5 or even 10 years. I bet you don’t even remember what your “big trouble” was 10 years ago.
Don’t worry, all things must pass, all things must pass away..
12. Visit 1WD every single day
This is the best advice you could take in your entire life. We have great content coming every single day to help you. And of course we all are happy when we see you back :)
I'm a web designer and entrepreneur from Itajubá (MG), Brasil. I love writing about obscure topics and doing some cool stuff. And also I do some FREE stuff, check it out: http://www.roch.com.br/