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Freelancer Guide

Become a freelancer and earn more

Due provides a range of retirement options that help freelancers plan for their futures. We keep it simple: save each month and earn 3%, with no hidden fees, all the way to retirement.

Become a freelancer

Stay on track

Your freelance life begins now

Check your progress at any time and watch your contributions grow.


With Due, you always know how close you are to your retirement target, and we help you calculate the amount you need to save each month to meet it.

freelancer personal finance

What is a freelance retirement plan?

At Due, we know that freelance life can be a rollercoaster. Projects are unpredictable and no two months are ever the same. That’s why we keep your retirement plan simple and flexible.


Reduce your contributions when demand is weak. Boost them when you land those big gigs. Track your growth and always get a 3% interest rate until you retire.

Freelance Taxes Made Simple

Freelancers want to work, not work on their taxes.


Due’s simple retirement plans make keeping your books straightforward. Deduct your contributions and see how much you’ll earn when you’re ready to stop taking gigs.

Receipts for Taxes
Freelancer Working

Why choose Due for your freelance retirement fund?

As a freelancer, no one is going to plan your retirement for you. There’s no 401(k) and no pension. Preparing for your post-work life is down to you—and you’re busy!


So at Due, we make it simple. Applying for an account is free and takes about two minutes.


The whole process only takes a few minutes more. In less than the time it takes to prepare a pitch, your retirement plan can be up and running.

State of the Freelance Community

Freelancing is not just a U.S. phenomenon, but is now spreading around the world
There are approximatly 53 million freelancers in the U.S. contributing $715 billion in earnings to the national economy
12% of respondents were 60 or older, and 12% were in either their teens or 20s. The largest represented group in the survey was the 30 - 39 segment (26%), closely followed by freelancers in their 40s (25%) and 50s (25%).
56% of freelancers fall into the $20 - $59 per-hour range.
80% of all workers in the U.S. surveyed (including full-time employees) said they would do work on the side if it came to them to earn extra money.
There are 5 primary segments for Freelancing. These include independent contractors (40% of freelancers), moonlighters (27%), diversified workers (18%), temporary workers (10%) and freelance business owners (5%).
Writers on average get $58 - $82 per blog post written.
Designers on average get $52 - $90 per-hour range.
The majority of freelancers are women (71.1%) while men comprise 28.9%.
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Table of Contents



Are you tired of waking up everyday, sitting in traffic, and listening to an unappreciative boss screaming at you, or putting you down and saying that you aren’t doing enough. Do you also have a set of skills that are unique and could be used to make money on your own?


If you can answer yes to both of those questions, then congratulations. You may be ready to begin thinking about embarking on the exciting and fulfilling freelancer journey.



How much should I save each month?

Salaried workers with 401(k) plans aim to max out their employers’ matching contributions. As a freelancer, you won’t have matching contributions, and you can’t even be sure what your last salary will be. Aim to save enough to be able to live on 4% of your total savings. If you need $50,000 to live on in retirement (not including Social Security), you’d need to save $1.25 million. That 3% compound interest rate is going to be very important!



What retirement funds best suit freelancers?

Retirement funds come in a variety of different forms, with different benefits and different advantages. At Due, we offer annuities, pensions, and 401(k) plans. While 401(k) plans are best used by employers looking for a way to help their employees, there are versions available for the self-employed. Annuities let freelancers swap a monthly contribution or a lump sum for a monthly payment in the future. Pensions give retirees a fixed return.

All of those plans will suit a freelancer.


When should a freelancer retire?

Freelancers are in the enviable position of being able to adjust their own workload. They can take their pension and supplement a fixed income with part-time work at a rate that suits them. But the age at which they start taking distributions will affect the size of those distributions.

Any distributions taken before the age of 59.5, for example, will come with a penalty. Delaying Social Security after the age of 62, adds 8% each year until you start receiving payments at the age of 70. At the age of 70.5, you must start receiving distributions from any pre-tax retirement plans.

The right age for you will depend on how much you want to live on, and how much freelance work, if any, you want to do after retirement.


Can freelancers ask clients to pay into their retirement funds?

Employers expect to pay into their employees’ 401(k) plans. Freelance clients? Not so much. When you prepare your estimates, include the cost of maintaining your own retirement fund. Collect that money from your client and pay it into your fund. It’s the only way to be sure that your retirement pot is growing.


My freelance income is variable. Can I adjust my contributions?

Yes! You’re in charge. Freelance life can be feast-or-famine. When money’s tight, you can reduce your contributions but do make sure that you bump them up again to make up any shortfalls when work builds up again. Track your account to make sure that you always know how much you should be saving.


Can I keep working in retirement?

Of course. As a freelancer, you can choose how much work you take on and how many hours you want to work each week. But don’t use that flexibility as an excuse not to save. The choice of work hours you perform in retirement should be one you make out of passion and desire, not out of need. Save now. Save regularly. Earn that 3% interest rate. Then decide how much you want to work—or not!


Is $300,000 enough to retire in my fifties?

Only if you’re going keep working part-time. You can’t take Social Security until you’re 62, and if you take 4% of your fund in distributions each year, you’ll have an annual income of just $12,000 a year. You’re still going to have to put in a lot of work hours each week.


Are freelancers good at saving?

No one is good at saving! The average American family has about $40,000 in liquid savings. Between the ages of 55 and 64, those savings rise to $57,200, and reach $67,700 between 65 and 74. People with higher education tend to save much more. The only way to be good at saving for your future is to take control and do it.


Why should I use a retirement fund instead of a savings plan?

A savings account at a bank will now barely pay enough to beat inflation. It’s unlikely to pay enough to compound and turn into a pot large enough to pay for your retirement. Contributions to retirement funds are also tax-deferred. You can make your contributions with pre-tax dollars and pay no tax until you retire.


To help guide you along, here is the Ultimate Guide to Freelancing. This will teach you everything you need to know to make money as a freelancer and help you retire early.

What is Freelancing?

A freelancer, or independent contractor, is a self-employed individual who doesn’t have to commit to a single, long-term employer. Instead, they work independently for several different companies or clients. Freelancers typically charge by the hour or day and are not required to register as a business if they operate under their own name.

It’s often believed the term meaning a freelancer was used first in Sir Walter Scott’s classic Ivanhoe (1820), in which Scott stated, “I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them—I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.” In other words, these persons were mercenary’s who offered their services to the highest bidder.

However, there was an earlier example of the term in 1809 by Thomas N. Brown’s, The Life and Times of Hugh Miller by stating, “But when the battle was hottest, Hugh Miller was a loyal combatant, not a free lance.”

Today, the term is often associated with writers, photographers, editors, programmers, website designers, and professional consultants, as well as many other professional services.

According to Forbes, the best freelancing gigs are:

Marketing – Project managers, Marketing coordinators, or Marketing managers can make between $46 to $52 an hour.

Business Project Management – Project Manager, Process Analyst are estimated to make $34 to $46 an hour.

Web Development – Creating, testing, or providing support for software or apps can result in earnings of $36 to $43 an hour.

Writing – Bloggers, copy editors, and content managers can make $25 to $30 an hour, which makes freelance writing a lucrative option for wordsmiths

Accounting – It’s estimated that freelance accountants can earn between $16 to $30 an hour.

Insurance Inspection – Gathering information, such as photographs, and writing insurance reports can earn approximately $28 per hour.

Teaching/Tutoring – Teaching online classes or being a tutor can bring in $20 to $28 an hour.

Social Media – Being a community manager or social media coordinators can result in $20 to $25 an hour.

Graphic Design – Website and application designers are able to make around $21+ per hour.

Administrative Assistant – Professional assistants can earn between $17 to $20 an hour.

Pros and Cons of Freelancing

Whether you’ve recently been laid-off, your tired of the daily grind, or you just want to go into business for yourself, starting a freelance business offers a number of incredible benefits that most employers just can’t compete with.


Advantages of Freelance Work

The pros of being an independent contractor include:

  • You’re the Boss – This means that you can choose when and where you work. If you’re a night owl, you can work the entire night and sleep in until noon without ever having to leave the house. Additionally, you can also select what projects you want to work on. If you’re a photographer, you may dread working weddings. This means that you don’t have to accept a wedding freelance job if you don’t want to, but you’ll be able to select only the events or situations that you prefer to take pictures of.
  • You Can Make More Money – If you have the drive, freelancers have the potential to make more money than the average person. Some reports have found that freelancers actually earn 45% more than the average full-time employee.
  • Lower Taxes – Federal and state taxes are not withheld from your paychecks and freelancers pay the IRS directly four times per year, including the self-employed tax in place of social security. They also have access to tax deductions like office, travel, meal, and internet expenses.
  • Work-Life Balance – Between flexible schedules, and the fact that only 29% of freelance workers put in more than 40 hours per week, freelancers have an incredible work life balance.
  • Happier, Healthier – Studies have found that freelancers are happier and healthier, both mentally and physically, over traditional workers.


The Disadvantages of Freelance Work

While there are a number of incredible benefits surrounding freelance work, there are some disadvantages that should be considered.

  • No Job Security – If your clients don’t have any work for you, then you can’t make any money. Even when you’re an employee, you always have work to complete unless the employer goes out of business or you’re laid off.
  • Inconsistent Work – There are months when there’s a ton of work to complete and the paychecks are more than you expected. However, the work may dry up and the next month you’re only making half of what you made the previous month. As an employee, at least you know how much your paycheck is going to be each month so that you can budget accordingly.
  • There Are No Benefits – One of the perks of working for someone else is that the employer will handle all of your health or retirement benefits or bonuses like paid vacations or profit sharing. Purchasing your own health insurance is often more expensive than what is offered from an employer.
  • You Have to Handle Accounting – Taxes, bookkeeping, paying bills, and managing cash flow is up to you. While there is readily available software to assist you with your accounting, it’s an additional task that traditional employees do not have to be concerned with.
  • You Risk Not Getting Paid – It’s not uncommon for independent contractors to have difficulty getting paid for their services. Some clients either don’t pay on-time or they don’t pay at all. Unlike traditional employees where you always know that a paycheck will arrive.

You must be able to motivate yourself – without prodding from an outside source. Though there are many pros and cons of freelancing, only you can decide if it’s right for you.

Setting Up Your Workplace

After weighing the pros and cons of freelancing, you may have decided that you’re going to go forward and become an independent contractor. Now it’s time to get your workplace figured out so that you can begin working.

If you live by myself, you’re already at an advantage. You could simply sit at the kitchen table or convert that spare room into an office and not have to be concerned with getting distracted by others. If you live with others, you’ll have to find a space where you can be left alone during “work hours.” Preferably this space, would be a room where there’s a door that closes.

If your home isn’t conducive to freelancing, then consider setting up shop in a local coffee shop or renting out a Setting Up Your Workplace commercial office space. In fact, you may be able to search for co-office spaces through sites like ShareDesk or PivotDesk if you only need something temporarily or at a decent price. Even the library is a great place to find some peace and quiet to work in.

No matter where you decide to make your office, make sure that it’s in a spot that is free of distractions and fits your needs. A writer just needs their laptop and an outlet to charge the battery. But, a photographer may need a darkroom to develop their images, on top of an area to edit the photos.

Branding Yourself

Whether you decide to go just by your name, “Jane Smith Writer,” or incorporating a business name, “Elite Website Design,” you should create a brand for yourself. Besides your business name, you should also have a logo that can be placed across multiple mediums. If you use your name, your logo could simply be your initials in a unique font that would be placed on your website, social media accounts, and invoices.

If you are considering business cards, you can find 100 business cards at Vistaprint for just $7.99. You should also have a dedicated business phone number and address, even if it’s a P.O. box, to add to your professional brand.


Branding Yourself

Most importantly, you need to have a website where you can showcase your portfolio, share references, and promote Branding Yourself your services. When it comes to your website, make sure that the domain is easy to remember (your name would be the easiest place to start) easy to spell, and describes what you do. For example, if your name is John Doe and you’re a social media manager, maybe you could invest in the domain “”

Your website should also contain the following components:

  • A statement that introduces yourself to prospective clients, such as education and qualifications.
  • Explain the services that you offer.
  • Show examples of your work.
  • Contact details like address, phone number, and email address.

Branding yourself makes it easier for you to stand out from other freelancers in your field, showcase your professionalism, and gives you the opportunity to properly promote your services and find more freelance jobs.

Creating Your Portfolio

As previously mentioned, creating a professional portfolio is a major component of your website since it highlights your skills and talents. Remember, a portfolio is an effective way to attract clients since it puts their mind at ease when they can see for themselves that you are more than capable of handling the task at hand.

Creating Your Portfolio

When building your portfolio, keep the following in mind:

  • Only show the projects that you’re most proud of and believe that represents your best work.
  • Show diversity in your work. If you’re a writer, for example, provide examples of articles that discuss various topics to show your diversity.
  • Include your contact information again so that it makes it easier for clients to get in touch with you.

Regardless if you have a decade worth of work, or are just starting, a portfolio is a major assist for freelancers. And, here some recommended hosts and websites that can easily help you create and share your online portfolio.

Carbonmade – With plans starting at just $6/month, Carbonmade allows freelancers in a variety of fields to easily customize their portfolios with a personal domain.

Portfoliobox – There is a free version or paid Pro-edition for Portfolio which allows artists, designers, architects, and stylists to share their work via their own domain.

Behance – As a part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud service it’s extremely easy to upload your work onto Behance. What makes Behance stand out is that there’s a job board and search option for employers looking for creatives.

Squarespace – With the ability to synch to social media channels and analytics reports, Squarespace is a powerful option when it comes to sharing your best creative work. THE

Journo Portfolio – This is an excellent online portfolio for journalists and writers.

WordPress – While not exactly a portfolio website, WordPress is so flexible and customizable that you can turn it into any sort of website that you can think of.

Setting Estimates and Rates

One of the most difficult parts about being a freelancer is determining the rates that you’ll charge for your services. If you charge too little, you run into the risk of being passed over because may see you as an amateur – not to mention that you may not be able to make an appropriate living.

Setting Estimates and Rates

If you charge too much, you’ll miss out on a job opportunity because the client can find someone else who can do the job just as well as you but at a fraction of the price.

Estimates vs. Quotes

When being approached by a prospective client, it’s common practice for them to ask for an estimate or rate. The difference between the two is fairly simple to explain. Setting Estimates and Rates

An estimate is usually a rough price of what the project will cost the employer. While an estimate isn’t a fixed post, it’s typically within 20% of the final cost. A quote differs from estimates because usually a quote will end up being the final fixed amount of the project.

With software from sites like, you can send an itemized breakdown of services as a quote or estimate to potential clients so that they have a better understanding of the costs involved with the job and your services.

How to Determine the Price of Your Services

There are usually three different strategies to use when determining how much you’re going to charge for your services. These include:

Cost Plus Pricing

This is a popular, and relatively easy way in figuring out how much to charge. You simply determine the expenses involved in producing a product and then adding a little something extra to that amount so that you can turn a profit. This is especially useful for freelancers like photographers, videographers, and artists because they already know how much it costs for materials and development. So, they would take those costs and add their desired profit margin to come up with the rate.

For independent contractors like writers and freelance web designers, this may be a little more difficult to determine. The best way to settle on a rate is by knowing how much your monthly expenses are – rent, food, internet, insurance – and then add how much is needed for profit to pay your expenses.

Market Rate Pricing

This is another effective, and convenient way of figuring out your rates. By exploring how much other freelancers in your industry are charging for their services it gives you a rough estimate of what, and how, to charge clients. Perhaps you thought $20 per hour was fair for your web development skills, but realized that other professionals were charging for the entire project, which would come out to $25 per hour if broken down. You can visit freelance sites like Upwork or Elance to scoop out what competitors are charging. You can also visit Coroflot’s Design Salary Guide as a starting point to compare rates.

Keep in mind though that location has a major impact on market rates. For example, a writer in the Philippines or India is going to charge less money that a writer in New York or San Francisco because the cost of living is more expensive in North America. While this can cause some problems, most clients do prefer working with clients in their part of the world, so be aware of the rates that relevant contractors in your area are charging.

Value Driven Pricing

If you’re a graphic designer would you expect to charge, and receive, the same rate from a Fortune 500 company and a local coffee shop? Absolutely not. And, that’s essentially what value driven pricing is. In other words, the client pays for what they believe the service is worth. However, you must also make sure that you live up to expectations.

When using this strategy, you can start off with a flat rate. Let’s say that you’re a graphic designer and you charge $1,000 for a job. You can charge extra for the add-ons that the client requests because the local coffee shop may not need the extra add-ons that the Fortune 500 company does.

Discovering Your Price Structure

While the strategies listed above are a great place to start determining how much your services will cost a client, you still have to settle on a price structure to launch a successful freelance career.

Hourly Rate

This is most popular rate structure used by freelancers where you keep track of the hours it takes to complete a project for a client and bill them for those hours. To figure out how much to charge per hour, answer the following questions:

How much do others charge? If the industry norm is $30 per hour and you’re charging $100 per hour, then you may want to reconsider your rate.

What’s the maximum amount you can charge? This may take a bit of trial and error, but if your services are really worth $100 per hour and you have clients willing to pay that rate, then that’s how much you should charge.

What do you need to survive? Figure out how many billable hours you can actually work per week and then calculate your costs – rent, groceries, internet, insurance, electricity, and any other essential bills. If you determine that you can work roughly 80 hours per month – that’s 20 hours per week – and you monthly bills come out to $2,000, then you at least have to charge $25 per hour.

One of the biggest problems with hourly rates is that you are not going to be able to actually work 40 hours per week as a project freelancer since you have errands, accounting, and marketing your services on top of your work. So, don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’re going to make more money per month than you actually will.

Another problem with hourly rates is that you have to keep track of time. Do you charge when you have an idea while driving? And, what’s the best way to track those billable hours? Thankfully, sites like have powerful time tracking software that makes this a bit easier.

Daily/Weekly Rates

Instead of an hourly rate, maybe you want to charge your client by the day or week. This can be effective for a couple of reasons. For starters, your services may only be needed for a just a couple of days or for a week. This means that you can plan accordingly and budget based on this rate – it’s also pretty easy to track. $25 times 10 hours is easier to track than just a flat rate of $500 for the week. Clients also like this rate because it pretty much guarantees that you’ll be focused solely on their work.

Fixed Fate

Another common rate structure is charging per project. For example, you’re freelance marketer who charges $1,500 per month for client projects. Clients like this structure because they are well aware upfront of the cost of the project. And, it also makes your life easier since you don’t have to do too much budgeting and tracking.

When going this route, make sure that you know how much time and effort a project is going to take you to complete before sending out an estimate. The last thing you want is to spend more time on a project and not get paid a reasonable rate for the job because the job took five times longer than you had calculated it would take.

When starting out as a freelancer, it may be alright to undercharge a bit. Remember, clients want a deal and you could use the work to build your portfolio and have your clients spread the word about how awesome you are. Once you get settled, however, you need to have a proper rate. Just keep in mind that you may want to still charge those original clients of yours a little less since they are the ones who helped launch your freelance career. Consider it a friends and family discount.

Marketing and Promotion

If you thought it was difficult trying to determine your rates as a freelancer, just wait until you begin trying to market and promote your brand. While this may not be a major concern for a seasoned freelancer or even a marketing wiz, it’s still a hurdle that each and every freelancer must deal if they want to make a career of out their independent work.

Earlier it was mentioned that freelancers should have a website that introduces themselves, showcases their work, and has contact information. A website is a great starting point when beginning to promote your brand. And, one of the most effective ways of getting people to visit your website is by creating top-notch content that your specific audience cares about.

Marketing and Promotion

Let’s say that you’re a freelance accountant. Maybe you could create content that assists small business owners with tax inquiries by writing in-depth articles on your blog, hosting a podcast or webinar, or creating an infographic that depicts various tax levels.

The idea is that this content would not only help small business owners with taxes, the content proves that you’re an expert in your industry and will be shared by others in the accounting on their blogs or social media accounts. In other words, you would be doing some good ole-fashioned content marketing.

Here are a few great ways to get your freelance name out there:

  • Create case studies that not only illustrate your skills and talents, but how you helped previous clients resolve a problem. If you have a portfolio on your site, this content is already up and running.
  • Ask past clients if they are willing to provide a testimonial that describes your work and place that testimonial on your website.
  • Network in-person at industry events, your local chamber of commerce, or by interacting with relevant groups and forums online. For example, you could answer questions on Quora or exchange ideas with a relevant LinkedIn group.
  • Become a guest writer for a respected industry publications or blog in your field. Not only will you illustrate your knowledge, you’ll also get some valuable backlinks.
  • Educate others in your industry by teaching a workshop or course. You can also try speaking at an event, giving a presentation, judging a competition, or writing an eBook.
  • Get listed in local business directories and on both Google and Facebook ads.
  • Promote your brand through swag: t-shirts, pens, coffee mugs, or whatever cool stuff you may think your clients will enjoy.
  • Offer a free consultation, 30-day free trial, or product. Who doesn’t love free stuff?

Freelancers mostly also do a little cold e-mailing. It may be a little awkward at first, and it may not be the most effective, but it’s a necessary evil. Just search for the names of around 5-15 potential clients that you would want to work for, do a little digging, and find out how you can help them. Then reach out to them through an email. You may have to submit a contact form or message on Facebook if you can’t locate an email address.

Remember, cold emails need to get right to the point. Introduce yourself, briefly explain why you’re contacting them, and provide a link that displays your work.

While many of the above strategies can be effective, there’s nothing as effective as using your current network or seeking word-of-mouth referrals. Whether it’s a family member, friend, former co-worker, a college professor, or past client, word-of-mouth recommendations are priceless.

You can earn this coveted recommendation by informing your current network of friends, family and business associates what you’re up to – hopefully they’ll spread the word for you – and by providing quality work on-time, there will be clients that will be glad to recommend you for work with others in the field you are working in.

Where to Find Work

Besides marketing yourself through content, using your current contacts, and cold-emailing prospective clients, where else can freelancers land a gig? Where to find work as a freelancer?

Job Boards and Freelance Websites

If you’re just starting out, you may not have that large of a network. That’s alright because there are plenty of job boards and websites out there designed specifically to help freelancers find a job. Some of the more well-known job boards and freelance websites are:

Freelancing isn’t necessarily like other businesses where there’s always the fear the competition. Freelancing embraces more of a community vibe. And, that’s why you can connect with other freelancers in your field. Not only can you seek their advice, they may be throw you a gig here and there when they can’t handle the workload.

You can interact with fellow freelancers by joining online forums like The Freelance Forum, Work At Home Forum, TalkFreelance, or by searching for industry specific forums for freelancers. Additionally, most of the websites listed above have forums for you to connect with other freelancers.

Work For a Non-Profit

Working for free is a great way to build your portfolio, jumpstart your freelance career, and interest potential clients into giving your services a chance. But, if you’re willing to give your services away for free, why not put them to good use by helping out a non-profit? For example, you could use your coding skills to build a mobile app for a non-profit. Not only does this add to your portfolio, the board of directors for the non-profit could be impressed with your skills and hire you for another job.

Remember…Stick to Existing Contacts, Networking Opportunities, and Promotion

Securing a freelancing job may take a little effort on your end at first. But, there are more than enough freelancing websites and communities available that can at least get your foot in the door. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with tapping into your existing network of contacts and networking both online and offline to snag a client.

If you want to attract new clients, you have to do something everyday that grabs their attention – whether that’s an awesome blog post, guest writing, giving something away for free, or cold-emailing businesses. Until you have a steady amount of clients, you have to go to where the work is.

Working With Clients

Without clients your freelance business isn’t really going anywhere. And while you’ll come across great clients who you may even consider a friend, you’ll also have to deal with those clients who you wish you never met.

Regardless, of which end of the spectrum you’re dealing with, working with clients is essential. And, here are the best ways to start working with client so that your experience will be as painless as possible.

Be on the Same Page

That may sound obvious, but when working with a client both parties need to be on the same page. This begins during the pitch phase by being aware of what exactly the client is looking for. If you’re unclear about what the client is looking for, don’t be afraid to ask question. It’s not fun working on a project, turning it in, and having the client reject it because you misunderstood what they were expecting.

Specifically, you and your client both need to agree on important components of a project like deadlines and a budget prior to starting a project. Let’s say that you design a website and the client is upset because there aren’t any images when it’s all said and done. That may not be something that you normally do, but now the client is furious because they assumed that there would be images. This should have been discussed prior to the launch of the project.

Get It in Writing

One of the best ways to ensure that both parties are on the same page is by having a contract. Not only does this help prevent any misunderstandings, it also protects you in case a client pulls out of a project or refuses to pay you.

The contract should at least include the following:

  • Names of both parties – the freelancer and the client
  • Title project
  • Starting date of project
  • The project’s deadline
  • Milestones
  • Payment terms – when and how you’ll receive payment
  • Specific terms or project
  • Signature from both parties

The contract should also include clauses like kill fees. This means making sure that you still get compensated for your work even if the plug is pulled on the project. You may also want to discuss copyright options. For example, you keep ownership until the final payment is received.

If you don’t have an attorney, you can find a contact templates, examples, and additional information from the following sources:

  • California State University Sample – Freelance Writing Contract
  • Docracy – Designer Contracts
  • Stuff & Nonsense – Contract Killer
  • Elance Sample Contract Agreements
  • Smashing Magazine – How to Spot A Sketchy Client (Plus a Contract Template)

Communicate Frequently

Think about all the times that you’ve had a problem in either your personal or professional life. I bet you’ll notice a common theme – the source of the problem comes back to a lack of a communication. While it may seem a bit like overkill, there’s nothing wrong in asking your client for feedback or direction, keeping them updated on the status of the project through reports, and even just dropping them a quick email to see how everything is going.

Communication not only prevents any headaches, it’s also an effective way to strengthen the relationship between you and your client.

Be Flexible, But Not Too Much

To survive being a freelancer you have to be flexible. After all, deadlines and the scope of the work can change throughout the course of a project. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be a pushover. Be up front with a client and explain to them what can be done and when it can be accomplished. If that’s going to be an additional cost, then you need to inform the client that there will be an additional fee. So, if you’re that web designer you can add those images, but it’s going to cost the client a bit more money.

Tools That Make Life Easier

Thanks to technology, there are plenty of apps and software that can help you manage and communicate with clients. Some of these tools include:

  • Google Apps – Not just email, you can share docs with clients and communicate through chat or Hangouts.
  • Nimble – Integrates all of you contact, social media, customer emails, and calendar.
  • Contactually – Manages your clients, and gives you advice on how to connect with them.
  • Falcon – Integrates with 14 different social media platforms so that you can learn more about your clients.
  • MailChimp – Allows you to send mass emails to clients to keep them informed.
  • Skype – Talk or chat to your clients anywhere in the world for free.

Clients Who Wave Red Flags

Let’s also have a word about dealing with the dreaded trouble clients. The best way to handle these type of clients is by avoiding them in the first place.

You can do this by keeping an eye out for the following:

  • Clients who are only concerned with protecting themselves legally. If the contract appears to be too much in their favor, then this is someone who could be a headache.
  • Clients who ask the question, “If I don’t like this, do I still have to pay for it?”
  • A client who claims that they have had a terrible experience with a freelancer in your field in the past.

You could also do some homework and ask your network if they have dealt with this client in the past or even searching online and seeing if there are any complaints on locations like the Better Business Bureau.

Project Management

Since you’re making your own schedule, you need to be organized when planning out projects. The last thing you want is taking off to the beach for the day and realizing that you have deadline due that day! On top of keeping you motivated, managing projects can help you keep clients and subcontractors in the loop.

One of the best places to start is by using a calendar that has important deadlines or meeting dates with clients. Google Calendar, for example is a create place to start. There’s also the awesome Sunrise Calendar that you can use on either your mobile device or desktop. Project Management

However, there are robust project management tools like Basecamp, LiquidPlanner, Projecturf, Wrike, and Project Bubble that can help keep you on track with a project. You should also look into to-do-lists apps like Evernote, Wunderlist,, and Todoist to keep your life and work in order.

While you need to manage your projects, don’t forget to schedule time for promoting your brand, touching base with clients, and handling tasks like billing.

How to Get Paid as a Freelancer

Getting paid is another one of those necessary evils that freelancers must face. Without receiving a payment for your work, you’re pretty much defeating the purpose of being in business for yourself. Thankfully, getting paid as a freelancer isn’t as much as a hassle as it used to be. Thanks to software from sites like, you can invoice clients in just a matter of minutes. But, you can also guarantee getting paid on time by taking the following advice.

Be a Professional

If you’re rude to your clients, consistently late on projects, deliver subpar work, and have an outdated website, then why would a client make paying your invoice a priority?

Always be a professional by having a website that highlights your work, over delivering on a project, meeting deadlines, and being polite.

Be Flexible With Rates and Payment Options

Not all clients are going to be able to afford your rates or even use all of the services provided. Does that mean that you decline their business? Let’s say that you’re a marketing agency and a local deli just wants you to help update their website and put some money into Facebook ads, but aren’t concerned with you sending out press releases or writing daily content for them. Then it’s fair that you have rates for the clients who are only looking for part of the services. Let’s say $500 per month. Since you are not providing the whole package, which is normally $1,500.

Additionally, you want to accept multiple forms of payments from your clients. Not only does this make it easier for them to pay, it also speeds up the payment process. Most invoicing software gives you the ability to accept eChecks, credit/debit cards, or through a payment gateway like PayPal.

Bill Up Front

Most freelancers require some form of payment up front. This amount will vary from industry-to-industry, but a deposit that is 25%-50% of the estimate is pretty common practice. Your contract should also detail if you are receiving interim payments – let’s say 50% up front, 25% in the middle, and the final 25% when completed.

Invoice Promptly and Frequently

When you don’t have recurring clients, make sure that you either bill weekly or immediately following the completion of a job. This not only keeps the cash flowing into your bank account, it also ensures that you won’t forget to send out that invoice.

Invoicing software from or Invoice Ninja allows you to either set-up recurring client profiles or automated billing. This means that you can create an invoice in a snap or set-up recurring billing, which means that the client’s credit card or bank account is automatically deducted each month in the amount that you’re owed.

Never Work Until You’re Paid

Why keep working on a project for free when you could be working for a client that actually pays you for your services? As any freelancer will tell you, you never work on the next project until you’re paid for the last job. However, that doesn’t mean that you just send out an invoice and wait for a payment. If the due date is rapidly approaching, contact the client and find what’s going on. Maybe they accidentally misplaced your invoice or maybe they’ve been out of town.

What if a Client Doesn’t’ Pay?

What happens when a client hasn’t paid an invoice for a freelancing job? There are a couple of different routes that you can explore.

As previously mentioned, you can simply contact the client and inquire on the status on the payment. If an email doesn’t get a response, you may want to give the client a call or stop by their office if they are located in the same area as you are. If you aren’t assertive enough, maybe ask a friend, family member, colleague, or assistant who has a chance to contact the client.

Maybe the client won’t respond to your calls or emails, after several reminders. Then you may have no other option than to consider handing the invoice over to a collection agency.

Final Words of Advice For Freelancers

When you’re just starting out as a freelancer – whether it’s freelance writing, freelance graphic design, or anything in between, it’s really not that difficult to work more than 60 hours per week. Whether you’re just driven, excited, a workaholic, or worried about when you’ll see your next check, you can’t burn yourself out like this. We all need a break from time-to-time to clear our heads and recharge the batteries. And, that’s the beauty of being a freelancer. We can put in an insane amount of work in one week so that we can plan to take off a couple of days the following week.

Here are a couple of other pieces of advice for freelancers:

Don’t sleep the day away

The first piece of advice for freelancers it to avoid sleeping the day away. It’s awesome that you get to sleep-in occasionally, but when you wake-up at 4 in the afternoon and Final Words of Advice your client is getting ready to leave the office for the day, and there’s a major issue with a project, that reflects poorly on your professional reputation.

You have to pay your own taxes

As mentioned earlier, freelancers are responsible for paying any federal, state, and local tax obligations. Don’t gripe about it. Just pay your taxes and be done.

Save your receipts

Paying for dinner when meeting a client is a tax deduction. Make sure you save those receipts.

Have emergency funds

That fat $5,000 payment is burning a hole in your pocket, but make-sure that you set aside some of that extra money. You never know when work will dry-up.

You’re not open 24/7

Even though you may work from home, it doesn’t mean that you’re available for work whenever a client requests your services. You need some much-needed time off as well. Try and have hours of operation that work best for you, like from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

It’s alright to outsource

Sometimes you can’t handle all of the projects being thrown at you. When that happens it is acceptable to outsource some work to a fellow freelancer who is capable of delivering work that meets the standards of both you and your client. If you do outsource, make sure it’s someone that you trust and does quality work and make sure you go over the work carefully before handing it in.

Get comfortable

The next piece of advice for freelancers is to get comfortable. This doesn’t mean working from bed. It means creating a productive and comfortable work environment, like having a new computer or listening to your favorite music in your home so that you can work effectively and not get cabin fever.

Take care of yourself

When you’re working at home, it’s easy to neglect your health. Whether it’s remembering to eat a well-balanced meal or staying active, you have to make the effort to take care of your overall health.

You don’t have to accept every job

Sometimes we’re too busy to accept a new gig. Other times we may not like the project or even the client. And that’s alright. Just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean that you have to take every job opportunity.

While there are pros and cons to being a freelancer, not everyone is cut out to be a freelancer. Some people need that structure in their lives. But if you’re self-motivated and tired of the 9-to-5 rat race, then freelancing is perfectly suited for you and can become a successful business venture and career.

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