Freelancers make up an ever-increasing percentage of the workforce. And as freelancing continues to surge in popularity, you may be considering trying it for yourself.

One of the biggest benefits of the trend towards freelancing — particularly when it involves roles that enable people to work from home — is that it helps the environment in various ways. As well as the obvious energy and emissions savings in avoiding driving or taking public transport to work, home-based work has also been shown to cut down on paper usage, helping preserve our planet’s precious trees that absorb the CO2 from our atmosphere.

For example, did you know that recycling just one tonne of paper can save 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space and 4,000 kilowatts of energy? These are BIG numbers, which is why companies that are committed to responsible forestry are not only helping the environmental cause — but are also gaining more and more clients.

And as a freelancer, you’ll be playing your part in this green revolution.

But of course there are many more benefits to working freelance (e.g., control of your career, improved work/life balance). However, before you decide to take the leap into self-employment, here are six things you should know about working freelance:

#1: You need to know your market value


Freelancers need to know what their work is worth. If you price yourself too low, you’ll undercut other professionals and won’t receive the payment you deserve for the work you do. If you price yourself too high, you’ll be noncompetitive and find that other freelancers in your field get all the work. Network with other freelancers to compare rates and use online resources to ensure you are valuing yourself accurately.

#2: Always be friendly and helpful


In the beginning, you may find that your best sources of work are friends and family. You may also find opportunities with acquaintances, or even just through chance encounters. Be curious every time you meet a new person, and get them on-side, because you never know if they might need your help — whether it’s now or in the future.

#3: Print business cards and hand them out as you network

Business card

As you network, whether at events, during a job or anywhere else, you need to ensure that any potential clients you meet have a way to contact you. Business cards are the classic tool for this, and you don’t have to break your commitment to being eco-friendly to have them printed. Companies like Vistaprint strive to ensure their paper products are made from paper certified to the highest standards of responsible forestry, so you can network with a clear conscience.

#4: Refresh your portfolio regularly


When you’re juggling multiple projects simultaneously, it can be difficult to manage your portfolio and keep it up-to-date. Sure, there’s lots of work to be done (including the constant hunt for new projects), but your portfolio should never be an afterthought. Keeping it up-to-date will help you land the best clients and keep your freelance business growing.

#5: Don’t be afraid to ask for payment


If you’ve never worked freelance before, the process of invoicing and chasing up payments can feel somewhat alien. Keep in mind that most people aren’t malicious when it comes to money, they’re usually just busy. The trick is to be upfront about your rates and payment expectations. You should also familiarise yourself with your clients’ accounting cycles to know when to send your invoices. Additionally, you may want to offer different payment options to ensure you have something that works for all your clients.

#6: Don’t be fooled: freelancing is hard work

Working hard

When you go into freelancing, you are essentially starting your own business. Yes, you can be more flexible with your schedule and develop a better work/life balance — but you should be under no illusion that freelancing is easy. There’s stacks to do, including the business side of things (which may not be your strong point). You must be willing to put in the hard graft; but if you can make it work, you’ll be able to live the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

Freelancing is an exciting and noble venture, and if you have a skill that is in demand, then you can definitely turn it into a money-earner.

Just make sure you understand what you need to do to be successful — and then start doing it!