Nearly 60 Freelancing Tips




I started a “One like = 1 tip” thread for #NationalFreelancersDay, which got buried and forgotten a week later. I’m archiving it here to share my best advice with aspiring freelancers.

Your mileage may vary. I’ll update this as my processes evolve. Some links have referral codes that benefit me if you purchase something. I 100% respect these vendors and would promote them regardless. Thanks for the click!

So here it is…

  1. Never sweat an expense under $100. If it saves you two hours, it’s already paid for itself.
  2. Worried about niching too soon? Build two “storefronts” – a global portfolio at “” and a niche brochure site at a domain that attracts search results. Talk to each audience directly.
  3. Clients don’t want pixel-perfection or the BEST version unless you’re semi-known for high quality. They buy services to solve problems! Focus on testimonials and quantifiable results over vanity words and images.
  4. Incorporate your business after two years. Testing the waters saves money and headaches. I know sole proprietors who have operated as such for over two decades. Don’t do that either!
  5. Referrals are the lifeblood of your business. Do such a good job that someone can’t NOT think of you when an opportunity crops up. All the window dressing (posts, tweets, ads, emails) builds hype, which doesn’t pay bills.
  6. Self-care is hardcore. When you can’t work, your pipeline is dead.
    •  8 hours of sleep, without question.
    •  10 minutes of exercise, even just stretching.
    •  Exercise, shower, dress, make the bed every morning.
    • Avoid refined carbs and caffeine after 2pm.
    •  Take 10-minutes for every hour of work. Pace, drink water, call a friend.
    •  Take a mental wellness afternoon as needed.
    •  Never blur the lines between work time and home time.
  7. Set a secret achievable outcome for the day, with total honesty about what constitutes success.
  8. It’s tough, but ignore society’s perception of “normal” and stick to goals that really suit you. Consider other types of work that might yield better results based on where you are currently.
  9. Log your energy levels throughout the day for two weeks, then schedule around your peaks and valleys. If you have low morning output, focus on marketing or something fun. Do morning meetings sap your energy? Take calls after noon.
  10. Schedule a Quarterly Review. Calculate your biz health: total income, non-billable ratio, and revenue shortfalls. Then select one SMART goal for each month and make them highly visible. You can’t argue with numbers!
  11. Your most profitable niche intersects with your 2nd passion. After years of hedging, I now provide creative services (my first passion) for nerdy communities (my second passion). Experiment and research. Does this audience exist? Can you build it yourself?
  12. Your business is unique to your skills, passions, and chosen market. Drop “we” and “us.” Speak honestly and openly as yourself and use that as a selling point.
  13. Track every hour! Time is money, and knowing where you’re spending your time increases the accuracy of your quotes. I spent a year tweaking my estimates until I got them right. A reporting tool like Harvest makes it more accessible.
  14. Start with a complete, minimal website and expand content over several weeks. No one trusts a half-baked website. What should it run? Whatever gets you started.
  15. People talk down on AI, page builders, and other “shortcuts.” Why? These can be valuable starter tools along your journey to bigger and better.
  16. Your biz is only as strong as your network. Go to Meetups! Be seen, be heard, and host a presentation. Increase your visibility at every chance.
  17. Donate a couple hours every month to help someone out of a sticky situation. Some “seeds” may sprout later, but it always feels good to be helpful now.
  18. Use Notion unless you’re super committed to another project management tool. It’s free and endlessly reconfigurable. Kinda like LEGOS for knowledge storage. At the very least, your chosen tool should have:
    •  Online account or sync to access via desktop and mobile
    •  Painless restructuring of your tasks and categories
    • Due dates and Important flags
  19. Just getting started? Create a spreadsheet of nonprofits that align with your values to build your client list. They could use your services, even in a smaller capacity.
  20. When quoting a project, calculate your effective hourly rate and multiply it by the minimum hours it will take you to complete. NEVER go under that price. You hurt your business and reputation by agreeing to less than what your services are worth.
  21. What is a good starting rate? Find your Equivalent Salaried Rate and double it.
  22. If you MUST take on a client below your break-even price point, require a few things in your agreement: Testimonial, Feedback Survey, and a ping to their network praising you.
  23. Read up on Value Based Pricing. Knowing your dollar value to clients will position you miles ahead of your hourly competitors. Demonstrate your value using case studies, testimonials, and hard numbers.
  24. Make a “Welcome Packet” PDF to onboard new clients. Include a letter of gratitude, expectations, availability (emails, hours, holidays), agreed milestones, and 3rd-party tools you require.
  25. Standardize repeatable tasks and document them. Store them in Notion Templates. A good example – Onboarding: Send Estimate, Client Accepts, Send Contract, Client Signs, Gather Assets, etc…
  26. Admin Day! Everyone should have an Admin Day. Mine is the 10th and 25th of every month. No meetings, no billable, just admin. Use this time to close out completed projects, invoice clients, send late notices, check the mailbox, clear your emails, pay bills, pay yourself 🤑. Twice a month is the right amount of admin: too frequent is boring and less frequent is madness.
  27. Add recurring tasks in your calendar for routine processing. Admin Day, obviously. But also Quarterly Reviews, Quarterly Tax Payments, Subscription Cancellations. Your calendar should be the most visible place for these forgettable demands.
  28. AUTOMATE everything you can. Suppose the process task says, “email reminder when invoice two days overdue,” and your invoicing tool includes automated reminders. Set that up. Right now right now.
  29. If your automation needs are a little pricey, faux-automate for 3 months until you know it’s worth the investment. Then buy without guilt.
  30. Working hard with nothing to show for it? You SERIOUSLY gotta budget. Your finances determine how long you’re in business. This is your Runway. Budgeting will give you clarity on how far you can stretch that Runway and when you can afford to splurge. YNAB is my tool of choice.
  31. I love the flexibility that remote work offers. But it’s also chaotic if you can’t focus or get easily distracted. A distraction blocker helped me turn that around. Also consider:
    • Switching email from automatic Push to manual Pull
    • Leveraging Focus Modes native to your devices
    • Turning on Airplane Mode, and using a client billable timer like Harvest
    • Closing a door, putting on headphones, and other immersive cues.
  32. Consider Timeblocking to break through anxiety and procrastination. 
    I use three calendars:
    • Agenda – appointments and commitments
    • Work – calls and scheduled project focus
    • Planning – recurring breaks, reminders, processes
  33. Vacation costs you TWICE. Not only are you paying for the experience, but you’re also losing billable hours. I felt guilty over a month-long sabbatical because it nearly gutted my business momentum. I’m more realistic about time off now.
  34. Start a daily writing habit — only 200 words at a scheduled time every day. Don’t start a blog unless you can meet that goal for one month. Stash all that writing and schedule those posts far in the future.
  35. If you feel like a used car salesman when marketing, you’re doing it wrong. Forget it’s called “marketing” and consider it “helping people.”
  36. Corollary: Content marketing only works when you Help People. If you get this right, you will be awarded by the SEO gods. @orbiteers wrote the bible on this.
  37. Draft a loose strategy document for yourself. What do your life and business look like in two years? Five years? Ten years? Get detailed. Who are you helping? What are their expensive problems? Unless you can answer these questions, you’re treading water.
  38. As a solo business owner, you’ll learn many things outside your comfort zone. In the past decade, I’ve learned marketing, sales, proposal writing, how to break up with a client in a thoughtful way, how to value myself and my services, taxes, etc. ABC Always Be C…Learning
  39. Limit the garbage in your life. TV, junk food, social media, crappy acquaintances anything that makes you a “zombie” has to go. You own a business. Value your time. Surround yourself with experiences and people that reinforce your goals.
  40. Ignore the business owners claiming you can earn X amount in Y weeks. They found success with their path, but you’re forging your own. That success can’t be replicated without hard work and a realistic plan grounded in your realities.
  41. The public library is an endless source of fantastic business books on finances, marketing, and self-improvement. You pay your taxes (you do, right?) so use that free knowledge.
  42. UMMM… PAY YOUR TAXES! I’ve met many freelancers who didn’t know about quarterly taxes to IRS and local gov’t. They drowned in back taxes. Quickbooks for Self-Employed will calculate what you owe and let you pay estimates electronically.
  43. Remember to follow up with clients periodically to see how your solution to their expensive problem is serving them. There’s likely more work there, e.g., upgrades, fixes, and new scenarios, and they’ll be happy to give you the job if you do well.
  44. Proposals are a lot like dating. No one wants to commit unless you’re a good fit. Put your best forward with a standardized proposal template. Save language from previous proposals and fine-tune with each iteration.
  45. Leverage ✨ THE MAGIC EMAIL. ✨ You’ll get a response within a day 90% of the time. “Since I have not heard from you on this, I have to assume your priorities have changed.” Loss aversion working for you.
  46. Loss aversion is also the reason that discounted time windows work. If you have a lull in your schedule coming up, consider offering a discount for the next client who contacts you within X days.
  47. Consider a discount for those who pay 100% before the project begins. Frame it as “admin time saved” since you won’t have to invoice later. Sit on that money if you need to issue a partial refund.
  48. Schedule weekly status meetings to keep the project moving regardless of roadblocks. If something is in limbo, you’ll address it at the following status. But ideally, with a quick email before that happens.
  49. Stay current in your field, niche, and other communities with RSS feeds. RSS can save you time and mental energy by getting email subscriptions out of your inbox. I personally like Feedbin.
  50. Scheduling meetings with people is a big time waster. Use Calendly’s free plan to save everyone the back and forth. My clients really appreciate this tool. 
  51. Ignore Main forever with Lists. My anxiety plummeted when I created a private social lists of my pals and my favorite curators. The endless feed is no more.
  52. Open your browser settings right now. New tabs should only ever open a blank page. Everything else is fighting for your attention. Disable it!
  53. Stop stashing living documents in Google Docs and .txt files. Strategy belongs on a whiteboard; Records belong in a notebook. Use Miro to brainstorm and play with how your ideas are sequenced. Then migrate your playbook to Notion for daily execution.
  54. Build a Wins Log. My favorite spreadsheet is the one I’ve been updating since 2009. It contains all my long-term goals, the steps that led to achievement, and the date completed. It helps prioritize – I’ve dropped some projects when I saw how little they aligned with my values.
  55. Start a Wins Folder. Every time someone praises you or your work, take a screenshot and save it for a rainy day.
  56. My webhost of choice is Dreamhost. They are miles ahead of competitors when it comes to pricing and support.
  57. Try meditating. Like give it a real shot. Download Insight Timer, set it for 3 minutes, and really try being a full-ass human in one single point in time, the entire 3 minutes. When it clicks, it’s like Balmer’s Peak without the booze.
  58. Email marketing platforms are all evil. At least Sendy is a quarter of the price.
  59. Spare your overtaxed brain cells and get 1Password. It reduces risk, errors, and pain recalling what cryptic memelord reference you typed once in 2016. I promise this expense is worth it.

Helpful Reading

  • Atomic Habits
  • Digital Minimalism
  • Laziness Does Not Exist