9 Tips for Freelancing Success From the Moonlighting Team

As Moonlighting employees, we not only help Moonlighters connect with the right people and grow small businesses, we’ve lived Moonlighting first-hand as freelancers. We’ve seen and experienced what our users encounter every day. And we’ve learned how to overcome obstacles facing freelancers today.

To help you avoid common pitfalls, we wanted to share some of our top tips based on our own freelancing experiences. The revelations below helped us get through difficult situations, grow our clientele and become better freelancers. We hope that you’ll consider these tips so that you learn from our challenges before they become your own.

Pay Yourself First

When I was growing up, my grandfather always said “pay yourself first,” but it wasn’t until I ran my own business that I understood what that truly meant. As you’re launching or running a business, no matter the size, you’ll have a lot of expenses associated with it. The problem many business owners run into is that it can be a major drain on your personal finances to get something, or keep something, going. In the short term, this can be necessary, but if you don’t habitually “pay yourself,” then you’ll never make money.

Don’t lose sight of the true intention—to make money. Always take 10% of your earnings and save for the future before taking money out, reinvesting in the business, paying bills, or paying off debt. That percentage should be a crucial aspect of your personal finances and should grow commensurate to your success.

Know the Numbers

Evaluate your revenue and expenses. No freelance ‘work’ is really worth doing if you’re losing money on it.

Plan for Slow Seasons

The best time to find new clients is when you’re busy. You can always say no, but the worst time to find new clients is when you NEED more work. At that point, it’s a little too late—you’re desperate and spending more money than you’re bringing in.

Ross Ruffing

Ross Ruffing,
Senior Operations Manager

Don’t Be Afraid to Turn Away Clients

Many new freelancers think they need to take any and every paying job that comes across their desk or even take jobs that don’t pay or underpay. I’ve been moonlighting as a graphic and web designer for more than 15 years, and turning away clients has been the most important decision I’ve made. You’ll want to carefully consider the following when deciding to take on a new project or client:

  • Is this a project or cause I’m passionate about?
  • Is this client notoriously or historically difficult to work with?
  • Do I have time for this project based on my current workload or can I push this out to a later date?
  • Am I compromising on my rates or budget?

Be selective to keep your sanity, reputation, and productivity intact. And keep marketing your services so your pipeline is full and you don’t feel need to take on every client.

Jenny Knizner

Jenny Knizner,
Director of Marketing

Clarify Availability

Moonlighting after hours enabled me to exercise skills I didn’t use at my full-time job and make some extra cash on the side for something I loved to do. However, since I was working for a business that operated during normal business hours, I would often get last-minute questions or requests that were time-sensitive. Loyal to my company and completely focused on my work at hand, I didn’t actively check my email or answer my cell during the day.

What should you do when you’re on the company clock and a client needs your help? Addressing the issue directly with my client helped set clear expectations for communication and available work hours. After that, my client knew to email me in advance with any requests or call after work hours, which, since we didn’t have to play phone tag, worked out better for both of us.

Rachel Chapdelaine

Rachel Chapdelaine,
Customer Engagement Manager

Track Payment Due Dates & Invoice Clients

My biggest issue was asking people for payments. I eventually developed my own invoice template in InDesign, but keeping track of payment due dates and marking my calendar to make sure they paid was always the worst aspect—especially amidst my busy schedule. Moonlighting invoices changed the game for me and brought a new level of professional peace of mind.

Joni Lane

Joni Lane,
Director of Marketing

Keep Payments Digital

As a house sitter, I rarely meet face-to-face with my clients after the first few gigs, so if they didn’t leave money before they left, I often had to wait weeks or even months to get paid. I hated getting paid by check because they wouldn’t scan well into my banking app and I’d have to find time to go to the bank (when it was actually open).

I’ve started using Moonlighting’s free invoicing tool to email clients and allow them to pay with a credit card at their convenience. They didn’t even need to sign up for Moonlighting. Now, I get a notification when the invoice is paid, and it directly deposits into my bank account. It’s fantastic. One of my clients loved paying through Moonlighting because she didn’t have to keep going to the bank to withdraw money and could start earning airline points. Win-Win!

Andy Stafford

Andy Stafford,
Senior Operations Manager

Tackle Your Most Important Projects First

As a freelance developer, I used to be tempted to do all the “simple” tasks first and put off the complicated ones. This eventually bit me in the back end when I was late on a project and lost a client. So now, I like to prioritize and research what I need to accomplish first. Like my grandfather used to say, “Don’t jump on a horse unless you know where you want to end up.”

Brandon McGhee

Brandon McGhee,
Mobile Application Developer

Ask Your Network for Referrals

My biggest problem was always finding work. I reached out to my business network, previous colleagues, other freelancers and created a Moonlighting profile. Referrals from my connections and Moonlighting led to new opportunities and enabled me to continue to learn and grow.

Craig Jacobik

Craig Jacobik,
Data Scientist

We want to hear from you! If you’ve had similar experiences to ours or want to share your own tip, we’d love for you to post it in a comment below.

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