There are a few pieces of freelancing advice that I constantly see splashed around the web. Experienced freelancers and freelance coaches are always telling their readers to pitch constantly, to create a freelance website, to never work for free, and to always charge what they are worth. This is all great advice for some freelancers in some situations, but it’s all advice that I’ve ignored for years. Here’s why:
I don’t pitch constantly.
In the first few months of freelancing, I pitched constantly, often sending out two or three pitches a day. But now? I haven’t sent a pitch in months. First, I have more work than I can handle right now, and I’m happy with the rate I get paid. Second, my priorities have shifted. I’m no longer trying to build my freelance business. Instead, I want to create more time to work on my blog. Third, I currently work with two corporate clients who are extremely reliable and let me dictate how much work I want to do. If I want to do more work, I can easily ask them for more assignments without pitching new companies.
Should I be pitching more? Maybe. But based on my priorities, the amount of savings I’ve built up, and my risk tolerance, I’ve made a conscious decision not to spend my limited time pitching for work that I don’t have time to do.
I don’t have a website.
I’ve been freelancing for 4+ years, and I’ve never had a website for my freelance business. I have a portfolio of work at Upwork and at Contently. I also keep all of my portfolio materials on my hard drive so I can send highly targeted portfolio pieces to potential clients.
Should I have a freelance website? Maybe. But in my niche of education writing I’ve found that cold pitching has been my best strategy for landing work. I tend to work with major education companies, who aren’t searching the web for freelancers. They have plenty of people approach them. My business might benefit from a website, but for now I don’t want to invest the time and money in a new website when I already have plenty of higher priority things to do.
I’ve done work for free.
One of the most common pieces of advice I see is “Never work for free!” I get it. It’s so important for freelancers to value their services and to not get taken advantage of. That being said, I do think there are strategic reasons to work for free. I’ve written blog posts for free to help build traffic and authority for this blog. I’ve also done freelance work for free in my niche of education writing. Before I agreed to work for free I did some research and learned that doing spec work in my niche is fairly common and the work I did for free would never be used by the company for anything other than evaluating me.
Should I have worked for free? Absolutely. On the blogging side, writing unpaid guest posts has doubled the size of my email list. On the freelancing side, I’ve made thousands of dollars from companies that only hired me after seeing the work I did on spec. I made a strategic decision that working for free could help me reach my goals, and I’m glad I made that choice.
I don’t always charge what I’m worth.
I do think it’s important to charge clients for the value you bring to their projects, but there are times when I’ve strategically let clients pay me less than my regular rate. For example, I’m currently working with one of the major American education publishing houses. My goal is to get my foot in the door, make contacts at the company, and show them my skills with the hope that I can land better-paying work in the future.
Should I under price myself? I’m not sure. There is definitely an argument to be made that if a client is used to paying you less now, they will resist paying you more in the future. With this company, I know they have a hierarchy of freelancers, and I know there are opportunities to supervise or edit work from other freelancers. I’m betting on the fact that the supervisory work pays more and that I can eventually land one of those roles. We’ll see if my bet pays off.
I’m not trying to advise you to ignore common advice. My goal is to help you realize that not every piece of advice will apply to you. Some rules are made to be broken, and some pieces of advice won’t work for your unique situation. Learn from the experts around you, but trust your judgement and understand your own needs too.
For every freelance “rule” that I’ve broken, I had a well-thought out reason or strategy for going my own way. Set clear goals for yourself, then make strategic decisions to help you achieve those goals.
Are you a freelancing or entrepreneurial rebel? If so, what’s one piece of common advice that you don’t follow?