What I’ve Learned From My First Freelance Gig

I’ve been scouring the online world for some freelance writing gigs, looking for something, anything, to put a little cash in my wallet. I joined every freelance writing website I could find. Finally, I got a bite. It was just a simple proofreading gig, but it was a job nonetheless.

There are a few things I can say that I learned, or need to learn, from this experience, as simple as it may be.

Be Prepared

I was not prepared.

To be fair, I don’t think my employer was either. We found each other via Freelancer. I bid way higher than some people, and maybe $5 higher than the average and said I could get it done within two days. He messaged me, asked me if I could get it done in two hours, max.

I had nothing on and was still in my pj’s, so I said (like any eager beaver with a quality work ethic), “Of course!”

However, from the point of his first message (we’ll say it was at 10 am) to getting to the agreement, it took about an hour. then it took another fifteen minutes or so for him to send the “you’re hired” request, and for me to accept it.

In theory, the two hours should have started from that point (about 11:15 or so). Except, I think he meant from the 10 am point. About ten minutes to noon, he messaged me asking how it was going. I didn’t want to disappoint my first client, so I said it’d be done in ten minutes. It was doable, but I would have preferred one last go-over.

After sending it to him, I realized I didn’t know how the payment system worked. Did he just send money my way? Was I supposed to invoice him? I searched around, found an invoice button and began creating my invoice.

Except then I realized that I had to think about tax. Did I want to charge him VAT on top of the fee I already quoted him without mentioning VAT, or would I just pay it out of what I earned from the job? Could I actually say I was charging VAT if I didn’t have a VAT number? Oh crap, and do I need to be registered as a business before invoicing him??

Once I sent off the edited copy, I sat, watching the screen, obsessively checking my phone, my email, and the website, looking for a response. For hours. What if he didn’t like what I’d changed? What if I missed a whole mess of stuff and he didn’t think me worth paying? What if I didn’t get it to him quick enough? What if he was looking in to ways of getting around paying me and my work was for nothing???

I was not prepared.

Be Sure You…

  1. Research Tax Law
    This can be different depending on the country you’re in, so make sure you’re well versed. Do you need to declare yourself an LLC company? A solo trader? Are you going to be making enough money to employ other people? Ok, the last one is something to think about later, but be sure you know what your options are and where you fit into them.
  2. Research Your Freelance Site
    Every site has a FAQ section, which should answer your basic questions on how to get a job, how to interact with someone offering the job, how to invoice them, and so on. But go further than that. Look at forums on other websites that might address more detailed questions, such as “How long should I wait before I send an invoice?” Be in the know before you start getting job offers (and don’t worry, you’ll have a couple of days at least before your first bite to do your research) so you’re scrambling to figure out what the professional move might be.
  3. Research Your Potential Employers
    When you do find a job you want to apply for, look into them a little bit. Most freelance sites allow you to look at their profile, look at what jobs they’ve offered in the past, how much money they’ve dished out in the past, as well as reviews from other freelancers. If there are a lot of negative reviews, then you might want to skip that job, or look into contacting the employer and asking them about their experience hiring freelancers. Give them the chance to explain their situation.
    Some companies looking for freelancers have their own website, and list what company they’re hiring from. So it’s a good idea to delve into them that way as well. That way, when you do apply to them, you can show them that personal touch.
  4. Know Your Rights and Expectations
    Any good freelancing website should have information on the rights of the employer and the rights of the freelancer. When signing up for these sites, we all have to agree to the terms and services. Make sure you’re with a site that has your back if you need it.

Be Professional

When I went into this, I had no idea how I was going to be contacted by a potential employer. Would I get an email notification via the website stating that an employer had hired me? Or requested and interview? Would I get a direct email from my potential employer?

What I did end up getting was a little chat bubble that just said, “Hello.” So I said “Good morning.” There was nothing for a while, so I then went on to say how I was very interested in the job and would like to know more about it. He sent me a document and said it needed editing. I didn’t know if it was a tester to see if I wa qualified to edit the real deal, or if I was hired. So I asked. He said, “This is the job itself?”

I then threw a smiley face.

No seriously, how on earth do I talk to professionals in a chatbox?  In school I learned about writing letters, emails, and memos, but nothing about instant messenger. Thankfully, as I said before, he didn’t seem to be quite knowing what he was doing either.

I actually didn’t learn anything with this point. If you have tips on this, send them my way!

Be Patient

The person hiring you for their project probably has more on their plate than what your job is. While your focus is on the task being paid for, they probably have another few projects on the go, their own deadlines to see to, as well as emails, phone calls, whatever. That’s not to say that you don’t, but at the end of the day, you were hired for this one job as far as they’re concerned.

Once your project is done, or if you have a question along the way, be patient with them. Give them a reasonable amount of time to get to your request or your project.

That being said, it’s been two and a half hours since I sent my piece in, and I haven’t heard anything back yet. My fingernails no longer exist and I might only have bloody stumps in their place.

What was your first freelance experience? Was it a success? Was it a mess? Feel free to share your experience, or a link to a blog post detailing your experience!