This post is brought to you by Adobe Document Cloud.
Like so many twenty-somethings these days, I had a more difficult time finding work after college than I’d ever anticipated. After working few short-term “real jobs” and internships, I eventually found myself in an increasingly common position: that of a full-time freelancer.
In the three years I’ve been freelance writing and editing — to greater and lesser extents — I can honestly say that, for me, there are many more positives than negatives. I started out mostly finding clients on freelance marketplaces like Upwork. I’d have one warning for anyone thinking of getting in the freelance game: at least in my experience, and for people without a decade of work experience on their resume, you have to put up with a whole lot of low-paying gigs before you get to projects that are really worth your time. And even after you’ve built up a reputation and can be more selective about the projects you take on, you will still likely field many attempts to get you to work for less than you’re worth.
Here’s the thing: the gig economy is only continuing to grow, and the internet is flooded with freelancers — some of whom don’t take what they do seriously, spending more of their time bragging about working in pajamas than paying attention to deadlines. They give the many hard-working freelancers out there (who are extremely valuable to businesses of all sizes, for what it’s worth) a bad reputation, and even worse, give them more work to do. Because on top of the work of finding clients in the first place (not to mention, you know, working for them), being a freelancer means you have to ensure whoever you’re working with that you are, indeed, a professional.
Thankfully, coming off as a professional is much simpler than it seems. That’s why we’ve partnered with Adobe Document Cloud to bring you the top five tools you need in order to have confidence that you’re the qualified and skilled contractor you definitely are — and start getting more of the projects you want to do.
1. Accounting software.
First things first: if you’re going be freelancing, your finances will look a whole lot different than those of a salaried worker. You’ll have income coming from multiple sources, all of which you’ll have to report on your taxes. The best thing to do is to get an accountant, but regardless of whether or not you have one, you should be using accounting software to keep all of your finances in one place. (Freshbooks and Xero are popular options.) Not only do they make it much easier to keep track of what you have coming in each month, most accounting software comes with an invoicing feature, meaning you can streamline your invoicing process — something clients will definitely notice.
2. Easy-to-use document tool.
Working with a lot of different people and companies requires dealing with a lot of paperwork. It’s super important you get a contract in writing before proceeding to work with a client, and that you understand all the details of what you’re signing. An Adobe Document Cloud subscription makes the process so much easier — you can easily sign documents and have them signed by others, keep your PDFs secure, and manage your documents from anywhere, on any mobile device. Plus, the free Adobe Scan app lets you simply capture and convert any image into a powerful Adobe PDF. Being able to simply and efficiently deal with any document that comes your way is a huge part of any freelancing career, and something you definitely shouldn’t slack on.
3. Dedicated workspace.
In order for others to take you seriously as a professional, it’s vital you first learn to take yourself seriously. I know how hard it is to not feel like you’re pretending when it comes to freelance work — I spent most of my first year as a freelancer working from my (far too squishy) couch, and that was as hard on my ability to take my work seriously as it was on my back. When you don’t have an office to get up and go to in the morning, a dedicated workspace is an absolute must. Even a student-sized desk in the corner in your living room will do — it just has to be somewhere you know is meant just for working. You may have trouble manufacturing the feeling of “going to work” when you work from home, but on the plus side, you get to do up your home office in the exact way that will make you most productive.
4. Go-to professional wardrobe.
Another crucial aspect of feeling professional when working for yourself is appearing professional. You don’t need to be donning a full-on pantsuit while sitting in your home office (unless that’s your professional comfort zone, in which case, go for it!), but in order to feel like a bona fide professional, strive to, at the very least, not work in your pajamas. Putting on “work clothes” that are comfortable but presentable every morning sets the tone for your entire workday. It’s a physical way to put yourself in “work mode” — which is crucial, even if you’re fresh off sleep mode. If creating a wardrobe isn’t your forte, start by simply choosing a work uniform, like a pair of trousers and a rotating selection of blouses you can quickly pick from each morning. The more intentionally you start to separate your work life from your home life — especially when those things exist in the same physical space — the easier it is to mentally compartmentalize those parts of your life and start taking yourself seriously.
5. Project management app.
Finally, there’s one thing that’s more important than anything else when it comes to being taken seriously as a freelancer: your reputation. It can be very stressful trying to juggle multiple projects at once, but if you are consistently late on your deadlines, it’s going to come back to bite you. Even if your late tendencies aren’t public knowledge, you’ll find it extremely difficult to keep clients. Of course, when you don’t have a boss to report you, your work can feel nebulous — you need to trick yourself into understanding that your projects are concrete and come with hard deadlines (even when they actually don’t). Using a project management tool (such as Asana, Wrike, or Trello) is an easy way to keep on top of everything you have to do. Get in the habit of using one by updating it at the beginning and end of each workday.
There are innumerable perks that come with being a freelancer, from making your own schedule and working from wherever you want to eventually being more selective about what projects you will and won’t take. But in order to get there, prospective clients need to have no doubts about your professionalism — and that starts with being completely confident in yourself and the work that you do.
Image via Unsplash