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freelance survival guide

The ultimate guide for freelancers

Richard ClaytonRichard Clayton
June 23, 2022

With remote work on the rise, more and more jobs are being outsourced to freelancers and so called “9-to-5” jobs are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

As a result, professionals worldwide are beginning to choose freelancing as their preferred lifestyle thanks to the flexibility, healthy work-life balance, attractive earning potential and freedom it provides. Freelancers are able to set their own hours, choose what they’d like to work on as well as who to work with. Indeed, with today’s rising popularity of remote work, competition within the gig-economy is expected to soar.

So, are you ready to embrace the freelance revolution and build yourself the solo career you’ve always wanted?

This Ultimate Guide for Freelancers aims to equip you with the tools and advice you need to thrive and survive, because well, it’s a bit of a jungle out there!

So, let’s dive straight into the tactics and strategies that will help you build a sustainable freelance career and lead you on the road to success.

How to build your freelance brand

As a new freelancer in today’s competitive market it’s imperative you know how to set yourself apart. By focusing on your brand using the five steps below, you’ll be able to do just that.

1. Define your business

As a starting point, ask yourself, how do I define my business? Sometimes the way you may portray your business to others doesn’t always reflect the way you want others to see it. Be clear about what type of service you offer.

2. Determine your superpower

What specific quality do you have that makes you stand out? Perhaps you offer a more affordable rate, you work quicker than others or you’re able to provide superb quality. Whatever it may be, make sure that you’re guaranteeing something others can’t.

3. Deliver

Your brand is a sort of promise to a client, so whatever you’re proposing as a brand, make sure you deliver. Live up to what you offer clients and you’ll establish a healthy relationship with them in no time.

4. Watch competitors

Watch what’s going on in your area of specialization and keep an eye out for your competitors so that you stay ahead and in the know.

5. Take advantage of opportunities to help promote your brand

Are your existing clients and potential prospects joining webinars or virtual summits where you can network with them and promote your brand? If yes, then make sure you’re also attending.

Video: How to build your freelancer brand

Making the most out of freelance platforms to find work

What’s great about today’s digital world is that freelancers can work from anywhere in the world with anyone, no matter where they’re based, and freelance platforms help to just that.

Three great ways to maximize today’s freelance platforms are:

1. Understand the difference among platforms

You may already be seeking work on popular platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer.com as these are some of the larger freelance marketplaces, but because they are home to millions of freelancers, the competition is tighter. If you want to stand out on these sites, you’re going to need to work extremely hard to get noticed.

Instead, consider joining moderately-sized freelance marketplaces that focus on your niche. Chances are, you’ll receive more attention on these types of platforms.

To see the ‘big picture’ of today’s global freelance landscape, check out our map below.

global freelance landscape

2. Select your platform carefully

Do your homework and research! Connect with your network and ask a range of people who have been working with the platform so you can get a bigger picture. Also, ask yourself if you want to work with a platform that requires you to be more independent or do you want to work with a platform that acts as a community in which others can help you and in return, you bring your ideas and help others.

3. Help the platform work for you

Build a network and a reputation outside of the platform where those who are seeking freelancers on the platform will know who you are. Be clear and transparent about what you offer.

Do you own freelance skills that are in demand? Promote all of the skills you own so that prospects don’t miss anything when looking at your profile. You should also consider “hunting in packs”. This means working with other freelancers who are interested in finding work together. You never know where your next gig could come from.

Video: How to make the most out of freelancer platforms

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How to go about pricing as a rookie

Whether you’re a freelance software developer, graphic designer or content writer, rookie freelancers all have one challenge in common and that’s knowing how to put a price tag on their services.

That’s why it’s critical that you know how to establish a good pricing model at the very beginning.

Step 1: Do your homework

Research what your peers are charging as well as how they’re charging their rates. Start with your network and colleagues and even ask for some feedback and suggestions from existing clients.

Step 2: Assess what you’re charging for

Whether you’ve decided to charge by the hour, the project or the outcome, factor in additional elements such as the fee, the amount of time it will take to complete the task as well any equipment you may need to rent or borrow in order to get the job done.

Step 3: Set your rate

Set your rate in conjunction with connections you know well and trust such as colleagues or peers that are working on the same freelance platforms as you.

Step 4: Pay attention to pricing feedback

Charge what you think is fair but also factor in the homework you did on what your competition is doing, that way you can avoid constant negotiations.

Step 5: Revisit your experiences

Take the time to review and analyze your experiences with existing clients. It’s recommended that every to revisit your wins, losses, the feedback received from clients every six to 12 months and adjust accordingly.

Video: How to go about pricing as a rookie

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How to make the shift from part-time to full-time freelancing

If you’re currently earning extra income on the side while working your day job, and are thinking about taking the leap to full-time, there are some important things to consider.

1. Earn enough to live

Will you be able to make enough to survive if you go full-time? One way to assess this is to try and determine if you are satisfied with your current salary. If you’re satisfied with what you currently earn then do the following: take your current salary and cut it in half, and then cut it in half once more. Then ask yourself if you’d be able to survive with what’s left of that salary, as that is likely to be the amount you’re earning when you switch to full-time freelancing.

If you believe that based on the client base you currently maintain you’re able to generate enough income to survive, then go for it! If not, you may want to continue to take on side gigs for the time being.

2. Define your purpose as a full-time freelancer

Not only is it important to know if you can make enough income as a full-time freelancer, it’s also important to know what you’d like to achieve as a full-time freelancer. Do you see yourself as:

  1. Solopreneur – A professional who enjoys working in their field solo and is not looking to expand their business.
  2. Future Entrepreneur – A freelancer who aims to build a larger organization or business in order to generate more income.
  3. Side-gigger – Those who prefer to make their side gigs permanent and truly enjoy working on side projects, all while keeping their day job.
  4. Passionistas – Freelancers who are extremely passionate about their work and expertise and work either part-time or full-time.
  5. Part-Time Freelancers – Those who aspire to receive more full-time work as a freelancer.

3. Do your homework

Talk to your current clients and connections within your network and try to get a sense of whether the time is right to shift to full-time. Do you already have a strong client base? Will you be able to apply your expertise and skills full-time? These are all important things to ask yourself and consider.

4. Keep in mind key pitfalls

Make sure that your finances are stable enough to make the leap and never depend on one single client. Instead, make sure you have a client base that is wide enough in case one of them falls through with projects or tasks. Have a plan and don’t just hope for work to come your way.

Video: How to make the shift from part-time to full-time freelancing

How to succeed as a freelancer even during a pandemic

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many freelancers have experienced hardships and setbacks. Given that there are close to 59 million freelancers in the U.S. alone and about 1.1 billion in the world, the competition for work, especially during the current crisis, is extremely high.

So, what can you do to hold on?

1. Freelance in areas that pay well

Unfortunately, not all freelance incomes are equal and depending on the field you specialize in, you may want to reconsider learning new skills that pay more. For example, if you currently freelance in the areas of hospitality or events, you are probably finding it tough to earn income as the pandemic caused these areas to mostly shut down.

Consider making the transition to another area of work, one that can offer a more attractive salary. Freelance work in areas such as consulting, web development, coding, and graphic design are all in very high demand for 2021.

2. Be more creative

Think about additional ways to create more opportunity by rethinking how you’ve defined your area of expertise. Instead of searching for short-term gigs, try looking for long-term gigs which will eventually leave you more financially satisfied. For example, if you’re a HR consultant, consider the possibility of regular part-time work.

3. Use the right platforms

There is a plethora of freelance platforms out there, some are focused on specific areas like software development, and some target a more general audience of freelancers. Are you on the platforms that offer broader gigs or on the ones that focus solely on your niche?

4. Take advantage of your network

Don’t underestimate your freelance network. It can be a great source for new opportunities. Reach out to existing clients, join groups on social media and connect with fellow freelancers who may be able to connect you with clients seeking your skills and do the same for them. You’ll be surprised at how much your own generosity can help you in the long term.

5. Learn new skills during free time

Use your downtime to enhance your current skills or learn new ones. Don’t just focus on what you already know how to do. Instead, focus on new areas that can offer you even more opportunities. Add new skills to your resume that could potentially attract more clients and a higher salary.

Video: How to succeed as a freelancer, even during a pandemic


How to deal with ‘clients from hell’

Whether or not you like it, difficult clients are everywhere, and you’ll want to do anything to avoid them. It can be extremely disappointing when a client becomes hard to please after hiring you for your skills and expertise and yet, nothing appears to meet their approval.

So, what are the different types of difficult clients and how should you deal with them?

Types of difficult clients

  1. Inconsiderate Clients – Don’t consider the impact of their choices and actions on you and your freelance business.
  2. Indecisive Clients – Constantly change their minds and can’t seem to decide on when to start or complete a project.
  3. Unsatisfied Clients – Give you a hard time when it comes to getting the project approved and demand more work but are unwilling to increase your pay.

Video: How to deal with clients from hell

How to handle clients from hell

1. Avoid the Problem

Always try and prevent a situation in which you are arguing with your client about getting paid. Before taking on any project, always make sure that you and your client are 100% aligned on the contract and expectations. Never start working on a task/project and be writing up the contract at the same time.

2. Define the relationship

Clear communication between you and your client is the key to a successful and professional relationship. Talk to them and discuss what you both believe is a successful and efficient working relationship. Often, difficult behavior derives from miscommunication or a missed expectation between the two of you.

3. Ask for feedback

From time to time, ask your client how you’ve been doing and if they feel that you’ve met their expectations so far. This type of open communication will lead to more trust between both parties, creating a win-win situation.

4. Solve problems in a collaborative way

When it comes to challenging scenarios between you and your client (e.g. disagreement on final outcome, expectations, etc.) find a way to work together and develop a solution. Talk things out and share your thoughts on how things are going as well as the best way to move forward that is fair for both parties.

5. Get help from peers

Before jumping to a conclusion or acting, try to speak with your fellow freelancers or colleagues and ask them what they believe would be the best way to go about handling these types of clients.

6. When all fails, walk away

If you still can’t seem to please your client, then unfortunately you’ll have to consider letting them go. Yes, it’s going to be tough and can even impact your freelance income, but your work conditions matter. If you feel that you are constantly stuck and no longer know what to do, then it’s time to walk away.

How to work with clients in different time zones

Working with clients in different time zones can offer many benefits. For example, when you’re a few hours ahead, you’ll get to enjoy “quiet time” when no one else has clocked in yet, meaning, you can get a lot more done. On the other hand, it can also be pretty challenging!

The 6 things that matter most to your clients are.

  1. Your commitment to their project.
  2. You’ll be able to meet the deadline.
  3. You’re making steady progress towards their expectations.
  4. You’re solving problems and applying agreed changes on a timely basis.
  5. You’re meeting the budget.
  6. You’re available when they need to reach you without much hassle.

To work effectively with global clients, make sure of the following:

1. Be easy to deal with

Set consistent times to follow up with your client and don’t keep changing the time to get together with them for a chat. Try to make their lives easier by setting up a reliable schedule that can be helpful for both you and your client. Always look to create a win-win situation!

2. Discuss any concerns on a call

Reassure them of your commitment to the project and the importance of getting it done and discuss the progress that has already been made. Also, remind them of where you stand with the current budget along with making changes that were previously discussed. Address the topics, if any, that are important to discuss and let them know when the next scheduled call should be and where your progress should stand by then. Finally, be clear on when you’ll be available and when you won’t and explain why.

3. Be mindful of cultural differences

Be aware of your client’s cultural characteristics and you’ll avoid making any embarrassing remarks. Remember, the rules may not always be the same in both your country and your client’s. You should also take into consideration holidays they may be observing and don’t mistakenly set up a meeting during a holiday that they may have taken time off for.

Video: How to work with clients in different time zones

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Best practices for landing high-paying clients

Struggling to earn the big bucks? Whether you’re a freelance graphic designer, programmer or content writer, finding quality clients that will pay you what you’re worth can be challenging.

Here are some different types of high-paying clients, how to attract them and earn more.

Types of high-paying clients

  1. Those That Pay Higher Rates for Higher Quality – these are generally larger companies that are able to spend more on freelancers for quality service.
  2. Those Who Struggle to Find the Right Freelancer – clients who are willing to pay more to ensure they have the right person for their project.
  3. Those with Urgent Needs – clients who need something to be done urgently and have no problem paying more.
  4. Those Who Ask for Rare Skills & Experience – clients looking for hard-to-find skills and are willing to pay more.

Those Who Need Risky Work Done – clients who need to do something risky and will pay more to get this kind of work done.

Steps to land high paying clients

1. Be visible on social media

Showcase your skills and expertise on social media because that’s where clients are looking as well. Build a presence on platforms like LinkedIn where many organizations and those who have the budget to pay more are seeking top talent like yourself.

2. Use the right platforms

Make yourself visible on platforms that are specific to your work. For example, if you’re a freelance software engineer you should be offering your services on platforms that focus on this area and where potential clients are seeking freelancers within this field.

3. Make your expertise known to the world

Are you sharing your expertise, knowledge, and skills to a large enough audience? Share what you know via podcasts, webinars and even E-learning platforms where you have the opportunity to teach those who are interested in your field and possibly earn passive income from an additional channel.

4. Focus on lucrative specializations

Do you work in an area that doesn’t offer much pay? Consider switching over to a field that can offer you a higher income. Research what the most in-demand skills are and see if any of those areas interest you.

5. Take advantage of your network

Your connections may be involved with people in specific industries or clients who are seeking your talent. Make yourself available to them and offer your help while they can also help you.

6. Work with others

You are more likely to receive better paying gigs when you and others collaborate to generate larger opportunities and look for clients together. Instead of thinking about the hourly pay, think about the size of the project and the opportunities that may come about from that.

Video: Best practices for landing high paying clients

How to effectively raise your rates with existing clients

Raising your freelance rate is an important part of growing as a freelancer, however, if you already have a well-established client base, it can be a bit tricky. Before you go ahead and have the conversation with your clients, make sure that you do your homework.

Here’s how to let your clients know about increases to your freelance rates.

1. Be direct

Being straightforward is extremely important when working with clients and it’s also the best approach to take when raising your rates. No need to send them a long email or text message about the fact that you want to charge more. Instead, set up a call and speak to them directly.

2. Give enough notice

Make sure you give them enough time and notice to think about the fact that you’ll be charging more. No client wants to be smacked with a price increase that goes into effect immediately.

3. Explain what they’re gaining

While you’re about to charge more for the same services, your client will want to understand what they’ll gain from this increase. Be clear about what you’ll be offering them in exchange for your new price and explain to your clients how the increase will benefit them.

4. Show your worth

Explain to your clients that you’re bringing up your rate due to what’s fair and that it’s totally acceptable for someone with your background, experience, and expertise. It’s up to you to make them fully understand your position and what you’re worth.

5. Choose wisely

Be picky with which clients you want to raise rates with. Meaning, for more marginal clients, who are typically the more loyal, you may want to increase your rates only slightly, or not even increase them at all. For other clients that typically seek your unique skills, you’ll for sure want to increase your rates.

6. Be flexible

If some of your clients are struggling to accept the full increase, do your best to be flexible and even offer them more time until you make the change. For example, if they are not ready to pay you more, at least give them more time. This way you don’t harm the relationship and lose them. Don’t ever make your client feel rushed.

Video: How to raise your rates with existing clients

The future of freelancing & the most in-demand skills for 2022

As seen in our latest report, Freelancing in 2020, the current global pandemic has caused the gig-economy in both developed and emerging markets to skyrocket.

So, what does the future hold? Here are just some of the most in-demand skills for 2022 that are needed to boost your freelancing career.

Hard skills

1. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is slowly becoming more mainstream and sooner or later, you’ll find that it will be replacing customer support work that’s done by freelancers as well as customer success. In fact, a recent survey found that 70% of large organizations require workers to have both automation and AI skills.

2. Web-app development

As businesses worldwide were forced to shut down their stores as a result of COVID-19, many shifted to operating their business solely online. With digital businesses on the rise, you should take advantage of this and learn how to build and develop a professional site.

3. Cloud computing

Cloud computing is another technical/hard skill that many companies are seeking workers for. Having cloud technology expertise has quickly become very essential for larger organizations so if you’re thinking of growing your skill set, then this is one that many are looking for.

4. Software development

Software development skills have been on the list for the most in-demand tech skills for quite some time now. Demand is also growing faster than across most areas of IT due to the increasing number of apps on the market.

Soft skills

It’s important that you future-proof not only your technical skills but also your soft skills. We gain more work with our hard skills, but we could easily lose opportunities if we lack some basic soft skills. Below are the most critical soft skills to own.

  1. Project management
  2. Good communication skills
  3. Time management
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. Collaboration
  6. Problem solving


Whether you’re going part-time or full-time, working as a freelancer can truly feel like you’re in the jungle. From knowing how to set your rate to working with clients from different parts of the world, you’ll have to learn how to work hard during every stage.

We hope you learned that freelancing is more than just gaining more clients and earning more money, it’s about knowing how to express who you are professionally to the world.

Now that you’ve gathered our best practices, you’ll be more than ready to build the career you’ve always wanted.

Start small and you’ll end up with BIG results!

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The content provided in this article including any information relating to pricing, fees, and other charges is accurate and valid only as of the date it was published. In addition, changes in applicable regulations, policies, market conditions, or other relevant factors may impact the accuracy of the mentioned pricing and fees and other associated details. Accordingly, it is further clarified that any information regarding pricing, fees and other charges is subject to changes, and it is your responsibility to ensure you are viewing the most up to date content applicable to you. Payoneer will provide the most up to date and accurate information relating to pricing and fees as part of the account registration process. Registered customers can view this information via their online account.

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