Freelancing in general is a responsible work option if you cannot (or can no longer) handle the robotic and rigid schedules of typical office work. If the daily grind of getting up early and leaving the office late (a typical experience in Nigeria) no longer appeals to you. You may have suffered burnout or health issues in the process.
Your freelancing journey would be rewarded big eventually, if you are willing to stay focused. But it may take a while (could be years) and serious dedication to establish yourself as a freelancer. It is certainly not a day’s job.
So – Who is a Freelancer?
A freelancer is an independent consultant – a worker willing to sell his/her services to clients or employers on contract. The contract could be a long-term or short-term contract, and typically time-bound. Modern-day freelancers work mostly on the internet and from remote locations, communicating regularly with their bosses and teams.
As a freelancer, you have the option of being paid per hour or minute of work. Otherwise the entire job is paid for at an agreed price, preferably in milestones (agreed installments) or when the job ends.
The importance of having a written work contract or agreement right from the beginning cannot be overemphasized. There are a few exceptions to this rule though, especially when you have been a long-time member of a dedicated project team. The team leader is held responsible for the legality, execution and terms of contract of that job.
Benefits of Working as a Freelancer in Nigeria
What makes freelancing a better option than regular office work? For one, you have better control of your time and energy. As a freelancer in Nigeria (and elsewhere), you are not hounded into meeting unduly strict deadlines. Or resuming and leaving work at inconvenient times. You are not overworked and stressed out with little or no opportunity to adjust.
Secondly, you can do more than one freelance job at once. Which would require good time management skills on your part to ensure there is no clash. By doing so, you can earn much higher than a standard office job. In any case, whether you focus on one freelance job or more, the potential to earn higher than an office job is always there.
By the way, I know from experience that many full-time employers in Nigeria frown on having a side hustle. Such bosses limit their employees from having free time for self-development or to earn additional income, which is frustrating. You may end up gaining so little financially and in other aspects.
We recommend the following 10 important tips for any freelancer in Nigeria to succeed and be able to maintain it.
Be Confident in Your Abilities
Learn to demonstrate confidence in your work and abilities, without acting or sounding proud. However, you must also cultivate listening skills and be adaptable. Listen to the client and consider their needs. There are cases when you may need to bend a little to accommodate the client’s needs.
Be ready also to offer professional advice to your client based on your knowledge and/or experience in a calm way. And give the client an opportunity to think and decide – never force your way though. Also, learn to stand firm in case the client questions your work. Take time.to explain, receive his/her feedback with maturity, and use it to refine your work.
Ensure You Sign a Work Contract or Agreement
It is far better to accept a job with a work contract or agreement. This should state the clear code of conduct, work conditions and payment from the beginning. This is a form of protection for both yourself and your employer/client. Verbal or informal agreements can be broken easily, and you may end up working without pay.
Also, learn to keep to the rules, meet deadlines, and be honest and open with your client. While you are doing that, learn also to keep track of your work and earnings. A genuine employer would be very interested in monitoring the quality of your work as well.
Learn to Update Your Portfolio Regularly
If you are registered on a freelance job portal such as Fiverr or Upwork, it would be very sensible to showcase your most recent work. That way, prospective and existing clients can see how you have improved. Learn to update your portfolio with your recent jobs. Let your prospective clients know your areas of specialty and your new achievements. So they can be on the lookout for you once your profile meets their needs.
Maintain Your Integrity: Be Truthful
In an attempt to sell your skills, be advised not to tell lies. Do not claim to have a skill you are not good at. Learn to be truthful. Otherwise if you fail to handle the job as expected, the client will become upset and may never patronize you again. Furthermore, the testimony of one client for or against you can travel far. So a client may intimate several other people about their experience with you for good or ill, so be careful. Word of mouth can spread quickly in a short while. Being truthful about what you cannot do is the right thing. And it does not stop the client from giving you a job you are good at, at a later date.
Don’t Pull Down Other People: Stay Positive
It is good to speak in favor of yourself and your strong skills. In fact, you should do that at any opportunity. Showcase your skills and let your work speak for you. However, do not speak ill of other people’s work, whether they are as good as you are or not so good. And remember – you might need to work on significant projects with these same people as a team later on. Your reputation matters, so guard it by staying positive. Sow good seeds by maintaining positive relationships with other freelancers – especially in your field of specialization.
Be Tolerant: Persevere and Stay Cheerful
Not every client/boss you work with will impress you. Even team members may get you annoyed. And not every project will be your dream job. It is not an uncommon experience, whether you are a new freelancer or an old hand. Because you would meet scores of people with ideologies and values quite different from yours, and you may not always agree. So you must learn to work with them without losing focus. Do your work as ethically as possible and get your pay, then move on. Stay focused.
Learn and Relearn
Cultivate the habit of continuous learning. Be ready to continuously source for, and use materials that can improve your skills and knowledge in your area of expertise. Be it videos, physical books, e-books, blogs, mentors and role models. Ask questions and be curious. Use search engines, Wikipedia, and online dictionaries to get answers on a regular basis. All these will keep you ahead of the game, and up-to-date.
Go the Extra Mile for that Special Customer
If you have worked with a client who appreciates your work and comes back for more – ensure you show your appreciation. A returning customer is an asset; he/she can easily advertise your work to others. So treat them as such. Do something extra for that client, and let him/her know it. It could be a discount, a free service, some perks here and there. Let him/her know how much you appreciate his/her patronage. And show it by adding a drop of extra to enhance the job you are handling for that client. Do not hide it. You are simply paving the way for future profiting and even more customers.
Do Follow-up and Request for Feedback
If you are blessed with a well-paying client, reach out to them beyond the completion of the project with some form of ‘Thank you’. Appreciate such clients that paid you well for your service, so that you can remain in their good books and be remembered. This goes further to build valuable professional relationships. It encourages the customer to come back, and even recommend you to others.
Secondly, encourage and welcome feedback on your work. Find out what that client thinks about you and your past work for them, especially areas that need improvement. And use it as constructive criticism to improve future projects.
Guard Your Actions and Words: Think First
Part of what marks you out as a professional is an ability to measure the impact of your words and actions. For posterity’s sake, learn to make as few enemies as possible. Think before acting. For you may meet persons that can affect your future. If you act or speak in an unkind way to a person now, chances are, you may still meet such a person later on. He or she may even turn out to be your potential client, and would remember how you treated them. Of course such a client reserves the right to refuse to work with you. Your career journey would be largely influenced by the people you meet, and relationships/networks you form along the way. So guard yourself and be humane.
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