Getting freelance advice from veteran freelancers
Here’s how to ask veteran or ‘expert’ freelancers for advice.
So, you’re newish to freelancing. You’re about to start, or you’ve started and you’re finding it hard. You have a million questions, based on the thoughts that swirl around your head at 2am or real issues with which you’re confronted. And you want guidance, tips, tricks or even specific insight…
But how to get it?
Disclaimer: Established freelancers (FLs) are usually delighted to guide newbies. There’s enough work for everyone, and the more good FLs there are in the industry, doing good work and charging fair rates, the better for all. But these seven tips intend to smooth the path a bit. Take with a pinch of salt.
1. Be sensitive
The kind of freelancer you’d ask for advice is a busy one. One who gets tons of emails and is always swamped. One who is basically a small business owner, responsible for HR, finance, advertising, admin and ops, and who has less disposable time than an ‘employed’ person. So be aware that any attention she dedicates to you comes out of partner, kid, gym, nap or TV time.
2. Be flexible
With this in mind, mention early on that you’d appreciate the FL’s input when he’s able to provide it. Not asap. Not urgently. When and if he has a chance.
3. Be succinct
Give a short bio on yourself, your skills and your experience. By short, I mean 150 words. Not a CV. Not a comprehensive tome of what you’ve done, where you come from, who you’ve worked for. Keep it simple, clear and relevant.
4. Be prepared
Spend time online before you make contact, so that you know what’s out there and can ask for clarity on specific issues, like quoting, invoicing, terms and conditions, templates, negotiating discounts, tax, handling clients, etc.
Also, google the FL first so that a) you know exactly what she does and which niches she works in and b) if she already has a website or blog with freelancing posts or info on it, make sure that you’ve read those beforehand.
Psst! Wondering how to figure out freelance rates that reflect your worth (and have the confidence to stick to them)? There are 7 things you need to know + 1 trick that changes the game. Go get ‘em, by joining my newsletter community.
5. Be specific
Don’t say things like, ‘Generally, what is the upside of freelancing? And what is the downside to it?’ Don’t ask ‘How does one design a contract? Can you download one for me?’ Do the research yourself, and ask for guidance.
What’s better is to prepare a list of questions in different areas – say, admin, marketing, client handling and networking – and find three or four different FLs that you can ask a total of four or five questions each.
6. Be generous
If you’d like more access than you’ll get via e-mail, and distance isn’t a factor, offer to buy the FL a delicious breakfast or lunch, during which you can pick his brain for an hour or so and take notes. To clarify: the entire meal is on you (even if you’re a struggling artist), and at a time and venue that suits the FL.
7. Be appreciative
Always respond with a big ‘Thank you’. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve penned encouraging, supportive responses to requests for advice, and had no response at all.)
This is useful not only because it’s good manners, obviously, but also because a politely thanked FL will keep you in mind when useful info crops up, or for overflow work if you seem capable, trustworthy and up to the task.
Tiffany Markman gives good advice on freelancing. Want access to it?
Join Tiffany’s newsletter community by sharing your best email address, and get tips, tricks, info and advice whenever she has value to add.