How to Start Freelancing: Tips for Working with Your First Client

After securing a client, it’s time to start delivering work. We’ll break down everything you need to do to set yourself up for success, from having a kickoff call to developing a sustainable workflow.

View Video on Loom

You landed your first client, and now it’s time to actually start delivering work. While exciting, working with your first freelance client can also be incredibly daunting. Don’t worry, the work-from-home-in-pajamas days are in the near future. But first, let’s get organized.

Here’s a few things you should do before you start freelancing to set yourself up for success.

Don’t Start Working Until You Have a Contract in Place

The term “contract” tends to send shivers down new freelancers’ spines. When trying to figure out how to start freelancing, the last thing you want to hear is confusing legal jargon that makes your head spin. But, a contract is important, and you should know what it means.

So, let’s break it down with a scenario.

You just scored your first freelance client. (virtual fist bump)

They want your Social Media Management Package, which includes full management of the client’s Instagram account. More specifically, for $1,000 a month, the client gets 3 Reels per week, 2 static posts per week, and 2 Stories per week.

You’re hyped about landing your first client, so you dive into developing their content. You spend hours crafting unique Reels you know will excite their target audience. It’s all ready to be posted, and you’re feeling good.

Just a few days into the engagement, the client reaches out and says that after further consideration, they aren’t sure $1,000 a month for social media management is within their budget. Unfortunately, they’re going to have to pass on your services.

Oof. You just spent hours working on content, and now you might not be paid.

Here’s how this scenario would pan out depending on whether you had a contract in place:

  • Without a Contract: There’s nothing in place to protect you in this situation. The client is not legally obligated to pay you any amount. You can keep the content for your portfolio, but you’ve lost both time and money.
  • With a Contract: Before starting work, you crafted a contract that outlined the deliverables you would provide to the client, the timeline for the work to be completed, and some notes about canceling the contract. In fact, you noted that should the client want to cancel the contract, they need to provide 30 days notice. Because of this, the client still owes you $1,000 for the first month of services.

In this scenario, a contract protects you from not being paid. It also provides you with time to find a new client to fill the spot.

When figuring out how to start freelancing, contracts will be your best friend. So, make sure to have one in place before you do any work. 

Creating a Contract

When freelancing on Pangea, contracts are set up for you. (phew) When you accept a role with a client, you agree to certain information such as the pay, the hours, and other details the two of you agree on. If the initial terms of the contract don’t represent the structure you need or were looking for, you have the option to decline it and let the client know of any revisions you’d like to make.

That said, when you receive an offer on Pangea, you don’t have to do anything else in terms of setting up a contract if you agree with the terms as they are. The contract between you and the client will be housed right on Pangea.

When you find a client through Pangea, you are required to set up a contract with them through the platform and only accept payment through the platform’s payment system. However, you may find clients outside of the Pangea community. In that case, you can onboard them onto the Pangea platform for simpler contract and client management, or you can choose to set up a contract with them on your own.
If you choose to not use Pangea for outside clients, you’ll want to develop a contract that you can use across a variety of freelance engagements. However, make sure to use a template that is either provided by a reputable legal entity, such as Law Depot, or is approved by a lawyer themselves. Legal stuff can get messy very quickly, so it’s better to protect yourself upfront.

If you do opt to make your own contracts, make sure they outline the following details:

  • Who the agreement is between (you and the client)
  • Pricing (the payment you’ve agreed upon)
  • Payment dates (when the client is expected to complete invoices)
  • The project scope (what deliverables the client will receive)
  • Revision limits (how many versions of the work the client can get)
  • Delivery dates (when the work will be submitted to the client)
  • Portfolio usage rights (whether you can use the work in your portfolio)
  • Contract cancelation information (how much notice is required to terminate the contract)

Schedule a Kickoff Meeting

After the contract is in place, it’s time to really get started. Scheduling a kickoff meeting with your client is a great way to begin the engagement.

A kickoff meeting can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the complexity and scope of the project. It is a space for you and your client to review the deliverables and project goals. Use this time to get clear on the client’s expectations and how the project will run.

Here’s a few topics you may want to touch on during the meeting:

  1. The project goals. What is the client hoping to achieve with this project? What are their expectations?
  2. The client’s business goals. What is the client’s business hoping to achieve, and how does this project fit into that?
  3. How you will communicate with the client. Do you typically communicate over email? Slack? Teams?
    • Note: Don’t give a client your personal phone number. Providing your phone number gives them 24/7 access to you, and who wants to be texted about work on a Friday night at 10pm? If a client really wants to communicate over text, consider getting a Google Voice Number to communicate with them without dishing out your personal number.
  4. How the client will provide feedback. Will they leave comments on a Google Doc? Will they send it over email?
  5. How work will be submitted. Will deliverables be sent over email? Will it be marked as “done” in a task management system?
  6. Review the timeline for the work. Revisit the timeline you and the client initially agreed upon. Make sure it still suits the project goals.
  7. Schedule recurring meetings. Get a few check-in calls on the calendar.

Get Yourself Organized

Once you know what the client wants, you’re ready to get started on the deliverables. Use these beginning stages to set yourself up for success.

Start Developing Systems That You Can Grow Into

If you develop a content calendar for one client, templatize it so you can use it for other clients in the future. Similarly, if you know that tasks are going to get more challenging to manage, don’t rely on paper to-do-lists. Take the time to create a digital to-do-list template that you can use as the project develops.

By creating systems you can grow into, you’ll save yourself time in the long run. Rather than scrambling to manage the project at every phase, you’ll have systems that expand as the work does too.

Schedule Check-in Time With Yourself

While checking in with clients is crucial, so is checking in with yourself.

Schedule time to check in on the progress of the project. Ask yourself:

  1. What is going well? What isn’t going well? How can I improve what isn’t going well?
  2. Are there any areas I still feel confused about? How can I learn more about those areas?
  3. Am I meeting the client’s expectations? If not, what do I need to do to adjust?
  4. Do I feel like I am getting in a routine, or do I still feel like I am scrambling to navigate the work? How can I get myself more organized so I don’t feel like I’m scrambling?

Taking a step back to reflect is key in improving your work and your workflow.

The Bottom Line

Use this beginning period to get yourself in a position where you’re able to start delivering work. Take time to get clear on the tasks ahead. Develop systems that will support managing the project tasks and grow with you in your freelancing career. When you feel ready, start cranking out killer work.

Next up