Things you should know before you start freelancing

Welcome to the first episode of my newsletter series.  My focus is to talk about things I have been through navigating my way in the tech industry. 

I started my career as a basic computer operator in Lagos, managing a business center. I was an exceptional operator known for my ability to type and produce complicated mathematical typings. Schools came to my office to get their exam and test questions printed because of all the business centers, I actually did type their questions properly and put all the diagrams well (rather than having them draw out the diagrams with their hands after printing). So here’s one thing I want to point out quickly - I was good at what I did, to the point that I was responsible for typing an entire physics textbook known as First-class Physics (very popular in Lautech between 2008 - 2013 when  I was there).

When I gained admission into Lautech, I continued on the same path; typing, printing, designing, and generally working as a freelancer.  This episode will be focused on that period of my life. The very obvious mistakes I made and why in retrospect, I was failing  - even though I thought I was doing well at the time. 

The first thing we must establish is the definition of success as a freelancer. This is a very relative term and especially in freelancing. Most freelancing platforms consider success as the total number of completed jobs that is satisfactory to the customer (which is not always equivalent to how much you have made - sometimes, you do a lot of good jobs and get very little pay from it). In addition to that, I’ll be considering how much money one makes. So, for me, to succeed as a freelancer is to

  1. Deliver enough satisfactory jobs to the clients
  2. Have returning clients
  3. Have referring clients
  4. Make good money doing it

By saying I failed as a freelancer, I am basing it on the 4 points above (all together). There is so much I can say about the above, so I’ll still be exploring further in upcoming episodes. To make things easier and to reduce the content of this first edition, I’m going to be highlighting certain experiences and pointing out lessons from them.

I did not see myself as a brand; I saw myself as a hustler

The difference between seeing yourself as a brand and a “hustler” is in how you interact with your customers, the type of customers you consider and it also reflects in the amount you charge. While the hustler does anything that comes his way just to make a little money, the brand, on the other hand, does things that align with their objectives and bring them money.  On my part, I accepted all jobs (even non-tech-related jobs), and sometimes, I failed to deliver them - hurting my brand more than helping. 

I remember once attending a meeting with a round neck shirt, jean trousers, and sandals., I was to meet with the owner of a large hospital in Ikorodu (Lagos). After traveling down from school - Ogbomoso (about 5 - 6 hours), I looked quite rugged to the point that the client was not willing to do business with me anymore. This was because I was not seeing myself as a brand. 

So, to really be successful in freelancing, you need to build a solid brand., In another episode, we’ll talk about how to build your brand more thoroughly, but for now, here are a few things you need to know:

  1. Have a brand name - this could be your name, your nickname, etc, but be known for something, it should reflect in your online accounts, in your bank account, in your invoice, etc
  2. Put your brand name everywhere. Sign up on freelancing platforms and use the same brand name
  3. Speak, write, and generally be involved in things that help your brand. In this century, most people will google your name before they get involved with you. What will they find?
  4. Grow with your brand. After speaking with a client as if I was a 45-year-old experienced software architect, on meeting him, he said: “Your brand does not match your outlook”. Even though I sounded quite confident and bold in my chat and phone conversations with him, upon meeting him physically, I quickly lost my confidence and was intimidated. This is something you don’t want at all, and I’ll also be exploring this more in another episode of this newsletter.

To wrap up this edition, I hope you see the type of content to expect from me. I am confident that many people will learn from my past mistakes. If you know someone that’ll benefit from reading this, please share it with them. 

Thank you for reading. Keep safe, and see you in the next episode!

Originally published on Seyi Onifade's newsletter, follow him here.

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