Freelancing seems like an easy opportunity to gain revenue, but professionals do not realize that it takes a business plan to be profitable.
Do not take freelancing lightly when you consider doing it part-time, or full-time. You have to approach the process as if you are an established company looking to turn a profit.
The first thing you need to do is create a contract for yourself. Have a default contract prepared for your freelance business. Negotiate the terms with the company you are dealing with and use them as guidelines for your revised contract. Go over the time-frame, the amount you will charge, and what is expected by the company compared to what you can offer. Make sure the document is signed by the company you are doing work for and yourself.
Here is an example of why I tell you to do this: I did graphic design freelance work for the Racine Mirror Newspaper. I had an oral agreement with the owner to do layout work and create advertisements for a sum amount of money. Well I did not have the agreement in writing. This left me vulnerable for the owner to take advantage of my time and services. Hence, I did not see payment for my last issue. It is harder to prove terms without a written agreement in court, so I did not pursue a case. More to follow about this situation.
Do not sell yourself short when you start the negotiation process for your deals. Prepare a competitive analysis report before you discuss the amount you expect for your work. For instance, analyze what a full-time employee receives and ponder the amount you can afford to offer your services.
Be prepared to be strict on your terms and to receive harsh terms from the company you are dealing with during negotiations. Propose the dates projects are due, when you expect to receive payment and penalties if the terms are not met.
Utilizing my experience with the Racine Mirror Newspaper: As I mentioned, I was vulnerable without a written contract with our terms that the owner and I had discussed. So the owner took advantage of every opportunity by adding tasks to my workload. Furthermore, the owner would have me drive back and forth to the office, use all of my day time cell phone minutes and expect me to generate more than my fair share of advertisements. Needless to say, a contract would have put what I was willing to do for the amount paid.
Overall, you need to implement a plan for your freelance business. There are plenty of Web sites offering organizational tools to base your business, or you can use a program such as Microsoft Offices Excel. Evaluate what you can do compared to the project workloads, and hopefully you should not have any negative experiences like mine.