10 Takeaways From Hustle Fest That Every Freelancer Should Learn

Whether you're a freelancing pro or just getting started, these 10 tips are bound to supercharge your hustle!

On June 10th, 95 awesome freelancers gathered in Brooklyn for Hustle Fest. It was a jam-packed day of workshops for creative freelancers who want to learn new skills, understand how to negotiate a contract, and meet fellow solopreneurs while drinking wine. #Classy.

As the producer, I’m a little bit biased… but it was definitely a great day. We even learned how to do “boss squats,” courtesy of Madelin Woods. Want to know what that means? To find the answer, check out our top takeaways from Hustle Fest below.

For even more handy dandy tips, follow #HustleFest on Twitter and Instagram. Also make sure to check out our host, New Women Space.

1) Focus on the Long-Term

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

As a freelancer, it can be easy to only focus on your work as it applies to the immediate future. However, successful contractors think about their work and careers the long-term too. Independent strategist, Levina Li, suggests taking the time to understand what drew you to freelancing in the first place. If you don’t have the answer, it will be almost impossible to create a long-term business plan that aligns with your values.

Once you know your why, it’s time to move onto your what. Set quarterly and yearly goals that will help you stay aligned with your vision. Then, set aside a half hour per week to check in with yourself. To make this more fun, pair up with a fellow freelancer– or a whole group of friends! Like they say, teamwork makes the dream work.

2) Remember the End User

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

No matter what type of freelancer you are, it’s essential to consider the end user at all times. As harsh as it may sound, your work isn’t actually about you. It isn’t your art– that’s what your hobbies are for. As UX Designer and Brand Architect, Shamia Casiano, said to our audience, “Focus on the people who are going to buy your content. Know their pain points, and how you’re going to fix them.”

For example, my typical one-liner is that I create content that makes people smile and laugh. Sure, that’s kind of about the end user– but doesn’t highlight how I further a company’s interests. So, I made some tweaks: “I convert readers into fans by making them laugh.” Voila! The end user– a brand or publication– is now clearly in mind.

3) Hire Someone to Deal With Late Payments

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

The room audibly went, “Woah!” when art and brand director, Christine Creamer, dropped this lil’ knowledge bomb on everyone: "Hire another freelancer, for 2 hours per month, to make phone calls for you about late payments." DAMN. At $20 an hour, that is a really small investment for some major peace of mind. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate pestering clients to pay me. This takes that problem away, while also supporting a fellow freelancer. It’s a win-win!

4) Customize Your Contract

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Christine told the group that there’s one thing she wants every freelancer to stop doing– using stock contracts they find on Google. Anyone else done that? (I’m imagining every person reading this raising their hand.) Yeah, me too.

Before Christine’s talk, I thought it wasn’t worth it to tweak my contract. But she made a great point: “If you don’t understand your contract, you don’t understand your expectations.”

In other words, your contract establishes your boundaries. That’s why all freelancers should know the expected timeline for a project, the deliverables expected, their payment terms, and the methods and pace of communication with a client.

5) Clone Your Coolest Client

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Designer and Knockout! Studio founder, Molly Cichy, highlighted the importance of understanding why you love your favorite client. Is it the type of work they give you? The way they communicate? Their flexibility with deadlines? Once you know what qualities are most important to you, it’s easier to seek out clients with a similar vibe. After all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people– might as well like them! (And ideally get paid well, too.)

6) Separate Your Brand Voice From Your Personality

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Molly also emphasized the difference between a freelancer’s personality and their brand voice. This ties into point number two: everything is about the client. Your brand voice should reflect how you’re going to help your prospects achieve their goals. That probably means that your professional voice is going to be a different than your actual personality.

For example, your brand might be sleek and polished– but you also love chillin’ in a hoodie and Converse. If you show up to meetings like that, your true personality won’t match up with your brand persona… which means you’re not gonna get that job.

7) Understand the Ask

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

You won’t get anywhere as a freelancer if you can’t get work. (Duh.) That’s why everyone should know the perfect way to approach potential clients. Freelance creative strategy director, Kim Mackenzie, broke it down for our crew:

  1. Say why you reached out to the company

  2. Give a specific compliment

  3. Offer a specific ask, like a 10 minute phone call

  4. Offer an even smaller ask, like the status of their current need for freelancers

Boom! Your email response rate is about to go through the roof.

8) Budget, Budget, Budget

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Independent entrepreneur, Madelin Woods, told the group that we should be raising our rates as much as possible. Why? If we’re budgeting correctly, we don’t actually have that much money for spending. Here’s how she broke it down:

  • 10% savings
  • 20% overhead
  • 30% spending
  • 40% tax man

Remember this the next time you’re unsure about asking for more money. Seriously, forty percent goes to taxes. Anyone else suddenly feel like becoming an anarchist?

9) Pump. It. Up.

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Before her talk, Madelin had the group stand up and do ten squats. But they were no regular squats– they were boss squats. Because, you know, we were doing them while listening to “Boss Ass Bitch” by Ptaf.

Personally, I have never felt more prepared to negotiate the hell out of something. I highly recommend using this technique the next time you have an important call.

10) Your Brand is a Cumulative Experience

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Photo Credit: Bridget Badore

Your website isn’t the only way that people can experience your brand online. What about your Instagram? Twitter? LinkedIn? Every form of social media should be in alignment with your brand, whatever variety of awesomeness that is. Founder of Rowan Coaching, Colleen Star Koch, is a perfect example. All of her online channels match her brand voice– inspirational, positive, and fun. Check it out, and take notes on how you can apply a similar technique for your own business.

Have any tips that you think I missed? Interested in helping with Hustle Fest 2.0? Email me at thatJillian@gmail.com.