Visually Blog 5 Tools and Tips To Help You Build a Successful Freelance Career | Visually Blog

5 Tools and Tips To Help You Build a Successful Freelance Career

Jon Salm

published on January 17, 2014 in Storytelling

At Visually, we know a thing or two about creating outstanding products with an army of freelancers. The Visually Marketplace enables thousands of creative professionals – data journalists, information designers, video producers, creative directors, and more — to find work, producing visual content for clients, with the help of our collaborative tools.

Of course, to build a successful, prolific freelance career, you need more than luck and access to clients online. Here are five key skills that will go a long way in helping you find success:

1. Market Yourself

You might have rockstar design skills, a knack for storytelling or coveted coding chops, but without a personal marketing strategy, no one will know that you are open for business. All good freelancers should have a robust online presence – from public social media accounts (keep it professional, please) to a personal website, digital portfolio, and more. A well-defined personal brand can go a long way towards boosting your professionalism for both current and future clients.

Tools: Social media management applications such as HootSuite and Buffer help keep your online presence organized and up to date. Custom-built websites are always best for showing yourself off in a unique way, but LinkedIn, Wix, WordPress, and enable you to create a professional online presence in minutes.

2. Set a Schedule, Goals, and Expectations

Whether you’re working on a last minute project or have all the time in the world, it is important for freelancers to establish deadlines and manage expectations with their clients. A beautiful final product doesn’t exist without clearly defined answers to what, when and how. Determining what the final product will look like, when it will be delivered, and how it will be done helps freelancers stay on track and helps clients know what they’re getting.

Tools: Visually’s proprietary Project Center incorporates a custom timeline for each project, clearly establishing deadlines and deliverables from the journalist and designer. For projects you work on outside of the Visually Marketplace, Podio and Asana are two of the best project management tools available for collaborating with a team and staying on top of project goals.

3. Keep Track of all your Great Ideas

As a freelancer, you might be working on a number of different projects at various stages of completion, at any given point. Keeping track of all of the ideas and inspirations associated with each one can be tough, and top-notch organization skills are a must for any freelancer’s arsenal of skills.

Tools: The golden standard for organization tools and apps is Evernote – and with good reason. No other tool has as many features, as simple of an interface, or is as simple to use as Evernote. With full-featured integration across a variety of desktop and mobile platforms, the tool can be accessed virtually anywhere inspiration strikes.

4. Communicate Effectively

It sounds like a no-brainer, but effective communication builds a foundation for business success. This is even more applicable for freelancers. Going the extra mile to stay on top of client communication can help eliminate the physical distance between you and your client. Availability via email, over phone, and on video chat is a must, but don’t be afraid to also check out screen sharing apps, too – these can be especially helpful for walking clients through more intricate and detailed work.

Tools: Like Evernote for organization, Skype is the golden standard for communication. Its simplicity is unmatched and universally adored. While Skype offers basic screen sharing, dedicated tools such as Screenhero and are best for power users.

5. Follow up, Build a Network and Grow your Freelance Business

You’ve finished a project and sent your invoice to the client. This might seem like the end of you and your client’s working relationship. But for the best freelancers, this is only the beginning. Follow up with the client a week or two after the project has been delivered for feedback. If it’s positive, ask for them to recommend your work to others, endorse you on LinkedIn, or provide a short testimonial for your website or portfolio.

Tools: Simple skill endorsements on LinkedIn can only go so far, but a glowing recommendation can set you apart from the crowd.

Want to get the most out of’s team of certified freelancers? Visit the Marketplace and we’ll bring your story to life.

*All images are from Shutterstock.


Jon Salm is an associate client analyst at Millward Brown Digital in New York City and a freelance data journalist in the marketplace. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Washington and Lee University. You can find him online at and follow him on twitter @S4LM3R.