I’ve been freelancing for 5 years and this formula has been very comfortable and profitable for me. Here’s a bit of advice for new freelancers.
I prefer to be on retainer with one client/agency 20 or so hours a week. That covers your paper bills/expenses. The other 20 hrs a week you can choose good clients with cool projects. A retainer client is one which usually want to have you “on call” throughout the week/month/year as if you are part time. You’re an extension of their team. This will happen when you deliver good work for people and they typically want you full time. But remember, you set out to freelance and carve your own path. Talk with them about an ongoing, slightly discounted, monthly rate that works for both of you and what the expectations will be. Typically it will be a flat price for a certain amount of hours per week/month.
I also prefer working with agencies or other creative studios because:
1. Bigger budgets
2. Bigger (not always better) projects and clients
3. There’s less educating you have to do.
Smaller client’s “may” require more hand-holding and could have widely varied expectations. They are typically less knowledgable about hiring creative services and the process. And rightfully so, they don’t do this every day.
My keys to success have been:
1. Do great work and clients will want to keep you.
2. Be available (be a hero, come through when clients are in tight situations and need your help.)
3. Don’t promise a deadline you can’t keep.
4. Always deliver on time or re-manage their expectations ahead of time.
5. Be up front and aware of your time and scheduling. If you can’t make it happen don’t take it on.
6. Get 50% deposit up front from all new clients!!! No exceptions.
7. Don’t stop chasing down money owed to you. If possible get the remaining 50% before delivering final assets.
Make your own way!
Best of luck.