by Artwell Nwaila (@artwelln) Six years ago I jumped into the freelance space and, as with many other things I do, I didn’t know what I was doing. I made a ton of mistakes and through that I harvested a load of learnings.

Although today I am back in the hustle and bustle of agency life, I still freelance and retain the same loyal clients from my freelance days.

FreelanceIn today’s post I share five points that make for good freelancing.

  1. Don’t be kak; be kif

When stepping into the fantastic yet daunting world of freelancing, you really have to ask yourself if you are kak or kif. Look at yourself in the mirror and really dig deep — be honest and ask yourself if the stench of kakness is within you. If you struggle to get an answer, ask me and I will tell you free of charge.

The reality is that freelancers who do well are those who are good. When I say good, I don’t just mean technically; I mean good at keeping deadlines, being professional and, most importantly, being good sellers. Luckily for me, I had more than enough time to learn these skills as I had work experience. So, no, kakness is not terminal.

  1. Get experience and specialise

There are very few creatives who get straight out of school and succeed in freelancing; they are out there but they all live in Komatipoort. Working in a real work environment allows you to understand general business protocol and systems. So, if someone says he or she is going to send you a meeting request, you don’t sit staring at your phone waiting for an sms. This actually happened to a freelancer I hired… Yes, you, John.

Once you are in the system, find a space in your field that you want to specialise in and build a name for yourself . How? Do what I’m doing now: write for publications on the topic, and attend talks and conferences. If you are a loudmouth like me, offer to be a guest speaker. If time allows, start your own blog where you educate the masses.

Although you are specialising, make sure that you have the skills to do other work with in your craft. Use the above techniques to draw attention purely to you.

  1. Charge according to your experience

Like the famous words of one of my earliest lecturers, who I think was senile and 90% of the time drunk: “Do not be a moron, know your worth and charge accordingly or you will die.”

Dramatic yet true is this insight (not the dying part). If you charge too little, you devalue the freelance community, which cripples everyone. If you charge too high, you’ll never get business.

If you are not sure how to charge, go onto forums and see what the current hourly rates are in relation to yearly experience.

  1. Freelance smart

People freelance for many reasons and the main reason is flexibility.

If you are really good freelancer, you will always be on demand. When you are at this level, you’ll probably find yourself signing a retainer agreement that will take up 90% of your time. It’s good money but it’s not flexibility at all —it’s a 9–5 disguised as freelancing.

If you reach this stage, be sure to freelance out some of your workload. Just ensure that the people you are hiring are as good as or even better than you. Remember that it’s your name and reputation on the contracts.

Also be transparent about who is in your freelance team. Clients find a certain level of comfort in knowing that there is more than one of you making sure their work is topnotch.

  1. Be seen

Besides going to the hottest talks and seminars, you also need to get onto the best directories where clients look for freelances.

Below is a list of websites that offer such services. You may thank me by buying me a beer when you see me — stay away from the light stuff; I’m not on a diet.

  • people list any project they need done and receive bids from freelancers (you) within minutes. Proposals and prices are compared, and a freelancer is selected for the project.
  • an easy-to-use directory where clients search for freelancers
  • an international platform with a huge database of freelancers. This opens up a unique opportunity for international clients.
  • this tool allows local and international clients to pick freelancers according to their hourly rate.

Now you are kif.


Artwell NwailaArtwell Nwaila (@artwelln) is a creative director at Offlimit Communications, as well as founder and publisher of the award-winning SA Creatives (@thesacreatives), a network intended to help creatives move their professional lives forward through showcases, news and a freelancer directory. His monthly column on MarkLives, “Creation”, is a humorous take on life in the creative world, seasoned with practical advice based on experience.


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