Wednesday 21st November was the one day set aside to celebrate the UK’s independent professionals: National Freelancers Day. As part of the day an event was held at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London hosted by broadcaster Sue Lawley and featured a key-note address from Alastair Campbell, followed by a Question Time-style debate on topical issues affecting freelancers involving leading lights from business and politics.

I appreciate how important freelancing is to many of you so here’s my five top tips to making your freelance life more successful:

  1.  Make the most of the flexibility

Being freelance has a few risks but also many benefits the biggest of which is the flexibility of the hours you work. Many choose freelancing as it fits in with other commitments such as parenting, so make sure you follow that through. Having to ignore your kids completely when you are at home, or rushing from pillar to post to keep freelancing commitments is not giving you the benefit of freelancing. Don’t be difficult and risk losing work, but equally make the most of being able to finish early on a Friday, etc, it is one of the perks of freelancing and by using them you will find yourself enjoying your work more and becoming more effective in what you do.

  1.  Keep a track of every pitch

This can be on paper, on a spreadsheet or using online CRM-style tools such as SugarCRM, but make sure you keep a record of who you speak to, who you send documents too, etc. Date them too and set reminders to follow them up. You will be surprised how a friendly nudge sometimes can suddenly bring about new work.

  1.  Work out your worth

Be realistic. Somewhere in between what you need and what you want. Work it out on an hourly rate so that you know what an hour of your time should be worth and then bill accordingly. You are always likely to under-estimate the time and expense of your basic administrative tasks too, so make sure you add a little bit more on to your hourly rate to cover this.

  1.  Build a buddy network

These can be friends or former colleagues but they should be the people to help you stay sane on the bad days. Use social networks to find others in a similar line of work too. They will understand your problems better and if you are ill or overloaded at any point they could offer you a back-up solution.

  1.  Learn to say “no”

Sometimes you need to be assertive, especially with clients. They have instructed you for your expertise so make sure you give them the benefit of that and tell them if you think what they are suggesting is a bad idea. Say no as well if you are simply likely to be over-run with work. Over-committing won’t help your reputation in fact it will damage it, either you won’t meet deadlines or it won’t be your best work.