Freelancing sounds like an attractive proposition to most people, particularly as it is widely associated with other terms such as ‘being your own boss’ and ‘working when you want to.’ However, being a successful freelancer is not as easy as just turning around and deciding that you are going to follow that path for the rest of your working days. There are a number of tips that are worthwhile following, not to mention traps to avoid, but if you do so, you can reap the rewards that freelancing can bring.
Know what you’re good at
The ‘glamour’ associated with being a freelancer can be very attractive. What many people do not realise is that they need to have a requisite level of skill, combined with sufficient demand from the target audience, in order to be a success.
That is not to say that if you currently do not have any skills that are in high demand that you cannot train and become competent in such an area. You do need to have an idea of what you will likely be good at, and importantly, what you will enjoy doing. Many make the mistake of thinking freelancing is easy money, and that it is an instant way to earn a sustainable income, when in fact the opposite is true.
Take a Dose of Reality
It is easy to find stories from freelancers online who claim to have changed their lives and now earn a six-figure sum comfortably. While that is possible, the reality is that the majority of freelancers will enjoy much humbler returns from what they do.
Before deciding that freelancing is the best path for you, you need to do the boring stuff, like work out how much money you need to earn to keep the roof over your head and feed yourself. This then helps you to set yourself targets, which will make you a more effective and driven freelance professional.
At the same time, it is best to realise early that it is still a job. All of the stories people tell about working while sitting watching daytime television or only working four hours a day, yet they make a fortune, are almost certainly embellishing their story in some way or another.
Do it Part Time First
Whatever field you want to offer freelance services in, it is worth doing it in your spare time prior to ‘taking the plunge’ and giving up your full time job. This might mean you enrol on a training course, for example, or have a few months where you do not have a lot of spare time in the evenings and during the weekend because you are building up your reputation.
If you already work in the field you are going to offer freelancing services in – for example, you work for a web design company and are going to go it alone – then this stage will be simpler, but you will still need to build up a client portfolio.
Some companies will be supportive and offer flexible working while you set yourself up, so speak to those at the top, tell them your intentions, and help to smooth your path to ‘freedom’.
Have a Good Online Presence
When you decide to go freelance, all of a sudden your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media feeds are no longer just the place where you go to post photos of your pets or what you made for dinner this evening.
These are now the shop-front for your brand, and have the potential to make or break your freelancing career. The easiest step to take is to set up independent profiles for your freelancing business. However, you might want to consider moderating your existing and future content on personal pages, as people will be likely to discover they belong to you.
Look beyond social media, too. Look into setting up a simple business services website, or establishing a presence on popular freelancing sites. Even if you do not do a lot of work through these avenues, it will help your portfolio and name be present in search rankings.
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Look to Diversify Your Income
If you follow the advice from earlier, then you will already have a reasonable income stream when you start freelancing full time. That said, it is still important to diversify your income in terms of how many clients you work for.
Avoid the trap of taking on all projects that come your way, as that will inevitably see you let someone down and damage your reputation. It is also not a good idea to commit yourself to working for just one client, unless you have worked with them for a long time and have built up a good working relationship and feel you can trust them. If you are reliant on revenue from one client early on and they pull out, you might quickly find yourself going back to your old job.
Build a Strong Network
As with any business, your freelancing will go through peaks and troughs. There will be parts of the year when you have more work coming in than you ever dreamed of, while at others you will be struggling to see where the next enquiry is coming from.
One way around this is to build yourself a strong network of connections, made up both of freelancers in your field as well as potential clients that you know are busy. How will you make the most of this network?
• When you are busy, you can outsource some work to other freelancers that you know and trust, or refer clients to these individuals when you are unable to complete the work yourself.
• When you are less so, you can contact the freelancers that you helped out, or get in touch with clients that regularly require your services to inform them of your availability, even if it is only for a few days. This can be useful if a client loves your work, but you often find yourself turning them down due to on-going commitments elsewhere.
Where possible, make as many of these contacts face-to-face ones that you know personally. Despite the rising power of online social networks, the personal touch is still the strongest.
Best of luck with your move into the freelance world!