The freelance economy is booming across the globe and is set to grow even further in the coming years. It certainly has many benefits as a career path: you have the freedom to choose your own hours, decide what projects you work on, set your own salary and the days of answering to a boss are over! However, for many people, making the leap is frightening. Working from home on your own, not having the safety net of a regular paycheck, finding clients, delivering work on time and being responsible for everything can be daunting. However, working as a full-time freelancer can be a great way to change your life and fulfil your dreams, as millions of people across the world have found. Here are 5 tips for starting a freelance career.
Set your goals and make a plan to meet them
Before you begin your new career, you must decide what you want to achieve. Are you looking to make some extra money outside your day job, just be your own boss or build a business empire? Without a clearly thought out goal (or set of goals), you are most likely going to fail. If you have a vision, that’s great, but you’ll also need to build a solid framework underneath it to make it a reality. If you’re in full time work, don’t quit your job until your plan is complete, and save as hard as you can while you explore the possibilities, decide what your initial offering will be and how you will market it to a list of clients you have thoroughly researched. Having some cash behind you will make your life less pressured as you try and win your first clients and it also means you don’t necessarily have to take the first thing that comes along because you need the money! And don’t wait forever to start – if you truly believe your portfolio is a winning one, go for it.
There are many freelancers already out there and whatever industry you choose to work in and whatever your goals are, chances are you are going to have competitors. You are going to be entirely responsible for finding your own clients and proving to them that they’re going to get the best work if they hire you and not someone else. So, marketing yourself is critical to your success, both at the outset and on an ongoing basis to ensure you win new clients and evolve your business. When you start out, tell everyone you know what are doing – co-workers, employers both current and old, your family, your friends – basically anyone who could give you a great referral to a client. Word of mouth recommendations are worth their weight in gold. Get your news all over your social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn, everything! Showcase what work you can do and services you offer by building an online portfolio, or even better, create a full website. The content should include what you do, what skills you have and examples of your work. Regularly update with new content and new examples of your work, and don’t forget to include testimonials from your clients. There is no better way to demonstrate your professionalism and expertise to potential clients. There are many site building tools available online, and many are free.
Network, Network, Network
Once your name is out there you need to keep it out there. Attending local business events and conferences is a very useful way to meet potential clients to spread the word and also talk to other freelancers to share experiences and tips. Although COVID-19 currently means these events are not generally happening, when the crisis abates ensure you make this part of your working life and in the meantime there are plenty of virtual business networking events that you can research and attend. Networking means so much more than just attending events too, wherever you are grasp any opportunity to meet new people and tell them what you do. Search out new connections and when you meet other freelancers, see if there are ways you can help each other. With existing clients, stay in touch often to nurture your connection – catch up over phone, email, social media and when you can, face to face meetings.
Before you jump into your new life as a freelancer you need to make sure you have all the equipment you’ll need to succeed. Your working environment will need to be conducive to running your own business. A dedicated place where you can work without being disturbed is a must; your productivity and creativity will flag if you can’t concentrate due to noise or other irritants. You don’t need an office – your kitchen table will do, as long as you are left in peace! Once you have your space organised you’ll be responsible for all the things your employer used to handle – not just your salary, taxes, insurance, pensions et al, but all the billings and invoices necessary to make and receive the payments needed to keep you in business. Have a look at freshbooks pricing, keeping accurate and detailed records of everything is essential and this platform is one of the most revered solutions for a freelancers accounting needs.
You’re also going to have to manage all the meetings and calls you’ll make on an ongoing basis and balance all the competing deadlines and priorities you’ll continually face. All these things can be extremely time-consuming and stop you growing your business. The best way to streamline everything and make you operate at maximum efficiency is to invest in the relevant software and use the online platforms available to help you. There are many project management systems available online which you can use to collaborate with clients and other freelancers; or share and store files.
Maintain a healthy work-life balance
You’ll need to work hard to make your freelancing career a success, but you should never lose sight of your health and sanity! Most freelancers follow this path for the freedom it offers; make sure you always keep that in mind. Your hours can be as flexible as you want, but it is advisable to find out a routine that suits you best and gets you at your most productive. Personal downtime and time with friends and family is vital so build in plenty of space for this in your schedule. Freelancing can be lonely at times, so call your loved ones and friends during your workday as you need to. Be honest with yourself and your clients and always seek to manage their expectations. Agree realistic deadlines and let them know what hours of the day are your “office hours”. You might need to be flexible on occasion but be specific about your availability as far as possible, it will allow you to remain in control of your life. Finally, don’t sit at your desk glued to your screen every day, make use of your flexibility and take a walk, eat your lunch, go to the shop or whatever you like doing, and “book” time to do it each day.