The fact that you’re reading these words right now means that you’ve undoubtedly heard the term “freelancing” quite a bit by now. Maybe you’ve seen a lot of friends and relatives climb aboard the freelancing bandwagon and want to make some of that dough yourself. Perhaps you’ve heard of the impact freelancers have made in our country and are just in awe of them. After all, they did bring in $150 million worth of revenue over the course of a year.
Regardless of your reasons for wanting to learn more about freelancing, you can rest assured that it is an incredibly fascinating concept. In this article, we will dive headfirst into freelancing waters and talk about everything you need to know in order to kick-start your own freelance career.
What is a freelancer?
Also known as an “independent contractor,” a freelancer is someone who is self-employed and is not necessarily tied with a single company. Some freelancers might use an agency to connect them with work opportunities. However, most freelancers use networking and their contacts to generate jobs.
Generally, freelance work is short-term and is paid by the job or by the hour (though some may use a retainer if the client frequently uses their services).
Examples of freelance work
The digital economy has made freelancing a far more viable choice for workers. The scope for freelance work is pretty vast, especially now that most of our work is conducted remotely. Common freelance jobs include:
- Web development
- Social media management
- Data Entry
- Graphic design
- Virtual assistant
- Computer programming
Pros and cons of freelancing
This overview of freelancing wouldn’t be complete without pointing out the good (and the ugly) in the freelancing world. Therefore, the following are some of the most common pros and cons of a freelancing career.
- Flexible work schedule
- Acquisition of new skills
- Quality of work
- The ability to work anywhere
- Ability to be your own boss
- Selectivity with clients
- No commuting
- No office politics
- Inconsistent income
- No job security
- No benefits
- Increased financial workload
- Difficulty distinguishing work and personal time
- Juggling multiple client issues at once (particularly hellish!)
How to start your own freelancing journey
Making the decision to go for a freelancing career may sound brilliant, but there are several important steps you’ll have to take before you can sit back and watch the money roll in. While freelancing might seem overwhelming sometimes, especially when one considers the plethora of options and platforms available, it becomes immensely meaningful work once you get the basics right.
Without further ado, let us walk through some of the initial steps every aspiring freelancer must consider.
Define you goals and niche
Like any venture, it’s important to have goals. Without goals, you can easily lose track of your business plan or become derailed. Gaining a clear understanding of your long-term goals will help you set smaller short-term goals to help you along the way.
Some important questions to ask yourself are:
- Are you looking to freelance full-time?
- Are you freelancing to earn extra income?
- Is freelancing just a stepping stone to a bigger goal?
After determining your goals, you’ll want to find a niche that you can be profitable and happy in. A niche is a narrow area of expertise. For example, instead of competing in a crowded market of writers, you could narrow the field to technical writing. This reduces the amount of competition while identifying specific skills to improve on. Instead of being a good writer in a general field, you can be a highly-sought-after technical writer.
Identify potential clients
Your clients can make or break your business. While it can be tough to turn away business in the early days of your freelancing, it’s important to narrow down the type of clients you work well with. This allows for better quality of work and greater results.
When you are looking for new clients, ask yourself the following questions:
- Which businesses will find my services useful?
- Which businesses can afford my rates?
- Can I learn anything about their demographics to attract similar clients?
Answering these questions will help you set up a client profile, which will make looking for new clients easy. By narrowing your focus on target clients, you can easily build your reputation in your niche. These clients can start to advocate for your business, which will go a long way in the business world.
Figure out your pay rate
Identifying your clients will help determine your pay rate. Some freelancers may try to compete with other businesses by cutting their prices. While this could be a good short-term strategy to gain clients, it is not sustainable. Instead, your pay rate should be determined by the value of your work and your client’s budget.
For example, if you are a writer that specializes in long-form blog posts, you can set your pay rate above someone who writes short articles. If you have a bigger client, such as a marketing agency, they would be able to pay a higher rate than a small business startup.
Build a portfolio
This one is all about making that incredible first impression on your clients. A portfolio is essentially a collection of your work, something that a potential client can go through in order to get a sense of the quality of your service. Quite a bunch of people rely on websites to display their portfolio, since they are very shareable and easy to update.
In a nutshell, your portfolio should:
- Communicate and display samples of your work
- List your contact information
- Show off your personality
- Highlight skills, education, and accomplishments
- Display testimonials from past clients
- Be updated regularly
Learn how to market yourself
At the end of the day, you could have the most awe-inspiring portfolio of work and the most incredible work ethic but it will all come to naught if you don’t know how to advertise your skills to potential clients.
This is actually a huge aspect of securing gigs on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, because you are supposed to submit a proposal to clients so that they consider it and determine if you are good enough for the task at hand.
While crafting your proposal, keep the following points in mind:
- Open with an “elevator pitch” that will show clients who you are, what you do, and your value within the first few lines.
- Sell your strengths, be it in the form of accomplishments or reviews from previous clients.
- Answer all of the client’s questions.
- Refer to your portfolio.
- Use an appealing layout, because you want to make sure that the client actually feels like reading the proposal to begin with!
Popular freelancing platforms
Once you’ve got the A-Z of freelancing down, all you need to do is to make an account on a freelancing website and start implementing what you’ve learned.
Since there are loads of freelancing platforms out there, let me save you some time and highlight three of the most popular freelancing websites out there. Feel free to do your own research as well, since the platform of your choice will be all about what feels most comfortable to you at the end of the day.
Related: 5 websites to make money online as a freelancer
Aside from Fiverr, this is probably the one platform you’ve heard of the most. Upwork has 12 million registered freelancers from all over the world, who generate a combined total of $1 billion every year from 3 million jobs.
Upwork enables the clients to interview, hire and then work with freelancers on its own platform. There is a timesheet application to track time by taking screenshots of the freelancers while they are working. In order to speed up the process of finding freelancers, it has a real-time chat platform. To get started, you need to create a profile and then find a job you want. Once that’s done, all you have to do is to submit your proposal. Hopefully, you know how to do that by now.
Fiverr is world’s leading platform for freelancers to connect with companies. It starts at $5 per job. Fiverr is among the top 100 most popular websites in the United States. You can sell any service at this website. For example, you can offer gigs such as social media services or create drawings.
Guru works by offering commissioned work to freelancers. Create your profile and submit quotes to open jobs. Employers will review your quote and then choose to hire you. So, make sure you submit a compelling quote. You can choose to be paid hourly and you can also break down your job into milestones and set payment for each milestone. Of course, you can also choose to be paid per task.
Freelancing is booming right now, and in an era defined by remote work, it will continue its upward trajectory all over the world. While it can be super daunting at first, a freelance career can feel like one of the best decisions you’ve ever made once the fruit of your labor comes pouring in.
Consider using this guide as a launching pad for your journey into the fascinating world of freelancing. Do your research, ask questions, and learn from your mistakes. Good luck!