Becoming a freelancer can be a liberating experience. It frees you from the 9-5 routine, the pressures of having a boss watching your every move, and the same work to be completed day in, day out. It also allows you to work from wherever you want – whether that is your bedroom, a coworking space, or a tropical beach on the other side of the world. Therefore, it is little wonder that freelancing has exploded as a position in recent years, as more and more people try to take back personal control and strike out on their own.
However, it is worth pointing out that becoming a freelancer isn’t easy, or everyone would be doing it. The primary reason for this is that it requires you to attract your own clients, which can take weeks or even months. Unless you are a quasi-celebrity in your industry, chances are you will have to prove your worth to your clients, which means doing work for little money at first as you build a portfolio.
Naturally, if you have bills to pay, this is far from ideal. In fact, freelance income can often be sporadic, which makes life tricky when you have said bills and a life to lead. Suddenly, traveling around the world looks a whole lot harder. Despite these challenges, though, it is entirely possible to thrive as a freelancer; you just need to follow a series of steps and refuse to give up – this is what you need to know:
You’ll Need to Learn a Variety of Business Skills
One of the most crucial steps you will need to take if you want to become a freelancer is to learn the necessary skills that will allow you to operate independently from month to month.
What few people appreciate with freelancing is that it is essentially your own one-person business, requiring you to oversee every department – from production to marketing and finance to sales.
If you have only ever completed the ‘production’ stage, then it is time to become acquainted with the other tasks you may need to complete – such as finance. When you are being paid directly as a freelancer, it can be easy to lose track of your finances and spend too much money one month and save too much the next. This is par for the course when your income is so sporadic, so it is vital that you maximize every cent to ensure you are living the best lifestyle possible without going outside of your means.
Even the simple task of invoicing can be difficult if there are many clients to create them for, so it is worth learning about the various types of invoices before getting started. You may also want to learn how to create an effective budget or how to invest your money wisely to prevent you from accidentally squandering it – which far too many freelancers and business owners unknowingly do.
Become Specialized in a Specific Area
Although you should become skilled in different areas of business – such as marketing and finance – in the actual work you undertake as a freelancer, it is best to specialize as much as possible. The reason for this is that you will likely be competing against a vast number of freelancers in your industry or niche. The only way you will set yourself apart from them is if you specialize in a certain sub-niche, in which it is easier to attain expertise.
Once you start focusing on one specific area or client base, it will limit your list of competition and make it easier to stand out as a market-leading freelancer. What’s more, you will become an expert in that sector, which allows you to charge more money for your services and provide more value to your clients.
If you are uncertain about how you want to specialize, reflect on the specific skills that you excel at the most or the clients you most often attract. These should serve as key pointers for the direction you eventually take with your freelance business.
Market Yourself Relentlessly
If you want to attract a wealth of freelance clients, you will need to learn how to market yourself correctly. This is arguably one of the hardest challenges you will face as a freelancer because you may not feel comfortable selling your personal brand at first – or even know how to in some instances.
In fact, you might not even have a personal brand or know what that is. This is completely natural because few people enjoy bragging about themselves or constantly advertising their services. In any case, the best way to approach your freelance marketing is to treat your services as a standalone business and your professional personality as a persona – a character rather than you yourself. This will help you distance yourself from any slings and arrows fired your way or from taking any professional criticism personally.
Overall, there are countless ways you can market yourself, depending on the type of products or services you offer. You could post daily on social networks like LinkedIn or Instagram, start an email list or a YouTube channel, or even guest post on industry-relevant blogs, demonstrating your expertise by helping your target audience solve their problems.
Take on Smaller Projects to Build a Portfolio
At first, freelance gigs may be hard to come by. One explanation for this is that you have yet to prove yourself a trustworthy service due to your lack of experience, which makes it imperative for you to build a portfolio of work.
To do this, you may have to work for far less money than you would ideally charge at first – or even work for free if you have zero experience. Although this is far from how your freelance career should evolve, it provides a useful launchpad, gives you the necessary experience, and helps build your personal brand authority in your niche.
After all, you don’t want to damage your freelance brand before you have even started by taking on a project too ambitious and messing it up due to a lack of experience, so take this slow start as a blessing.