Freelance work is not only attractive to those who aim to be gainfully self-employed, but businesses are more welcoming of this world. To them, this means; fewer taxes, no health care or retirement benefits, fewer employee rated expenses and smaller work spaces.
A freelance lifestyle sounds exciting until you immerse yourself into the unstable gig economy. Do not forego your traditional careers to start freelance work without a plan; all those success stories you’ve heard about “making $50k in my first month” may be far from your reality.
Prepare well for this unstructured career path and everything that comes with it.
1. Do not quit employment in haste
The perks of freelancing [having the power to build a business at your own time and pace doing work you love the most] may seem irresistible, but if you can, transition without leaving your job at first. Your 9-5 job guarantees you a salary at the end of each month. A freelance career, unfortunately, doesn’t. So if you are in a position to start freelancing as a side hustle before going full-time, go for that option. Save as much as you can.
Note this; your commitment to the cause should be unwavering. Go into freelancing for the right reasons and not just because you want to make that extra dollar. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall back to your 9-5 job that has a sense of security and stability. Start working on your freelance projects in the evenings when you come from work and over the weekends. It is going to be quite challenging managing time, but that is what it takes to be a freelancer.
When you start turning projects around and your day job priorities feel like a hindrance to your freelancing business, you can quit. It also applies to when your freelance earnings have matched your day job. It is time to leave and put all your focus on your freelance career.
2. Have a client list before you transition to freelancing
It is nice to follow your dreams, but those dreams should be within a realistic, actionable context. This is where networking comes in. All the relationships you cultivated while working can come through for you when you set up your own business. Inform your networks and friends that you are accepting freelance work. Explain what kind of work you are looking for and what you are offering.
Never burn bridges wherever you go. They could be the difference between you earning bucks and staying broke for months. Approach your current or even older companies with a business proposal on working with them in a freelance capacity. Brief them in advance. Elaborate why you are an asset to them and how working as a freelancer will permit you to focus only on what’s important for the company. One or two clients would get on board.
This model works best for onsite freelancers, of course, and one would argue that remote freelancers have no chance with this model. Not entirely true. While nothing beats that face-to-face interaction, your creative skills and relationships cultivated should not be limited to an office setting. Talk to your potential clients about such matters and see what works best for both of you.
3. Build an online presence
The internet will be your workplace for the unforeseeable future. The image you want to portray for your business should reflect your work style and personality. A consistent and cohesive brand messaging builds trust and helps you stand out.
Put this into consideration when creating your website, social media platforms relevant to your target audience, your professional photos and logo, invoices and proposal templates. Strive to be authentic and transparent. Your personal bio should briefly describe the value you provide.
Share exciting, informative and highly visual stories, quotes or articles relevant to your field on social media. Your blog and social media content should add value to your audience. You never know who is watching.
4. Create a budget plan and keep track of your money
What some freelancers do not tell you is how they cushioned themselves against a financial crisis before starting the venture. You might think it’s easy to get clients the very first month, but the truth is you could even go up to 3 months without landing your first client. Sometimes you may chase invoices for close to 6 months.
The savings you made should take care of your basic needs during this period. If you don’t have essential gear depending on the work you will do, then use the money to buy those items. They include a laptop, camera, podcasting gear, recorders, reliable internet connection, etc.
If you cannot save for this much, cut back on expenses, avoid splurging on unnecessary items and survive on as little as you can to be on the safe side. Remember to budget for health insurance.
5. Determine what makes you stand out and leverage that
The freelance marketplace is as competitive as ever now. What makes you worth hiring instead of your competition? Your experience may not count for much, but your reputation and personality will.
Choose a specific niche if you can. Clients may trust a freelancer who has some expertise in a particular field rather than one who is seemingly everywhere. Mention the partnerships you’ve had before, especially if they are well-known brands or personalities. Show your abilities in the form of case studies, portfolios, awards and testimonials.
6. Make use of your professional skills to get ahead
What professional skills do you possess that could turn into an online business opportunity? I’m sure you have one or two. If you don’t, there are so many online courses you can take as you prepare to join the freelance world.
Add all the skills you developed to your profile on the freelance websites you join. With a well-written profile and proposal, a client will notice you. Take up as many “low entry-level” jobs as possible at first and do your assignment excellently.
The aim here is to get good reviews, ratings and testimonials to build your portfolio and not necessarily to make loads of cash. Before you know it, you have a list of clients that wouldn’t mind working with you again or referring you and a good rating that attracts more clients. Your quality work will build your client base.
When reality hits you hard a couple of weeks after you transition to freelancing – rent is due, you are not getting gigs – it can take a massive toll on your mental health. Set realistic goals when getting into this unfamiliar path. Find inspiration from people who’ve done it before or seek guidance from a mentor to help you transition.
Strike a balance. Get enough rest even as your work your socks off. Find time to relax and interact with loved ones. Do not overwhelm yourself with activities and negative thoughts.
Embrace all your fears and believe in yourself and your abilities. You have more than enough skills, passion, determination and goodwill to get you through this. Things will get better.