Are you ready to give up your day job and start working for yourself? If so, freelancing could be the answer. A freelancer is someone who is self-employed and offers their services for a fee to a selection of clients. Anyone can become a freelancer – if you have a unique or in-demand skill that you’re passionate about, it is certainly possible to make a living from that passion.
The difficulty lies in how to get the ball rolling. The number of people who freelance in Europe has grown by 45% in the last five years and the nature of this competitive landscape means that if you want to become a successful freelancer, you must be prepared to really fight for the work to come to you.
To help you get started, first consider whether freelancing is the right career choice for you…
3 things to ask yourself before going freelance
- Have you prepared for a shift in perspective?
Think about the responsibilities and commitments of essentially running your own business. Work, and therefore, regular income, is not guaranteed, so you need to be 100% on board with this if you’re giving up a regular monthly salary.
- Are you ready to be your own boss?
It’s important to bear in mind that managing multiple clients and projects requires excellent organisational skills. You only have yourself and your clients to report to, so think about whether or not you’re the type of person who can create a productive routine and self-motivated.
- Have you created targets?
A goal for how much you need to invoice will keep you on the straight and narrow. Work out your freelancing fees; be that a flat project-based free or an hourly rate. This will involve doing some research in order to find the going rate for your services or skillset.
Tips for self-employed success
- Line up your first clients before taking the plunge into becoming your own boss
Contact everyone you know, while also being realistic about how much work you can take on as one person. Tell them you will be willing to take on projects right away – 30 days before you go freelance is recommended. It is also never too late to expand your network and show off your portfolio of work. Make yourself fresh in people’s minds so that when they think of the field your work is in, they immediately think of you.
The more contacts you have, the easier the transition will be. This could include friends of friends, ex-colleagues or your school network. If someone can’t afford to pay you the first time around, it is worth doing the project for a) experience, b) references and c) return business. If you do a brilliant job, it is almost guaranteed that they will recommend your services to friends or come back for more.
- Create your brand
As a freelancer, you have to sell yourself as your own personal brand. You are not merely just selling your services but your entire persona. The relationship with your clients will be a personable one, so it is important that they like you and everything you represent – especially if you want repeat business from them.
Social media is a great tool for building your brand. Create a LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one already and list every detail of relevant experience and skills that you have to the unique service you are going to be providing. Use Twitter to let your personality shine, as well as a platform to showcase your industry knowledge. Create a network with other freelancers and learn from them. Social media is also great for any industry-relevant events you attend, as you can connect with attendees online and grow your network.
- Create a personal business plan
Be that expanding your network by X amount of people, attending X amount of events or writing X amount of blog posts, having business goals as a freelancer is incredibly important. Financial and workload requirements are also vital to have written down. How many projects could you realistically survive off per month and how many would you need to thrive? You will also need to create a gripping pitch template for your services and then tailor this with added detail to the specific client at a later date. A freelance proposal should be used to show your personality too.
- Know your competition
Expand your knowledge via social media, blog posts, podcasts and books. Absorbing as much information as you can about the freelancing world while building upon your skills is a great way to stand out from the crowd – you’d be surprised how little freelancers are doing this.
The key is to check out what your competition is doing and then differentiate yourself from them. Perhaps they lack a colourful personality or have a weak digital presence – use this to your advantage and outshine everyone else in your field. Alternatively, learn from what other freelancers are doing well and implement their tactics.
- Build up a good reputation and list of referrals
Reviews from clients are great for people looking to use your services. If you are able to earn the trust of even just a small collection of clients with reasonably-priced work that is delivered on time to high quality, it will keep them coming back for more. This could then lead to future opportunities where you can increase business with your existing customers. Showing evidence of your previous experience via testimonials will also convince prospective clients that you are worth their time and money. Share as many as you can on your website and LinkedIn.
Pros and cons
Being a freelancer is great for an array of reasons. Working from home and running on your own time schedule will give you the flexibility that a 9 to 5 would not accommodate for. You can take breaks when you want, control your workload and more importantly, pick who you work with.
However, distractions at home are aplenty. You will need to stick to a routine in order to have a structured and productive working week. We recommend setting a daily alarm, having breakfast and working at a usual desk station for maximum productivity. The freelancing world can also feel lonely at times, so you may need to adjust to working solo.
Freelancing is a lifestyle that you have to really want and work extremely hard for because the competition is everywhere. But if you’re ready to give freelancing your all, then what are you waiting for?