How to become a freelancer

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The popularity of freelancing in recent years has grown year on year as more people crave for a more flexible lifestyle rather than being stuck at work all day every day.

Current studies show that 43% of the US workforce will be freelancers by the year 2020.

(source: nasdaq.com/articles/gig-economy-2020-freelance-workforce-predicted-rise-43-2017-06-14)

You can apply your current skill set, which may be as a web designer, content marketing expert, etc. as a freelancer as many more companies now feel comfortable in accepting and using freelancers as opposed to hiring someone on a long-term contract.

This creates a unique opportunity for those with skills to capitalize on the growing number of businesses looking for freelance workers. It’s great for you as it can mean an additional income that can turn into a sustainable career whilst you are still in your current job!

What is freelancing?

Freelancing is a form of self-employment. You offer your skills and service(s) for a fee without being tied into a long-term contract or entering into permanent employment.

That, however, doesn’t stop you from having a long-term relationship with your client. It’s often seen as the best of 2 worlds.

You benefit from the flexibility freelancing provides which not allows you to pick and choose which clients to work with but the hours you put in. If you want to spend more time with your family or have a work-life balance then freelancing is a great option.

So how do you become a freelancer? Here are some tips if your serious about becoming a freelancer and supplementing your income until you feel ready to quit your full-time job!

1.      Pick a profitable niche.

It’s very easy to start thinking about doing any old work when you’re starting out in freelancing. That’s going to be bad. You will most likely end up spending more time on work your skills are not tailored towards and getting paid less.

Focus on your core skill set. Are you a good graphic designer who can create quality logos? Or you may be an email marketing specialist able to get high open rates from emails you send?

Set your mind to providing services your skills are suited too. Not only will you be able to deliver quality work but your client will be super happy with the work you have done.

Use your skill set to identify the niche you should be focusing upon.

The last thing you want to get known as the ‘jack of all trades and master of none’!

2.      Choose your target audience

Its easier said than done but defining who your target market is will ensure you get a ready steam of paying clientele.

Clearly define which businesses you want to work with. This will ensure that when its pitch time you can clearly put forward a proposal that will meet all the requirements.

Answer the following questions to determine who your target audience is likely to be:

  1. What problems do businesses have that my skills can solve? If you have correctly identified your niche then it will be easier to identify businesses your skills can appeal too.
  2. Can the business you pitch to afford my services? To make money as a freelancer the business you target need to be able to afford your services. It’s no-good pitching to businesses who cannot afford your services.
  3. Who are the decision-makers? Reaching out to the right person can mean acceptance of your proposal OR your time being wasted. After all, you don’t want to waste time speaking to someone who’s not in charge!

Be honest with yourself and strive to determine your ideal audience. As you progress in your freelance venture acquiring new clients will get easier as the quality of your work will speak for itself within your niche target market.

3.      Create a professional website

One of the best ways to start off your freelancing career is to showcase your skills on your own website.

Creating a professional website is pretty easy nowadays with so many unlimited web hosting providers offering website builders there is really no excuse not to create one. It will show potential clients that you are serious about your work and also allow you to show off any previous work you have done.

Think of your website as you would your CV. When you go for a new job the first thing an employer will look at is your CV. Freelancing is no different. Your website will act as your CV and demonstrate that you have the skills to perform the tasks to a high standard.

When you get popular and get known within your target market your website will be like a magnet attracting other businesses to get in touch with you to solve their issues. So, make sure that you also have all of your relevant contact details on the site.

4.      Leverage current network connections

Most likely you’re on LinkedIn. You may even have a mountain of connections there. Use that to your advantage.

Firstly, make sure that you can get as many recommendations from exiting connections as possible. That will allow you to show off your skills when you eventually start to reach out to new businesses.

Secondly, can any of your existing connections recommend or refer you to their existing connections to solve an issue they may have? You won’t know if you don’t ask!

Once you have done the previous steps start to connect with new connections that fit your target market.  Do a little research before reaching out to businesses to ensure that may indeed need your skills and services. Don’t randomly start connecting with people. Not only will it waste your time but you most likely won’t end up with any paid work!

5.      Don’t quit your day job!

This is probably the most important tip you will get.

Just because you’re starting to freelance doesn’t mean you should walk in on Monday morning and quit your job!

Start freelancing whilst you are still in your current job. You can do any freelancing work around your current job and other responsibilities.

It’s going to be a tight schedule initially and you will have to juggle many things but at least you will still have a steady income coming in from your exiting job. You won’t be solely reliant on income from your freelancing work.

Plus, don’t forget it will take some time for you to build up a good portfolio of work and name for yourself. It’s not magically going to happen.

It also has the advantage of teaching you how your business will end up running when you eventually take the plunge. You will also learn from all the mistakes your bound to make and crucially what resources you will need to have in place i.e. contact management systems, prospecting tools, etc. for your freelancing career to work effectively.

Generally, when you start to make anywhere up to 60% of your current job’s salary is the right time when you can start to think about quitting your job.

At that stage, you should have also done enough freelance work that you have a great portfolio and you’re known within businesses in your target market for providing quality work.

Wrapping up…

Freelancing can certainly provide you with the lifestyle you have dreamed of but don’t expect things to happen overnight. In the beginning, you may even need to lower your prices to allow you to build up a good portfolio of work which in time will allow you to command higher prices and get in more work.

Until then keep grounded, be honest and work hard. In time your success will be based upon how well you have planned your leap into the freelance market.

Cover Photo by Caio Resende from Pexels