The freelancer’s guide to getting ahead
Freelancing has become the new job for life, and it’s easy to see why. There are several benefits to working as a freelancer.
You have flexible work hours, and can call yourself boss. You have the freedom to pursue projects you’re passionate about and hopefully do a job you love every day.
However, working independently means that you have to be on top of your game in order to create new business opportunities and beat off the competition, along with being well organised in relation to things like expenses and savings.
So, if you want to be a successful freelancer, here are some tips to point you in the right direction.
Join the community & learn from it
It is essential to learn from the successes and failures of others. Freelancers can easily seek out others in their field that can help guide them, or perhaps even refer them to clients.
Don’t view these people as your competition, but as your community. Introduce yourself, establish a bit of rapport and offer to help them out if they’re too busy to handle their own workload. You never know, it could be the start of a wonderful partnership!
There are plenty of ways to get to know people in your profession, both online and in the real world. Networking events, meet ups, and Twitter are good places to start.
It’s also a good idea to research people that have hired freelancers with the same skills as you. Send them an email to see if you can ask them for advice. You’re not necessarily looking to get hired, just trying to learn why they hired some people over others.
Finally, don’t forget about the people you already know. Think of family, former classmates or colleagues. Send personal emails to everyone you know, telling them what you’re freelancing for, and the type of clients you’re looking for. Remember, it’s a small world.
Build a brand
Just because you work for yourself, it doesn’t mean you don’t work for a business. Think of rapper (and multimillionaire businessman) Jay Z’s famous quote: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”.
As a freelancer, you will have to think about marketing your services and building a brand presence.
First of all, have an online portfolio. All freelance journalists, designers, photographers, etc. should have an online portfolio showcasing their best work.
Non-creative professionals like accountants, lawyers, and consultants can also create digital portfolios. They can be filled with things like case studies, and testimonials.
You should have a website too. Again, you can show off your work, instruct people on how to contact you and also share your own content such as blog posts. Publishing your own online content helps optimize your search rank and bring new clients to your site, while contributed content exposes your work to new audiences.
Going back to networking and people – essential. Getting out there and meeting people is absolutely critical to winning more jobs and building a career.
Freelance consultant Emil Lamprecht says “The more experience, contacts, and references you have when you go freelance, the easier making that final break from your job will be”.
Plan your finances
This sounds pretty obvious, but it’s extremely important.
As you’ll be your own boss, you’re going to be super busy. Aside from your own usual workload, you’ll assume full responsibility for your finances.
Freelance work can come and go and sometimes is unpredictable. To avoid being caught off guard by a shortage in cash, it’s always a good idea to set earning and spending goals for each month.
Oh, and you’ll also have to deal with taxes, so having a good plan, as well as the required knowledge, can really help weather a storm during any difficult times.
Don’t put it all on black
What if red comes up? Don’t go all in on one client, especially if you’re starting out.
It can be helpful to work with multiple clients to avoid dry spells, or in case one doesn’t yield much income during certain times of the year.
In a survey carried out by the Huffington Post in 2016, they found that “56 percent of the freelancers we surveyed worked in multiple marketplaces, while 92 percent had other sources of income — whether in the form of part-time or full-time work — providing them with a diversified, safety net of employment.”