Out of the aftermath of a decimated workforce created by the Great Recession grew a phenomenon that continues to transform the job marketplace – the freelancer revolution. It continues to grow, with hundreds of thousands of workers lured each year by the freedom and flexibility of a carpet commute. If you are considering freelancing, as an alternative career or for supplemental income, we have some essential tips to get you started.
Today, there are more than 55 million people doing freelance work in the United States representing more than a third of the workforce. Freelancers’ earned nearly $720 billion in 2016, making them a powerful force in the economy. The demand for freelancers has increased dramatically as more companies begin to favor independent contractors over permanent hires and the more than 30 million small businesses in the U.S. have become a natural feeding ground for freelancers. For anyone with marketable skills, talent or knowledge, there has never been a better time to embark upon a freelancing career.
1. What Exactly is Freelancing?
The name befits the description – freelancing is the act of striking out on your own as a self-employed businessperson to offer your skills and knowledge to clients of your choosing. You pick your clients and you dictate the terms of when and where you work as well as your compensation. Examples of high demand freelance work includes
- Content writing and marketing
- Software development
- IT and networking
- Data science and analytics
- Engineering and architecture
- Graphic design, photography
- Administrative, sales or customer service support
- Accounting and consulting
While the idea of being your boss is alluring, not having a steady paycheck can be scary for many people. Freelancers must be able to find clients, convince them to hire you, deliver quality work on time. It requires self-discipline, time and project management skills, and the drive to work through the thick and thin of running your own business. But, for anyone with skills or knowledge to sell, it is certainly doable, especially if you follow these six tips.
2. Make Yourself Marketable
It’s tough to market your skill set or knowledge if you don’t have something to show people. If you’re a writer, photographer or a graphic designer, you’ll need to create an impressive portfolio. Gather up your previous work and organize it in a way that best showcases your skills.
You will need the latest equipment and technology to create your web marketing strategy that includes a killer website, a social media apparatus (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+) and the latest applications for communicating and sharing work (Skype, Dropbox). Your prospects will expect you to be more technologically savvy than they are.
3. Develop a Plan
Any venture worth doing requires a plan or it is not likely to succeed. It starts with your vision – your purpose for starting it and how you see your business in a few years. From there you need to set goals and develop a strategy for achieving them, including how you will market yourself and how you will utilize your resources. Be sure to set up plans for a few different scenarios, too. For example, if you aren’t able to get as much work as you expected, figure out how you will have to adjust your strategy or budget to account for it.
4. Get Yourself on all the Platforms
There are a number of freelance platforms that allow you post your profile and search for job postings. Upwork is probably the largest and most active of the freelancer platforms, with more than a million postings. Guru and Freelancer are two other popular sites where freelancers can meet clients. It may be smart to create accounts on multiple freelancing sites to maximize the opportunities you have. Also, once you gain some experience on each, you can decide which you prefer and start focusing more of your time there.
5. Be a Networker
The social networking sites make it very easy to gain visibility in your target market. Become active on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn by engaging with your audience, not to sell your product, but to build your credibility and influence. Don’t limit your networking to social media. Find some networking events where you can meet people and press the flesh.
6. Know Your Worth
When starting a freelance business, you don’t want to sell yourself short, but you also need to be competitive, especially when you’re trying to build a clientele. As a freelancer, you can charge more for your services than you earn from your day job. After all, you are the overhead. Learn what the going rate is for your type of services and don’t undercut yourself. Once the quality of your work is known, your clients will bid up to your price.
7. Set Up Your Business Processes
You need to make it easy for your clients to pay you and for you to get paid. Set up an invoicing and payment system. You can use QuickBooks for invoicing and managing your accounting. PayPal is the standard-bearer for payments among freelancers. It has invoice creation and tracking and most people are familiar with it as a form of payment.
You should work to keep your personal expenses separate from your business expenses as a freelancer. You are going to want to setup a business bank account and open a business credit as a divider. Your accountant will thank you at the end of the year! You will also need a process for preparing proposals and presenting them online. Upwork is an all-inclusive platform that enables you to manage all of these from your own portal.
8. Build Your Business One Client at a Time
You’re not a freelancer until you get your first client. As a freelancer, you need to treat every client as if he were your first and only client. A good client will replicate himself many times over in the form of repeat business and referrals. Be sure to ask your satisfied clients for a testimonial you can post on your website and use in your proposals.
So there you have it! 7 tips to help you start and grow your freelance biz this month!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lauren Davidson
Lauren is a founder & writer at LauraDavidson.com. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and currently trying to pay down her student debt through freelancing.
robin rue says
Love your tips. I think a good plan is key! I know I need to carefully think about what I want to do and write it all out before I can actually put my plan into action.
Janel B. says
One thing I love about being a freelancer is you get to choose your own work ours and who you want to work with. I can’t imagine having to go back to an office job working 9-to-5 5 to 6 days a week anymore .
Definitely need to know your worth and be honest about that part of your work. Googling and comparing to get a realistic vision of what you should be asking is key!
Gigi Kiersten says
Thank you, because I have been trying and failing to break into the Graphic Design freelance. business.
Love how you shared them in such easy and organized way. Developing a plan and following is very important key. Time management is another key to keep your plan on track
Cassie @ Be Forever Healthier says
Some really good tips here that I’m going to bookmark for later! Growing an online business can be slow going but oh so worth it!
Ana De- Jesus says
I am a Freelancer and work an insane amount of hours but like you said income fluctuates . Prospecting clients is difficult but I wouldn’t change it for the world x
Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says
These are all great tips for anyone that has a freelance business. A plan is a great way to start, and keeping things written down to see them so that you can focus on your goal is the way to go.
These are amazing tips! Thank you because it helps and makes me want to do what I really hope to accomplish.
It is important to not sign on to too many projects at once or you will fall behind! I must keep this in mind when I am trying to get back into the freelance game.
Kristie of The Official ceoMom says
Knowing your worth is KEY!
Many freelancers feel as though they have to have super low prices for their services in order to gain clientele. That is so wrong. And the worst part is, freelancers work so hard! Definitely, know what you deserve and get it!
Jessica Joachim says
I am saving this for later because I have been really interested in freelance work, but have not really tried it yet. I currently just work on my own blog, and do web search analysis for another company, but I would love to expand and diversify my income streams lol
The biggest thing I’m working on is being consistent. If I’m consistent with my blog, my readers will know what to be watching for and will rely on it.
Elizabeth O. says
I think freelancing is awesome because it gives you the freedom to grow as an individual in his or her chosen industry. These are great tips for those who are starting out or those who would like to improve their business.
Amanda Love says
Freelancing is tough but everybody wants to go and try it. It’s a great way to showcase your skills and talents but you really need to know your worth otherwise clients will take advantage of you.
These are some really great tips. I know a couple people in freelance and they rave about it… I can’t stop doing what I’m doing but if I ever got a shot at freelance I would be glad to have these tips!
Love these tips! I’m looking to start building up a freelancing career but often don’t know where to start. Thanks for giving me the push I needed.
Cindy Ingalls says
My biggest advice to freelancers is don’t undersell yourself. Don’t take a job that pays nothing just because you need the money. You are worth it and as such, you should be paid for what you do.
Blythe Alpern says
These are great tips. I would also add, don’t forget to interview clients just like they are interviewing you. If red flags go off during an initial pitch or the client asks for free work, pay attention. This can save you from frustration down the road.
Knowing your worth is the hardest part for me! I always undersell myself! Thanks so much for these great actionable steps!
This is great information that I can use. i will be revisiting to look at more of your posts. i am trying to transition into blogging full-time and this information is exactly what i need!
Dawn McAlexander says
I think it is very important to plan before you post anything. I never just throw something up there. I always plan it. I think that is key to having a good free lance business.
I love this whole freelance trend and being your own boss. I hope to never work for someone else again.
Great tips!These are the most interesting suggestions I’ve ever heard for freelancing.” I’ve never even heard of these
websites, but they sound absolutely brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing this!!
misty nelson dawn says
Wow, these are absolutely a great post and tips, It’s really a good information and helpful for freelancer glad that you share this with us
Jeric Danao says
As a freelance engineer, I have worked up to technological and digital ladder for its marketing prowess. Even though we’re pretty underrated when it comes to accomplishment credits, we still feel that we’re one of those in-demand beings alive. As you grow, your company should grow for the better. Thank you for these tips 🙂
These are great tips. The very first step is having a plan! For me, it’s been helpful to review my goals and progress to realign the plan every few months.
So many great suggestions!!!! Making sure you’re marketable in whatever it is you’re doing is key to success
Developing a plan is such an important part of freelancing. It helps you to focus on accomplishing goals.
Great tips! I’ve been at this for 10 years, but it still helps to think about these things constantly!
Thanks for these tips! I have found freelance writing work on Upwork! I’ve never heard of Guru though. I’m going to go check it out and hopefully add it to my list of places to check out for Freelance work!
Rashida Goryawala says
Nicely written. I’m a freelancing jewelry designer and content writer and will definitely checkout the resources that you mentioned. Thanks a lot.
Also, I think social sites like LinkedIn would work very well for freelancers as well.
I found this article really useful, especially as I am trying to set myself up as a full-time blogger. Thanks for a great article!