Are you considering joining the ranks of over 56 million people in the United States who have made the leap to working for themselves as freelancers? Are you wondering how to become a freelancer?
There are many reasons why you might want to make this change. For one, making your own hours and being your own boss can be very enticing.
Your earnings potential is also practically unlimited since you aren’t operating within a business structure or relying on a boss to set your salary. Also, more and more businesses are choosing to hire freelancers instead of permanent employees.
They can save on taxes and employee-related expenses (with tools like Bonsai for example), as well as stay more flexible by using freelancers. There is a lot of work out there if you play your cards right.
So if you want to learn how to become a freelancer, here’s a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Make Sure It’s the Right Decision
The benefits of freelancing are very enticing, and you probably want to get started right away. However, you need to make sure that you are making the right decision at the right time. Making the move away from being a salaried employee to a freelancer can be a bit like tightrope walking without a net.
You will still have all of the financial responsibilities that you’ve always had, but you will not have the security of a regular paycheck.
You should be prepared that there are some things you will have to go without, at least when you first start out. Do you eat out regularly, or take trips every year? Those activities may need to be curtailed, or you may have to cut back on extra-curriculars, like sports and dance, for your kids.
Your gym membership and streaming accounts may need to be cancelled for a time until you have more secure work. Your mortgage, rent, utilities, and other regular expenses won’t go away, so you need to have a plan to cover them, and to make sure that this huge change is the right one for you.
Step 2: Work On Your Self-Discipline
One of the biggest challenges for people who make the switch from a 9-5 type of job to freelancing is learning self-motivation and discipline. It can be hard to keep yourself on task when you are at home and don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder. Having colleagues rely on you is also great motivation.
At home there are many distractions and many temptations. Is there a daytime ballgame on? A midday nap might seem like a well-earned treat. However, every moment you aren’t working is a moment that you aren’t making money. Watching the game or taking a nap could mean that your day gets away from you and you don’t get done what you need to.
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Self-discipline isn’t something that you can turn on and off like a faucet. It’s something you need to practice and turn into a routine. For some people, this is easy, but it’s not for everyone. When thinking about how to become a freelancer, try to find ways to create the feeling of “going to work” every day.
Don’t wake up and pick up your laptop from the side table and get to work. Get out of bed, take your shower, have breakfast, and get dressed. Do your work away from comfortable spots like your bed and in front of the TV. This will help create separation from your work life and your relaxing life.
One of the best things you can do when considering how to become a freelancer is to make sure to set goals for your days, weeks, months, and even quarters.
As opposed to being strictly financial goals, set goals to help with your productivity. This means deciding how many working hours you want every day and making it your mission to stick to it. You can then build in those “perks” of working from home like naps and television around your working hours.
Productivity apps like Hectic — specially designed for freelancers, take the burden off you and increase your productivity levels thanks to its suites of features ranging from project management to client management, invoicing, scheduling, accounting, calendar, scheduling, proposals, contracts, etc.
Bonsai is another alternative that will not disappoint.
Step 3: Consider Your Branding
You might be thinking that you’re an individual person and not a brand, unlike the large businesses that we all know. However, that’s not entirely true. Every business, including a freelancer, should have a brand. As opposed to selling a manufactured product, like a car or a soft drink, you are selling yourself.
Clients need to have a reason to trust that you can provide them what they need at a price they will pay. Your brand is essentially you.
As a freelancer, it is a must for you to be on social media. Create an account on all of the relevant channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, and especially LinkedIn. LinkedIn can help you build a network of like-minded professionals and important people who work in the niche in which you are interested.
You can also start attending industry events and getting to know people in person. The key is that you must be easy to find and easy to talk to. You should have a website and even a logo. If you are uncomfortable with visual arts, hire a fellow freelancer to make your logo or use a site such as logo.com to come up with one. Branding yourself is a big part of how to become a freelancer.
Step 4: Find Your Niche
One of the best things about becoming a freelancer is that you can minimize the type of work that you don’t enjoy. In a regular job, there are often tasks and parts of jobs that can be stressful or that you have difficulty with. No matter what kind of work you do there will be things you don’t like.
However, you can choose as a freelancer what you want to do. If you want to write SEO or marketing content, you can choose an industry that interests you or that you are good at writing about.
By sticking with a certain niche, you can keep your work focused and become an expert. For instance, maybe you know a lot about dentistry, or that it seems to come naturally to you. You can produce writing samples that are geared towards dental practices, which will make it easier for your potential clients to relate to you.
It will help with your marketing efforts as well, since you can focus on those types of businesses without having to cast a large net and hope to catch a few clients from various sectors. It’s not enough to know how to become a freelancer. You also need to understand your strengths and weaknesses to succeed.
By specializing you can also save yourself time during the writing process. If you are constantly switching from dentistry to home renovation, to dog kennels, then you will have to research a new industry every time.
The more you write about one industry, the more you will know, which will make writing about it easier going forward. As you develop your freelancing business based on your niche, you can branch out in other directions as your interests change or if you find that you can write well about something else.
Step 5: Start Networking
Network, network, network! This is a crucial step you can take on your journey to become a freelancer even before you leave your job and start working from home. Tell everyone you know, from colleagues to work acquaintances to friends and family, what you are going to do.
Put it on your personal social media pages. Even if you do this well before you officially start, tell people that you can take on projects immediately. This will hopefully get you some work to get started, and also help you build a portfolio, get references, and testimonials.
By the time you get to marketing yourself on a broader scale, you will already have that experience in hand and some samples you can give to potential clients.
Having your friends and others who know you help with networking can be very valuable. Word of mouth is the best marketing, and you can gain clients who have trust in you through your associations.
This is all a part of building a network of people who can potentially hire you or who might know others you could use your services. Building a network takes time and dedication, so it’s best to get started early.
Step 6: Create a Portfolio
It’s one thing to talk about how well you can do something. It’s quite another to show it. Build a portfolio of your work so that you always have it on hand in case a potential client requests it.
If you’re a content writer, then start out with several blog posts of various topics. Write new ones when you have free time as you go forward. If you are a designer, create logos for fictional companies of different types to show your versatility.
Whatever it is that you do, show it off. You won’t be getting paid directly for this work, but you should put just as much effort and care into it. Your portfolio is a representation of your skills and experience, so it should also be top-quality work. Too many people figure out how to become a freelancer without preparing what they need to showcase their abilities.
Step 7: Find More People to Hire you
While friends and family referring you is a great way to get a start, you probably won’t get enough to grow your freelance business. You will need to market yourself to the outside world, and you will have to be strategic about it.
When learning how to become a freelancer, most don’t have a large marketing budget, so you will first need to figure out what your target market is and market to them relentlessly.
Many freelancers choose to use a platform that will help to connect them with companies that are looking for services, and this can be a quick way to get some work. Just make sure that you can handle the percentages that those platforms take off the top.
Email marketing works for many freelancers, as does SEO by targeting certain cities and areas. The great thing about being a freelancer is that your market can literally be anywhere, even in different countries.
You’ll quickly figure out that searching for new freelance jobs can be a full-time gig in itself. To save you time, check out SolidGigs — they do the work for you and send the best freelance jobs to your inbox and all you have to do is apply. It’s easily worth the $2 trial.
Pitching can be hard, but it is a necessary evil. If you are emailing, do not just go with a stock email for everyone. You can have a rough template, but change up some of the details to show that you know a little bit about the company to which you are sending the email.
Attach your freelance resume and examples of your work to show that you are legitimate right off the bat. If you are pitching to a certain project, then make sure you highlight all the ways that your experience and skills are relevant to that specific project. It’s very easy for someone to ignore and delete a pitch email, so make it count.
Step 8: Pricing
Pricing is very tricky for a lot of new freelancers. It can be tough to balance what you need to earn with what you think others will pay. You can get a good idea of what you can charge by monitoring your competition and seeing what others with your experience ask for.
Many freelancers fall into the trap of underpricing themselves to get work. While this might work at first, you can get stuck at that low price point and stunt the growth of your business. Determining (and testing) different pricing structures can help you get a better idea of where you land.
The key is to compete with quality as opposed to price. If what you produce is better than your competition, then you will find clients who will pay you. Take the time with everything you do, and take pride in your work. That way you will justify your cost and earn you happy, repeat clients.
These clients will not just use you as often as possible, they will refer you to their colleagues and partners. Besides, if you price yourself too low, many potential clients will pass you by because they will think that your work must not be of high quality.
Be confident in yourself and price yourself accordingly. Do not make it harder to achieve your freelance dreams by undervaluing what you have to offer.
After that, it’s time to get down to work. Many of these steps you will have to repeat over time as your business evolves and grows. You can switch up your marketing strategies, pricing schemes, and niche as needed. If you’re still struggling with getting started, here’s a list of great freelance resources.
It’s scary to leave the comfort and security of a regular job with a regular paycheque, but the freedom and enjoyment from being a freelancer could be the best thing you ever do. Now that you know how to become a freelancer, you can get to work and make it happen.
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