Getting Your Freelancing Career Started
The thought of setting out as a freelancer is an incredibly appealing option for most people. The chance to choose your own working hours, your rate of pay and to work from home as your own boss makes it an sound like an unbeatable option for earning money. However, when it comes to setting out as a freelancer for the first time, you may find yourself feeling a little lost. How on Earth do you get started and find freelance work?
Starting out in freelancing isn’t an overnight change. When you first begin, unless you have prior experience working in your niche (for example, becoming a freelance writer after a traditional job in a newspaper company) you’ll need to prove your skills. It’s great to make claims, but without a sample of your abilities to show potential clients, you may find that your project or job applications get pushed to the side.
So, how can you make your application stand out from people who have hundreds of 5-star reviews?
Why Do You Want To Do Freelance Work?
This might seem obvious, but before taking the plunge, ask yourself why it is that freelancing seems so appealing. Give yourself a goal—a motivation—to work towards. Freelancing can be a troublesome choice, with too much work at times and none at others. You’ll need that goal to keep you enthusiastic.
Once you’ve decided on your final goal, work out how you will get there. When are you available to do freelance work? How many words can you write in a day, or how many hours will it take you to build a website? Knowing these factors will help you to determine a fair price for your services for both yourself and for your client.
The First Job—Be Realistic!
When starting out, you must remember that there are more experienced people out there than you, and so you have to find a way to make yourself known. The easiest way to do this is to cut your price. Don’t expect a full rate of pay until you’ve got a name for yourself.
Treat your first few projects as a chance to prove your skills and get reviews. You may not win the big projects, but if you can complete a number of small projects for dirt cheap fees in exchange for a review afterward, you’ll begin to build your portfolio and name.
Clients will want to know what standard of work you can offer. The easiest way to do this is by creating a sample of your work. This will not be paid for, of course, and will have to represent your abilities. It is essential that you put your all into making it the best it can possibly be.
An alternative to creating a single large sample is to offer your potential client a small sample of their choosing. This will allow you to demonstrate an understanding of the project and the topic as well as helping you to hone your skills. Short samples such as these are personalised, but ideally shouldn’t take more than five minutes to create. You don’t want to waste all of your time on creating samples instead of focusing on bidding on projects!
Learn How to Sell Yourself And Your Skills
This is vital for any freelance worker. The ability to sell yourself to your clients is the only way that you’ll get work. If you can not accurately describe your skills and get clients interested in your application, you’ll soon find that you are getting no responses and no work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re one of the best people in the world for your niche; if you can’t portray those abilities in your applications, clients won’t notice you. Simply put, don’t be invisible; get your name out there and scream about your skills until someone notices your abilities.
Don’t Take On Too Many Jobs At Once
If you’re lucky, and if you start out on a really positive note with your freelancing career, you may find that you get a lot of interest in your abilities. This can lead many new freelancers into the trap of taking on too much work in one go, or otherwise making too many applications for projects. Only apply for the amount of work you can manage. If you can write three songs a week, don’t bid on ten projects—you may find yourself suddenly landed with a whole load of work that is simply impossible. It is vital that, as a new freelancer, you make a good impression and deliver consistent work on time, every time, but rushing will lead to poor quality work and you may still be submitting past your employer’s deadline!
If you make a bid and a client doesn’t come back to you, by which point you may have placed more bids, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I’m busy right now, but I can start this later/tomorrow/etc”. However, if a client offers you the role shortly after you placed a bid and you refuse it, point blank, on the premise of being too busy, that will look awful. In fact, this sort of behaviour could ruin your reputation before you’ve even started to build it!
Don’t Sacrifice The Day Job!
This is the most important point for any new freelancer. It can be tempting, especially if you’ve had a good start, to immediately pack in the day job, or otherwise let it suffer. You might be working on the theory that turning up late won’t matter, for example; you’ve got your freelancing career to sustain you! Right?
Alas, this isn’t entirely true. As previously mentioned, a typical freelancer will experience times of huge workloads, and times of none at all. There is no stable income with freelancing! Hence, you should always keep your day job until you’ve got a good pot of savings to see you through the quieter times. It’s not worth risking the stability and security that regular employment offers until you know that you can cope without work for a while.
Freelancing is an exceptional opportunity for those individuals who have the right skill set, however it is not directly comparable to a stable income. It is important that all new freelancers accurately determine their goals and ambitions for their freelance career, as well as their current capabilities, before starting. One of your first tasks as a new freelancer should be to build your portfolio and reputation, and after that, grow your client base so that you can expect a steady (but not excessive) stream of work.
Once you’ve done all that, and when you have enough savings to comfortably see you through the quiet times, by all means pack in the day job. It may not offer a steady income, but freelancing gives so many other health and wellbeing benefits (and potentially better pay, if you do it well) that it is a worthwhile avenue to pursue.