Becoming a freelancer allows you to strike out on your own and will give you the freedom to live life as you please. However, becoming a successful freelancer is not straightforward.
First you have to build a client list, and you need to be able to ensure you’ll be earning enough to pay your monthly bills. You get paid when you work, and your earnings are never guaranteed, there will be slow periods, and some of your clients will not be easy. So here we explore the ways to become a successful freelancer, so you can live the lifestyle you want.
What is a freelancer?
Freelancers work on a self-employed basis and do not have a single employer for a long-term agreement. You might have clients that you work with over the long term but not exclusively. The term freelancer is more often used for those working in the creative industries, though accountants and bookkeepers can also work in this way.
How do I get started?
With freelancing you can’t just walk straight into an income that will sustain your lifestyle. You should not quit a more stable job without ensuring that you’d get regular work coming in as a freelancer. Freedom comes at a price – and you need to consider if you are willing to pay it.
You will also need to be disciplined. You are the boss now, and you need to monitor your progress. You need to challenge yourself and ask, “Am I doing a good job?” You set the rules and the restrictions, and apply the work ethic required to succeed.
Then, there is the business bit. How much will you charge? Will it be a flat project-based fee, or will you generate bids? Are you going to have a bank account for your business and keep it separate from your finances? Are you going to pay yourself a wage or overlap your personal and business finances completely? You might benefit from a business management course to help you make the best decisions at the start of your time as a freelancer.
More than anything, you need to see your reputation as money in the bank. You might not earn a lot at first, but you will gain a high-class testimonial which will attract other work. You need to appear trustworthy, reliable, as well as creative and imaginative. Your role is to be indispensable, and someone, the client, wants to keep on, offering regular work.
How to get work?
This is one of the great mysteries for those working outside of freelancing. Not only do you need to find one-off jobs, but you need to win regular clients who keep coming back and supplementing your income.
First and most straightforward, you can go to freelance job sites. There are platforms like People Per Hour, Upwork, and Fiverr that are used by companies to post one-off jobs or casual roles that they need to fulfil. You simply put together a pitch and fight off competition, get the testimonial, and repeat. The more reviews you collect, the easier it will become to gain work. Be aware these sites charge a high commission for their services, and you will need to factor this into your calculations.
Alternatively, you can set up your website and blog regularly, using Google Ads and SEO to gain some traction. You can also seek out guest posts on blogs and guest spots on podcasts to discuss your services. The more you can get yourself mentioned online, the more you will be a name people recognise. There is no reason you cannot work through a job site and set up your own online presence simultaneously. Social media is a massively important part of this online presences, and you will need to use it to its full potential.
A final option could be cold calling or seeking referrals and recommendations from clients. While cold calling is no one’s favourite pastime, and some companies actively discourage it, you will get leads to jobs that you can follow up. Tailor your calls or emails to the companies you approach and be prepared for a lot of rejection.
If this “cold” approach seems too daunting, you can always ask friends, family, and colleagues to recommend you if they know someone who needs your freelancing services.
Remember, as hard as all this sounds, the work is out there, it is just about finding it!