When most people think of freelance work, one of the main benefits they think of is being your own boss and making your own hours. Sounds enticing, right? While that can be exciting and fun, it can also be challenging. There's a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into making freelancers successful independent contractors. Knowing where to start and figuring out what the whole freelance world is actually like takes a little bit of research.
No worries, we've wrestled with the different variables that can make freelancing your next career choice and crafted a guide to let you in on the secret of freelance business.
Step 1: understanding what freelance means
Everyone has an idea in their head of what freelance work entails. It's not all cafés and local hole-in-the-wall spots that fill you with inspiration, but it is kind of magical sometimes.. You see, every freelancer's experience is a little different. Their workload, schedule, and niche are unique to them. From sourcing your work to learning how to market yourself, becoming a freelancer is like acting in a form. You play different roles for different clients, and after some trial and error, you can figure out that perfect balance between freedom and hard work.
Freelancing itself is seen as a solo job but requires a lot of cohesive roles in order to work. A client will typically post a request on a job board or their own platform seeking help. Freelancers will apply for the position, sending in their portfolio or resume, and then the client will reach out to their freelancer of choice and begin discussing the terms of the job. Once agreed upon, the freelancer will begin working on the project and submit it when completed.
How you get paid, when you get paid, the duration of the project (whether it be short term or long term), and many other factors will be determined based on the agreement you make with that client. Keep in mind that it's important to discuss these things before you start working on each project. A lot of clients are trustworthy, but you'll come across those that are blacklisted from many freelancer's client lists for good reason. Always be cautious.
Next up, finding your niche
The freelance world is so loved because the opportunities are genuinely limitless. You can specialize in one area, like writing or graphic design, or you can wear multiple hats and show off your skillset in a variety of areas. To name just a few of the types of freelance work you'll find on the market:
- Developer (coding and programming)
- Social Media Management
The list goes on! Figuring out what you're best at may take a little time. Just remember that you're always growing and always learning. One great thing about discovering your niche in the freelance world is that you can always adjust your line of work as needed. If you're just starting out, try focusing on one or two specialties and build your client base before branching out into the hundreds of types of freelance work. This will save you from overworking yourself by helping you focus on the basics before jumping in headfirst.
Making your goals and finding a balance
Once you've figured out which area of the market you'd like to work in, create a list of goals. They can be simple as well as challenging. Mix it up and make some that are easily achievable while also writing down some that'll take a little time. If you don't reach them all right away, give yourself a grace period and keep moving forward.
Finding that work to life balance can be pretty tricky. Especially if you're trying to make ends meet with freelance work. One thing I've found that's been beneficial to my freelance journey is giving myself breaks. Whether that be taking a break from a project to start the laundry or take my puppy outside, the little moments of fresh air works great with resetting my mind and helping me jump right back in to meet client requests.
Another thing you'll want to focus on when you're making your goals and figuring out your schedule is pricing. Reach out to other freelancers for their rates, look at client patterns, and create a basic starting rate for projects. Try your best not to budge with this rate or undercut your time's value. Clients that want professional work will be willing to pay the cost for your expert hand driving the job.
Deciphering client patterns and building a client base
As you branch into finding clients in your line of freelancing, make sure you review their buying patterns. Some will only be looking for one job while others will be purchasing projects monthly and sometimes weekly. By looking over their previous work with freelancers and exploring the reviews they've left, you can get a pretty good idea of how they'll treat you if they hire you. Not only does this help you avoid working for rude clients, but it can give you an idea of how quick the turnaround may be once you complete a job.
Aside from spending time figuring out client patterns, you'll want to live with the idea that rejection is okay. The truth is that it is okay. We all face rejection from clients, but more often than not, it helps you grow. Pitching to clients takes some getting used to, but if you make a goal each day to pitch to a set number of projects, you'll start to slowly see an increase in the growth of clients you can return to when looking for more work.
Asking for reviews
One final tip, and a big one when it comes to growing your list of clients, is asking for reviews. Don't be afraid to ask for a quick review when you've completed a job. Not only does this help future clients see why you'd be a great hire, but it can offer you some constructive feedback that helps you grow and do even better with jobs in the future.
Last but not least, when you're feeling discouraged or stressed as you venture into freelance work, know you're not alone. We've all been there, and we all understand that navigating the freelance world takes a little time. Check out freelance forums for a boost of confidence and some encouragement to help you get back in the game. Focus on one small task at a time or rewrite and review your goals. If you need a break, take a short walk or do some reading. Then, when you're ready, come back and market yourself to the millions of clients waiting for a freelancer like you to complete their job request.