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What do I need to know if I plan to be a freelancer?

Jan 11, 2021
(updated: Dec 5, 2022)
Max 5 min read

If you are considering freelance work for the first time, it's natural to feel excited about the many opportunities that lie ahead. Suddenly, you're able to choose your own clients and projects while also deciding when to work on them. It's also normal to have a lot of questions. For instance, people often wonder which skills are required for success. Others wonder about the best ways to find work and attract potential clients. But one of the most common questions is, "What do I need to know if I plan to be a freelancer?" Below are five tips to keep in mind when preparing for an exciting career in freelancing.

1) Great freelance work requires certain skills

Not all freelancers are created equal. Whether your goal is a career as an online writer or working from home as a graphic design contractor, success requires a certain skill set. The exact skills needed will depend on the type of work selected. For instance, becoming a talented independent online writer requires more than outstanding writing expertise and a flair for communicating. By learning more about the unique skills for online freelance writers to succeed, it's easier to map out a framework for success. 

2) Your working hours may vary

It doesn't take long for most independent contractors to realize that a freelancing career can quickly become far more than a part time side hustle. In fact, some people find themselves working full time hours or navigating different time zones to complete projects for diverse teams in other countries.

This can be a major adjustment to people who believe they can always set their own hours and easily stick to them. For example, an online writer who initially resolved to only work four hours a day may face increasing demands from clients seeking fast turnaround times that require eight or nine hours on the clock. 

Regardless of the amount of work people take on, the allure of setting their own work hours is still a major benefit to many people. The key is to approach projects with the understanding that ideals often don't line up with reality in the freelancing world. Setting realistic expectations and knowing in advance that work hours may vary is vital to a satisfying and fruitful career. 

3) Not everyone is cut out for freelance work

Freelance work is not for everyone. While some people thrive when working independently, others prefer being on a team in a more structured environment. But how does someone predict whether they will succeed? While there is no crystal ball available, here are some simple ways to determine if you're cut out for a freelancing career:

  • Tip #1: Talk to a freelance business owner: Request a virtual meeting or coffee with a top local freelancer and seek their advice.
  • Tip #2: Look for signs you will enjoy freelance work: If you like to work from home and hunt for potential clients, those are good signs.
  • Tip #3: Take on a couple of small freelance jobs: Accept one or two short-term jobs for a local business for exploratory purposes.

4) Setting the right rate can be scary... but it's vital

Entering the world of freelancing can be a bit scary - especially if you've always earned a stable, predictable income. Gaining experience can be worth its weight in gold, so don't be afraid to be flexible with your rates initially. Just be sure not to undercut yourself.

A great solution is offering special promotions or introductory rates. Taking on projects that aren't overly enticing can also help build a client base. But remember you won't survive as a freelancer if you're constantly asking for too little. While it's not always easy to ask for more money, it's critical to achieve financial goals. 

Finally, keep in mind that demand for your services will grow as your business begins to gain traction. When this happens, you may end up with more work than you can handle. To avoid overextending yourself or sacrificing work quality, you can respectfully decline some jobs - especially if a client isn't willing to pay your rate.

5) There are no shortcuts to success

In their eagerness to make money and lure potential clients, people can sometimes forget about the nuts and bolts of daily life as a small business owner. It can be tempting to put things like health insurance, quarterly taxes, and liability insurance on the back burner. But remember that there are no shortcuts on the road to becoming a successful freelance business owner. Having a plan in place for the following is vital:

  • Workload: Mastering the art of meeting deadlines and finding new clients without overextending yourself is a must.
  • Tax implications: Because you are now categorized as self-employed, you must file a tax return as a business owner
  • Health insurance: If you aren't already covered by a plan, you should begin exploring health insurance plans for freelancers.
  • Liability insurance: This type of insurance will help protect you against claims of injury, slander, libel, or copyright infringement.

Remember that ignoring these essentials can leave you and your bank account at risk for financial loss and a damaged reputation. To put your freelancing business on the fast track to success, cover these points above before diving into that first official project. This will ultimately help foster your independence as you build your own business. 

The Bottom Line

Life in the freelancing lane is both exciting and rewarding. At the same time, it offers an element of flexibility that allows independent workers to thrive. However, adapting to a less structured type of employment requires planning. By sharpening specific skills, being prepared for fluctuations in work hours, and welcoming the opportunity to build a business, you can prime yourself for a fruitful freelance career.

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