Taking the plunge and leaving the comfort of your job to become a freelancer is an exciting move, but one that comes with a lot of pressure.
You don’t get any of the benefits of regular employment, and there are no guarantees that you are going to find clients right away and make your fortune. It can be a long time before you start to see success, but when it happens, it is all the more rewarding.
If you are becoming a freelancer, follow the steps below, and you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful career that you can be proud of:
Get a Financial Plan in Place
Every freelancer has a different reason for making the transition into working for themselves. Some realise that they can do the same work for themselves and make more money, whereas others simply want to have full control over their careers. Whatever reason you have for starting freelancing, it pays to have a plan in place, from the decision itself to launching your services and getting your name out there.
Unless you have been lucky enough to have built a stream of paying clients before moving into self-employment, you are going to have to factor your lack of income for the first month or so, and therefore the first part of your plan should be in regards to your finances, including:
- Purchasing equipment, such as laptop/computer, workspace, tools, and equipment.
- Paying the rent/mortgage
- Marketing materials, including your website, online ads, promotional materials/leaflets, business cards, etc.
You can delve into your savings or use credit cards to finance the launch of your freelance career, but before you do, seek out professional advice, so you know you are making the right decisions with your money. Bonsai Finance is a good place to start if you want sound advice on business loans, credit card information and any other financial advice you might need. If you want your career to start without the pressure that money can provide, talk to experts before making any big decisions.
Building Your Online Presence
A freelancer needs to have an online presence in the modern age. This includes a personal website, one that looks great, is easy to navigate and contains links to your previous work. You will also need a social media presence, including a Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and more (if you have the time and are willing to put in the work) and a LinkedIn profile for business people to find and interact with you.
You should consider your website the equivalent of an online resume, and you wouldn’t want that to be ugly to look at and hard to follow, so your website shouldn’t be either. Fortunately, you don’t need a degree in web design to be able to put together a great looking website that functions well and shows off your best work. There is a wide range of services available that can get you up and running in a matter of minutes.
Make sure that your website has links to your portfolio, social media channels, and has your contact details easily accessible. It will make it easy for any potential client to get in touch with you if they find your website and want to hire you for your services.
When building your social media presence, try to focus on mixing the personal with the professional. Post about your life, hobbies, and interests, but also showcase your skills and expertise without bragging and without being too self-promotional. You will soon start to build an audience, and you can also use these tools to contact potential clients and improve your knowledge by following business leaders you admire and whose advice you can use to further your career.
Getting Yourself Out There
The web is a fantastic tool to build your presence and get your name out there in your chosen profession, but if you want to make an impact locally, you need to get yourself out there and become a face that people can put a name to. Going to networking events and contacting businesses in your area with the aim of making connections and building lasting working relationships are two essential tactics that all freelancers should take advantage of, because much of your competition will be doing the same.
Social media, emails and marketing materials such as brochures and leaflets are useful and can have a big impact, but nothing beats the personal touch of meeting business owners face-to-face, shaking their hand and talking to them over a coffee about what you can do for them. Lasting relationships are built this way, particularly if you want to build a presence in your local community.
Home Office, Office or Co-Working Space?
A big decision for freelancers is whether they want to work from home, rent office space, or hire coworking space. The latter is becoming extremely popular for office-based freelancers, such as writers, marketers, graphic designers and artists, and is a great way to meet other freelancers who you might be able to work with in the future.
There are a number of factors that will help you decide which of these three you will want to go with. Firstly, there is the financial side of things. Working at home will cost you nothing, but if you have a lot of distractions (crying babies, barking dogs, Netflix, etc.) you might struggle to build momentum and make money. However, if you don’t have a great deal of money at your disposal at the beginning, hiring office space might not be an affordable option.
Growing a Thick Skin
One of the best pieces of advice for a freelancer is this: Grow a thick skin. You will need it. Rejection will be a common acquaintance for freelancers, regardless of how talented you are and how hard you work to get a client or how hard you worked on a project proposal. Sometimes you are going to get turned down, dropped from the books and outright rejected.
In order to be a successful freelancer, you have to learn that this is part of the deal you’ve signed up for, and you have to dust yourself down and carry on. If you allow it to get to you, there are a few issues that will come your way, including bitterness, rejection and a lack of motivation and momentum. All of these could end your freelance career, so put rejection to the back of your mind and soldier on, whether times are good or not.