People go into freelance work for a lot of reasons. Maybe you crave more freedom, the ability to set your own schedule, or even travel while working. Perchance you desire to pursue a passion, or you want to take on freelance or gig work out of necessity in order to make ends meet. Perhaps in-house work wasn’t for you and maybe you are wondering what to put on a resume when fired from a previous job or if you were made redundant.
Whatever your unique reasons, working as a freelancer can be an exciting and lucrative career choice. Below, we’ll share some insider tips to help you start your freelance journey with confidence.
Skills, No Degree Required
Today, I’m a freelance writer, but there was a time when I frantically applied to state and local newspapers in search of a job. The problem was that I did not yet have the requisite five years of experience, nor did I hold a journalism degree.
If you are in a similar situation, freelancing can offer the relief you need. If you have skills in your field but not the degree required by salaried positions, freelance assignments can allow you to work in your field regardless. In my experience, companies outsourcing to a freelancer rarely ask about degrees. They just want results. This also means they might not check your references, so it might not matter if you had been fired from a previous position.
Likewise, freelancing can help you break into fields with stringent experience requirements. In my case, I asked myself, “How can I obtain years of experience if someone won’t hire me first?” Freelancing can supply that experience.
Build Your Portfolio
Your portfolio is a powerful tool for communicating your skills to potential clients. But it does something for you, too. When you can look back on your best work, you gain the confidence to tackle bigger and better projects.
Today, electronic portfolios are generally preferred. Depending on the type of media your portfolio will contain, you can develop your own website, use your LinkedIn profile, or even set up a shareable album on Google Photos.
Going back to if you found that working for a company as a contracted employee didn’t work for you, you can still mention work from that time in your resume, but be careful what you use in your portfolio. You work may count as your ex-employer’s intellectual property. Check your old work contract.
Find Your Niche
When I first started freelancing, I wanted to do it all – writing, editing, photography, graphic design. I was willing to take on any type of work a potential client requested of me.
Over time, however, I realized there were types of work that caused me extra stress or that were less lucrative. Over time, I weeded out these types of work and focused more on what I enjoyed – and what paid the bills.
Freelancers can exist in almost any industry, but it is important that you find your niche – that small sector where you can excel. When first starting out, don’t cast your nets too wide – focus on the things you do best. Later, you can experiment with new gigs and trim away those you do not want to pursue.
“I Am,” Not “I’m Trying to Be…”
Your professionalism and confidence will affect how others perceive you – even whether you receive contracts or client requests.
Dress, speak, and correspond professionally when interacting with clients. When introducing yourself, don’t say, “I’m trying to be a [whatever your job title is].” For me, that meant saying “I am a writer,” not “I’m trying to be one.”
Name Your Price
New freelancers often fall into the trap of undervaluing their work, even giving it away for free.
So let’s lay down some ground rules. When you’re first building your portfolio, you may decide to do a few pro bono projects. But once you are officially self-employed, the time for “free samples” has come to an end.
Next, avoid the tendency to set rock-bottom prices just so competitors won’t undercut you. True, as a novice, you should charge less than someone with years of experience. But find out what the reasonable range is for your services. Research what others are charging. You can start out near the bottom of that range but don’t price yourself below it – clients will see this as a red flag, that you’re under-priced for a reason. Limiting your income can also hinder your long-term success.
As your experience and reputation grow, you can slowly increase your prices.
Take Care of Yourself
Freelancing is hard work, and especially if you’re working out of your own home, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
Look out for your physical and emotional needs. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, and eat healthy foods. Set definite working hours, and don’t let emails or other work-related intrusions overtake your personal life. Similarly, don’t let your dedication to your business rob you of relaxation. Set times when you won’t be working to reconnect with your loved ones and recharge.
Many people long for the freedom of freelancing but are afraid to take the leap. You can start your freelancing journey with confidence when you capture skills and experiences in your portfolio, carve out a niche, price your services appropriately, and get into good self-care routines.
Now, say it with me: “I am [insert your freelance job title here].” Now, go forth confidently to pursue your dreams.