It is no secret that millions of young workers around the world find freelance life so enticing. And why not? If you work at an office, you know just how tedious things can get. Sure, you get some perks along the way, but is that worth the price of being stuck in a cubicle or a regular 9 to 5 rat race?
The younger generation does not seem to think so – at least most don’t. We are, of course, not suggesting that no one should work at an office job. If that’s what makes you happy, then that’s what you should go for. We asked guest author Alex Lysak to share key strategies to help aspiring freelancers get ready for a successful freelance career in whatever industry they decide to go into. Learn more about Alex Lysak.
Workplaces may give out free pizza every Tuesday and Tiramisu on Thursday, but wearing a suit and tie and commuting to the office daily is no longer as appealing as it once was, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic made working at home a norm in 2020.
Whatever your personal stance is on the work from home matter, Scanteam research shows that there are a lot more workers today who are transitioning to the freelance lifestyle.
The freelance life is especially great for non-traditional workers. They don’t like to conform to average schedules, require a lot of free time to pursue their own goals, and want to have some semblance of freedom.
And these are all things you can get easily in the freelance world. They will come at the expense of security and stability, but if you do your homework and prepare accordingly, you can honestly have the best of both worlds.
Does this kind of life appeal to you? If so, you are not alone.
If you are interested in freelancing but have no idea how to freelance, we have collated key freelance tips and tricks that will help you make the move.
Finding this article is essentially step one. What’s next? Read on to see our three-step guide on how to begin your journey to freelancing life.
1. Take a Dip Before Diving In
While freelancing is all about freedom, the first steps for your journey should be baby-sized ones. This is especially the case if you have a great office job. You might think you want freedom, but have you considered the things you lose as a corporate denizen?
One thing many corporate employees take for granted is the omnipresence of health insurance. When you are hired, you are enrolled in your company’s policy as a matter of course.
Not so as a freelancer how it works, in that case, is that you have to personally handle your healthcare needs.
This includes picking out healthcare policies and discerning which one works best for you. As an individual, you have far less power than a company has when it comes to the policy’s terms. Simply adjust based on what your current budget is since you can always get a better plan if business starts booming.
For instance, most freelancers will not be able to afford the health insurance that their last company was providing for them. It will likely be too expensive for you on your own as companies have the luxury of hundreds or thousands of other employees to help keep their overall insurance prices down.
Before taking on the freelance lifestyle, try to take stock of the things that are most important for you, and how they fit with the working arrangement you want.
Do you enjoy a busy office environment while working? Try working on weekends at your local coffee shop to test how you do there.
Do you enjoy your freedom? If you want to freelance, you can have as much freedom as you want. In fact, no one will ever tell you to work when you don’t want to. The problem is that you won’t receive a salary when you don’t work.
Can you stay on top of multiple projects while juggling real-life issues? There are no sick leaves, vacation leaves, or maternity leaves. Can you make that work?
If you don’t know where to begin, you can check out local job sites or even social media for one-off projects. Take those on and see how it feels.
As an office worker, your manager will motivate you whether you want to work or not. As a freelancer, you have to do this on your own.
You have to be a self-motivated person as a freelancer. Until you receive regular clients, you will have to hustle and network your way to more work. This can be draining, not just physically, but emotionally as well. You will have to handle more rejection in a week as a starting freelancer than a decade at an office job.
You might think you already know all this. We don’t doubt it for a moment. The problem is that knowing something is true, is different from experiencing something as true.
By taking baby steps, you give yourself more time to make the correct decision. If you like the lack of training wheels offered by freelance life, go ahead, and move on to the next step. If you find that you would rather stick with the comforts of office life, you at least know for sure that freelancing is not the right fit for you.
2. Define Your Marketable Skills
Freelancers, especially when they are just starting out, tend to apply for every project they get. This can be refreshing for people who enjoy the adrenaline shot of putting your best foot forward but can be exhausting for anxious individuals.
One way to ease that tension is to be clear about the things you can do and cannot do.
With freelancing, the key is to have a couple of core interests or competencies. You want to define those skills upfront, so your prospective client knows where they can make use of your skills.
For instance, if you were a social media manager in your last day job, you will have to go into greater detail than normal when it comes to pitching your services.
Freelancers are generally considered attractive for their specialized skill sets, not their all-around competence. Though you might be an all-around rock star as a social media manager, clients aren’t looking for you to fill that position per se – you are simply filling in the gaps in their current organization.
With social media management, for example, you will have to lay out the details of what makes you a great – albeit temporary – member of their team.
Include your experience with analytics, the core topics you focus on, and any other competencies that will serve them well.
Defining your core skills and topics are also a great way of weeding projects that fit your precise abilities. To continue with the social media manager example, if you generally handle social media accounts for Christian organizations, other faith-based companies will no doubt be more willing to take a shot on you.
This also prevents clients from asking things you don’t offer. This might not seem like much, but when you’re fielding dozens upon dozens of such requests as a freelancer (as we have), then you’ll have a whole new appreciation for it.
3. Always Remember to Build
The essential thing to keep in mind as a freelancer is that it is totally on you to build your business. There will be no lead generators or managers showing you the way – it’s all up to you.
This is the biggest price you pay as a freelancer. As an employee, it is easy to take for granted all the little things that working a company affords you. You get access to resources you wouldn’t come across otherwise, including access to your peers.
Freelancing forces you to go it alone, at least in the beginning.
Don’t worry. Things will get easier, as long as you can weather the first few storms.
Everything you do as a freelancer can be viewed as a brick. You use those bricks to build your business. You will need lots and lots of bricks to make a business.
How do you get that first brick?
It depends where you are as a worker. If you have a solid base of contacts that you know will require your services, you can start out there. For those who don’t have a network, you will have to take on the lowest projects on the totem pole.
If you’ve seen how sites like Upwork and Fiverr work, you will notice that it is near-impossible to bid for a project as a newbie. However cheaply you set your rates, there will be tens of others who have the same rates as you, but with vastly more experience.
You can get lucky, of course. But chances are, if you are wiping the slate clean with a freelance career, you will have to take on unpaid projects to build your skillset and networks.
This kind of building takes tons of work and hustle. Unlike regular office jobs that have set hours, being a freelancer can lead to extreme situations. There are freelancers out there who work more than they ever did at the office, while some are more laid-back. Your task is to balance these aspects based on what you want from your career.
Do you want to cater to a more upscale market? Set your rates accordingly, so that clients that don’t meet your needs won’t even attempt to contact you. If you want to get your name out there as fast as possible, you can set friendlier rates, with incentives for repeated projects.
You will also have to be on the lookout for potential clients. You can also send pitches cold – that is, without being solicited to do so – to companies who you feel will be a great fit for your skillset.
Remember that being a freelancer is not a zero-sum game. You can always go back to an office job if things don’t pan out your way, taking occasional projects on the side. Does freelance life make sense for you? You will have to find out on your own.
A lot of people hate this word but if you are serious about a long-term freelancing career, you need to learn how to budget. You need to learn how to budget your expenses per week, per month, and then put together a contingency budget that allows you to set aside funds for a minimum of 3 to 6 months.
This takes the pressure off you getting freelance work in the early stages as you know you have a buffer to tide you over. Budgeting your weekly and monthly expenses also lets you know how much you need to spend and prevents you from going overboard with your spending. When you have less financial pressure at the start, it makes it easier for you to make better decisions with regard to picking your freelance clients and assignments.
If you are starting out in your freelance career, we suggest you take full advantage of all four strategies that we listed above. The only other tip that we need to emphasize is that you need to show a lot of patience in the freelancing world, especially when you are just getting started. All the best with your freelance journey!