Going freelance is easier than ever before. Chances are you know at least someone who has decided to quit their job and work from home or perhaps even from various places around the world – and chances are you can’t help but be intrigued by the prospect of being your own boss. Today, with widespread internet access and plenty of networking platforms for freelancers and clients, it can be tempting to just quit your job and enter the exciting, albeit unpredictable, world of freelancing. If you are serious about launching straight into a full-time freelancing career without any freelance experience, then there are a few points you should consider first.
Are you ready?
No, really – are you ready? You might be emotionally prepared to cut your ties with traditional office hours and office culture, but in practicality terms you could be far from equipped to handle the freelance lifestyle. Running your own freelance business means being your own secretary, accountant, marketer and manager. It will require you to practise extreme discipline and turn your home into a work environment. If multi-tasking isn’t your strong point, you might find yourself struggling. The most important part of preparing for going freelance involves making realistic plans regarding what you hope to achieve, how you will go about reaching this goals, and how much money you expect to make in the process.
Define your specialization and brand
What exactly will you be offering clients – and how will your services be better or different than those offered by your competition? It is a common misconception that extending your specialization will result in more business as you are targeting a wider range of clients. In reality, many clients are only interested in hiring freelancer with a very specialized skillset, whether it be an in-depth knowledge of equity law or the ability to optimize texts for SEO. Whilst specializing in one area may result in a smaller number of potential clients, having a particular skillset justifies a higher rate for your services. Besides offering something unique and specific, you should consider how you to best market and demonstrate these skills, which takes us to the next point…
Build a portfolio
If you’re just starting out in freelancing, then you might not have any clients who can vouch for you. References are still important, so get them from past colleagues or anyone else with an experience of your professional work. Clients need to know that they can trust you to follow deadlines, deal with confidential information and much more. Equally important is convincing them of your actual talent. You can sell yourself over the phone, in person or through an email – but your client is still going to want to see real examples of your work. Compile a document of case studies or upload portfolio examples to your website and/or freelance profile. Alternatively, present only the most relevant samples to each prospective client, creating what would in essence be a personalized portfolio for each one of them.
I know what you’re thinking. “How am I supposed to show examples of my freelance work if I haven’t had any freelance experience?”. This is where an investment of time might become necessary before you start earning real money. Be prepared to start writing for exposure, not profit, then offer your articles for publication on relevant sites, or else publish them on your personal blog. This will eventually pay off, as solid examples of your writing will increase your chances of finding clients.
Build an online presence
Besides your own website and blog, you should have a Twitter and business-based Facebook page where your latest posts can be promoted – as well as updates on your availability. Here you can share relevant articles and news stories which might be of interest to followers, and which demonstrate that you have an active interest in topics relating to your field. For your personal sites, consider consulting a WordPress and SEO guide to increase your rankings and traffic.
Just because you are a freelancer doesn’t mean you’re confined to spend your whole workday at home. Being active in seeking out useful contacts and potential clients could even mean attending relevant conferences and workshops. Conduct outreach on LinkedIn and nurture already-existing relationships that might help introduce you to some useful contacts further along down the line.
Find clients (and keep them happy!)
There are several ways to go about finding clients. The best means will depend upon your specialization and the types of clients you are looking for. Signing up to a copywriting agency will give someone else the task of finding you a client base, but you may have to pay a lot of money for something which you could do yourself. Making an account on freelancing sites such as Elance and UpWork is perhaps the most common method. Here, you will need to personalize your profile, verify your identity and take skill tests to attract clients. Many businesses also advertise freelance work on these sites, so you will be able to contact them with a CV and pitch through the site. Payments also typically occur through the site. If you build a very strong profile page and start receiving positive reviews, clients will eventually be seeking you out – a nice way of lessening your workload!
Alternatively, if you have specific client, publication or site in mind – contact them directly. Pitch ideas, offer articles or submit a more formal application. Industries in the field of health, beauty, igaming, home renovation and finance are regularly looking for content writers and reviewers, so this is a great place to get started if you can see yourself writing about luxury furniture on a regular basis, or reviewing poker rooms for a living. Eventually you will be able to refine your client base until you’re left with the highest-paying and most loyal clients. It is your priority to keep them happy, as your future success will rely upon your reputation. Always seek to resolve any conflicts with your client, no matter how much you think they might be in the wrong.
Manage your bookkeeping
If you’ve gone most of your life with a regular and consistent monthly salary, then you may be in for a shock. As a freelancer, you will set your own rates, and have payments enter your bank at different points throughout the month. You will be solely responsible for keeping track of your earnings and sorting your self-employment taxes. It may take you a long time to start earning a substantial wage, but don’t let that put you off. Set goals for what you expect to earn as a steady wage and how long you’re prepared to wait to reach your goal. This will help you strive toward higher earnings and not settle for less than you’re worth. You’d also be wise to record your earnings, expenditure and savings in a detailed budgeting template. It may seem like a nuisance at first, but over time will feel like second nature.
It takes organisation, dedication and extreme willpower to be a successful freelance writer. You might be wondering whether the sheer effort and inevitable element of insecurity in that initial stage is even worth it. That’s up for you to decide, but once you’re a high-earning and popular freelancer with a steady client base in a field of your interest, I think you’ll it most definitely was worth the effort…