Only non-freelancers will seek to know how to become a freelancer. Moving forward, however, I’m assuming you are a non-freelancer, perhaps a traditional 9-to-5 worker, digging deep for a better way to expand your career and take fuller control of it. Well, it’s no surprise; you’re not the only one aspiring to own a business of your own. 63% of people in their 20’s either owns their own business or aspire to have one in the nearest future as found in a recent study conducted by the University of Phoenix which polled 1,600 adults under the age of 30. In simple terms, people in general increasingly desire to be self-employed or independent. Moving from the 9-to-5 job straight up to entrepreneurship which is arguably the highest level of financial independence and business success can be a long way up; at some point it is even impracticable. On the other hand, starting a freelance business has proven to be one of the most realistic ways to attain a sustainable self-employed career even while at your day job. No wonder over 54 million Americans are choosing to rather start a freelance business instead of putting up with the limitations and rigidity of their traditional careers. Furthermore, with many companies around the world seeking for freelance writers, designers, marketers, and developers to help them grow their business, freelancing goes from offering you the flexibility to create a lifestyle you’ve always wanted, maximum control of your career, to presenting you with an overflowing range of work opportunities. The list keeps going.
Nonetheless, your intention of switching to freelancing as a new way of work is splendid and can be incredibly rewarding. But I must say this change is more like a process. It is a systematic, strategic, and yet doable. Let’s take it one step at a time.
· Why have I decided to freelance?
It all starts with a carefully thought and firm decision. Before anything follows, you must first, convince extensively yourself of why you really need to start a freelance business. This helps you get a clear picture of what height you actually want to attain as a freelancer. Asking yourself questions such as, ‘Is freelancing something I want to eventually engage in fulltime or is it just a temporary side hustle I plan to be engaging in while still at my day job for the extra cash?’ or ‘Is freelancing just part of a bigger plan I have in store?’ can be of great help. Whatever be the case, unless you are still dreaming, clarity of your ultimate goal for freelancing is the foremost step to be taken to actually getting where you want to go with freelancing. Being clear on that will then lead you to shorter-term goals and benchmarks that will foster your freelance business.
However, keep in mind that even though you intend to become a fulltime freelancer while pursuing this course, you still have bills that need to be paid and expenses that don’t just go away magically overnight. Moreover, I personally advise that unless you have the means, perhaps through enough savings, start your freelancing business while still at your day job so you can grow your income and eventually leave your day job to freelance fulltime if you so wish.
· How profitable can I make my skill?
In freelancing, it’s not all about what your skill is; it is about how profitable you can make it. You might be a graphic designer, but in the freelance world, you are just ‘one of the graphic designers’ in the industry. There’s surely going to be a competition. But what should you really compete for? Just to secure more work, some freelancers probably with a lower cost of living are willing to accept lesser-paid gigs than you; charging much lower rates in the industry. Instead of unreasonably competing on price as a freelancer which will only have you racing other people to the bottom, it is more rewarding to find a way profitable niche where the competition revolves on value not price. Thus, you can choose to take on projects on a particular aspect of graphic designing such as infographic for startup blogs, or eBook layouts for enterprise to slim fit your competition to value. This is a good way of investing your efforts. All you just need to do is narrow your focus to becoming the best designer in an area that really interests you.
· Up next – my target clients
As much as you want to find yourself a narrow space in the freelance market, it is equally important to attract the right clients for your freelance business. To do this, you will want to keep narrowing your target client as your freelance business advances. It is not until you’ve attained a specific height that you start honing your target client. The earlier; the better. Find out which businesses could really use your services and afford to pay your charge which corresponds to your target income. If possible endeavor to find out the decision-makers within the businesses and find a way to connect with them on a personal level. This will help you discover in time the type of clients you work best with. Remember that the aim is to build yourself a significant presence in the freelance space. Over time, you are regarded as a go-to resource for a specific type of clients. At some point, client involuntarily goes for your service instead, giving little or no importance to the price – whatever it might be – because they see that your portfolio work is directly applicable to what they do. At that point you can charge a premium if you so desire.
· What is my service really worth?
Your clients work with you because of the value you offer them, hence, give a price that equates your service value. Stick to your definition of value and charge accordingly. Try as much as possible not to be influenced by your competitors, pricing yourself based on what your competitors are charging. No price is too high if the service is worth it, neither is any pricing too low as long as it is within the service value. Among the many lessons Neil Patel, a Digital marketing consultant relayed while running an SEO freelance business on his blog, one got to me: the more you charge, the less your clients complain. Perceptibly, he actually perceived the financial capabilities of clients and then targeted those with big budgets who are more prone to spend money on his service as an investment which will, in turn, generate them money. In like manner, smaller clients do not have much money to risk and when the service does not deliver good returns, the world comes downing crashing before them. Keep these few things in mind when deciding both which clients to target and setting your freelance hourly rate which should then tailor to your goal. That’s another reason why I advise that you start your freelance career while still at your day job during which while freelancing on the side you can nail down on your pricing strategy.
· Build a high-quality portfolio website
Becoming a freelancer also entails having a powerful presence online. A very effective way of doing so is having a portfolio website. In this way, you give prospective clients a briefing of what it really feels like to work with you – your way of work, the quality of your work, area of specialization, as well as your work history as a freelancer. For your freelance portfolio to be truly effective at selling your services as highlighted by an expert, Laurence Bradford, it needs to communicate your specialty and display examples of your work, list your contact information and show off your personality, highlight your relevant skills, education, and accomplishments, display your testimonials, and finally, have regular updates that show your evolution, new clients, and updated sample work.
· An effective freelance portfolio website
Speaking of having an effective freelance portfolio website that will speak for you, it is really crucial that you make it a point of duty to demonstrate your expertise by creating examples of what you can deliver. Doing so will help your target clients to easily conclude that you can create what they need. Regardless of the nature of your industry content medium, you can do this. If you are a writer like me but looking to become a freelancer, regularly publish (perhaps once in a month) very in-depth written contents on your portfolio website that centres on topics you have profound knowledge of which would impress your target clients especially. In like manner, clients would easily sense the quality and style of your work in the way you build your website if you happen to be a web designer. However, as soon as you kick-up your freelance career, enrich your freelance website portfolio with your expertise first.
· Who really are the right clients for me?
Now more than ever that you are just starting your freelance career, selecting the right clients is particularly having a sizable impact on your movement to freelancing. The kind of clients you choose to work with or feature on your website should be limited to your picture of an ideal client; don’t take in random clients. This important because prospective clients will perceive your client target in your limited number of clients and correlating portfolio pieces. While it might be somewhat tough to decide on the particular type of clients you want to work with or highlight on your website, it can be as easy as giving an answer to this simple question when considering a client; “is this client going to get me closer to my freelance goal?” Activating your freelance career, all eyes need to be on the clients; how you can get the most out of the few you bring on. You need to set aside time for sourcing for clients that practically fit into your overall freelance goal.
· Mention potential clients in your content
Remember, you need to have a powerful presence online. However, by regularly mentioning clients in your freelance portfolio website contents you have in mind working with potentially, you are creating awareness. You don’t necessarily need to bring your standard low by scouring the Internet for the best remote jobs all because you are just starting a freelance career. Granted, you might not yet be prepared or qualified to take on huge deals and projects. But with your goal in mind, there’s is no harm in trying to reach your expectations as soon as the onset. With this in mind, as you plan your website contents always make mention of or feature one or two companies you intend to work with eventually, especially if the content you are publishing drags them into the screen. And to make it even more legit and mutual for the better, through a cold email inform the company in question about your actions.
· Get your priorities right
In a case whereby you intend to make freelancing a side hustle which you do while still at your day job, it is very important that you cultivate discipline and effective time management so you don’t wreck your entire concept. Since at the moment, your day job is the main source of income which you can always rely on, it should be your number one concern even if you plan to eventually fulltime freelancing at least until you earn sufficient savings or earnings from your freelance business. To enable you to hold onto your full-time day job firmly as you build your freelance career whether as a side hustle or as a potentially fulltime career, you need to refrain from doing certain things. For example, make sure that you don’t do things like working on your freelance business during company time or using company resources, computers, or online tools within your freelance work. In simple terms, don’t get fired yet.
Whew! We’ve talked about a lot so far. But even down to the bottom, I’ll still recommend that as you are contemplating on starting up a freelance career, keep in mind that your freelance portfolio and income will not grow overnight. Therefore, if you don’t yet have enough savings or have not grown your freelance business to the height you desire either as a part-time or full-time sustainable business, start freelancing when you are still at your day job. That said, becoming a freelancer starts with a firm decision and demand a measure of hard work and focus.