The ultimate guide for getting started as a freelancer

Have you always wanted to become a freelancer and work for yourself? If so, check out this ultimate guide on how to become a successful freelancer.

The ultimate guide for getting started as a freelancer

Many people who are stuck in a traditional 9-to-5 setting daydream about working for themselves. A common mistake people make, though, is assuming that you need to run a large-scale business in order to become an entrepreneur.

The truth is that you can become a freelancer as long as you have a strong set of skills. Not quite sure how to get started? Don't worry— we’ve got all the info that you should keep in mind. 

Let's explore everything you need to know in order to ensure you set yourself up for success.

Determine what type of work you'd like to do 

One of the most important factors to consider before becoming a full-time freelancer is the type of freelance work that you'd like to do. The term 'freelance' simply refers to a professional who works on their own accord and uses their skills to satisfy the needs of their clients.

So, virtually any occupation could become a freelance career. Common paths include:

  • Application development
  • Writing
  • Graphic design
  • Consulting
  • Photography

Once you've chosen what type of freelance work you'd like to use as the foundation of your career, you can then begin to figure out the other details associated with this role. For example, a freelance photographer would likely need a handful of equipment depending on what type of photography they specialize in. 

Take branding seriously

It should come as no surprise that standing out from your competitors will be one of the most difficult tasks you encounter as a freelancer. Fortunately, developing strong branding for yourself as a professional can go a long way when it comes to getting your audience's attention.

Put simply, the process of branding involves giving personality to your professional work. A freelance developer, for instance, may brand themselves as a whimsical creative who thrives while working on projects such as games or social media applications.

In contrast, another developer may focus more on applications that optimize productivity, help improve the efficiency of a small business, etc.

Still, many freelancers struggle while brainstorming ideas for their professional brand. Since you're working as yourself and not as an employee for a company, it's often recommended to simply be yourself when it comes to establishing your brand.

Otherwise, you'll only be laying the foundation for you to secure projects that you may not actually want. A common example could include someone who prefers to handle more creative work but markets themselves as a freelance technical writer.

Be honest with yourself about your skill level

In the early stages of the process, it's not uncommon for newly self-employed professionals to secure all the products that they can. If you aren't careful, though, you may find yourself taking on work that you simply aren't cut out to do at that point in time.

This is particularly common with technology-based roles, such as app design, programming, etc. So, it's critical that you take a step back and be honest with yourself about your current skills.

While it's not impossible to learn as you go when stepping into unfamiliar territory, you run the risk of dissatisfying your clients. It's all too easy to miss a deadline or present work that's full of errors you aren't trained to recognize. Over time, this will generate a negative reputation for your brand and make it more difficult to secure work in the future. 

Create a killer portfolio

If you want to show your audience what you're capable of, you'll need to show your audience what you're capable of.

This means creating a portfolio of the highest quality projects that showcase the skills you have in your chosen discipline(s). But, there's another factor that you'll need to consider.

The diversity in your portfolio is also important when it comes to getting the most work possible. If your portfolio is filled with 20 projects that are nearly identical, all you're showing your potential clients is that you're really good at doing one thing.

Instead, incorporate work that conveys other skill sets. Photographers, for example, could show that they are proficient in Shooting for corporate clients, weddings, as well as creative portraits.

It's also highly recommended that you publish your portfolio on your own website, as this will give you the most control over how your work is presented. 

Acquire a few clients before leaving your day job

One of the most common scenarios for someone becoming a freelancer may be the exact situation that you're in— being fed-up with your current job and setting out on your own to figure things out as you go.

In all but the rarest of cases, this is one of the worst things that you could do.

Not only will you be removing a consistent revenue stream from your life, but you'll also be struggling to find a new form of income as your bills continue to pile up.

The early stages of your freelance career are the most volatile. This means that you should do all that you can in order to facilitate your ongoing success.

Having a solid client base before jumping ship is absolutely crucial for long-term growth as a freelancer. Since you'll still be working at your current job, you won't be scrambling to find any client that you can. This will allow you to take a period of weeks or months to establish a network of people you enjoy working with. 

Set your rates

Ironically, many new freelancers forego the process of setting the rates when they begin working for themselves. While many individuals may forget to handle this obligation due to managing their other responsibilities, others may simply not know what they should charge.

If you don't have established rates, though, every interaction with a client becomes a negotiation.

You should always assume that whoever you're working with is offering on the lower end of what they're willing to pay. After all, why wouldn't they if they're negotiating?

Not only could this result in you being underpaid, but the amount of time that you spent going back-and-forth with potential clients will add up. Instead, take time to research what other freelancers in your industry are charging and consider the level of experience that they have.

It's obviously not feasible to charge a similar rate as someone who has been in the industry for over 10 years. But, if you find someone of a similar skill level who has only been a freelancer for a year or two, you could base your rates on theirs. 

Prioritize client satisfaction

The name that you build for yourself as a freelancer is an important attribute throughout your entire career.

But, it's especially important to focus on your clients' satisfaction when you first start out. This means that you should go above and beyond when it comes to delivering high-quality content and establish yourself as a highly-communicative professional.

Put simply, you'll have a much easier time getting work in the future if you prove that you're pleasant to work with.

As part of this process, it's also imperative that you follow up with your clients after a project has been completed in order to gain insight into how the experience was. You could even set up a section of your website that allows clients to leave reviews based on your interaction with them.

When you begin to accrue more and more feedback, it will become easier for potential clients in the future to figure out that you are liable professional. 

Educate yourself about the nuances of running a business

Freelancing isn't all about creating and showing clients the work you've done for them. You also need to worry about paying taxes, invoicing clients, what to do if someone refuses to pay or steals your work, etc.

Depending on your specialization as a freelancer, you may also need to purchase relevant insurance coverage to help protect you. Many forms of freelance require liability insurance to not only protect yourself in specific scenarios but also show your potential clients that you've taken the appropriate precautions.

Even something as simple as DJing requires liability insurance since damage could occur to the other party's equipment, venue, etc. 

Hone your skills in your free time

One of the best ways to optimize your chances of getting new clients in the future involves developing your skills as thoroughly as possible in your free time. This will allow you to provide the highest quality results that you can.

It's also worth considering expanding your knowledge in areas that you would consider a professional weakness. A graphic designer, for example, could learn more about photo editing and digital artwork as opposed to logo creation, brochure formatting, etc.

This is especially important during the early stages of a freelance career, as it's highly likely that you haven't mastered the fundamental skills in your niche.

As long as you always strive to improve your abilities and increase your overall knowledge, you'll discover that it becomes easier and easier to find work in the future. 

Consider working with a mentor

A mentor will be one of the most valuable assets that you encounter as a freelancer. This is essentially a primary source that allows you to circumvent common pitfalls in your industry, obtain guidance on what moves to make next, etc.

While it's not impossible for you to figure out all these things on your own, you'll save yourself a notable amount of time (and potentially a lot of money) by seeking help from a professional.

When looking for a mentor, it's important to find someone who not only has a large amount of knowledge to offer you but also someone you're comfortable communicating with.

If conversations with your mentor don't feel natural, you may not get the best experience out of that relationship as you could. Instead, it's best to find someone who you genuinely enjoy being around. Otherwise, you may find working with a mentor was not able to provide you with the benefits you anticipated. 

Establishing a strong online presence is crucial 

If you want to have the greatest chance possible of getting clients to come to you, you'll need to establish a strong online presence.

This means that you should be highly active on social media, have a fully developed professional website, and have a marketing strategy to promote your services.

This could include paid social media ads, but you'll often find plenty of value in search engine optimization.

As you advance in your career, you'll be able to have a better understanding of what type of individual is willing to hire you. This will allow you to fine-tune the way that you target people online and ensure that your content makes its way in front of the right eyes.

It's recommended that you create your social media accounts and begin working on your website before you make the move toward becoming a full-time freelancer. This will let you dive in headfirst with everything already established, which makes it far easier for you to find clients.

Since this is such a crucial practice in the early stages, it's something that you can't afford to neglect. 

Becoming a freelancer can seem difficult

But the above information will make the process far smoother. From here, you’ll be able to ensure that you give yourself the greatest chance of success as a freelancer 

Want to learn more about what we have to offer? Feel free to reach out to us today and see what we can do for you.

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