Are you wondering more and more about how to be a freelancer? Does working from home sound more and more appealing?
Well, you already know you have a certain skill set. Whether you’re a writer, photographer, designer, bookkeeper, or virtual assistant, you can create a life that you truly enjoy living.
Gone could be the days where your job dictates your daily schedule and lifelong happiness. As you learn how to become a freelancer, you’ll quickly learn how to make your work schedule work for you.
With increased flexibility comes more time at home with your loved ones, a greater sense of peace and control over your own life, and more opportunity.
Below, we’ve stacked up a slew of freelancing tips that will take your ambitions from a dream world to the real world. All our freelancing advice is tried and true and we’re excited to help you stoke the freelancing fires that have been burning in your heart for quite some time.
Before you begin any of the actual labor that’s required to become a freelancer, let’s discuss some of the practicalities. When you step out from behind a desk job that provides a steady paycheck and (possibly) a 401k, you’re taking on a lot of risk.
But, you know the saying; without any risk, there’s no reward. So, this isn’t a bad thing. Rather, it should serve as motivation. Still, let’s talk about this.
When becoming a freelancer, your work can be irregular. You may take on a fabulous client one week, complete that project, and then be without work for a short span of time. What will you do to level out the ebbs and flows of your projects?
This is where our School for Freelancers course will come in handy for you. We’ll discuss how to budget your finances to ride the waves that come your way.
Because, on the flipside, as you grow, your work can expand exponentially. How strong are your organizational skills to make sure you deliver high quality work to each client?
Remember, your reputation is on the line with every project you complete because your reviews and testimonials will help you garner more work.
Of course, you can’t please everybody, so don’t let this drive you crazy, just keep in mind that only your highest quality work must always be presented. So, with all this in mind, let’s take a look at the early days.
In the early days of your new venture, you may have to do a little bit of juggling. Typically, the income doesn’t start pouring in overnight. So, to keep yourself afloat, you may have to maintain your dreary office job in a gray cubicle and build your dreams at night and on the weekends.
But, this is simply to keep you financially afloat. In these early days, you can do a lot to get your dream job up and running. In fact, your current co-workers may even go on to become some of your best clients!
We’re about to dive into each of these components, but this is the time when you’ll start building out your portfolio, scouring the job boards, drafting pitch letters, and creating a social media presence. So, let’s take a closer look.
One of the tasks you can complete on your lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends is the creation of a portfolio. This is tantamount to success. You can’t tell; you must show. So, the creation of a website is really going to get things going.
Some of the heavy-hitters in the game are WordPress, Wix, Shopify, and Weebly. Do a little poking around to see which platforms offer the best features for you. Also, depending on your level of web design experience, you’ll also want to know which ones are the easiest to work with.
When designing a website, you’ll need to write some catchy web copy to help people see what you offer and why they should choose you. This information will live on your homepage.
Then, you can have a “Services” tab, an “About Us” tab, and, of course, the golden “Portfolio” tab. This brings us to the number one asked question: how can I create a portfolio if I don’t have any clients?
Simple! Just start working. If you’re thinking about how to become a freelance writer, attach a blog to your website so people can see your verbal prowess. Or, you can self-publish to platforms like Medium that allow you to post your own work.
If you’re becoming a freelance photographer, you can still post all your photos, whether or not anyone’s paid a dime for your services. If you’re a web designer, create a fabulous website just for fun and attach it to your portfolio.
Basically, you’re creating work for free, but it’s not in vain. It’s going to stand as a spotlight for your talents and allow clients to see what they’re in for when they hire you.
With evidence of your work in hand, it’s time to scour the job boards and get your applications out there. Some job posts will include a link to an application; others will provide an e-mail address where you can send a note and a sample of your work.
For every area of freelancing, there’s a job board. If you’d like to write, there are multiple job boards for that, including ProBlogger, Contena, and Online Writing Jobs. The same goes for virtual bookkeeping, transcription work, work as a virtual assistant, photography, you name it.
Before you do anything further, draft a pitch letter. Of course, you’ll have to tailor it to each potential client, but the bones can be the same. Keep it short and sweet, but be sure to outline what you can do for them.
Briefly outline some of your experience, attach your samples, direct them to your LinkedIn profile, and hit send! You can do this over and over each and every day.
Taking over the job boards is a bit of a math game. The more you apply, the greater your chances are of receiving a response. When you receive a response, be sure to vet the opportunity as much as possible.
See what you can find out about the company. Consider if their rate of pay is commensurate for the job. Get a feel for the person you’re talking to. Are they quick to respond and seemingly friendly?
When you start out, you will have to work for less. You can increase your rate as you increase your workload, but you don’t want to work for next to nothing. That will only make you resent your wonderful new opportunity and we don’t want that.
Start Pitching Like a Pro
Don’t just wait for the jobs to come to you out on the job boards. You can also get out there and start making your dreams come true. Consider companies you’d like to work for.
If you’d like to be a freelance writer, reach out to some of your favorite publications to see if they’d like to publish one of your new articles. Don’t be afraid to guest post one of your articles on a major publication’s website (for free) just to get that piece of writing added to your portfolio.
The same goes for photography, web design, graphic design, a virtual personal assistant position, virtual bookkeeping, and more. You can seek out the companies you like and tell them why it would benefit them to work with you.
Create a Social Media Presence
Some of your future clients may inquire about your social media accounts. This is because they’d like you to peddle your work across your platform once it’s published. That’s fine; that’s a win-win situation.
Aside from that, social media may be how you land new clients. People (and companies) follow hashtags to tailor the content they receive.
So, if you’re posting award-winning photos and use the right hashtags, the right company may come knocking on your door to inquire about your services.
Consider the big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. LinkedIn is also essential, especially since it’s the most professional platform of them all. Start by creating the bones of each page.
Draft a headline, a short bio, and link to your website portfolio. Start following industry-related pages and start creating content. As you develop each new post, it’s important to hashtag like a pro.
With a public page, anyone can view your latest post if you’ve “spread the word” via hashtags. So, if you’re aiming to be a freelance photographer, you’ll use all the top hashtags like #photography, #photo, #photooftheday, #photographer, and more.
Keep posting across every platform every day (yes, we said every day) to build your following. This is some of that work you’ll be doing on nights and weekends while you’re still clocking in to your desk job.
Social media marketing is as important as your portfolio. It gives you a standing out there in the world and demonstrates your level of professionalism.
Think about it. Can you name a famous company or celebrity without a social media presence? That’s because they know it’s the best way to build their brand and catch people’s attention.
Establish Your Billing Policy
Now, if you’ve found a couple wonderful gigs out there on the job boards, they’re going to set the price for you. We hate to say it but, if you don’t accept their offer, they’ll find somebody else who will.
So, when you’re just starting out and building your client base, you’ll have to pick and choose the assignments you’d like to accept via job boards (knowing that you’ll have to start small and build your way up).
But, if you’re also sending pitch letters and get a bite, then you’re going to have to be prepared to send your rates. It’s important to be flexible here. Not every client is going to be able to afford your rates (or use all your services).
However, if they go on to provide a steady workflow, even at a slightly lower rate, this may be worthwhile. Steady work as a freelancer is kind of like the holy grail. And, as you move forward together, you may be able to increase your rates.
Once everything’s a go, we recommend billing upfront. You can require a deposit up front of 25% or more. This is quite common and a totally acceptable practice.
Be sure to offer multiple payment options. PayPal is a popular one, but you can also accept eChecks, credit/debit card payments, or use Zelle. This will make things easier for the client and, thus, make payment a little speedier.
As soon as the project is submitted, be sure to invoice promptly. Outline upfront how many revisions you’re willing to complete (so projects don’t carry on forever).
Don’t be bashful about sending follow-up reminders if a few days have gone by and you haven’t received payment. Remember, you handed over some of your best work and deserve to be compensated accordingly.
On a final note, start tracking all your income right from the start on a tax program like FreshBooks. Uncle Sam is not going to allow you to collect all these untaxed earnings without giving him a cut.
So, keeping track of your income (and being able to provide proof of said income) will eliminate a ton of headaches when it’s tax time.
How to Be a Freelancer and Succeed
And there you have it! These are your most crucial tips on how to be a freelancer and succeed. If you’re diligent early on, you will see your hard work pay itself forward.
Initially, you may have to burn the midnight oil, but always remember the tremendous freedom that’s knocking at your door.
Here at School for Freelancers, we’re going to help you build your dream freelance career from the ground up. Our approach to freelancing delivers the tools you need to start the process of becoming a freelancer and sustaining your career.
Apply to our school today to see if we’re a good fit. Together, we’ll chat about your dreams and help you design a master plan. From there, your only limit is the sky.