How to Become a Freelancer
Before I get started with this blog post, I'd just like to say that everyone's career journey is entirely individual, and that this is no different when it comes to freelancing. Some people find their feet right away, and hit the ground running; others take their time in building up their skills and client base before launching into a full-time freelancing career. Whichever route you end up taking, there is no right or wrong: eventually, you'll get where you want to be!
These 7 stages paved the path to my own freelance career, and, after three years in the industry, I feel like I'm finally starting to achieve that all-important sense of stability. If you're looking to break away from your current job and set yourself up as a freelancer, there are a few key elements which will hopefully help you along the way. Read on to find out what they are.
1. Identify your skill or niche
So, you've decided you want to be a freelancer. But what is it, exactly, that you want to do? Maybe you're a budding photographer, or a talented writer. Maybe you're an organisational whizz, or maybe you have a knack for coding and SEO. Whatever your specialisation, it's important to first identify your niche: this should include also the field you'd like to work in. Remember that it should also be something you enjoy - that way, you'll find the motivation to push through the tough initial stages!
2. Research and planning
The logistics of being a freelancer can seem incredibly daunting at first glance. For me particularly, the financial and legal aspects were almost crippling, given I can just about manage simple addition when it comes to maths. Make sure before you embark on your freelance journey to do your research when it comes to the small print. Ask fellow freelancers in your field, or buy books that can help you with the aspects you're unsure of. And, if you really *really* hate maths like I do, then an accountant might be a worthy investment!
3. Network your socks off
You never know who your next project could come from, so it pays to network as much as possible. Whether you choose to work from home or hire out a coworking space, virtual and in-person networking is key to building up your client base. Make sure to tell everyone you know about your career change, as initial clients often come from friends of friends. This is a great way of building up your portfolio to then approach other clients with.
4. Back yourself
We live in an era of abundant self-promo; but that doesn't make it any less cringe-inducing. If you'd told me four years ago that I'd spend so much time yapping about myself on the internet, I'd never have believed you. But promoting yourself - both on- and offline - is essential in attracting new clients and in maintaining relationships with previous clients. Whatever your profession, a basic knowledge of digital marketing has quickly become essential in the freelance world.
Remember also to know your self-worth. It can be tough to back yourself when you don't feel that you know what you're doing. But someone somewhere can benefit from your services - don't forget this!
5. Become a budgeting whizz
Being good with money pays off in the freelance world, no matter how much you earn. Make sure to keep up-to-date records of all transactions and invoices, and take note also of your expenses. When your income is not fixed each month, money worries can become overpowering. If you put aside a certain amount of money each month, then you'll be less stressed if you go through a 'dry patch' in terms of projects.
6. Prepare to fail - and to learn from it
How are you supposed to know who your ideal client is until you've worked with the ones who definitely aren't ideal? While you're establishing yourself as a freelancer, you're bound to come across hurdles and obstacles that can feel like enormous setbacks. But don't be too hard on yourself: you're still learning. And you'll continue to make mistakes even years down the line! Instead of getting too caught up on poor client feedback or having been turned down for your dream project, make a note of what you can learn from that setback.
Whenever I make a mistake, or something goes wrong for me, I write it down, and analyse where I went wrong, how I can improve, and what I've learnt. That way, you turn something desperately negative into an opportunity for growth.
7. Never stop learning
Whatever your profession, the world is constantly evolving: and you need to make sure you're evolving with it. Particularly when it comes to technology and the online sphere, changes can occur at the speed of light. Sometimes it feels as if a new social media platform is introduced every day. Make sure that you're investing time into keeping up-to-date with all aspects of your business. Try online learning resources such as Udemy for affordable courses about pretty much anything you could imagine.