Let’s be clear here, because what I did-what made me successful-was done BEFORE I went freelance, not after. Granted, my path to the flexible profession was abnormal. Having decided in college that “normal jobs” weren’t my thing, I used time in between studying and a karaoke bar job to set myself up. But when you read how I made the transition, you’ll realize that if you have any experience in your field at all, you’ve got it easier than I did. Just always remember that becoming a successful freelancer doesn’t begin the day you quit your job, but the day you decide it’s the lifestyle for you.
In between deciding to become a freelancer and becoming a freelancer, you need to prepare to be a freelancer.
For most of us, Freelancing full time, seems like a dream come true. We get to be our own boss, work our own hours, and are responsible for our own success. It all sounds great – and it is, but freelancing full-time isn’t for everyone. While some freelancers thrive on being their own boss, others find that they’re not as good at working for themselves as they were working for a company, or in their 9 to 5 job. For you to be successful as a freelancer, you need to be accountable for yourself. Otherwise, you might end up spending half the day tweeting and going through your RSS reader.
With freelance work being such an enticing prospect, no one would blame you for giving it some serious thought. However, a common issue does simply not know how to start. Fortunately, building a successful freelancing career is easier than it seems — just follow the steps below.
1. Choose Your Craft
Freelancing full time means you’re responsible for yourself and your work more than ever. There’s no one around to monitor how much work you’re getting done or whether you’re meeting your targets.
As a freelancer, you may be required to think outside of the box — we’re not all graphic designers or programmers. However, you may find that your “secondary” skills can offer up freelancing opportunities. For instance, if you are a strong writer, then you have the potential to develop a freelance writing business.
2. Create a Brand
The secret to succeeding as a full time freelancer is to treat it as a business. When you first start freelancing full time, you will need to create a strong brand that sets you apart from the competition. Your brand is your identity (i.e. your website, blog and social media accounts) and it should clearly communicate your unique selling proposition — what you do that makes you special.
With that in mind, you should narrow down your focus to a specific industry. For instance, as a graphic designer you might choose to do branding work for digital startup businesses only. This form of specialization will make you far more attractive to a specific set of prospective clients and give you a greater chance of success. You can try to cater to all and sundry, but you will probably only provoke indifference.
3. Build a Portfolio and Source Testimonials
In freelancing your earnings are directly dependent on your rates and there are no perks in freelancing. you need to be able to negotiate reasonable freelancing rates for yourself.
For you to be successful as a freelancer, Therefore, if you are good at what you do and can demonstrate your skill through a quality portfolio and positive client testimonials, you have every chance of success. The conundrum, however, is in building a portfolio without experience. Many freelancers will react to this by picking up the smallest and least lucrative jobs around, but that puts them into a vicious cycle of bargain-basement work.
So don’t be afraid to do pro bono work for the right clients when you are first starting out. The free work you do at this stage can ultimately be priceless when it clearly communicates your worth to future potential clients via an extensive portfolio and glowing testimonials. Also, offering your services at no cost is a gentle introduction into the world of freelancing where you do not feel the pressure of having to deliver a service of requisite value.
4. Start Pitching
As a freelancer, You should only seek paying clients when you are able to demonstrate your abilities (and your reputation) with a quality portfolio and testimonials. Once you have done so by working on pro bono jobs, it’s time to start pitching.
But whom should you pitch? Well, if you branded yourself correctly then you should know exactly whom to pitch. By having such a narrow focus, potential clients are far more likely to take you seriously than if you offered a generic service. Businesses want to work with freelancers who seemingly came into existence to serve them specifically — you can create this illusion through specialization.
5. You Must Learn to negotiate
As a freelancer, in a full-time job you’re paid a fixed salary each month with a raise every year, medical insurance, paid leave and other perks. In freelancing your earnings are directly dependant on your rates and there are no perks in freelancing.
In order to succeed, you need to be able to negotiate reasonable freelancing rates for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with starting out with low rates – as long as you steadily raise them as you gain a reputation for yourself and are always improving your skill set to deserve higher pay.Failure to negotiate rates means that you’ll be stuck with low rates – and nobody else is going to help you raise your rates.