For many, making a successful career as a freelancer would be a dream come true. Freelancing offers a level of freedom that few careers offer and enables people to make a living using the talents they enjoy expressing the most.
However, finding success as a freelancer can also be difficult at times. If you are considering striking out on your own for a career in freelancing, follow this guide to give yourself the best shot at success.
Choose a Field That’s in Demand
Plenty of fields that are well-suited for a freelancing career are also in high demand, and which field you choose depends entirely on your own interests and skill-sets. Some fields that are popular choices for freelancers include graphic design, web development, copy-writing, marketing, and photography, though there are plenty of other more niche fields as well.
The important part is to choose a field that aligns with your skills and one for which there is significant demand. In the initial stages of freelancing, finding clients can be challenging no matter what field you are in. If you choose a low-demand field, though, it may prove almost impossible to keep the bills paid.
Treat Freelancing Like a Business
When you work as a freelancer, you are a business owner selling a service. The more your treat your freelancing career as a business that you own rather than a job you are employed at, the more likely you will be to succeed.
Aspects of treating freelancing like a business include keeping up with your expenses so that you can deduct them from your taxes, carefully maintaining the reputation of your services, and applying fundamentals of business in order to grow your freelancing career the same way any other service provider would grow their customer base.
Learn how to Market Yourself
No matter what field you are in, you’re going to have to develop some degree of marketing skills in order to succeed as a freelancer. Remember that competition is stiff, and finding new clients who are willing to hire you over the other options that are available will require you to effectively market yourself. In fact, you may find that you spend almost as much time marketing your services as you do actually performing them, especially in the beginning.
Learn how to write a great resume and proposal, build and manage a web presence for your services, and leverage any reviews, awards, or other accolades that you have available. If you can effectively market yourself to potential clients, you’ll have much more success finding a steady stream of work.
Look for Repeat Business
A client who is willing to give you repeat business is much more valuable than a one-off job. As discussed above, finding new clients can take a lot of marketing effort. If the payoff for a new client is one project, then that effort can be hard to justify unless the project is large or the effort required to secure it is minimal.
By finding clients who are willing to give you repeat business, though, you can gradually reduce the time you spend marketing yourself to new clients and instead spend your time working for a select few clients who consistently send you new work. In the long run, this is a much more cost and time effective strategy than continually searching for new clients and one-off projects.
Set Aside Money in Savings
If you’re used to a consistent paycheck that is the same each week, switching to freelancing can be a big adjustment. Some weeks, you may make five times what you normally do, and other weeks you may make next to nothing. Income from freelancing can sometimes be a roller coaster of highs and lows, especially if you haven’t yet secured a base of repeat clients.
It’s important, then, to prepare for the lows by setting aside money in savings. When you have a really good week, or month, or any other period of time, put your extra money in a savings account. When the roller coaster of freelancing income dips back down again, you may have to dip into it.
Start Low and Raise Your Rates Over Time
Chances are when you are first starting out, you are not going to be able to demand the same rates as someone who has been in the business for several years. This isn’t even necessarily a reflection of the skills you bring to the table, but more so a reflection of the experience you have to show when pitching to new clients.
When you’re first starting out as a freelancer, finding work – any work – is the name of the game. Even just a handful of reviews and experience to show can make all the difference. Without that experience, though, the main way you have to set yourself apart is the rates you charge.
By starting out with relatively low rates, you can more easily attract new clients in the beginning and use the experience and reviews those clients give you to start steadily pursuing higher paying jobs over time. Doing this may take some patience and resolve, but it’s the most effective way to steadily build a successful freelancing career.
Go Above and Beyond
Without a boss standing over your shoulder, it can become tempting to cut corners – and many freelancers do. However, one of the best ways to secure repeat clients and great reviews is to always go above and beyond.
Remember the old adage that the customer is always right, and go into every project determined to please them no matter what it takes. If a client proves to be more trouble than they are worth, you don’t have to take any future work from them. However, for the project(s) you’ve already agreed to complete, leaving them 100% satisfied should be your number one priority.
Maintain a Social Life
Freelancing can sometimes be a very solitary pursuit. While working from home may sound like a dream come true – and, in many ways, it is – you may also find that you miss the socialization that working at a traditional job provides.
It’s all too easy to become somewhat of a hermit when you take up freelancing as a full-time job. However, doing this may lead you to get burned out quickly. Instead, take advantage of the freedom that freelancing offers by going out from time to time, traveling, and maintaining an active social life that exists outside of your career. Remember that one of the biggest advantages of freelancing is that you get to decide when you take off and where you work from. Make the most of that freedom and don’t waste it by spending week after week locked away in your home.
Continually Hone Your Skills
No matter what field they are in, freelancers should continually look for ways to improve their services. Research your field, attend workshops, take the time analyze what you’ve done right and what you’ve done wrong, and overall continuously look for ways that you can hone your skills.
Remember that improved skills mean happier clients and better-paying jobs. If you can continuously hone your skills over time, your success as a freelancer will trend upward over time as well.