One Freelancer’s Tips and Tricks For Becoming Your Own Venture
First, I must make a bit of a confession. I myself am a wealthy online freelancer. I’ve been one for five years, and I admit that I have a problem. That problem is, I’ve found in my experience that freelancing can be one of the most exciting, comfortable, and flexible ways to become an entrepreneur, and once you start freelancing regularly it can be hard to go back. The lifestyle it can provide is awesome! So consider me biased 🙂
Before we go any further into the tips and tricks of becoming a successful freelancer, first we need to define and understand what I mean by the term itself. Freelancing usually refers to anyone who works a specific task, job, or project on a temporary (or at the least, non-permanent) basis. One of the most common and easily relatable examples of a freelancer in society is the babysitter. Exceptional in one specific skill area (in this case, making sure your kids are safe and entertained while you go about your business), the babysitter leverages this specific niche skill to pick up babysitting jobs on what is usually an irregular basis. They agree to a specific timeframe to work, discuss specifications of this specific task (kids, rules, food, contact info) with their contractor (i.e. parents), and are paid at the completion of this singular job by their one-time employer (again, the parents).
While this seems simplistic, understanding how freelancing works both on and off the web these days is remarkably similar to what teenage babysitters have been doing to make spending money for years. In lieu of a consistent or permanent employer, freelancing allows an individual to (mostly) set their own schedule, choose their own working conditions (work from home, Starbucks, and my favorite, the beach), set their own rate (depending on the specific niche market), and essentially market any one skill they have that is in demand by others.
Freelancing in 2013
Because freelancing is such an all-encompassing and varied field, and can cover everything from coding the back-end of a social media website to, as I said before, babysitting or nannying, I’d like to focus on a few essential skills, mantras, and ideas to keep in mind when considering how to jumpstart your own freelancing business. Let’s get started:
4 Rules to Freelancing Success
1. Identify your marketable skill – This sounds much easier than it actually may be. For example, during my time in college as an English major, nowhere on my radar was the idea of writing promotional and advertising content for money. Through involvement with friends who did digital advertising and web creation work, I learned of the growing need for quality written content on a wide variety of subjects. When everyone from pharmacies to construction crews to essay-writing services need home pages and FAQs written, suddenly I realized how valuable an experienced and professional English writer could be. This was the first step, and it needs to be the first for you as well. Examine yourself, your strengths, and your skills, and brainstorm how those skills could be applied to work. Again, we are not talking about which skills you can bring to a permanent career. But specialties such as coding, video editing, sound editing, writing, social media campaigning, or other niche skill sets can all serve as springboards to jump-start your freelancing career.
2. Find a platform to display your skill set to others – First, we should be clear in that we use the term “platform” loosely here. Whether it is an actual site that allows you to connect with potential customers (ODesk for web contractors, Angie’s List for construction contractors, etc.) or simply a personal connection with ties to others who may require your skill set, a platform is essential to transform any freelance career from an idea to a consistent gig. Platforms provide places for you to display resumes or evidence of your work experience, payment processing options to allow for secure payment through PayPal etc. for your delivered services, and in some cases will even handle the tax responsibilities of your freelance work for you. By anchoring yourself to a platform (even if it’s just one person who can recommend your services), you can better access the international market for your skills and services. Sure, I had friends of friends who needed written work done. But my freelance writing career really took off when I started connecting with customers in Dubai, London, Manila, and other cities who were equally in need of quality English content.
3. Professionalize yourself – One the biggest frustration companies and individual customers experience when hiring freelancers is a lack of responsibility and professionalism. Freelancers can be notoriously untrustworthy, especially when lacking the aforementioned platform to legitimize the claims they are making about what they can do. As such, to stand ahead of the field, whether you are a nanny, a PHP specialist, or a writer, it is critical to present yourself as professionally and appealingly as you would if representing a company or business. Fine-tune your resume and work history to call attention to the skill set you would like to market. Develop a cover letter that treats even a $20 gig as a permanent job. Come up with a system for payment, communication with clients, and product delivery to demonstrate to potential employers that you are very well aware of both their needs and yours. Freelancing is aimed to allow you to make money on your own schedule, but this is only possible if you can assure your employers they will receive the good or service they are paying you for when THEY need it.
4. Treat your freelance customers like you would treat career employers – Many freelancers fall into the trap of treating international or distant clients with improper focus. They assume that because of the distance and lack of direct contact, cutting off delivery of a job or product because of a lack of time and energy is an acceptable option. Let’s make this clear: DO NOT DO THIS. Many freelancers are actually fishing around for people who can help them with their content solutions or other needs (their children, their home) long-term, or at least repeatedly on a fixed-contract basis. By treating your freelance employers professionally, and holding their opinions and needs as highly as you would any career employer, you can tap into much greater opportunities for ongoing work than you may have thought possible before. THIS is where the real attraction to freelancing is, so make sure not to cut ties with employers who may well be sitting on a pile of disposable cash.
The Bottom Line on Freelancing
While I wish there were a simple solution or playbook I could give you to have you on your way to a lucrative freelancing career this very moment, like anything it takes passion and consistency. By a combination of networking, self-evaluation, and extensive searching for potential employers, I’ve been able to cobble together dozens of employers (although we are more like partners) who contact me on a regular basis for my editing, writing and general consulting. As such, I am able to juggle the different jobs together, and create what has become my own online business.
This was how I did it, but your path to freelance success will be yours alone. Remember the four principles of freelancing listed above, as these can serve as excellent guidelines and springboards towards launching your own freelancing career. But also remember that understanding how your skill set can be considered valuable also relies on identifying potential new niches and avenues for you to help others. Social media promotional content was an unknown entity even five years ago. Now it is one of the most lucrative options for a freelance writer like myself.
Keep yourself current on trends in business, identify potential places where you could be of use to individuals and large employers alike, and professionalize your skill set to make you more attractive to these potential customers. In no time flat, you may find yourself with a consistent and lucrative market for your freelance skills, allowing you to live and work on your own schedule.
Go cash in on today,
If you enjoyed this story, don’t be stingy. Share it with others please 🙂