The freelance economy is booming, with over 56 million freelancers in the US alone. There is no better time to ditch your nine-to-five to start a career working for yourself. Working as a freelancer gives you the opportunity to make your own hours, determine your own earning power, and do what you love. But there are downsides, too.
As a freelancer, everything is up to you, from marketing to invoicing and tax returns. You will have to take care of your own health insurance and maintain any equipment you use. It is going to take work.
That said, so many millions of people have taken the leap already that there is ample evidence that you can make it work. Freelancers around the world love the lifestyle and find that the benefits far outweigh the costs.
It is important, however, that you know what you are getting into. While it is tempting to think that you can make a living doing the thing you are best at and most passionate about, you have to learn how to be a modern businessperson.
Take the following into account.
Start with funding
If you are planning to work as a writer or web designer, among other things, you can be excused for thinking that all you need is your computer and an internet connection. All the equipment you need you already have. What do you need funding for?
However, there are a number of expenses you need to prepare for. First and foremost, you need a way to cover the expenses you have been paying regularly until now. This means you need enough money to cover at least the first month. And while you certainly can get your freelance business going in that time, you should prepare for a long barren period.
Furthermore, you need to spend some money in order to make money. You need to pay for marketing expenses to find clients in the first place. This includes a website, email plan, and lead-finding software.
To fund your career, have a look at the best small business loans. These loans are designed for people like you, and you should be able to find an option that is affordable and appropriate.
Position yourself as a business
The term “freelancer” typically refers to an individual who does once-off projects for an array of clients. Freelancers are easy hires as companies do not need to pay for benefits and only pay for the work that is done, rather than full-time hours. In the booming freelance economy, however, this has led to a race to the bottom, with freelancers trying to outbid each other with lower rates.
Initially, many businesses assumed this was a good thing. They could choose who to hire from among the lowest bidders and save a ton of money. That is, until they saw the quality of work. Freelancers bidding low may be doing so because they are desperate to get work as soon as possible, but they may simply be really bad at what they do. You get writers who can’t speak English all that well and graphic designers who think that their job requires nothing more than crude Photoshop skills.
Many businesses will not trust freelancers with low rates. Those that will don’t value high-quality work – they will go with just about anyone. So, in order to impress, you need to present yourself as more than another faceless freelancer.
Perhaps the most important branding move you can make, therefore, is to position yourself as a business. This does not mean that you have to pretend to have offices and employees. Rather, you take the steps any business would to market themselves. You offer a product or service instead of asking for jobs.
A great website is a perfect place to start. It should include details about you and what you do, your rates, and a section that serves as a portfolio. Then, when you approach potential clients, you show them what they’re missing rather than a resumé.
Non-freelancers are unable to appreciate the isolation a freelancer experiences. There are benefits in working alone, including the fact that you never have to waste time in meetings, but it does mean you can go days without seeing or speaking to anyone. Even if this suits you at first, you will eventually thirst for human contact.
The perfect place to get this is in a freelance community. There are tons of freelancers online who have set up communities for this very reason. They share tips, which can be extremely useful, but their more important purpose is to provide a space where you can connect, blow off steam, share your frustrations and achievements, and feel a little less alone.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a community. Your freelance career depends on whether you can handle the stresses and pressures of working alone, and an online community of peers can really be your saving grace.