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8 Tips On Starting Your Freelance Career And Being Your Own Boss

8 Tips On Starting Your Freelance Career And Being Your Own Boss

Who doesn’t want to make their own hours, decide what work to take on, and determine their own pay?

The idea of ‘being your own boss’ is attractive, so why don’t more people take the leap and go freelance? Because it’s scary. As a freelancer, you’re essentially running your own small business—you’re responsible for finding clients, convincing them to hire you, and delivering quality work on time.

Not having a regular paycheck to rely on isn’t for everyone, but working as a full-time freelancer is much more doable than many people think, as long as you have the marketing and management skills to go along with the primary service you plan to sell.

If that still sounds like something you’re interested in, read on for 8 tips for starting your freelance career.

Get Organized in Order to Show Off Your Skills

Before you quit your day job and dive into the world of freelancing, it’s important to gather together all the tools that you’ll need to succeed.

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For most freelancing careers, like copywriting or graphic design, you’ll need to have an impressive portfolio if you want to convince clients to hire you. Start going through your previous work and select the pieces that you think best represent your skills to be part of your portfolio.

Then start investing in any equipment or technology that you need to complete your job, and decide where exactly you’ll work. Having a dedicated area to work (even if it’s a local coffee shop) can make a big difference for your productivity.

You’ll also want to cultivate a professional image online by having a LinkedIn profile and your own website, ideally with a blog that you update regularly.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

We’re taught that bragging is bad, but if you don’t talk yourself up, you’ll never convince clients to hire you. The trick is to back up the claims you make about yourself with facts. For example, if you’re trying to convince a potential client that you’re excellent at developing content for business blogs, send them samples of business blogs that you’ve written before. Actions speak louder than words.

And this also means that your skills are worth more than you think. Whatever you’re making at your current day job? Start by doubling it. Does that number seem crazy? Maybe, but it’s a good starting point. Remember that you don’t come with the overhead of hiring a full-time employee (benefits, health insurance, and even the cost of a physical desk space), and you won’t be paid for a lot of tasks that are required for running your business, like invoicing, marketing, and preparing proposals. Your rate has to account for that.

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Set Goals and Develop a Plan to Meet Them

Before you start freelancing, you need to decide what you actually want to accomplish. If you’re quitting a full-time job to start freelancing professionally, one of your primary goals should probably be to make enough money to support yourself. Figure out how much you can charge for your work, how many projects you’ll need per month, and how many potential clients you’re going to need to reach out to in order to land those projects.

Since you’re managing your own projects, you may find that you need to use inexpensive or free organizational tools, like Google Calendars, Toodledo, and Insightly, to help track assignments and figure out how best to schedule your time.

Market Yourself Across Multiple Platforms

Don’t just sit back once you’ve set up your website and assume that clients are going to find you. Advertise to targeted clients using LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter, and any niche social media sites that you think will appeal to the people and businesses you want to work for.

And list your services anywhere and everywhere you can. Here are a few places to start:

Odesk
LocalMart
Guru
Freelancer
Angie’s List

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Although it sounds old fashioned, you should also create business cards and look for opportunities to connect with potential clients in the real world, which leads me to my next point…

Be a Networker, Not a Loner

Just because you work alone doesn’t mean you should let yourself become completely isolated. Not only is that unhealthy, it also makes it a lot harder to get your name out there.

As mentioned earlier, people tend to trust recommendations that come from people they know, so by attending local networking events and conferences, you can introduce yourself to potential clients and practice some word-of-mouth advertising. Professional networking events are also a good opportunity to meet other freelancers and get advice about working in the industry.

Ask Satisfied Clients for Testimonials

You don’t just have to talk up your skills yourself—you can have satisfied clients do it for you. Getting a recommendation from a client is a great way to win over new clients because it shows you’re not the only one who thinks you’re good at what you do.

The next time a client calls or emails you to thank you for the good work you’ve done, politely ask them if they’d be willing to write a short testimonial for you. Most people understand how important these testimonials are for small businesses and will be happy to help.

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Develop Your Brand and Start Pitching

There are thousands of freelancers out there, so what sets you apart from everyone else? Your brand is your identity, and it needs to clearly show clients why they’re going to get the best work if they hire you.

Keep updating and developing your website, blog, social media profiles, and portfolio to show off your best professional self, and start pitching projects to potential clients instead of waiting for them to come to you. When you send a pitch email, include a link to your website, LinkedIn profile, and relevant project samples.

Get It in Writing

One major mistake that many new freelancers make is failing to have their clients sign a contract. If you only have a client’s good word that they’re going to pay you for your work, there’s nothing to stop them from stiffing you. Taking this extra step also helps clear up any confusion about what the pricing includes, such as the number of revisions or types of file formats that are provided.

Create a contract that clearly outlines your rates, payment schedule, kill fee if a project gets canceled, revision fees, and deadlines. This will help both you and the client understand exactly what you’ll be getting.

Featured photo credit: Josh Galemore via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

The Best Interview Questions to Hire Only the Elites

The Best Interview Questions to Hire Only the Elites

When I worked in Campus Housing – now more than five years ago, wow – I was often part of an annual interviewing experience known as Placement. The University of Wisconsin-Osh Kosh runs an amazing event every year (as do other professional associations). They turn the entire conference center into an interviewing cattle call. And I just want to say that I mean that in the very best way.

Colleges and Universities descend upon the campus with their interview teams and they spend about three days meeting every possible candidate they can for whatever positions are available. By the time the final social event rolls around and the placement teams get back in the mini-van or Uber to the airport, there are always about 20 candidates who have risen to the top. The candidates whom everyone wants to hire.

At one of my previous employers, we would have a debrief meeting before leaving the conference site. Each interview team would make a list of our list of top candidates. And since our Director did not believe in wasting time, he would vet those candidates at the conference site so our Assistant Director could make on campus interview invitations the following Monday.

I’m sure that corporate America has a similar type of placement event, especially large organizations who hire entry level staff right out of college. The top talent have been identified and now “everyone” will do what they can to attract those candidates.

This is probably similar to colleges pursuing high school athletes to play for them.

However you, the employer, are going about hiring good talent, there are specific interview questions that can be asked. According to Forbes Human Resources Council,

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“The secret to attracting high-quality applicants is differentiating yourself from other industry players, and showing top talent how joining your company can help them reach their career goals.”

So, how to hire the elites by asking the best interview questions?

Craft interview questions that will convey your message: your company is unique, cutting edge, and values their contributions.

Melissa Nelsen of Johnson Service Group shares specific things about what candidates are seeking in their next position. These include:[1]

  • Stability
  • Security
  • Opportunity for Growth
  • Vision
  • Culture
  • Innovation
  • Benefits

With this in mind, here are some possible questions that employers can ask to attract top talent.

1. “Please describe five ways you expect this position to change over the next five years, taking into consideration company growth, industry advancement, and technology changes.”

Stability — If we define job stability as the duration one perceives to keep his/her current job without external factors, then ask this question about your industry. Require your candidate to forecast something within the company or industry.

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2. “There are many other candidates applying for this position who possess the same skills as you. With that in mind, what three unique factors do you bring to our organization?”

Security — Job security exists when Human Resources cannot just replace “me” with another person. “I” provide unique skills and talents that won’t necessarily be found in a new candidate.

It’s different from stability, where the job you have is stable in the company and industry, and you don’t worry about not having a paycheck. Ask something that will require the candidate to share those unique talents.

3. “Where do you see yourself and/or your career five years from now?” or “What are your long-term career goals?”

Opportunity for Growth — Will there be room for promotion within your company for this candidate? He might be looking for a place where he can contribute and be promoted several times over.

While in my experience, this is hard to do these days, it does not mean your top candidates will not aspire to do this.

4. “What values are most important for you at your place of business?” or “How does our vision and mission align with your personal values?”

Vision — Candidates want to know that their company shares values and has a view of the future. Get to their ideas of this by asking what they are seeking in an employer. You’ll know if the top talent want to be with you if their answer aligns with your company vision and mission.

5. “What three things are you seeking in your day to day job environment? or “How can we insure that we are providing a work environment that is comfortable and meets your needs?”

Culture — Finall, that question of “fit.” Candidates want to know that their new place of business will feel right, they will belong and enjoy coming to work because they just love being there.

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As an aside here, this is an area of my career that took me a very long time to appreciate and understand. There were days when all I cared about was salary, job title or a cool city. It took a couple very poor fit situations before I figured out myself how to ask the questions I needed in order to make a decision, should I be offered a job. Even then it didn’t always work.

So we, as the employer, can make this a bit easier on that Top Talent by asking a few of these questions ourselves.

I loved this question explanation from tint.com:[2]

“We know that you have choices, so if we make you an offer, we obviously want it to meet your needs. And that requires knowing what factors that you will use (i.e. pay, job duties, fit with your manager, levels of responsibility, etc.) to determine if ‘our job’ is the right job for you. So if you had a choice between two offers for your next job, please list the top five factors that you would use to evaluate and accept the superior job opportunity. Please list them in their descending order of importance to you.”

This question set doesn’t beat around the bush. Seriously. I wish I’d thought of this one myself.

6. “Tell me about a time when you lacked the skill or experience to complete a project or assignment? How did you get through it?” or “Select one of our products (or services) and share with me three ways you might be able to make it better.”

Innovation — Candidates want to know that they are going to work for a company or organization that is on the cutting edge of new and innovative practices and technology. They want to know that their employer is going places; and obviously the company wants this from their candidates.

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We are only as good as our worst employee, right? Try these questions to sense how your candidate can utilize innovative practices.

And lastly, for Benefits, I’m not offering an interview question here, as I personally do not believe that benefits should be discussed during the initial interview.

Much of this can be found by the candidate on the company website. And if the candidate has done her research, she will ask anything that has piqued her interest.

The Bottom Line

By putting emphasis on these areas of value for today’s job seekers, employers can seek and sign the top talent for your industry and make your Senior Management proud. And don’t shy away from asking candidates to further explain their answers.

These are fairly “non-traditional” interview questions that could trip up your candidate. So give them room to think and encourage them through non-verbal cues. Here’s to hiring the best possible talent for your team!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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