Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Fun, Functional and Efficient Ideas for Your New Home Construction 20 Amazing Benefits of Thrift Shopping You Probably Never Expected 15 Easy And Fun Outdoor DIY Projects You Can Do In Less Than An Hour 50 Creative And Smart Home Products That Will Brighten Up Your Kitchen 7 Tips to Streamline Your Email Communication

Trending in Work

1 10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career 2 The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise 3 Why You Feel Stuck in Your Career After Staying in a Job Longterm 4 10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year 5 How to Make Career Decisions That You Will Not Regret for Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

Advertising

Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

Advertising

If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

Advertising

Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

Advertising

How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

More Articles to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next