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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 14, 2020

How to Find a Career That Is Right For You

How to Find a Career That Is Right For You

There are thousands of careers to choose from. No wonder finding the one that’s right for you can feel like a guessing game.

Choosing or changing careers can be scary. Even if it’s right for you now, you might wonder, who says it’ll still be a fit in the future?

The truth is, you have to start somewhere. Whether you’re looking for a first job out of college or need a new career, follow this process to find the right one for you:

1. List Out Careers You Could Pursue

It sounds simple, but it’s good advice: Start with what you like. Even before you begin looking for the right career, you probably have an idea of what you’re interested in.

Next, make a second list, this one including your strengths. If you aren’t sure whether you’re actually good at something, ask someone close to you who’ll give you a truthful answer.

Once your lists are made, cross-reference them: What do you like to do and do well?

In a third list, rank these. If you’re skilled at something you don’t particularly like, for instance, that should fall lower on the list.

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2. Take a Career Assessment

Standardized tests shouldn’t make decisions for you, but they can get you pointed in the right direction. Career assessment tests gauge your abilities and interests and make recommendations for career paths based on the answers you give.[1]

Before reviewing your results, take a break. Getting some perspective can help you see whether your answers were guided by your mood. Look at the percentage match and ask yourself whether you could see yourself doing the work of the career or role every day.

For example, if your responses emphasized helping others, the test might point you to a medical career. However, if you don’t want to work in a hospital or clinical environment, you might cut that option or place it lower on your list.

3. Sweat the Details

Every career has gratifying and frustrating things about it. Before you choose one, you need to be clear on those. Reading reviews and job descriptions you find related to each career, make a list of its pros and cons.

There are a lot of factors to think through. Key questions to ask yourself include:

  • What are the hours required by this type of work? Can they be flexible?
  • What skills are required? Do I possess them, or would I be willing to learn them?
  • What are the education requirements? Can I afford to go back to school?
  • How much do jobs in the field pay? Is the payscale top-heavy or evenly distributed?
  • What does job growth in this sector look like? Are they traditional or contracted roles?
  • Are opportunities in the field available in my area? If not, would I be willing to move?
  • Would I be working solo or on a team?

In answering these questions, you’ll find yourself crossing a lot of careers off your list. Remember, that’s a good thing: You’d rather find out a career isn’t right for you now than after you’ve put yourself on that path.

4. Find the Sweet Spot

The crux of the career question is this: What’s the “sweet spot” between your interests and strengths and the market’s needs? The greater the overlap, the better.

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Be warned that you’ll have to compromise. Perhaps you enjoy working with animals, but there’s no demand for that line of work in your area. You might be good at math, but you wouldn’t want to crunch numbers in a cubicle for a living. Finding balance is crucial.

5. Start Networking

What’s the best way to get the real story about the careers you’re interested in? Talking to professionals in the field.

Where should you find these people?

  • Reach out to local businesses.
  • Scour your social media networks, particularly LinkedIn.
  • Ask a past employer for recommendations.
  • Sign up for industry events and conferences.

Schedule a short interview with each of your new connections. Ask them to weigh in on the comments you see online. Every role and company is a bit different, so don’t be surprised if their responses don’t align.

Regardless of who you find or what they say, write it down. If one interviewee’s responses differ wildly from online responses, chat with someone else in the field. Do your best to find out what’s the rule and what’s the exception.

6. Shadow and Volunteer

As valuable as networking can be, you need a firsthand glimpse of the work. If you hit it off with one of your interviewees, ask to do some job shadowing. Sitting beside someone as they work can help you understand not just the pay and the responsibilities but also the culture and work environment associated with each career.

Job shadowing is a good way to get your feet wet before taking a career plunge. If you felt uninterested or unhappy during your shadowing experience, it’s a good sign that you should ponder a different career path. If your shadowing experience made you want to come back for more, you may have found your calling.

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Volunteer work is an alternative to job shadowing that can get you the experience you need as you analyze your career options. As a volunteer, you can be more flexible with your time and get opportunities you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

7. Sign Up for Classes

Many careers have an academic component that you can’t ignore. If you decide you want to be a lawyer, for instance, you might want to know you can survive law school first.

Sign up for an introductory class or two related to each career you’re interested in. The earlier you do this, the better. If you’re still in college, the class will count as an elective and may be covered by your scholarship, but if not, look for a community college option to keep costs low.

Taking a single class is not the same as earning a degree in the field. With that said, it’s a good way to test the waters before you invest thousands of dollars.

If the content interests you and you look forward to class each week, that’s a good sign. If you start dreading the class or choose to drop it, focus your attention elsewhere.

8. Enter the Gig Economy

Contracted work is a great “try it before you buy it” career tactic. Skipping to an entry-level role requires more commitment than you might want to give while you’re still investigating your options. The gig economy offers the best of both worlds: paid work as well as flexibility.[2]

Gig workers take work from companies or individuals that do not directly employ them. Plumbers and artists are good examples. Rather than receiving a regular paycheck, they sell their services by the task or deliverable.

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In the gig economy, you aren’t bound by long-term agreements. If you don’t like the experience, you can simply move on.

You never know if you’ll enjoy something until you try it. And because contractors work with professionals in the field, gig workers naturally get networking and shadowing opportunities.

9. Market Yourself

As you zero in on your dream career, there’s one final test you can use to find out whether you’ll be successful: marketing yourself as a candidate for hire. Whether you get bites is a key indicator of how you’ll fare in the field.

Beware that, as someone without much experience in the field, you’re going to get a lot of rejections. Don’t be discouraged. If you get two interviews out of 50 applications, think of it as two opportunities you didn’t have before to find your ideal career.

Just as important as outreach is a good inbound strategy. Set up a website, and post your portfolio on it. Describe your dream job on your social media.

Recruiters are constantly on the lookout for candidates that fit their company. The more exposure you get, the more people will be interested in what you have to offer. Put yourself out there, and you just might find the perfect fit.

Don’t Give Up!

Nobody ever said it was easy to find a career that’s right for you. Finding one is tough enough, and even then, you may find yourself looking for a new field ten years into your career.

Whatever you want from your professional life, you have to be willing to put in the time. Don’t hesitate, and don’t give up. Start your search today.

More Tips on How to Find a Career

Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via unsplash.com

Reference

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