It really is a great time to be your own boss. Technology has made it simple for people to work from anywhere and still be effective in many occupations. Corporate America is also embracing the freelance revolution. There has been an increase of 33 percent in companies hiring freelancers since October 2012. So are you ready to get started as a freelancer?
The benefits to companies are simple enough: cost savings over hiring actual employees, higher levels of expertise, and ease of ending working relationships. There are also many perks of freelancing — ability to choose/refuse work, flexible scheduling and control over pricing. In general, the more time and effort you spend freelancing, the more money you make. How many people in traditional jobs can say the same?
If you want to get started as a freelancer, here are my tips from firsthand experience:
Pick a specialty. I started out by describing myself as a writer. Well, that’s nice but is not really narrow enough to actually land jobs. I bid on all sorts of things at first — from article writing to ghostwriting vampire fiction — but eventually decided two things: 1) It was much easier to write for business clients (instead of people looking for someone to write their memoirs for next to nothing from a pile of old photos and napkins with words) and 2) I particularly liked writing blog content. So while I do some writing that goes outside writing blog content for businesses, that is my bread and butter at this point. I have many examples at the ready to prove I know how to do it and have even been able to recruit local businesses to hire me as a result. My point: Narrow down your freelancing specialty and it will mean less time spent searching the thousands of posted jobs and more work coming your way. No matter what field you want to get started as a freelancer in, get as narrow as possible.
Tell your friends. The best way to land your first few clients is by letting those around you know that you’ve started freelancing. Your friends may not directly hire you but may know someone else who will. When you start out, you will not have many examples to show so you will need to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. Use your social media accounts to spread the word too. You don’t have to badger your friends to get started as a freelancer successfully, but let them know your plans.
Post to industry-specific job sites. Some traditional job search sites like CareerBuilder and Monster will occasionally list freelance gigs — but for the most part, you will want to visit sites that cater to freelancers and your industry. For writers, I’d recommend Guru, Elance and Freelancer as great places to get started as a freelancer. You can build a free profile and then bid on posted jobs. Employers can also find your profile on their own and invite you to jobs. Those sites also list design, finance and virtual assistant jobs for freelancers — among others. Some other places to check for freelance work are ProBlogger, Work at Home Mom Revolution and Arise.
Find blogs/websites to follow. Freelancers in any trade can benefit from reading about their industry from experts. Every freelancer can also benefit from getting self-promotion tips from blogs like Owner Nation from Vistaprint and the Intuit blog. You can also check out actual books or buy e-books, but I find that freelancing is changing so rapidly that live blogs are a better way to spend your time.
Start your own blog. If you are a writer, this is a no-brainer. But even if you want to be a freelance accountant, you should have a blog where you post helpful content at least once per week. This is a great way to demonstrate your expertise in your field and also for complete strangers to find you on search engines. A blog should not be about selling yourself (or your products, if that’s the case). It should be about showing that you know what you are talking about and therefore encouraging readers to come find you when they need your kind of help down the road.
I also want to leave you with one piece of advice for freelancing: Remember that being a freelancer is a lot of work in and of itself. While you are working on one project, you will need to spend time looking for the next one. Traditional jobs have one or two interviews where you have to prove yourself, and maybe an annual review. As a freelancer, you will constantly have to promote and prove yourself in order to make a living. It can be exhausting but if all of the other perks of freelancing appeal to you, the work is more than worth it at the end of every day.
Do you freelance? What tips would you add for newbies?
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