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Seven years ago, I closed down my brick-and-mortar business to begin a career as a freelance writer. Like me, millions of people are also moving into the freelancing space. A CNBC report says 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in the U.S. in 2021. Many of these people moved into the freelance industry.
According to a recent survey, the global freelance market has an estimated value of $1.5 trillion. This means that even though over 12 million freelancers are registered on Upwork alone, there is a market for you as a freelancer, irrespective of your industry.
However, the road can be steep without the right guidance. I have learned a lot over the years, and these lessons can also benefit you if you are looking to start a new freelance career. Here are five things you should know:
1. Define your success
Before starting out any career, you need to have a goal. This helps you in the planning and decision-making process for your career. A freelance career is no different.
As a freelance brand, your goal may be to reach a business consultancy level, to reach a particular target clientele and income within a given duration or even to expand your freelance career into a business with additional services and workers.
Pro tip: Learn your market
- Knowing what works within the industry of your freelance career can give you insights on what to expect as KPIs and how to plan toward your freelancing career goal. Learning your market includes understanding your competition’s business and your buyer’s behavior and preferences.
2. You’re running a business
Freelancing means you are your own boss now, and you have a business to run. As an entrepreneur, if you do not tend to your freelance career as you would an actual business, you will get into trouble.
You have some tough decisions to make, especially about your finances. Leaving your day job means you are leaving a steady income and all the benefits. Your freelance earnings have to be enough to pay your bill.
Creating an income target from the onset can help you shape your service rates. However, you must know that your rates are only as good as your services, so you should charge accordingly and reasonably.
Also, you have to be consistent about building a client base. This requires seeking out new clients and retaining old ones. You may need to start cold pitching to potential clients and using other marketing strategies like newsletters and user-generated content, such as testimonials and reviews, to increase conversions.
3. Define your services
Any uncertainty over what your freelance career is about can stall your progress. You must be definitive about what you have to offer. You do not want your potential clients to have any doubts about your seriousness or ability to deliver on projects. Defining your freelance services involves choosing a niche and specifying service deliverables.
Target clients and niche: It is easier to define who your services are for when you have a freelance niche. That way, you can tailor your services to fit the needs of your target clients. For example, a freelance writer in the ghostwriting freelance niche can easily create a service log that includes deliverables that are suitable for ebook publishers.
Service deliverables: Most freelancers have a catalog for the services they provide. This can include the rate and time frame for specific projects. However, there should be room for flexibility. Some clients may require bespoke services, and you should be able to work something out outside your usual packages.
Pro Tip: Build a portfolio
- Building a rich portfolio for the services you provide can boost your ability to attract clients. Do as many jobs as you can to boost your portfolio. Also, get reviews from past clients for your portfolio. You can use a portfolio tool to organize your work for easy access.
Building a freelance career requires an enormous amount of discipline. It is easy to relax and fall behind on your work if you don’t have corporate management breathing down your neck. As a freelancer, you must take conscious steps to constantly stay on track with your projects. There are a few factors that are helpful in establishing discipline as a freelancer. They include:
Scheduling: Effective time management can be achieved through proper scheduling. This includes sorting out delivery time with clients and sorting out your work time as well. Knowing the delivery time of each project can help you prioritize your workload. Also, scheduling your work hours is great for avoiding too much work pile or neglecting different essential parts of running your freelance business. For example, a freelance content creator needs time to create content for clients and also create promotional content for the freelance brand. Scheduling makes it easy to determine when to work on what.
Project management tools: As a freelancer, project management tools are your best bet for effective scheduling. There are lots of project management tools that can help you manage your productivity. Some are free, while others are premium. You can track the progress of your project using these tools and basically create your own virtual office. Some notable project management tools are Trello, Notion.io, Wrike, Proofhub and Hive.
5. Promote your business
No business can thrive without the right publicity. You have to tell people what you are about. That way, you can establish yourself in the industry and get clients. A few pointers?
Network: Connecting with people in your freelance industry is a good place to focus your freelance brand promotion. This includes other freelance service providers and potential clients in the industry. For example, you can follow up on industry executives as potential clients or referrals. Also, connecting with other freelancers in the industry gives you insights into industry trends that can help you grow your career and expand your reach.
Online presence: You can’t be a freelancer without visibility, and the internet is the best place to gain visibility. Social media helps you to reach a larger audience of diverse backgrounds. There are currently 4.59 billion people using social media globally. This means that more people get to know what you can offer, and more opportunities can come your way. The trick with social media is consistency and quality content.
Knowing what to expect and what to do when pursuing a freelance career is one thing; the next crucial step is getting started. Starting a full-time freelance career might just turn out to be the best decision you ever made. Take the leap.