What You Should Know Before Becoming a Freelancer
Setting your alarm clock for whatever time you like. Working from the comfort of home in your pajamas. Being your own boss. The list of freelancing perks goes on and on. But before you quit your day job and dive into the world of independent contracting, there are a few things you should know beforehand…
Build a website and personal brand
The first thing any potential hire will do upon seeing your job application types your name into an online search engine to see what results pop up. Hopefully, those less-than-flattering pictures from your freshman year of college never made it onto the digital world and instead what searchers find at the top of the results page is the link to your very own website.
At the very minimum, you’ll want your website to have an “About Me” page that describes your style of work, past experience, future goals, and current ambitions. You should also feature an online portfolio with samples of past work, whether that may be a graphic design project or sample article of writing. List noteworthy publications, certified credentials, and anything else you wish you had more time to discuss on your resume.
Pro tip: Be sure your website and personal brand appear professionally polished or risk losing out on a job to someone who appears more put together.
Launching your career will take time
Back to that point about your day job—seriously, don’t quit any time soon. It’s going to take some time and dedication to get your freelance career off the ground and thriving to the point where it generates a large enough, full-time income that can pay the bills.
Grow some thicker skin
If you don’t already know this, you’ll learn pretty fast. For each time you put yourself out there, you should prepare yourself to hear a resounding “No” in response. And that’s okay! Everyone thinks they’re a writer, an artist, a programmer, etc. and, as such, hold pretty high—rather unrealistic—expectations. Don’t let this knock you down. Take their constructive criticism and continue to learn from your mistakes.
Find a niche
In order to hear “Yes” more often than “No”, you might consider narrowing your freelancing down to a niche audience. Ever heard the saying about a chef who’s good at everything, can’t be great at anything? The same concept applies. While a broad scope of skills might cast a wider hiring net, it won’t make you an expert in any subject. You should become a master authority figure in at least one field before dabbling into the next.
Network like never before
Now that you know where to aim your arrow, it’s time to shoot at your target… again, and again, and again! Be a bit shameless in promoting your freelancing services (at the expense of losing a couple of friends on social media) in order to maximize your visibility. Network like crazy at all the entrepreneurial events in your area and make full use of platforms like LinkedIn if you want your business to skyrocket.
Manage your time like it’s nobody business (but your own, of course)
Remember those dreams of waking up at noon and working from home in your PJs? Yeah, those are about to get upended. Once you start booking more and more gigs, managing deadline on top of the deadline, you’ll learn how important it is to stay at on top of your time management game. If you’re more of a night owl than an early bird, that’s fine—but remember to keep timely correspondence with all your clients if you want to see them return!
Bookkeeping will become a game changer
Finally, you’re rolling in the dough, processing PayPal payments left and right, wondering why you didn’t start freelancing earlier… but you’re work’s not over yet. If you deposit those payments without thinking twice, you could end up in a ton of trouble with the IRS. Even though you’re your own boss, you still owe Uncle Sam a portion of that self-employment income. Keep diligent records of all invoices to avoid penalties and fees by paying what’s owed.