When done right, freelancing could turn out to be the most rewarding part of your professional career. The reasons for starting on this path are many. Sometimes the disdain for office jobs can push us forward. Many still choose freelancing for the benefits of setting your own goals and picking your own projects.
If you’re already retired but still feel the need to work and provide for your family (or yourself!), this might be the perfect opportunity to give it a shot. The best part about freelancing is that everyone can do it with just patience and drive.
We know, it may seem daunting at first. No big decisions should be made on a whim. That’s why we’re here to tell you everything you need to keep in mind. Hopefully, some of our tips will guide you in the right direction and if they do be sure to let us know! Your stories can help inspire others and that’s the sort of positivity we want to spread around.
Let’s Talk Finance First
There are thousands of successful, happy freelancers out there and there’s no reason you shouldn’t join their ranks, right? Well, before looking too far into the future, let’s focus on where you’re at right now.
Do you have a financial safety net you can rely on while you’re working out all the details? Early on, though your skills might be outstanding, it’s best not to assume that people are going to be lining up for your services. It takes time and patience to build a client base. Until you do, you have to make sure all your affairs are in order.
Having a part-time job can help as you’ll have enough time to jumpstart your freelancing career while also earning enough money to sustain yourself. The last thing you want to do is get into debt due to poor planning and relying too much on the future.
Once you’re sure you’re in the right position, it’s time to market yourself. For some, this could be the most tedious and confusing part about freelancing. Think about it. In a traditional job, your higher-ups would hand you tasks or projects. That’ll be your responsibility from now on, so you need to put yourself out there.
Where to Start
First off, you can start looking for jobs. Platforms like Upwork and Freelancer will help you land projects no matter your area of expertise. If you have several strengths, take advantage of all of them and make a name for yourself on the websites. The better the ratings, the better the chances of receiving more work.
Don’t stop there, though. You should use these platforms while you’re setting up a website. Having a page where you can document your achievements is essential. Potential customers typically want someone with a lot of experience on their team, so list as many projects and jobs as you can.
That being said, make sure you’re populating your website with relevant information. If you’re into design, your customers don’t have to know about that bartending job you did in your early teens! Keep them focused on what you’re willing to sell them now and don’t distract them.
Social media is the next logical step and possibly the most crucial one in the early days. They offer two things: a greater reach towards a large range audience and a way to directly communicate with customers. In the world of freelancing, openness is essential. It makes you look approachable and a delight to work with, so capitalize on it every step of the way.
Sign on the Dotted Line, Please!
Okay, so you’ve set yourself up online and before you know it, your first client is reaching out. After a little victory dance, it’s time to get serious. The most important part of freelancing is always having a contract.
You don’t want to start a project without one. If you’ve never written one before there are resources you can use online. Bonsai, Legalzoom, and And.co are just three places that can help so that you won’t spend hours scratching your head in confusion.
Friends, family, prior bosses might ask for your services without a contract. Some of them might take offense at this idea and if that’s the case, remind them that contracts are beneficial to both parties. Everyone will be protected, so start leading with that if they seem skeptical.
When it comes to companies or people you’re working with for the first time, don’t even think about skipping this step. No matter how kind they seem, why risk it? It’s your livelihood on the line, after all.
Start Getting Paid
Here’s a question on everyone’s mind. What’s the best way to get paid?
Your options are either hourly or by project and we’re not here to convince you of either, but we would like to point out benefits for both.
Hourly rates are tricky because a lot of contractors tend to nitpick or compare your work with other freelancers. Without taking into account your skill level or preparation, they could hire someone else just so they could save some money along the way.
On the other hand, this option could be ideal for ever-evolving projects or in situations where you’re having trouble staying organized (either by no fault of your own or due to less than ideal planning).
If you’re just starting, we recommend trying to get paid by project later on in your career. With a bit of time, you’ll be able to better gauge your rates so that you’re neither underselling or overselling.
Then there’s the issue of speed. Eventually, you’ll get so good at your craft that you’ll just zoom through work. That’s where hourly pay falls short and when this happens, it’s time to consider by project proposals instead.
While we’re on the topic of money, we suggest you consider getting a deposit. You can work out the kinks with your contractor but it’s very important to get some of your work covered from the get-go. As mentioned earlier, this protects both parties but it’s more so a safety blanket for you, your work and your time. It also proves commitment on both ends, something a lot of freelancers seem to worry about.
If you’re worried or even scared of starting, we don’t blame you. You’ll be right to worry about clients and how to market yourself but we believe this will only drive you to work harder, better. But here’s something you should never do. Don’t work for exposure. There’s never any guarantee that:
a. your client will actually spread the word about your work or
b. that anyone they speak to will even be interested in your services
Unless they have a solid network, don’t rely on these promises. Exposure won’t pay your bills and it won’t put food on the table. If you’re confident and feel it’s the right choice for you, negotiate these terms. Perhaps you can offer a discount in exchange for a bit of advertising or ask to be put in contact with prospective buyers in exchange for extra work.
Bottom line is, we don’t think it’s a good idea to rely too heavily on someone else’s help when you’ve got your own finances to worry about.
Want to reach out even more? Consider asking for testimonials. If someone’s on the fence about hiring you, hearing from others who have used your services could push them in the right direction.
Politely ask for them if you have to, though sometimes extremely happy clients will even offer a review on their own. If it’s no skin off your back, maybe offer something in return for a good, honest testimonial. And remember, happy customers are likely to become return customers!
Prioritize Taxes and Health Insurance
Now that you’re your own boss, time to think about taxes as well. Separating business from personal expenses will make your life a whole lot easier, so stay on top of your paperwork at all times and keep everything organized.
Most importantly of all, though, you might want to consider forming an LLC. It could be tedious and dizzying at first but it’s well worth it. Some companies won’t even look at freelancers if they don’t operate as a business. Why lose on all that clientele when doing this could be massively beneficial?
You might not want to think about it but what if you ever get sued? An LLC will give you cover, so it’s nothing to scoff at.
Traditional jobs come with one perk you shouldn’t forget about: health insurance. Yep, that’s right. You’re in charge of it all. The good news is that you’re free to scour the market for something that fits your needs.
Check out our article on health insurance for freelancers here, for more information on the topic.
At the base of everything we’ve discussed so far is one key element: staying on top of your game. Being organized is general life advice we like to dish out almost daily and you might even think it’s common sense. What we want to do is really drive the story home.
There’s no worse feeling than getting lost in paperwork, contacts or projects. Why allow yourself that vulnerability when you could get so much more work done by just staying on track? Buy a planner, make use of your notes, reminder and calendar apps!
If you’ve already decided to use and.co for your contracts, they can also help keep track of your time and tasks. Cushion is yet another service that you can use reliably. Their platform is intuitive and easy to use too, so make the best of it and stay on top of your game, worry-free.
Improvement, Improvement, Improvement!
After all is said and done your number one task is to keep improving yourself. Constantly looking for ways to grow and learn could be the reason behind your next big project. Contractors will look for experts that know all the latest tricks.
You’ll be competing against tens of other people or companies. If you rely on things you’ve learned years ago, you’re never going to impress anyone. That and we know what this sort of fulfillment will do to your morale. The happier you are, the better you’ll perform, and people will see this. Soon enough, they’ll be flocking to you.
So, there you have it. These are our tips for up and coming freelancers. Share your own in the comments below. What do you think is the hardest part of becoming a freelancer? What made you take the leap? We can’t wait to hear from you!