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Freelancer, contractor, consultant, self-employed – these all have similarities but can be different as well. Working as a freelancer typically means you are self-employed and offering goods or services to others.
The best part about being a freelancer is that you can typically set your own hours as well as pick and choose who you want to work for. The bad news is that until you build your business up, you are likely to have times where you don’t have any work.
Many people are giving up working for an employer altogether, and are working for themselves on a freelance basis. There are many advantages to this, including the possibility of flexible hours and control over what clients you choose to work with, and getting out of what could be a hostile work environment.
You need specific skills in order to work as a freelancer, as you will need to be clear about the service you are offering others. To ensure regular work, you need to prove you have what it takes to encourage businesses to hire your services.
Building Your Career With Freelance Jobs
Now’s the time to let everyone you know (business acquaintances, family and friends) that you are now freelancing. This will help you build your network of potential clients. Be prepared to give your 30
second “this is what I do” speech to everyone you meet who asks you what you do. This is a very important way to network and advertise what you do. This is typically called an “elevator speech” (see Your Elevator Speech).
Other key resources are industry and trade associations. Join the ones that make sense for your career and participate as much as possible. Taking leadership positions in these organizations can also help you grow your business.
Put the Right Infrastructure in Place
Sounds scary, but makes great sense. Ensure you create whatever legal entities you need to set up and run your business. Make sure you have a good understanding of any licenses or registration you may need in your municipality. A great resource for helping you figure out what you need is the Small Business Administration.
What about your website? Everyone looks to the Internet for finding whatever they need. This includes products and services. You must have a website where people can find you as well as read more about what you do. As you grow your business, add testimonials of those you’ve worked for. Recommendations are very powerful.
Build out your marketing plan. Advertising in local papers and bulletin boards placed in local businesses certainly helps. Another great idea is to see if you can set up a “How to” night with your local Chamber of Commerce or Public Library, giving some demonstrations on your service or product. This is a great way to advertise and to meet people.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot
Find Others to Work With
Partnering with complementary business can definitely help you grow your business. As an example, if you are starting a tile installation business, perhaps you could partner with a plumber. Or, maybe you are building a graphics design business – partnering with a marketing pro or a website developer might work for you.
One thought is to think about businesses, products or services that either precedes what you might offer or follow what you offer.
Keep in mind that it’s not all about you. There are benefits for partners as well (they gain from your business network as do you from theirs).
Create a Business Plan
This can be boring and challenging but it is a necessity. You need to have a plan which includes funding (cash flow, funding equipment and supplies, incorporating your networking and marketing plan, etc.).
Regardless of your location, the from the SBA is a good place to start to help you figure out what you need. Try not to over-build your plan, but don’t leave out the important parts either.
Set Yourself Apart from the Competition
What makes what you do better than the competition? It’s important to define these values to give you an advantage in your advertising. It could be anything, from offering products/services that no one else offers to provide discounts and promotions (tied to your marketing plan).
If you already have a background in marketing, it is worth hiring out your services to small businesses. They may not have the know-how or the time to market themselves effectively, and you may have the skills to assist them with branding, and finding new ways to advertise their services, such as through social media.
Part of being a freelancer is fitting yourself into areas where others struggle, and many business owners are reluctantly catching up with technology, even if they have no idea how to use it. Hacking is also becoming more prevalent, and a lot of companies are unsure as to how to protect their networks. So from servicing computer hardware to installing firewalls, you may have the I.T. skills that a lot of businesses lack.
Businesses live or die depending on their online presence. Considering the competitive marketplace, they want to be at the forefront of internet search engines and not twenty web pages behind. If you know your way around SEO then you will be just the person managers are currently looking for. Ensure you get accredited with SEO certification to prove you are the right person for the job and give other businesses the online push they need to survive.
There are many forms of freelance writing, from bloggers to ghostwriters. There are many low paid writing jobs out there, so don’t be short-changed when approaching prospective clients. As with most freelance jobs, it is worth building up a portfolio of writing, so consider writing for free for a short time until you have something to showcase. You can advertise your services on sites such as Upwork, but be aware that the competition is high, so you will need to know how to sell yourself.
There are a lot of people setting themselves up in photography, but many are complete amateurs who don’t know one end of a camera from another. However, if you have a good eye for a picture, as well as the photoshopping skills to enhance your work, then you may make a good name for yourself. Wedding photographers, in particular, make a lot of money, so this could be a profitable business.
Taking the leap
If you have decided that you want to give up your 9-5 role and try to make it as a freelancer, then congratulations.
It is a bold move to make.
One that many others have made successfully before you and with the right strategy and a bucket load of motivation there is no reason why you cannot carve yourself out a successful career as an independent worker too.
The one thing to get straight in your mind, first of all, is that choosing to break away from the normal 9-5 life is not choosing the easier path. While you are indeed in control of the hours you work and there won’t be anyone there looking over your shoulder, you might well find yourself working longer hours than before in an attempt to make a name for yourself and become established.
The thing about being a freelancer is that the only person you have there in the office that you can rely on – is you. There are no colleagues, no boss, no friendly faces to help bear the burden.
There is you. Just you.
If you want to take Monday off, then that’s no problem – just remember that when you are not in the office – no one is. When you are not at your desk making money then there is nothing coming into your business.
Of course, knowing that you’re doing something off your own back that has been created through your own hard work is hugely rewarding and this is one of the main reasons why people decide to go freelance.
Flexibility and freedom are the watchwords when it comes to freelancing and these are often the things that established freelancers say they would never give up.
Not having to commute into work and potentially spend hours stuck in traffic are major plus points. Just remember that working from home means that in a way you are pretty much always in the office and it can be hard to separate home and work life. It’s important to get the right balance otherwise it won’t take long for you to burn out.
Being able to budget when you first start as a freelancer is also a difficulty that people might not immediately be prepared for. Remember that you’ll no longer have a set income, and not knowing exactly what cash you will have coming in at the end of the month can be incredibly difficult to get used to.
Speaking to established freelancers and agencies that specialize in supporting independent workers is a must. In fact, speak to as many people as possible in order to get a wide cross-section of views. The more the better!
Freelancing can be extremely difficult to break into, but once you have got a few clients under your belt and have some money coming in, things will no doubt seem a lot rosier.
Take a look at CareerAlley’s 5 Ideas for Starting and Running Your Own Business – Career Alternatives. There are a number of things you can do to build your business and you need to consider all of your business support needs.