10 Things You Should Know Before Jumping into a Freelance Career
Along with the growing trends of working from home and online, freelancing is becoming a more and more popular career path. Freelancing allows for a high level of autonomy, flexibility, and ultimately, freedom. Regardless of the industry area, there are increasing numbers of opportunities to jump into a freelance career to support multiple clients at the same time while diversifying your income in an uncertain economy.
So to provide some clarity, freelancing is a type of self-employment. The key differentiator of freelancing is that a freelancer works with a variety of clients simultaneously instead of running a single business. Freelancers typically offer services, products and knowledge that support a specific area of their clients’ businesses or lives. While freelancers decide what they are going to offer, their work is usually guided by their clients’ requests and needs.
Here’s what you need to know before leaping into a freelance career:
What You Need to Know
- Your Workflow Will Fluctuate
One of the biggest draws to being a freelancer is the flexibility. No more 9-5 workdays and clocking in and out. But with that flexibility comes some ebbs and flows. Depending on the services you offer, you will need to continually secure clients which will naturally lead to some variation in your workflow. Some weeks you might have a packed schedule, but then you might wrap up with a few clients and have a lighter workload for a while. So while freelancing allows you to decide your own work schedule, you’ll need to plan for financial and time fluctuations.
- You Need to Create Structure
It’s challenging to be a successful freelancer without at least a little structure. Even though a free-flowing schedule is most likely a reason you might choose a freelance career, having a schedule will make you more productive every day, week and month. And since you’re a freelancer, you have the power to set the structure and change it whenever you want!
So when you’re creating a work structure for yourself, start with setting yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals. Then create blocks of time using a digital or paper calendar to work on the various projects that need to happen to accomplish those goals. Having time blocked off and real (but flexible) deadlines will help you make consistent progress as a freelancer. And don’t forget to include time for completing business-related tasks (i.e. money management), planning, professional development, stress management, breaks, meals, and personal time in your calendar, too.
- You Need to Sell Yourself
Even if you’re doing freelance scientific writing or quantitative analysis, you need to be able to sell your skills and services to prospective clients. Think about how you can let clients know what makes you different and how you can solve their problems. To do this, it helps to spend some time writing a professional bio to use when marketing your services, building a portfolio of your past work for clients to look through, and crafting a sales pitch that speaks directly to your clients’ pain points.
- Not Everyone Will Understand What You Do
Even though freelance careers are becoming more popular, they’re still fairly new to the scene. Be prepared to explain what it means to be a freelancer to colleagues, family members, future employers and even prospective clients who might not be familiar with your career path.
- Rejection Will Happen
When you’re constantly putting yourself out there as a freelancer, not everyone is going to say yes to what you’re offering. And that’s okay! Take this opportunity to build your resiliency, bounce back, and move on to the next client. Your services aren’t going to be a good fit for everyone but that doesn’t mean what you’re offering isn’t valuable. The right clients will come around!
- Build Your Pipelines and Processes Early
Before you launch your freelance services, you’ll want to prepare all of your pipelines and processes. Maybe you need to craft a contract for your clients to sign or create an intake form to gather their information. Whatever steps your process might include, prepare those in advance to avoid any bumps in the road and to give your clients a smooth experience.
- Constantly Collect Feedback
Another piece that you should prepare early is a process for your clients to give you feedback. Gathering feedback and testimonials from current and past clients can be crucial for a freelancer’s continued success. Future clients love seeing what people have to say before they commit!
- Document EVERYTHING.
While freelancers don’t work for a company or organization, it’s still extremely important to keep track of expenses, income, invoices, client information, contracts, and any other information and data that you might have. You’ll need to file taxes, prove and report income, and access past information regularly, so creating an organized documentation system will be key.
- You Are Your Business
Whether you’re advertising your services, communicating with clients through email or Instagram DMs, or conducting a client call, you’re representing your business because YOU are your business. As a freelancer, you’ll need to provide positive, professional, quick, and consistent communication to every person you interact with. Even something as simple as having a spelling error in a quick message can create a negative image for clients.
- It Takes Time
Becoming an “overnight success” rarely happens overnight. It takes extensive planning, building, and adapting. It will take time to build a large, consistent client base as a freelancer but every step you take is a step in the right direction. Give yourself grace as you’re getting started; clients will come.
So if the flexible, self-paced, and boss-free life that a freelance career path offers sounds appealing to you, take it one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be reaching out to clients, developing a schedule for yourself, establishing systems and pipelines, and growing your services, personal skills, and profit!
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