Let me guess. You ended up here because the monotonous 9-5 routine doesn’t excite you anymore and you have decided to look for greener pastures. The collapsing traditional work model is giving rise to the new flexible business/work options in the form of freelance careers. Your decision couldn’t have come at a better time! The market for freelancers is gaining traction & getting super competitive. According to the Upwork report of 2017, nearly 57.3 million people freelance in America (36% of the population). It is estimated that there will be 86.5 million freelancers by 2027! With the pandemic set in, you can only expect that number to be breached sooner than expected. It takes more than just an overnight decision to kickstart a successful freelance career!
But, there may be many questions hovering in your mind. How do I get started? When and how to get the first client? Ways to sustain me with a stable source of income?
Let us uncover all the aspects of kickstarting a successful freelance career in this article
This is often an individual opinion and choice to consider Freelancing but here are a few popular reasons why one generally start freelancing
- Done with 9-5 office job and the tiresome daily commute
- No more office politics
- To earn some side income due to the flexible nature of freelance work
- Very easy to get started as no setup is required
- Freedom to choose projects at will
- Most projects/gigs are paid hourly basis which is rewarding for efforts put in
- Pandemic has left you with no other option
Your reason to choose freelancing can be one or many, but it is important to tread weighing all the options ahead.
It’s not a bed of roses when it comes to freelancing. A few drawbacks of a freelance career are
- Not everybody has a consistent flow of income
- Not everybody can succeed because of isolation & working alone
- No extra benefits as a working professional which regular office employees enjoy
- Most importantly, there isn’t job security. Once a project gets over, there’s idle time before you get the next one
- Adding to previous points, getting new clients is more difficult at times than what it looks
Is a Freelance career right for you?
Truth be told, not everybody who jumps into the freelancing career survives the style & nature of work. Some make a fortune out of it and some do end up as broke, and exhausted in life.
Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate this particular question before getting into the nitty-gritty of making a successful freelance career.
If you believe you have the below-mentioned qualities in you, it’s a safe road ahead for you
– Resilience & ability to self-start
– Patient when it comes to handling idle time
– Love challenges at work
– Confident and motivated
– Ability to work alone for longer periods
– comfortable in talking to people/clients to network better
These are some of the qualities that help to thrive in a career option that is at times uncertain, unstable, and financially challenging.
So be your own judge and tick the boxes for yourself
6 Steps to Launch a Successful Freelance Career
1. Identifying the Niche
I know it sounds a bit primal to be talking about this in 2020. But this has to be the first step in launching any freelance career.
Your niche paves the path ahead for you. The more valuable your niche is, the higher the chances of growth. You should ideally stick to a narrow niche and work towards building credibility in it than choosing a broader niche and expect to make fortune. Sadly, it doesn’t click in the long run.
For example, if you are a developer. It is good to show yourself more skillful in a few of the languages than listing out all programming languages under the sun and lower your expertise.
Your niche could be everything between the successful and unsuccessful freelance career in the long run.
2. Build your online presence, work portfolio
A freelancing career is more about online presence than anything else! It is your identity to the outside world, your clients, and a way to showcase your worth and win projects- the window to your opportunities. Personal/business accounts on popular professional platforms and a portfolio website works wonders. This is a way of showing your uniqueness to the potential clients.
A portfolio website is all about having your professional experience, past projects, client testimonials on display. Listing all your past experiences and projects on the website will make you more presentable and weigh your chances of success when pitching to the client.
3. Start Small, Start local
Individuals often think that Freelancing gives them wings, well not literally but you get it right? The thought that one can work for clients across the borders. Of course, this is one of the bigger advantages of a freelance career but as a beginner, you might as well have to narrow your vision.
For beginners, it is overwhelming to start applying for gigs from international clients on platforms like Toptal, Crewscale, Upwork, Fiverr. But, things like low on experience or not enough projects in the bag will play against you and make it tough to land a gig.
The whole point of this is to state that the more you start looking for projects locally. It is easier to get opportunities and build a freelance career out of them. However, this isn’t to discourage you to try for international projects but to avoid your initial setbacks in quest of chasing rainbows.
4. Pitch clients the right way
As much as you pour your efforts in building your online presence and filtering your opportunities locally, it is still a far fetched idea if you don’t pitch the clients in the right way. This is the point where many freelancers miss the track.
There is a reason why only a few among the most qualified freelancers get the gig/project. When everybody matches the required criteria for a gig, a good pitch sets you apart.
A lot of fresh freelancers tend to copy the default pitch to all the clients with similar gigs. This doesn’t help one bit. You can have a default template copy but you have to edit the template to address the specific requirements of each client differently. That is when you stand out and appeal to the clients.
Ideally, your pitch should cover points on how you can fit in their requirements, what unique value you can add to their work, your strengths, and the relevant use cases from the past.
You can go a step further and pitch how the idea can be better implemented than what the client already is thinking about. That’s how the experienced freelancers roll and attract gigs that are consistent.
5. Proactive Networking
Just like any regular job, networking plays an equally important role in making a successful freelance career. It is understandable that in the time of many easily accessible remote job platforms, individuals who are new to freelancing often miss this part.
For a basic understanding, Networking starts with contacting all friends and old colleagues. When you let them know that you are open to part-time opportunities, you increase your chances of getting more inbound opportunities.
Apart from these, proactive networking can be done primarily through LinkedIn. Growing your connections on LinkedIn with a community of freelancers, companies that hire freelancers is also effective. Active participation in groups on LinkedIn, Facebook created for freelancers community also fetches you a lot of gigs/projects.
A few offline conferences, monthly meets in your city are always conducted for the sake of networking. Being a part of such small and valuable events build long-lasting relationships with potential clients
6. Strategic Pricing
Finally, when all the above points are taken care of, deciding your pricing is a make or break for successfully getting a gig. It is understandable to not charge heavier having less or no experience but that doesn’t mean you should work for free in the name of gaining experience & building an attractive portfolio.
Always be sensible in calculating the time and effort needed to complete a gig in an effective and desired manner. You can either opt for an hourly basis or price per project. Ideally, for fresher, hourly rates are not feasible as clients will be skeptical of the rate at which output is being provided.
Therefore, choosing a middle ground for the initial gigs is a better option. Basic research on hourly rates in your domain for beginners will give you enough ideas to decide and manage negotiations. As you fill your portfolio with multiple projects and increase your experience, you can gradually and rightfully raise your pricing
To be brutally honest with you, freelancing isn’t for everybody and not everyone can grow here as per their wish. It begins with dilemmas, financial crunch, uncertain future. To put it simply, freelance work is also ‘work’ against the popular perception of a balanced life. However, navigating and studying the market thoroughly helps you to position yourself better and scale along the way.
Therefore, be prepared beforehand and give yourself a headstart in terms of launching your career & transition smoothly into the new chapter of your work life.
If you are just beginning to think freelancing career as an option, abundant opportunities are awaiting you!
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