Are you ready for a change?
Tired of working the regular 9 to 5 schedule, you’re ready to gain creative freedom. You can set your own hours, work in the comfort of your home or favourite coffee shop, and answer to no one but yourself.
The only thing is, you don’t know where to start. If you don’t take the right steps to kickstart your freelancing career, you’ll quickly find yourself back at the job you left.
To make sure you start off on the right foot, we’ll go over effective ways on how to start freelancing without fear. Ready to achieve the freedom that comes with being your own boss?
Let’s get into it!
Will You Be Financially Stable When You Quit Your Job?
Launching a freelance career doesn’t guarantee success overnight. It takes time, a good network, and plenty of opportunities to keep yourself afloat. Before you get started freelancing, here are a few steps to ensure you’ll be financially stable.
That said, quitting your job right away is not a good idea. So you can stay financially safe during the launch of your new career, track your expenses for about two months. Know where your money is coming from and where it’s going.
The sum of your expenses plus a few luxuries (dining out, Amazon purchases, etc.) is what you’ll need to survive once you begin freelancing. Finding out that amount is just the beginning.
Test the Waters
Before you tell your boss you’re leaving for good, test out your future career as a side hustle. Start doing what you love to do most and see how much money you can make from it first.
Once you’ve made enough to cover monthly expenses (with no help from your regular income), try it for five months straight. This gives you a good idea as to whether or not your freelancing dream can support you. This will mean you’ll be working much more for a period of time, but it will be worth it in the end.
Accomplishing that means you’re halfway there. The next part is more important than the financial steps we discussed above.
Save, Save, Save
Having a safety net is crucial. Before you dive right in to your new career, it’s vital to have saved up an emergency fund to cover you for six months, should something go wrong.
Freelancing is exciting but scary at the same time because you’re reliant on yourself and the work you can pick up. Worst case scenario, if you weren’t able to get as many clients or sales as the month before, you need that safety net to ensure you can keep freelancing.
All of this may seem like a lot but it’s better to be prepared before you take a huge leap to start something that’s not stable.
Is There a Market for Your Skills?
Unfortunately, not every skill can be made into a freelance career. Before you begin (or quit your day job), it’s important to find out if there’s a market for what you want to offer. You can check out freelancing sites like Upwork to get a feel for what services people are looking for.
If you want to pave your own way rather than take on clients, you’ll want to conduct market research.
Doing this will ensure your freelancing career can survive the upcoming years. Going in blind without any kind of research is risky as markets change.
What was needed five years ago may not be today. Rather than other freelancers and small businesses being your competition, it’s automation. No one will hire you if they can get the same service automated since it’ll be cheaper and easier to manage.
Think of it this way: your chosen skill should be in demand. If it’s not and freelancing is what you really want to do, pick another or invest in taking classes for professions that interest you. No one really needs a formal education these days as most upcoming businesses want to bank on those with the skills, not the experience.
What Sets You Apart?
While that was the harsher reality of knowing your market, it’s important to know what sets you apart from other freelancers as well. This is your time to shine and let potential clients and customers know that you are worth the price you set.
No matter your experience, confidence is key. Freelancing is a great way to learn as you go but also to show off with what you know now.
It’s not like a normal job where your resume said it all and you were restricted by a piece of paper. Instead, you can let people know everything you can do for them and how you’ll make their life easier. That being said, investing in a website or a digital portfolio is a great way for others to get to know you, what you charge, and what services you offer.
If you want to really set yourself apart, make your freelancing career as refined as possible. For example, if you’re a writer, you might to specialize in a certain niche such as the medical or automotive industry.
Understand Your Ideal Client
It can get a little confusing when you hear others tell you to develop a persona that represents your ideal client. In reality, don’t we all wish our ideal client were ones with fat pockets and will hire us for all their projects?
Rather than dream that client existed, think realistically.
If you want to be a graphic designer, think of who will need your services. Is it small businesses that need a logo? How about assisting creative directors of independent magazines?
Each has their own set of challenges and needs. That’s why you’ll want to zero in on one area you want to specialize in so clients can find you and vice versa.
That’s not to say you can’t expand your range as you go forward. Once you become established in one area, feel free to branch out into another. One caveat though: it’s best to make sure your skills are cohesive if you plan to offer more than one service.
For example, let’s say you’re a graphic designer. It’d be odd if you offer logo designs along with pet sitting. Instead, consider branching out into designing websites or blog templates.
Build Your Brand
Aside from all the financial math, now comes the fun part—developing your brand! That means you’ll need a logo, a tag line, colour palette–the whole nine yards.
You might be thinking this is a huge waste of time but on the contrary, it’s absolutely necessary. As a freelancer, you’re like a walking, breathing business. When a freelancer has a well-developed brand, it gives you better visibility amongst a sea of other freelancers in the same niche.
Starting out, you don’t need to hire a graphic designer or brand developer. To save some money, use Canva to develop a simple logo and Pinterest to find a colour palette.
After all of that is done, then comes the nitty-gritty. For starters, you’ll want to create a business plan.
A business plan will help you answer these questions: Why are you starting your freelancing business? Where do you see yourself in five years? What are your goals for the year?
Think of a business plan like a promise. You’re promising yourself that you’ll stick with your freelancing career, even when the going gets tough. Use your business plan to inspire you, not intimidate you.
In order to find clients, you’ll need to get yourself out there. To do that, marketing needs to become your best friend.
It can be a pain, especially because there will be times you think you’re either under or overselling yourself. Don’t focus on what others are doing—focus on what you know you can do.
Everyone is looking for a specific service or business, you just have to go out there and find them. Unfortunately, that old saying of “build it and they will come” just doesn’t work when it comes to freelancing.
Networking plays a big role. That said, get on LinkedIn, join Facebook groups, and check out the local hotspots that host events for freelancers like you.
If you have a couple of nibbles but no bites, ask them to refer you to their friends. It’s not pushy—it’s being smart.
If you’re on the shy side (like me), find ways to slowly break out of your shell. Freelancing is a game of risk and you can’t let your shyness get in the way of you making a living off of something you really want to do.
The internet is likely where you’ll find most of your clients. That’s why having an online presence requires upkeep so you’re always showcasing your best.
Social media and sites like Behance are great places to display your work. If you want to sell your own designs, sites like Etsy and Society6 are great options for those who want to operate online stores.
Anywhere you can connect with likeminded freelancers and business owners is worth signing up for. After all, we’re all in the same boat at the end of the day so why not create friendships instead of rivalries?
Know Your Numbers
As you begin to pick up speed and your freelancing career blossoms, you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. Finances are what’ll tell you if you’re on the right path or going down the wrong road.
It’s crucial to stay organized and keep tabs of money that goes in and out of your freelancing biz. Starting out, you may be on the teeter-totter of making a living and searching for another job.
However, that’s not the end-all-be-all. And don’t think just because you have freedom with what you charge means that you can hike up prices when you need to pay rent.
Staying consistent will help attract clients and keep the ones you have. Not to mention you’ll need to know how to file taxes since you’ll be working for yourself now. As long as you keep track of finances, you’ll know how much you should be charging as opposed to what everyone else is. You’ll also see how much is needed monthly to keep you afloat.
Tend to Your Existing Clients (or Customers)
One misconception about freelancing is that it’s always about gaining new clients. While that’s true in the beginning, it becomes less of a priority as you progress in your career.
To put it simply, it’s not wise to neglect the client base you’ve built to go out and try to attract more. You’re risking losing out on money with said client base. They have more needs and if they were really impressed with your work, of course they’d work with you again!
That’s why it’s essential to have some kind of sales funnel in place. While that may sound scary and challenging to do, it pays off big time. You can tend to those who already bought your service(s) or product(s) by tempting them to work with you again.
If not, they might go elsewhere. That’s money and a client/customer lost. Then you’ll have to spend that time you could’ve been working on another project for them trying to find a replacement. Now, it’s not to say you’ll never need new clients again. When you’re able to take on the extra work, go ahead and seek out new clients or customers.
Freelancing is no easy gig. With a lot of markets becoming more saturated, the struggle is real. Let your solid plan guide you, not stress you out.
Do you have any questions about freelancing? Let me know in the comments!