As the new year is just around the corner, some of you might resolve to take a step forward into becoming a freelancer. According to what’s been written in the comments at FreelanceSwitch, there are those of you thinking about this.
With the way the economy has been, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the freelancer ranks grow in the next few months. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Build an emergency fund. This not only puts you at ease, it allows creativity to flow. What’s more, you won’t come across desperate to clients. Speaking from past personal experience, which includes both being dirt poor starving and comfortable with some savings, you want to live in the latter situation. (Not meaning to sound facetious.)
While I did manage to write 60 short stories and 900 pages of one computer programming book while I was freshly out of work for the first six months of 2002, as soon as my funds dwindled and I had to borrow money from family, I found it increasingly harder to write anything. (Of course, it didn’t help having to do 10-12 hour shifts of physical labor at crappy wages.)
2. Set a suitable work rate. Actually, set more than one rate, depending on the services you’re offering. You do not necessarily have to set a lower rate than others just because you’re a new freelancer. When deciding on your freelance rates – whether hourly or by the project, you should use a number of factors: your costs, desired profit, your skills and experience, your client, market demand and any others that are relevant to your niche(s).
3. Utilize the Web to the fullest. Most freelancers these days are “web workers,” but not all of them take advantage of the bounty available online. One benefit of running a freelancing business online is that you can bootstrap it with a blog/ website and social media sites for promotion. There’s also an incredible amount of free software for your operations, invoicing, managing finances, brainstorming (mind mapping) and more.
4. Choose the optimal work environment. Not everyone wants to work at home (to avoid lonely freelancer syndrome) or an office (expensive). You might consider using one of the many coworking spaces that are popping in larger towns and cities. They’re less expensive than an office and less lonely than working at home.
5. Network frequently. Personal referrals are the lifeblood of freelance work – at least while you’re starting up and developing your reputation. There are numerous resources for networking, both online and offline. Utilize friends at social media sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook, as well as people you know in person.
6. Track your performance. A successful freelancer tracks not just receipts and finances but performance, attitudes, skills, trends and more. Determine how quickly projects are being completed and your effective rate per hour. Then brainstorm ways to improve your work efficiency and thus your effective hourly rate. Just keep in mind that improving performance does not mean cutting corners.
7. Broaden your freelance offering. When you’ve achieved a daily work flow that you are comfortable with, consider expanding your services. Regardless of the type of freelance work you do, you’re probably capable of offering other content, including diagrams, screen snaps, slideshows, podcasts, screencasts, and more. At the very least, plan in the first year what you would like to offer in the second year of business.
8. Breakdown. If you do start taking on an additional work, big projects might be part of that. My casual conversation with some freelancers suggests that a few might be secretly hoping NOT to get a large project. This type of work does come with more responsibility, but are far less intimidating when you break them down into parts and tackle them step by step. Outsource to other freelancers the work you’re not capable of doing well and/or in a timely fashion.
9. Outsource. As your freelance business grows, if you get to the point where you cannot accept all the work, consider outsourcing to other freelancers instead of turning the work down. If you’re a good “people person” and can manage other freelancers remotely, outsource could be a great business decision – especially if it allows you to expand your service offering.
One final tip: Remember that tough times come and go. Use that as a motivator to take advantage of the ebb and flow nature that freelancing work is regularly subject to. [Deal with what you can], don’t worry about what you cannot change, and plan for everything else.
Have you been freelancing for a while? Do you have any tips for new freelancers that you’d like to share?