How do you get your freelance career off the ground? Asking this question in my Facebook group or on Twitter usually gives me the same response – I don’t know where to start, or I don’t know what to do first. Here are 10 tips that will help you kick-start your freelance career with confidence, enabling you to take action and get paid doing what you love.
Kick-Start Your Freelance Career
1) Choose a Niche
Choosing a niche when you’re first starting out is crucial. One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make is trying to be all things to all people—this leads to confusion, wasted time and missed opportunities. Instead, pick a niche and focus your efforts there. Narrowing your focus helps you stand out from your competition and create content that’s more valuable for those seeking answers in their niche.
2) Know What Clients Want
Take a close look at your recent work history and figure out what you’re really good at. What types of clients or projects tend to bring you in? Do your skills go beyond doing exactly what’s asked of you, or are you more of a generalist? It’s important to know how much work you’re willing—and able—to take on so that if freelancing seems like a potential career for you, you’ll have an idea about where and how much work can come in.
It’s also important to make sure that freelancing is something that will fit with whatever else is going on in your life; it’s easy for things to get overwhelming quickly if there aren’t enough hours in the day.
3) Gather References
If you’re about to start freelancing, it can be smart to ask your past employers for recommendations. If they loved working with you, they should have no problem writing you a glowing recommendation. You could also write some testimonials yourself and put them on your website. You might also consider asking clients if they would mind adding you as a reference on LinkedIn or forwarding business contacts on to you once they hire you.
Remember that just because someone agrees doesn’t mean they will write a fantastic reference; make sure that whoever is writing an endorsement is aware of what information should go into it, like projects worked on and positive results achieved—not only will it be more helpful but they will think of things that you may not have mentioned in conversation with them!
4) Create a Business Plan
When you’re just starting out, it can be easy to lose sight of your long-term goals and what will get you there. That’s why experts recommend creating a business plan that lays out an exact road map of where you want your freelance career to go.
It’s so important when you start out not just doing things on a whim or reacting in a knee jerk way, but saying ‘I am creating my business plan right now,’ says Jill Badonsky, founder of The Big Life Journal. By outlining goals, capitalizing on skill sets and creating budgets and schedules, freelancers can build clientele more quickly while also honing in on their expertise.
5) Set Up Shop
When it comes to freelancing, location independence is a must. Setting up shop—figuratively and literally—is crucial for success. First, you’ll need an office: whether it’s just a corner of your bedroom or a rented space; that decision depends on your budget and how serious you are about freelancing. Then, you’ll need to register with professional organizations like local Chambers of Commerce and National Association of Professional Women (NAPW).
These groups provide networking opportunities as well as access to business services like legal aid and web hosting. If you want to get even more involved in your community, consider joining a local board or volunteering at non-profits. The more people know who you are, what you do, and how much value you can add their organization, the better off your freelance career will be.
6) Establish Credit History
If you’re a new freelancer and don’t have any (or much) credit history, it can be difficult for clients or employers to hire you. These days, most employers require or at least prefer that freelancers have a good credit score before they can work with them.
The best way to establish your credit history is by applying for small loans online. Start with applying for an unsecured personal loan of $3,000 and pay it back on time. Make sure you use a payment processor like PayPal when making your payments so that they’re reflected on your credit report quickly.
7) Use Local Resources for Marketing
There are tons of local resources available to make your marketing easier, cheaper and more effective. If you don’t live in a metropolitan area, there may not be an entire community dedicated to freelancers; check out Meetup or your city’s Chamber of Commerce for information on how you can network and connect with others in your niche.
You can also take advantage of social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, where you can connect with individuals all over the world! Utilize these tools for networking and learning about opportunities that could put your business on a path towards growth.
8) Get Some Work Done First
Before you can start a freelance career, you need to have some work on your portfolio. If you’re serious about taking freelancing seriously, I suggest getting some work done first before pitching clients. Networking is also essential for your freelancing career so joining online forums and attending meetups are a great way to kickstart your career! If you need tips on how to make money from home, check out 10 Ways To Make Money From Home Without Leaving The House.
9) Get Insurance
You won’t need it if you’re planning on working as a sole proprietor without employees. However, you should still take some time to weigh your options in terms of how you want your business set up legally. If you do plan on hiring employees—beyond yourself—you’ll need both employer and employee insurance, which can cost several hundred dollars a month. Some freelancers also choose to get their own health insurance through their company for more coverage.
10) Take the Leap!
While writing is, in many ways, a solo endeavor, freelancing is a bit more complicated. You’ll need clients (as well as money) and that means putting yourself out there—whether it’s handing out business cards at networking events or cold calling prospective customers. These actions may not seem glamorous but they’re an important part of building your business.
In fact, one recent study found that new small businesses often need up to four years before they generate enough revenue to sustain themselves; while only 3% of businesses survive past five years. If you want your freelance career off on the right foot—and don’t want to worry about funding six months from now—it’s crucial that you put all your effort into finding clients right away.
Whether you’re currently working in a corporate position or are fresh out of college, entering a freelance field is a challenging but exciting step. New opportunities and experiences await you on your new path, and it can be very fulfilling; however, transitioning into freelancing is not always an easy process. Regardless of whether you’re following your passion or looking for another way to pay your bills, here are 10 tips that will help you get started on your freelance career.