Whether you’re struggling to find a job or are hoping to escape an existing one, freelancing offers another way of working. It can offer the opportunity to manage your own workload, work from home, and control your hours. If you’re not sure whether freelancing is for you, check out the realities of freelancing. If you’ve made the decision to become a freelancer, here’s a non-nonsense guide to starting out.
Step 1: Know your skills.
To start freelancing, you need to know what you want to do. What service do you want to offer? What skills do you have? This might be related to previous studies, what you do in your current job, or what you did in a previous job. At this stage, it’s best to avoid choosing something you’ve never done before, as a huge learning curve isn’t a great start. Do what you’re good at.
Step 2: Don’t quit your day job.
It can be tempting to jack in your current job today and start as a freelancer tomorrow. In reality, having no stable income to rely on while you get started is difficult. Unless you’ve got bags of money squirreled away, small while you’re still a payroll employee and build up until you’re ready to make the leap. At the same time, start saving as much as possible as a cushion for your first few months of freelancing.
Step 3: Start small.
Starting small means doing a few jobs outside your normal employment i.e. in your spare time. While the last thing you want to do after a day at work is more work, it will help build your reputation and give you a feel for freelancing and whether it’s right for you. Small jobs could be helping a friend or family member who will vouch for your skills later or volunteering in a relevant area.
Step 4: Get set up.
This means the boring practicalities of freelancing. You need to find a way to source work, and many freelancers do this through freelancing platforms. Set up a profiles and apply for a few small jobs to start with. Most jobs advertised are a few hours work, and some allow buyers to purchase services off you directly. It’s easier to build up feedback working through one site, rather than several. Remember, you probably won’t get paid much until you have an established reputation on the site, but it will get better.
Step 5: Get paid.
When you get paid as a freelancer, you may be liable to pay tax. Depending on your home country, the rules differ, so make sure you check out your local government website and/or speak to an accountant. Just make sure you keep a record of any incomings and outgoings for tax purposes, and set aside a little money to pay your tax bill at the end of the year.
Step 6: Hone your offering.
After your first few jobs or rejections, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t, and you may need to adjust your offerings on the freelancing platform to get more clients. When doing this, compare your profile and offerings to your competitors. Ensure you’re offering something unique, competitively-priced (not under- or over-priced), and are selling yourself in the best possible light.
Step 7: Get great feedback.
Freelancing depends on building a strong reputation, and most freelancing sites use a “review” system to rank their freelancers. The higher you rank, the more you appear in search results, and the more work you get. In the early days, it’s important to get great feedback, so do a thorough job, resolve any problems, and make sure your customers are happy. The beauty of this is that happy customers are often return customers or recommend you to others.
Step 8: Find your niche in the market.
When you’ve build up some feedback, you can focus on finding a niche. What skills or experience do you have that your competitors are lacking? Is there a gap in the market you could fill? This doesn’t mean dropping your main offering, but it means you can offer additional services that set you apart from your competitors.
Step 9: Make the leap.
When you’ve built up a decent amount of feedback, a client base, and some earnings, you can make the leap to full-time freelancing. Ensure you have enough savings to cover your bills for a while. If the gap seems too wide, you could get a part-time job to provide a stable income until you’re ready to go it alone.
Step 10: Don’t give up.
The first few months of full-time freelancing can be tough, especially if you don’t get as much work as you hoped. You might feel like you’re not earning much or spending more time working than you want to. But if it’s for you, don’t give up hope. It can be a hard slog at first, but as you build a bigger and better reputation, the work will increase and it will get better.