Part 5: Building Your Career As A Freelancer
This article is the final in a 5 Part Series that reviews the most ideal jobs for people who are more comfortable working on their own. This series has examined a number of these potential jobs for people with social anxiety; and the list grows longer each year.
Since many of these opportunities are related to some aspect of ‘freelancing’, I thought it would be appropriate to finish this series by discussing the freelancing industry in general and point to some other work areas where readers can explore their interests.
Some that come to mind are; Etsy Shop Owner, Virtual Assistant, Photographer, Graphic Designer and Software Developer. Some of these require more formal training than others, but the thing to keep in mind is that other people have traveled this road before you and there are some great guides who can help you turn your dreams into reality. (More on that later!)
So, lets get started…
The market for freelance working is booming. In the US alone its estimated that over 40% of the workforce will be working as freelancers by 2020. And although many will approach freelancing in their own way, my recommendation would always be to start by making it your side business if possible, while keeping your day job. Presuming you will not be creating a ‘conflict of interest’ with your employer, then establishing yourself and growing adequate profitability is going to take more of your free (out of work) time.
Your mindset really needs to be clear about your goals, so ask yourself some important questions and write down your answers. Are you in business to support yourself or is it just a part time hobby? What other financial and / or lifestyle goals will be met by building your business? Are you really committed to achieving this? At what point will your ‘part-time’ income be adequate for you to resign and go full time?
Here are some of the benefits to starting your freelancing career part time.
- You get to test your business model and iron out the problems without the stress of needing an income in the short term.
• You can learn from your mistakes and practice your skills without it impacting your current standard of living..
• You can be building your network of potential clients from referrals.
• You are building your brand and reputation in your niche.
Do Your Research
Researching your chosen niche will reveal the landscape you will be competing in. This is valuable information to help you write your business plan. What are your competitors doing (and not doing)? How are they promoting themselves online, and are they easy to find? What can I do that will make me easier to find?
Remember that it not just about offering a better price for your services. Clients will pay a premium for quality, reliability and when they can see that you will go the extra mile for them. This is what brings clients back to you for more work. So, always try to compete on value rather than price.
Write Your Personal Business Plan
In my earlier articles I repeatedly advise readers that they should try to build a pool of clients to smooth out the flow of assignments. Relying on only one or two clients can turn your cash flow into a roller coaster ride! So, make it part of your business plan to save all your income while your business is operating part time. This will give you a cash buffer for any lean periods when you go full time.
Your business plan needs to address critical questions like; what operating cash flow will I require in the first 12 months to cover my expenses? How many assignments and at what $ value each month? How will I find my clients and how will I approach them? There are many Business Plan templates available online to help guide you through the process. Even better if you know someone who is already successfully freelancing and can share experiences and with you. Your journey will be unique, but always take the opportunity to learn from others.
Finding the ‘Right Clients’
When starting any new business, in the beginning there is always the temptation to take any assignments you can get. This may be OK for a short while, but you should really be trying to define your ideal client profile within your niche and target them…. Even if doing so means it takes a bit longer to get your business going.
The logic here is that you should want to be known as the best freelance resource in your niche market. Ideally your clients should ‘relate’ to each other in terms of similar stage of development and needs. Recommendations from industry ‘peers’ will always carry more weight when you are bidding for work. So, if your ideal client is for example a high-tech startup then make this market segment the core of your client portfolio.
Following this strategy will not only help you to build your own ‘Brand’ identity, it will also influence the focus and direction of all of your future marketing efforts.
Marketing your services as a freelancer is usually seen as one of the hardest tasks in building your business. But, it doesn’t need to be. There are numerous platforms that act as a collective pool for freelancers looking for work. Some are great while others should be avoided. Essentially they exist to 1. Help you to market your skills and 2. Assist you with getting paid. Of course, they will take a margin of your revenue for their services. So, it’s really up to you to decide the value they bring in helping to start your business.
Here is a review of 3 of the top sites for Freelancers.
1. Freelancer.com is one of the more popular sites in the industry. It is relatively easy to market your services and bid on projects from of diverse range of disciplines such as writing, software coding, graphic design and marketing. The platform makes it easy for the freelancer to manage their projects and communicate updates with clients about progress / status.
2. Fiverr has been described as a great place for those starting out in business. It’s a simple platform to use and is particularly popular with writers and graphic artists. They charge a minimal setup fee and you get exposure to a broad range of opportunities.
3. Upwork also offers very competitive rates. In particular, you can sign on to the service for free to check them out. The platform helps to keep accurate time worked so that your billing hours for employers can be verified. You can also text and share information with other freelancers making collaborate projects much easier.
Freelancing can be a very viable way to get your business off the ground. Even though many of you will not have access to a mentor, you should always keep in mind that there is a community of Freelancers from a multitude of industries who are available to provide valuable insights into the industry. For me, it was the game changer that gave me the confidence to move forward with my dreams.