The way people are working and making a living is changing from the common 9 to 5. Today, more people are leaving the “comfort” of being a full-time employee and choosing to join the freelance workforce and gig economy.
According to Forbes, approximately a third of the US workforce has done freelance work at some point in their career. In the last five years, the number of freelancers has gone from 3.7 million to an incredible 56.7 million today. Whoa!
A few benefits of freelancing:
- Create your work schedule (in sweatpants if you want)
- Choose the clients and type of work you want to work with
- Work from home or anywhere (again, in sweatpants)
- Get to be your own boss
But many people are hesitant to go full-time freelance and follow their passions because of what I like to call, “Freelance Scaries.” They include statements like these:
“But how will I pay my bills?”
“How do I get clients?”
“Ugh, this client won’t pay their invoice.”
“Will people think I’m lazy?”
I’ll stop there. The goal here is not to scare you. I’m here to tell you it’s easier than you think to avoid the “Freelance Scaries” and become a one-person business – which makes great money, works with awesome clients you deserve and has the flexibility to live the life you want.
If this is the life and career you’re looking to achieve, here are six keys to start and succeed at freelancing.
1. Ask yourself, “WHY am I choosing this path?”
This is important. When you’re super clear on why this is important to you, you have the upper hand over other beginners. Is it because you want more time flexibility to spend with your family and friends? Or is it because you want to build an online community?
Spend time writing this out and keep going back to it when things get hard. Being clear on why you’re starting your own freelance business will keep you motivated and reaching for your end goal.
2. Know what you’re going to sell.
When you choose to pursue a freelance career, it’s because you have a service that adds value to other people and that clients will pay you for. How do you figure out what this is?
Take a deep dive and write out what you’re passionate about and your strengths, and then decide which of these passions are you qualified to teach (copywriting, website design, social media marketing for real estate agents). The latter is important because you want to feel comfortable offering these services and don’t want to take on more than you can handle.
3. Study and connect with your competition.
There’s a popular phrase in freelancing, and that’s community over competition. When you’re starting out, you should search for other freelancers and freelance groups because they are honestly here to help you learn.
Go on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – find other freelancers who offer the same services as you and connect with them. Subscribe to their newsletters and follow their blogs. Message them and ask questions. I promise they will be happy to share resources and actionable advice with you.
Also, view their websites and see what services they offer and how they package them. They are showing you a path to success. If they offer blog packages or social media audits and you think to yourself, “Hey, I can do that too!” – come up with a plan on how you will structure your offer and make it unique to your strengths.
4. Create a website.
Clients won’t be able to find and pay you if they can’t find you. A website helps with this. A website serves as your resume, portfolio, and digital business card to share with people who show interest in your services.
The best part is that you don’t need coding experience to create a beautiful and functional site. Platforms like Squarespace and Wix have easy-to-use templates for you to quickly get your name and services online.
5. Create free content
Writing blogs and creating videos to share tips and value to an audience is great for brand awareness – it’s also FREE MARKETING. Choose the channels you feel comfortable on and start creating.
This will help you get noticed by friends and professional connections who follow you (and make plenty of new ones). The key is to stay consistent because this is how you build brand authority. Plus, you never know who will be watching. A friend from high school who has their own coffee shop may see your content and reach out for help (this happened to me).
6. Sign up for freelance marketplace sites.
Sign up and create a free profile on sites like Upwork and Fiverr and start searching for available freelance projects.
Keep applying and searching, find projects that fit your skills, and get hired. Some may be low-paying, but the experience is essential. Seeing that first proposal get accepted is a powerful feeling. Once you get one job under your belt, you’ll find it easier to get the next one. Then you’ll start to know what type of work you enjoy and how to properly charge for it.
Let’s close out with three things not to do when you start freelancing.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Don’t be afraid of rejection.
Every successful freelancer starts where you are – with zero clients. If this new career makes you happy, you will find time to make it happen.
I hope these six keys help you take your first step into a thriving freelancing career. Wishing you the best of luck on your journey – remember, you got this!
About Terry Schilling
Terry Schilling is a freelance website copywriter and brand messaging specialist. He has worked with brands that include, Sixty Hotels, Joybird Furniture, Volkswagen, Brooks Brothers, and hundreds of small business owners on writing copy that inspires people to take action in their unique voice. You can learn more about his services and experience on his website. Follow Terry on LinkedIn and Instagram.