Did you know that around 37% of workers in the United States are freelancers? Or that these people contribute at least 1.5 trillion dollars to the country’s GDP? Truth is, when most people first hear about freelancing, they imagine it being a last resort sort of thing; done by people who are down on their luck and who have no option but to look for bits and pieces of work. Well, that could be no further from the truth. In fact, about 63 percent of freelancers say they would never go back to the traditional jobs market. So, how does one become a freelancer? Hi, my name is Francisco, and I am the owner of Planet Marketing, a Digital Marketing Agency. My company specializes in Google Ads, Facebook Ads and Remarketing. In this article, I am going to;
- Define Freelancing
- Give you a guide to becoming a freelancer
- Show you some of the advantages of becoming a freelancer
What is a Freelancer?
The topic of freelancing is one with which I am very familiar. I was a freelancer myself for some time before forming my company. And I haven’t worked for a traditional company in over 2 decades. Not only that, but Planet Marketing employs freelancers from around the world. So, you can be sure that I know what I am talking about here!
The term freelancing is one that you will hear being thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? Well, freelancing is all about not being tied to a single employer. You are free to work for whoever you want, whenever you want. Of course, freedom is itself relative; you still have to fulfill contracts, even as a freelancer. Most freelancers do their work from home.
How to become a Freelancer
So, how do you become an freelancer? Where do you even start? As already noted, I was once a freelancer and my company employs freelancers. In fact, I still do freelancing working now and again. So, I am well qualified to write this freelancing guide. If you are looking to become a freelancer, here is how to do it;
1. Identify your best skills
This is the first thing that you need to do if you are to have any success as a freelancer. If you are like the common person, you probably have several things that are good at. There will also be other things that you can do but that you are not that good at.
When it comes to freelancing, you need to first of all be able to identify your talents. Then ask yourself whether those talents can sustain you away from your traditional job. Will you be able to earn enough while working as a freelancer to be able to continue paying the bills?
Just to illustrate the point; let’s assume that you have been working the till somewhere for the past few years. That is hardly a skill that can be used in a freelancing environment. So, you need to be able to ask yourself, what is it that you can do that’s sustainable in the world of freelancing ? Perhaps you are a good computer typist, in which case you can do transcription work. Perhaps you are a good writer, in which case you can become a content or copy writer.
Freelancing skills in demand
The following are freelancing skills that are in demand at the moment;
- Content writing
- Copy writing
- Computer programming
- Teaching English as a Second Language
- Graphics designing
- Web Development
- Search Engine Optimization
2. Develop those skills
Becoming a freelancer does not need to happen instantly. Why not take the time while still at your 9 to 5 to develop relevant skills? Just to go back to our example; you may be a good writer, but are you going to be able to make it as a freelancer?
Remember we noted that you still need to pay the bills. You, therefore, need to be able to do a certain amount of work to be able to make a meaningful living. Now, you are not going to be able to produce much work as a content writer if you poke around on your computer.
So, before quitting your job to become a content writer, you need to start by acquiring computer typing skills. This is something that you can teach yourself. And this point is not limited to the particular example of a content writer. If you are a programmer, as an example, you can diversify your skills to a more marketable language as part of the process of preparing to become a freelancer. This is something that you can do over time while still at your current workplace.
3. Determine where you are going to find clients
Your current employer probably has people who are dedicated to finding clients. When you become a freelancer, you need to be able to do this on your own. This is probably the biggest challenge for freelancers.
We have already noted that the market is rather flooded. There are millions of people in Bangladesh, India, South Africa and other countries who survive through freelancing work.
You may be forced, therefore, to offer concessionary rates at the beginning just to get noticed. The trick lies in building up the experience that’s needed to attract the best paying clients. The good news, however, is that once you have build up your profile, you should be able to easily get work.
So, how do you get freelancing work? There are several freelancing platforms out there that you can use to get your first job. The following are the most popular
Upwork is good
I personally use Upwork to get freelancers for my company. I have used the platform to hire people who do content writing and other work for me. From an employer’s point of view, the great thing is that once you have found someone that does the job reasonably well, you should be able to use them well into the future.
For freelancers, Upwork also tends to be the best. You don’t need to pay anything to get started. All that you need to do is sign up, and you should be good to go. State what your skills are during the sign up process.
Note that you get a certain number of “connects” every month that you can use to apply for work on Upwork. The current number of connects per month stands at 60. Beyond that, you need to pay for more connects. However, 60 is a lot and most freelancers are able to find work without needing to pay anything.
How do freelancing platforms work
These freelancing platforms work by acting as meeting places between freelancers and employers, not only in terms of work, but also for payments. Freelancers get paid through the platforms, and Upwork, Freelancer or any other platform gets to keep a small part of the payment.
4. Be honest about your skills and apply only for jobs that you are able to do
This is a very important step on the way to becoming a freelancer. We have already noted that you need to have skills that are relevant to the freelancing environment. That’s because you need to apply for work that you can do.
If you go to Upwork today, you will discover that there are thousands of jobs posted everyday. Some of these jobs are better paying than others. People who are into coding, as an example, can get paid thousands of dollars to produce apps.
Some people apply for these jobs even when they are not able to produce the desired results. Maybe you know a bit of programming but have never produced an app. People tend to lie about their skills while filling out their profiles.
The result is that they get work that they have no idea how to do. That’s very harmful if you are trying to build a positive freelancing profile. Being unable to do something that you agreed to do is a good way of making sure that you will never get any more clients.
5. Finish all your work
Freelancing is not that free, at the end of the day. People out there do not just hire you because they want to give you money. They hire you because there are things that they need to have done. So, you need to do your work seriously if you are to build your career as a freelancer.
You are still bound by a contract. If you fail to fulfill that contract for one reason or the other, you are going to be held accountable at the end of the day. Your freelancing profile will get so tarnished that no one will be willing to give you any more work.
6. Don’t take on too much work at once
The temptation, for people who have just become freelancers, is to take on more work than they are able to do. That is something that you should never do. Not only does it negate the whole point of freelancing; that of having enough time for yourself to lead a stress free life, but you could also end up not being able to complete the work that you take up. We have already outlined the dangers of that.
So, you should only take on enough work that you are not overwhelmed. Otherwise you will be in trouble. I know, we all want to get rich quick. So, there is a temptation to try and do everything in one go, but that is never going to work, considering that you are only a single person.
7. Get a few long term clients
The ability to rove is all very well, but it’s not a very strategic goal when it comes to freelancing. One thing that you need to understand before you become one is that you need a core of clients who you are sure will always be there to give you work.
Let’s repeat, becoming a freelancer does not mean you no longer need to pay the bills. By having a few committed clients, you can be sure that you will never be out of work.
8. Know how much you are going to charge
How much should you charge for freelancing work? This is a question to which we have already alluded in this post. You may want to charge whatever you feel you are worth, but truth of the matter is that you are not alone on the jobs market.
There are millions of others who are willing to do the job for a fraction of the cost. So, you need to be well aware of what it is that you are going to charge. You also need to know what the market has to offer.
The good news is that if you are good at what you do, you will be able to command higher fees as you go along. Once you have a couple of jobs successfully under your belt, you should be able to start charging based on what you are worth and not on what your competitors are charging.
9. Build a website featuring your portfolio
So, how are you going to show potential clients what you are capable of? It’s important when freelancing to build a portfolio showcasing your work. In fact, most people out there will demand one before engaging your services.
One way of doing it is to have a website featuring some of your works. If you are a photographer, then you can have a gallery showing some of your photos on there. If you are a content writer, create a site featuring some of your writings.
The great thing is that once a website is up and running, you can then use it as a source of passive income. If you get traffic, you can monetize using AdSense or through Affiliate Marketing. Having passive income is a great way of supplementing your freelancing income.
Advantages of becoming a freelancer
We have already noted that most people who become freelancers say they would never go back to being employed the traditional way. Freelancing is clearly attractive, and it comes with a wide range of advantages;
You are free to choose clients
The first major advantage of becoming a freelancer is that you are free to choose your clients. Instead of working only for one person, you have literally the entire world at your disposal as far as potential clients are concerned. I have previously written an article in which I mention how I was able to quit my 9 to 5. Back then, freelancing was part of the equation, alongside affiliate marketing.
Truth is; most people are not happy with their current employer. In fact, up to a staggering 53% of Americans are not happy with their current employer. What this means is that the ordinary work environment is nothing but a huge source of stress for the average worker.
The great thing about freelancing is that you don’t have to remain stuck with a particular employer. If you are not happy, with one employer, you are free to leave and look for other employers.
You control your workload
The major reason why people tend to be unhappy with their workplaces is that they have no control over what they do. Companies are there to make a profit and, unfortunately enough, most Managers treat their employees like any other resource; to be used as much as possible for maximum productivity.
If you are not careful, you will be used so much at your current place of work that there will be nothing left at the end of the day. That’s the major reason why people set out out to become freelancers. The normal work environment treats you as if you are a machine.
The result is that you end up getting overwhelmed with deadlines and other requirements. Becoming a freelancer pretty much liberates you from this requirement. You get the freedom to choose, not only your employer, but also the amount of work that you are willing to take on at any given point in time.
You choose when to start and stop work
Another major advantage of freelancing is that you have the freedom to choose when to start and stop work. Are you unhappy about having to keep regular hours? If yes, then freelancing is what you should go for.
Imagine a world in which you are free to wake up whenever you want? Imagine being able to start working whenever you feel like it? This flexibility in work hours is another major attraction for freelancing.
There is no boss making your life miserable by timing your every move. You can decide not to do any work for a particular day, and you should be fine as long as you stay within deadlines.
Freelancing enables you to diversify your skills set
Most workplaces have an assembly line feel. You do the same thing over and over again and have no opportunity to broaden your skills set. With freelancing, you are essentially doing different jobs every time. This enables you to broaden your skills.
Let’s say, as an example, that you are an Accountant. Instead of focusing on one line in your field, freelancing allows you to become knowledgeable with all the angles. This makes your more sell-able on the jobs market.
You have time to work for yourself
Your 9 to 5 is essentially an exercise in enriching other people. Of course, you get a rewarded at the end of the day in the form of a salary, but what you are doing is to make other people rich. You never get the time to do something for yourself.
If you check this blog, you will notice that we have covered the issue of passive income a lot. Being a freelancer gives you the time to build your own passive income streams. When not working for others, you can work on your own projects, such as building a blog or writing a book.
You can work from anywhere
If you feel that the walls in your cubicle are getting narrow by the day and you are at risk of being crushed by your 9 to 5, then freelancing may be the think for you. The advantage of freelancing is that you can, in most instances, work from anywhere.
Most freelancers work online. Should you decide to go down this way; the entire world can become your workplace. I know, because this is something that I have been doing. Instead of being stuck in any office, I get to work from home, from the nearest park, from my favorite coffee shop and so on. I even have the freedom to work from the beach.
Believe me, the outdoors are something that you will come to appreciate. They are a great way of reducing your stress levels.
You can earn more
Most people think that freelancers earn less than people who are employed in a formal setting. However, that is not necessarily the case. At least not in most countries other than the United States. Thing is, freelancing allows you to negotiate the best rates for your services.
Once you have build up enough experience, you will be able to command the highest rates on the market. So, it’s possible for you to earn more through freelancing. Even in the United States, the trick is to build up a profile that allows you to command better rates.
You get to travel and see the world
This is related to one of the other advantages of freelancing that we have already covered. Most freelance work can be done from anywhere. As such, you are free to do your work even as you travel. This is another thing that I do a lot. I go on holiday whenever I feel like it. The advantage is that I know full well that whenever there is something that needs to be done, I can do it from any country in the world.
The world of freelancing is not all rosy, however. We wouldn’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that that is the case. Freelancing has the following disadvantages;
- You don’t always get work, meaning you may end up not earning enough to get you by. That’s particularly the case when you are just getting started.
- Beginners do not usually command the best rates, meaning you may end up getting less than you were earning in a formal environment.
- You still need to fulfill contracts, even when freelancing. As such, you are really never that free.
- There is stiff competition for freelancing work. Some of this competition comes from countries where people are willing to offer services similar to yours while charging rock bottom fees.
Hope this freelancing guide is helpful to you. The thing to note is that freelancing is something that you can do to get yourself away from the drudgery of your 9 to 54. You should get started while still at your current work. That way, you will be able to determine whether or not you can make it work.