The Job Of A Freelancer
So you’re reading this because you want to become a freelancer.
You’ve thought about what you want to freelance in, you’ve got a couple of useful email addresses and you’ve even bought yourself some sweatpants that will look great with your slippers.
So you’re ready to dump that job and get cracking on your first assignment, right?
“First: you must strive. Nothing good is ever easy.”
I hate to break it to you, but working freelance means working. And It mean really working. Unlike your 9-5 cubicle, there is nothing cushy about freelancing, nothing stable about it until YOU have made it that way.
But there are some simple secrets to becoming a successful freelancer. In fact, using these steps - and a bit of determination – we’ve seen people get out of their desk jobs and start working comfortably for themselves.
1. Contact Everyone You Have Ever Known
The very first thing you should do when deciding to make the switch was to get in touch with every single person you have ever known and tell them your decision. Tell them the field you’re going to be working in and as it became clear.
Tell them if you are happy to take project right away.
The reason to tell your friends and friends of friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues that you’re willing to take on projects straight away was for three reasons:
Not only do you want to make your announcement actionable, but clients take time to develop. Don’t put yourself in a position to do the work “in a month”, when the discussion you need to start may take that much time anyway!
The more experience, contacts and references you have when you go freelance, the easier making that final break from your job will be.
“Building a network and finding work are two sides of the same coin.”
For those of you who have already started freelancing. It’s never too late to start reaching out to people and expanding your network. If you have work to show for your efforts already, your outreach will go much further, a reason why this step should be repeated annually even once you are a successful freelancer! Keep yourself fresh in people’s minds and be their go-to person when they need a professional in your field.
2. Get To Work On Your Personal Brand
So what does a personal brand have to do with anything? If you’re an experienced, not a social networker - why can’t you just make an ad and put it online/buy a spot in the newspaper/stick it to a tree/leave under windshield-wipers in the parking lot?
The reason is that as a freelancer, YOU ARE YOUR BRAND.
What do I mean when I say you are your brand?
I mean that when you are selling your services, you are actually selling yourself. So how you come across online or off is reflective of your success, your ability, and your professionalism. Your personality counts. If people don’t like you, they won’t buy what you’re selling.
So, how to build your personal brand?
- Get yourself on LinkedIn and fully fill your profile. Fill Every single detail of your experience. Every relevant job you ever had. Every morsel about you that could be interesting.
- Then do the same thing on Facebook. Join relevant groups for your field and started asking questions, lots of questions, as well as answering any you could.
- Do the same on Twitter, Google+, Meetup.
- And when its made available do the same with Quora, which has become the fact-filled platform for experts.
- You can then visit every industry-relevant event you can find, afford and get to, and hustle like a maniac…
If you’re someone who still believes social media is the devil, you’re in trouble, because it’s never a single tactic that will get you anywhere, its a combination of many intelligently coordinated pieces.
Asking and answering questions is the easiest way to get people involved and invested in what you do, and while you could meet 15 people during a meet-up, you could meet 100 online. So, starting online, understanding who’s important for you, pre-empting offline events by connecting with people via Twitter, and leveraging LinkedIn connections into meetings for coffee.
If you combine a strong digital brand with meeting people in person, you’ll make yourself:
- Easy to find
- Easy to remember
- Good to know
You want to be understood as an expert and an influencer in your field, and in a world where most industry communication is digital, you better be all over it!
Just remember not to get discouraged if you don’t get 1000 Twitter followers instantly, because what’s important here is that quality wins over quantity every time. Stay focused, stay targeted and talk to every new connection like they’re your best friend.
And vice versa, if you’re awkward and depend entirely on social media to drive your network, you’re doing it wrong. You have to get out, you have to meet people and confirm that you’re real and worth investing in.
3. Write A Plan Of Action
Never, ever, undervalue time taken to plan. Never.
Unless you’re one of these eternally adventurous types, freelancing is no fun as a hand-to-mouth game. Nobody chooses this path with the goal of living on a financial knife edge. And by the way, it’s ok to be scared, in fact if you’re not, you’re either invincible or a dumb ass, so keep your eyes open, know your limits, and plan accordingly.
I also used this as another excuse to grow my network, reaching out to experts in my industry to ask for advice:
- How much should I charge?
- Where do I best find my clients?
- How difficult is it to close a deal?
- Should I template my pitches or create new ones every time?
This created an opportunity to learn, improve and perfect the skills I would need in a month while growing a power-network of professionals in the field. Two birds in one stone at its finest!
4. Do Your Research - And Pay Attention To Competition
Whether it was hours scanning social media, reading blog posts like this one, offering my services to friends, or just generally building a network however I could, I absorbed as much information as possible.
Sure, it’s overwhelming; anyone who has spent a 4 hour stint on a single topic online knows that the rabbit hole is deep, and easy to get sucked into. At the end of the day, you have to pick and choose what’s important for you, but what I found most helpful was taking a real good look at what my competition were doing. And there is always competition.
“Deliver work that is better than anything your competitors are doing”
and truthfully, I couldn’t agree more. Maybe you have a lot of experience, and maybe you don’t, but your job is to perform better than everyone else in your field, both in the work you do, and the way you act.
“Keep your friends close, and make friends with your enemies.”
Don’t be guarded, don’t be defensive. Share, trade, and exchange what you can from your own knowledge and then keep doing it better, and better, and better, and better, and better, and better.
In the end, you’ll find that some people have big egos, but a lot of people are happy to have a friend. Freelancing can be a bit lonely sometimes as by its definition you often lack those daily colleagues who understand the work you do. A lot of people out there are just like you, and happy to have someone they can relate to about work, and even share a bit of knowledge and experience.
5. Get Yourself A Mentor and Landed A Real Client
The best piece of advice I ever received was simple in theory and tough in practice:
“Don’t burn any bridges.”
If you’re a freelancer, remember Every contact counts , and on behalf of your reputation and livelihood, although it’s very tempting to give your boss the finger as you storm out the door, it’s not something you can afford to do, ever.
If your job is at all related to what you plan to do, they may themselves be your first client.
So my advice is don’t forget that, don’t get hung up on singularity in a world full of complication, because what will make you successful is knowing how to apply who you are to what you want to do to the best of your ability.
As for the rest of what you need to know? Start by reading this article! People will say you’re crazy to set out on this path of uncertainty, which if you’re like me is just confirmation that you should be doing it! Freelancing is something you really have to want, and be prepared to work hard for. And the result of that is a lifestyle, and a sense of freedom that is unrivalled by any other job in the world.
So prep it, work it, and then LIVE IT for all your worth!