The business of ‘freelance’ is exploding right now. Everywhere you turn there are sites and online platforms exclusively for freelancers. In other words, this is the perfect time to become a freelancer.
Whether your gifts lie in programming or design, marketing or writing, HR or copywriting, you can definitely make a career out of it in the field of freelance. All it takes is a bit of knowledge, a strong will to learn new things, lots of patience, and lots of hard work. As with most jobs, in freelancing you have to make a name for yourself by excelling at what you do, and that takes time and commitment.
Of course, there is no secret formula that once read and applied will help make you a star freelancer. But there are some rules that should be followed and some advice that I wish I had heard when I started out.
This is a plan on how to become a successful freelancer:
- Know your options
- Start as a part-time freelancer and create a comfortable working schedule
- Find that Perfect Place to Work
- Build an impressive and informative freelancer profile
- Be Committed and Persistent
- The art of applying for jobs
- Stick to interesting jobs
- Create a working client base
- Invest in yourself
1. Know your options
The Internet is filled with different freelance sites that offer all kinds of jobs and it is good to explore your options even before you start thinking of becoming a freelancer.
The most popular of these sites is, of course, Upwork. This is by far the biggest freelance platform in the world with a huge number of clients offering an incredible amount of work. The great thing about Upwork is the fact that, no matter what skills you are offering, there’s a high chance you will land a job. Software developers, data miners, writers and journalists, copywriters, digital marketers, designers, project managers, virtual assistants, everyone can find work on Upwork. The site should be your first choice when starting a career as a freelancer.
Then we have Freelancer.com, another large platform that offers all kinds of work and should be considered by everyone. While the platform isn’t as big as Upwork, Freelancer offers thousands of jobs in all niches. A great starting point and an excellent second choice.
If you’re a content writer or copywriter, then definitely consider joining Textbroker. The site specializes in connecting clients with writers, so if you want to write you should definitely check it out.
We also have Outsorcely, another quality freelance platform that specializes in providing a freelance workforce for startup firms. Although far smaller than Upwork or Freelancer, it offers you the chance to work with small companies so there’s a chance you could find a full time, long-term gig and become a permanent employee of a successful startup.
There are other platforms worth checking out, such as People per Hour, and Fiverr, that also offer work to freelancers. Make sure not to limit yourself to one site but also bear in mind that spreading yourself too thin can be counterproductive. The best advice is to build a good reputation on a couple of sites and stick to them.
2. Start as a part-time freelancer and create a comfortable working schedule
Unless you already have a healthy base of clients, you should start as a part-time freelancer. At the beginning of your career, you won’t have many clients because, you know, you’re new. And even if you somehow manage to land lots of jobs in a short time, it is better to pick just a few. You should start slowly and learn your trade. Don’t get swamped with work and miss deadlines. Protect your reputation.
While some may think that becoming a freelancer is quite simple and there’s nothing to learn, the reality is quite different. This is especially true if you have never worked online before. You will need some time to adapt so it is best to start part-time. As you learn to tackle online projects, work with teams of people living across the globe and communicate with clients you’ll never meet face to face you can slowly start to increase your number of daily work hours.
When comfortable enough in your new roll simply increase your hours until you find yourself satisfied with your daily work load and ready to embrace life as a full-time freelancer. And yes, I did say ‘satisfied’. Make sure you have time for hobbies, friends, and everything else that makes you happy and fulfilled. If you start stockpiling work in order to make more money and more long-term clients you will simply increase your stress, make yourself less efficient and the quality of your work will suffer as will your reputation.
A comfortable working schedule is important. Being a freelancer gives you the invaluable advantage of creating your own schedule; use this. If you like working eight hours straight with pauses, do that; if you’re a night person, you can work once the sun sets; if you want to be free during weekdays and busy during weekends, go for it; just create a schedule that is completely in line with your working habits.
3. Find that Perfect Place to Work
Finding that perfect place to work is one of the most important things every freelancer will do. If you feel better working from home create a small work space that can be used exclusively for work or work from any part of the home that you feel comfortable in. You’re the boss.
Other people enjoy working in public places such as coffee shops, libraries or parks, but if you feel you still need an office space in order to be productive there are plenty of options available. Freelancers the world over are renting space both long and short term and many cities are now home to purpose built co-working spaces that offer freelancers space to work, grow and share knowledge.
4. Build an impressive and informative freelancer profile
Spend time creating a powerful profile. Inform potential clients of your skills and be clear about the kind of work you are willing to do. Take appropriate tests, sharing the results on your profile and if you already have some experience in your field of choice make sure everyone knows about it. Put some content in the portfolio area of your profile so clients can see the quality of your work.
Be sure to list your education and share any digital certificates achieved in online courses. In other words, make your profile shine and stand out from the posse. Each online freelance platform offers you the chance to show client feedback. To build a store of positive feedback start with baby steps. For the first six months or so take low paying short term gigs that aren’t too complicated, get some positive feedback and jumpstart your profile.
So now you have the winning combination – unique, quality driven cover letters, high test results, past work shown in your portfolio section and positive client feedback. Who wouldn’t want to hire you?
5. Be Committed and Persistent
Every beginning is hard, and that is especially true in the world of freelancing. There are literally thousands of other people who do what you do, no matter your area(s) of expertise. In all probability landing that first job will be difficult. Apply to every job that looks interesting, be persistent and after a while you will land some work. From then on be committed to delivering the best quality work possible for each and every client.
In this world you are the boss and your commitment is key. It doesn’t matter if a client is long-term or someone you have just connected with – you pick your jobs and should always be ready to go that extra mile to provide the best service for each and every client.
6. The art of applying for jobs
When applying for different jobs make sure to write a unique application every time. If you rely on a couple of similar templates for all applications stop using them right now. This shortcut simply waters down what you have to offer and doesn’t give you the chance to show what you can bring to each job.
Instead of using templates read about every job you want to apply for, check out the client and their previous job offers, check feedback they received from other freelancers and then write a unique cover letter that (preferably) includes client’s name (if you can find it among feedback and previous jobs), details about the job, and reasons why you are the perfect choice. This may seem obvious but make sure you answer all questions listed in the application.
Try asking some questions in your cover letter in the hope of opening a dialogue with the potential client and let them know that you are always available and respond to all queries as soon as you can. This shows clients that you are professional and ready to go that extra mile to provide the best possible service.
7. Stick to interesting jobs
As we mentioned above, when you start out you will probably have to take tedious jobs to help build your profile but once you’re up and running you can pick and choose. You decide what road you want to take. If you only want to choose work that is interesting and meaningful on a personal level you can, you are your own boss. Sure, you can get work that pays well but working on topics or projects of personal interest can take you that one step closer to dream job status.
If you love your work and our proud of what you produce soon you will see this positive growth reflected in every aspect of your life. It is easy to give 100% to something that you love and soon clients will see and respect this.
8. Create a working client base
Long-term and returning clients will be the core of your freelance success story and you will see that your success can be measured in the number of clients returning to hire you for all of their projects. This works well if you prefer working on short-term gigs because having lots of returning clients means lots of regular work plus lots of variety.
If, however you prefer to work on long-term projects, make sure to give your best every day and create strong bonds with your clients. They will recognize your commitment and quality of work, which should lead to regular pay increases along with more work in the future.
9. Invest in yourself
Being a freelancer, you are boss, PA and office runner all rolled into one so don’t forget to regularly invest in yourself, no matter how successful you are. The internet is your university. You can learn lots of new stuff for free on YouTube, and there are also lots of free and paid courses that offer digital certificates. Linking these to your profile will put you in front of other candidates and will make potential clients more likely to hire you.
Learning new things is especially important and doable for freelancers. We can switch between different types of work and can use our flexible work hours for additional education. Try learning new skills because, as a freelancer, you will be able to hone them in practice.
Aigerim Berzinya is the Marketing Director at Turtler GPS Ltd. and as the company’s globetrotting backpacker uses the app while hiking abroad or in the mountains to stay connected and safe.