Freelancing has become one of the most popular ways for self-employment. It offers the flexibility and convenience many people look for in a job while also demanding a larger responsibility and overall competency. While freelancing, you have to become your own marketer, worker, manager and everything else!!! That’s probably one aspect of freelancing many tend to conveniently forget when they say freelancing is easy…
Why freelancing helps?
Whether you are on a career break or haven’t even landed your first job, freelancing helps in gaining the much-required experience everyone is looking for! It is a hard reality that without any experience, you may find it harder to land a freelancing opportunity. But it is not impossible! For those on a career break, freelancing is a blessing in disguise. It helps to fill up the gap they have in their career graph and stay engaged productively during their career break. For many, freelancing is a great way to explore a new career, like I did! I was an IT professional and shifted to writing when I got a chance to freelance. The basic idea is to gain experience and financial stability, in that order!
Here’s a step by step to set up your own freelancing profession be in any field. I am a freelance writer and hence, most of what I will be sharing will be based on the writing field. But am sure, the basics are the same and you can try out and let me know if it works for you too, in other fields too! If you have been wondering what to do, I definitely suggest you give it a try, at least!
Set up your Profile
When you are a freelancer, your first credibility is your profile. Make sure you write a detailed profile, elaborating your academic and professional experiences, that’s relevant and related to your chosen field. You must also keep a portfolio that resonates your profile and the kind of freelance service you offer.
(In case you are wondering how your profile and portfolio differs, a profile is like your resume and the portfolio is a list of your projects relevant to the services you provide.
Your first freelancing assignments may come from your personal contacts. So, network effectively! Let your first-level contacts know that you are venturing into freelancing and share your short profile with them so that they can refer you to their known contacts who may be interested. Don’t miss any chance to network and meet people who may benefit you in the long-term. Attend workshops, job fairs and other events related to your profile to grow your network.
Having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is a great help to grow your network. Showcase your experiences and connect with people related to your domain. Connect vertically and horizontally to grow your network on LinkedIn. Join relevant groups and interact effectively with your connections. Showcase your profile such that you get relevant enquiries and connections with regards to the service you provide. Publishing on LinkedIn helps grow your connections and gain good deals.
Get a Website (optional)
Though it may not be feasible to create and maintain a website when you are not yet earning enough through freelancing, if you can afford it, you must go for a website where you showcase your detailed profile, portfolio, testimonials and other details. A professional website will increase your credibility and gain you more visibility.
If you are already into freelancing or have prior experience working in related fields, don’t hesitate to take testimonials and recommendations from your previous clients or managers. Use LinkedIn to ask for recommendations, ask for written testimonials from previous clients or email them for it. Make sure that you get their permission to publish on your website or anywhere else you need to your advantage.
Get a Licence (if required)
Some professions and some regions require you to take a licence for freelancing. Get expert advice on this and make sure you have the required licenses to make sure you don’t lose good deals.
Join Freelancing Sites
Since many organizations understand the advantages of outsourcing, they look out for freelancers in various fields to complete their processes requiring specialized skills. There are many local, regional and international websites that offer freelancing opportunities in specific fields and in general. Analyze these websites carefully and join the right ones. It takes a while to understand which ones are genuine and right for your expertise. There are websites that offer freelance photography works, translation works, digital marketing, customer support and more exclusively. So take time, research diligently, and then join the right websites.
Once you join these sites, make sure you set up a detailed profile and portfolio if they permit. This is essential to building your credibility.
Most of the websites that offer freelancing jobs need you to pitch for the opportunities listed, rather than matching your profile with the options available. It is always better when you are given the freedom to choose the deal you are interested in. Make sure you create a customized pitch considering the client’s requirements and your feasibility. Time management is essential to freelancing, especially if you plan to take up multiple assignments simultaneously. So, while fixing your deadlines, make sure you keep some buffer time as a backup.
One of the main confusions many people face while freelancing is to decide upon whether or not to offer free samples of works specific to the client. From my experience, if you do not have enough experience in the particular type of opportunity you are pitching for, feel free to offer a free sample. You can use it later for other clients in case it is not accepted or add to your portfolio. It will help gain the customer’s confidence and you may even land a good deal. If you are already experienced and have other samples done earlier, do not bother to spend time offering free samples.
Once you have pitched, give some time for the client to revert. The websites will have enough information that discloses the expected response time of clients in general. In case, you don’t get contacted by the clients, feel free to follow up on your pitch. Send a follow-up email, message or call up to check on your pitch.
Sign a Contract
Once your client is ready to accept your pitch, sign a legal contract which has the terms and conditions clearly mentioned. Don’t hesitate to take advance or use an escrow account and attach it to the contract with the milestones clearly mentioned.
Stay committed to the contract and make sure you complete the milestones without missing any deadlines. Effective communication plays a major role in successful freelancing. Make sure all your communications are recorded for later reference. If you are discussing anything over the phone, make sure you email the details to the client and confirm it officially. Keep such email records categorized for easy retrieval.
Once you have completed the freelancing assignment, make sure you take a feedback from the client. You can use them as testimonials with the client’s permission and use the feedback to improve your service quality. Don’t take the negative feedback, if any, personally. Analyze it carefully and find out if it was really your fault. If so, correct the shortcomings and apologize. Otherwise, ignore it! Remember, public negative feedback can affect your freelancing career adversely. Keeping a cordial relationship with the client always helps to at least avoid negative feedback.
Sometimes, you may need additional help in terms of resources or external support to complete certain assignments. Keep in touch with such backup resources for such support when required. Your network should have such resources whom you can depend upon. Ample backup in terms of monetary resources and additional projects also help if, for some genuine reason, one or more projects are delayed or dropped!
Handling multiple projects simultaneously can be meticulous. So, I would suggest you avoid this until you have gained enough experience and have a good rapport with your clients. From my experience, good clients will appreciate prompt communication in case of genuine and unavoidable delays. Make sure you don’t lose their confidence by misusing the trust they have on you!
Keep Your Hunt On
Freelancing also requires you to be constantly looking for better opportunities if you are looking for growth in terms of experience and financial gains. Make sure that it doesn’t affect your existing clients and projects who are already supporting you by entrusting you with freelancing projects.
Whether paid sites help?
This is a common question many ask me while freelancing! From my experience, paying upfront to get an opportunity may not help! I reiterate I have never tried it and hence cannot recommend. But if your website charges you a percentage from the payment released by the client, go for it! Such websites also take up the responsibility of helping you with better clients and resolving any issues with them.
I have been freelancing for many years now and find it liberating since it gives me the flexibility to choose the kind of work I want to do, the place of work and the timing. It takes a lot of effort and time to establish yourself as a freelancer in any field. Once you manage to build a good portfolio, opportunities will come to you, in your own terms and conditions.
Please feel free to add your suggestions and tips that I may have missed here…