There’s no denying the allure and appeal of freelancing, whether you want to do it full-time, part-time, as a side gig, or as a way to expand your portfolio. The money, flexibility, freedom to choose projects and clients all add to it, and there’s no shortage of opportunities out there either.
But what exactly does being a freelancer mean?
Think of it like being an independent contractor. You still work for clients, but on your terms, as an individual talent and service provider, rather than an employee. You’re hired on a project-to-project basis, given certain tasks, and expected to meet deadlines and goals that have been mutually agreed upon.
It’s kind of like being your boss and selling your skills and expertise to those in need. Instead of going through a channel such as an employer, you connect directly with your client, set the terms, and once your contract or project is over, you can move on to the next client.
According to Side Hustle Nation, some of the most highly sought-after freelancing skills in 2021 include, but aren’t limited to the following:
- Video creation and editing
- Freelance writing and editing
- Copywriting and SEO expertise
- Graphic design and web design
There are hundreds of thousands of talented individuals that already possess the skill sets mentioned above, or have a knack and talent for honing these skills, but they’re not sure where to begin.
If you fall into either category, or you’re just somebody who’s looking to venture into the world of freelancing, there’s a lot to learn. While technology has enabled us to do so much more with our skills, there’s also no denying that it takes a tad more than talent to make your mark.
There is a lot of trial and error and experimentation till you truly find your footing and successfully carve out a niche for yourself. This article will act as the complete guide to launching your freelance career in 2021, covering everything from where to begin, how to meet clients, and what to do.
Know what your goals for your freelance work
As with any business or job, you should set out certain goals and tasks for yourself when it comes to freelancing as well. Ask yourself why you’re doing this, what you hope to achieve, and what your end goal is.
It doesn’t need to be profound or extraordinary—it could be something as simple as needing the added income or wanting to work part-time because you’re unable to commit to full-time work.
It helps to know your reasons for wanting to become a freelancer, whether it’s the freedom of time, self-sufficiency, or earning potential because it will also set the parameters for other factors. For instance, if you’re only looking to freelance because you want to work part-time, you’ll have to let clients know about your availability and be realistic about the hours you can work.
Additionally, you can use freelancing as a way to hone and develop skills that you already have or want, such as web design, copywriting, video editing, etc., because you get to work on multiple clients and improve along the way.
Be clear about your services and offerings
With your own goals, skills, and strengths in mind, be clear about your services and offerings to potential clients as well. when advertising your service or profile on platforms like Upwork, you should know which categories you fit into and what your profile and skill set should say.
Misleading, confusing, or incomplete information can bring down your rating as a freelancer, foster poor client relations, and create hostility, in addition to making you seem unreliable. It drives away current and future business and that’s not something you ever want from your platform.
Instead, be direct and specific about what you can and cannot do, even if it’s assumed that certain skills are part of the package. Think about it like this: a client hires you for both copywriting and SEO writing, but you’re only skilled in one area. Technically, you’re hired as a writer so there isn’t much of a difference, but if you’re unable to produce the results that are needed, you could looking at trouble.
Identify your target audience and your niche
To be a freelancer with an edge, you should know who your audience is, and learn to identify a niche for yourself. This is one of the best practices to develop early on in your freelance career since it’s going to pave the way for you to develop and finesse your expertise.
A niche can set you apart from the masses of freelancers out there, and make you more appealing to clients from specific industries, specialties, and backgrounds because they’ll know you’re the go-to person for it.
Having a niche and specific expertise will also give you leverage when it comes to pricing and rates for your services. The more experienced you are in a particular area of focus, the higher you can charge for that service, and thus, enjoy more solid profits.
Invest time and energy into building a portfolio
Having defined your niche, skillset, and services, move on to building a portfolio.
Take time to set up a body of relevant work that reflects your skills, experience, and the qualities that make you stand out in your particular area of interest. Having a portfolio gives your clients a point of reference for the kind of work you do and the services you offer, and even if you’re new to the field and may not have experience yet, take some time to create samples.
Share sample designs, writing samples, web-design samples, and whatever else you’re skilled at, label, organize, and upload onto a platform where it’s accessible. There are several free portfolio organizers, and many platforms such as Upwork allow you to create one on your profile for easy access.
When communicating with a client, you can directly share the portfolio or relevant samples and build a more meaningful professional relationship. It’s intimidating to make your work public, but in the grander scheme of things, it’s going to benefit your professional growth significantly.
Network with clients online via specific platforms
There are multiple sites and platforms dedicated to helping clients connect with freelancers, including Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr, among several smaller platforms, social media pages, and groups.
Find a platform that works best for your needs and helps you target relevant audiences, branching out your communication and connectivity. The process may be slow and take time as clients notice you and start hiring you for jobs, however, there’s nothing better than having a platform that protects your interests and theirs along the way. Skip the Facebook inbox jobs and build a professional profile on one of the many sites out there, since this will also legitimize much of the work you do. Plus, you get to add that work to your portfolio too!
Learning the ropes of what it means to be a freelancer takes time, but remember that you need to be open to changing trends, industry practices, and develop your interpersonal skills along the way because you’ll have a lot of direct interaction with clients. Don’t jump the gun and price your services based solely on what you think they’re worth—you should do your research on what industry standards and practices are, what the market rate is at present, and how your own experience, qualifications, and skills add to that.
It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the information coming your way, but it’s always a great idea to start slow and go step by step. Remember, identify your goals and expectations before jumping to services, and be realistic about your professional boundaries to avoid burnout.
Freelancing means freedom, but it also means self-regulation, discipline, and commitment so get ready for the experience of a lifetime!