As troublesome as these times are, with pandemics creating havoc around the globe, businesses and economies facing dire crisis and thousands of other gruesome realities unfolding every single day; we, the race of humans, are still adapting to all of these changes for our survival and if truth be told, a lot of us are even thriving surprisingly.

How to start your freelance career

Now, as intriguing as it reads, what does all of the above have to do with a career in freelancing? I’d say it has to do everything with it.

Not only just on the level of macro-perspective of economics and business but also on a very personal psychological basis.

With these major changes happening every moment around us, our way of working has altered dramatically, which has impacted our psychology and way of perceiving “working” differently.

It broke us out of the shekels of traditional ways of working and provided us with several alternatives to earn our dime.

Before we ride onto the roadmap of freelancing, it is important to determine if this alternative of part-time/full-time freelancing is for you because as romantic as the idea of working from your own place of your passion according to your will is, Freelancing is not all roses and clouds.

You need to build a work discipline, a work ethic and a well-defined mindset of what you’re getting into. You need to know that a freelancer lives a paycheck-to-paycheck life mostly.

And until you make a good name for yourself (which literally takes years) there won’t be much job security.

So, if you can accept these few core realities and are still willing to pursue a career in freelancing, here’s a roadmap for your long-term journey:

1. Reasoning Freelancing

What is the thing we do as we plan a road trip? We find a place, a final destination, where we wish to land up. Similarly, first things first, define your goal for freelancing. Why do you want to do freelance work? What do you expect out of it? 

You don’t need a fancy answer, it could be as simple as you just want to avoid commuting or want to be associated with different companies or are keen to understand how things work in different companies. 

Just remember, complexity is the enemy of execution (so said Tony Robbins). I cannot emphasise enough on this quote because as simple as it reads, it’ll be very crucial in your working life.

It’s no less than a dire and a foul mistake to pursue freelancing because it's gaining traction in pop culture or because it sounds “cool”/“savvy”.

And definitely don’t do it because of the money. I hate to break it to you but there is very little money for beginners, with very less working experience. It's not until you make a name for yourself that money starts to pour in. 

Point of doing this reasoning with yourself is to set realistic goals with realistic expectations. Key to being fulfilled is nothing but to be a realist.

2. Defining the List of Skills

You are as unique as your skills are. They are your intangible assets and if not more than equally important to your capital involved. All your skills, learnt deliberately or in the process of some other work. They all are meant to be put to work here.  

So identify the different skills you’ve been paid to use, taught yourself, and use as a hobby. List it down in the first column of a spreadsheet. Don’t hold back, List all the skills you think can be used professionally. 

Then prioritise the list based on which skills you want to get compensated the most for. In your spreadsheet, you can add a new column and rank them in order, starting with number one.

Make a note of the high and low ends of what other freelancers get paid per hour or per assignment in a separate column by looking that up on freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, etc. 

Finally, Narrow down your list to a set of skills where you can add value and also, collectively put to use that skill set to target an industry/sector or a niche clientele.

3. Creating a Freelance Portfolio

A freelancing portfolio is a collection of your work that serves as an example of your abilities to potential clients.

It's evidence that you're capable of doing what you say you can accomplish. You can also build a portfolio website in order to provide handy access to your work for anyone looking for services you’ve to offer.

It's fairly simple to create a freelance portfolio online, as you have to just assemble all the relevant work you’ve done so far and curate it in an order that appeals to your target clientele.

For example, if you are a content writer, you can create a list of all your great e-commerce copywriting pieces together that you can want to showcase on your portfolio website.

You can also include some of the best copywriting tools that you use to create content. Like I use Grammarly and Jarvis.ai etc.

Further, choose a simple and succinct domain name. Demonstrate your work in a balanced and fairly symmetrical order so as to capture viewers full attention.

Pro tip: Minimalist graphic designing and a simple outline can work surreally.

4. Pricing Your Services

While beginning, you should keep your prices low. You might be good at your work but as you’re new as a freelancer, just to build trust.

And in case, you do not possess that kind of experience of working, it's better to learn how practically things work while still creating some value. 

How many individuals tell you that working for free is good for your career astounds me.

It immediately devalues your services, giving clients and yourself, an erroneous picture of what to expect. Furthermore, it rarely provides you with a greater opportunity to develop experience than paid labour.

Be open and honest about your abilities and experiences. You mustn't mislead yourself. Don't make claims about your abilities that you can't back up, or you'll get yourself into trouble.

If you represent yourself honestly and explain that your low rate reflects your lack of business experience.

They'll know exactly what they're receiving and what to expect. You’ll blow their low expectations out of the water if you perform exceptionally well, and you'll earn a long-term client who will help you build traction.

Be professional, create an invoice, and mention all the payment terms in the contract itself. This will show that you take your work seriously. 

Then, as you acquire expertise and confidence with each new project, re-evaluate if you deliver enough added value to justify a rate increase (or try out various pricing strategies) for your next task.

5. Finding Clients and Networking

It takes time to build a client base, especially if you haven't already established a network of contacts. So, if you’re in the ideal position to start freelancing if you're currently employed part-time or full-time, or if you're a student. It's jarring to jump right into full-time freelancing from scratch.

Take in as much information as you can from your current employment. Find out how they handle project management. Learn how they manage accounts and communicate with clients.

Be a sponge, soaking up all of the essential business abilities that will come in handy when you're working on your own as a freelancer.

You should also register yourself on freelancing platforms such as Refrens that help you expand your reach and push your portfolio to a bunch of prospective clients for you and generate leads.

Remember, connecting with people and building strong networks is what successful freelancing is all about. Even when you’ve been doing it for years, this goal always remains the same.

6. Maintaining Customer Relationships

Building strong professional relationships with satisfied clients who love to refer you to their friends and colleagues is the number one strategy to develop a long-term, full-time freelancing business. 

Because the finest work comes from word of mouth recommendations, you should focus your early freelance efforts on cultivating these types of relationships.

And of course, working together with local businesses establishes a trusting network of satisfied clients whose recommendations carry far more weight than those from random internet strangers. It's also why working locally gives you a leg up on the competition.

It's not as difficult as you might believe to establish a solid reputation. All it takes is a commitment to delivering your client with as much value as you possibly can on each and every assignment you do. 

As a result, select clients with whom you can establish a rapport. Instead of merely executing jobs, you should be forming partnerships.

Destination

It's not as difficult as you might believe to establish a solid reputation. All it takes is a commitment to delivering your client with as much value as you possibly can on each and every assignment you do. As a result, select clients with whom you can establish a rapport. Instead of merely executing jobs, you should be forming partnerships.

However, building a successful freelance business requires patience and perseverance. Every customer you work with and every project you work on should be a step closer to the independent profession you want to have.

Define your ideal clients, and then plan how you'll promote your expertise and create your reputation to attract them and earn their trust. 

Your journey will be as fulfilling as honest and determined you are to reach your final destination. Freelancing is not just about working to earn a living, but it's also about feeling an utmost sense of satisfaction during the process. 

Author Bio

Hetvi works as a Product Associate at Refrens.com - India's most powerful platform for freelancer's finances and growth. She has worked for some renowned companies as a Brand and Digital marketing associate. You can check Refrens.com website and social media handles Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

This is a guest post by Hetvi S on the Digital People website, Learn more about Digital people guest post by following the link.

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