Are you thinking of leaving your nine-to-five job and getting into freelancing?
Freelancing is a great way to make money, but it’s not something that many people can just jump into.
As a rookie in the freelancing game, you must learn resilience and facing the fear of the unknown.
Your journey will include identifying and marketing your skills, instilling discipline and work ethics, managing your finances, and valuing your time.
If you want to be successful as a freelancer, here are a few things you should know before starting.
7 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a Freelancer
Embarking on a freelancing career, or any new career for that matter needs ample preparation.
You don’t just dive into the water without knowing its actual depth and temperature or you’ll be risking life and limbs. That’s why we’ve prepared a checklist for you to help ease you into the freelancing world:
1. Identify and Continuously Develop Your Marketable Skills
You cannot just throw your hat into the freelancing arena with no qualifications. You will be instantly devoured by the competition if you don’t have the necessary skills to triumph, or at the very least, survive.
What are you good at? Do you have a talent for writing? A knack for graphic design? An aptitude in programming?
Identifying what you can do is like determining the product you can sell in the freelance market. But that is just the first step. You also have to work on improving your skills day after day.
NBA legend Larry Bird is one of the best shooters of his era, yet he continuously practices by taking hundreds of shots every single day.
2. Find Ways to Market Your Services
Remember, you won’t be getting a regular salary. Becoming a freelancer means finding clients to bring in income.
The good thing about it is you can earn more than you did before if you can develop a roster of good quality customers. If you can deliver timely and excellent services, you can establish yourself as a reliable freelancer in the job market.
Among the things you can do to market yourself are creating a winning online portfolio, building your own website, and signing up on freelance work platforms such as Upwork or Freelancer.com.
3. Learn and Master Self-Discipline
Becoming a freelancer requires strong self-discipline as you’re going to be working long hours, especially at the start of your career.
Whether it’s being an adjunct professor, a freelance writer, or a virtual assistant, you need to establish a routine for yourself.
Freelance work may give you a chance to work from home or anywhere you like, but that’s no reason to become lax. Designate an area in your house as office space by including ample desk space, good lighting, and a comfortable seat.
4. Prepare Yourself Financially
Paychecks for freelancers are erratic and, many times, unpredictable. But there are multitudes of freelancers around the world who are making regular impressive incomes.
Dealing with unpredictability requires a long-term budget and immediate discipline when managing personal cash flow.
One thing you’ll realize in becoming a freelancer is that it can take a while before you see a steady income stream. So it’s best to prepare yourself financially before shifting careers.
The first thing you should do to be more prepared is to see what you can do about your existing debts. This can be student loan debt, your mortgage, credit cards, personal loans, or any outstanding notes or loans you may have.
Student loan debt, specifically, is a renowned budget and savings killer.
The interest rate environment is indeed rising, but there are still opportunities to merge and lower your overall debt load. This can lead to more manageable monthly payments, and perhaps a little less anxiety while kicking off your freelancing career.
One of the best ways to consolidate and lower your debt payments for your student loans is to refinance them.
Refinancing loans is when you take what you owe and turn it into a brand-new loan. Not only can this reduce the interest rates attached to them, but it’s also a fantastic way to give yourself some extra financial security.
Be sure to consult with a private lender about the eligibility requirements for student loan refinancing.
5. Brace Yourself for Problematic Clients
You have heard, ‘the customer is always right’, correct? Freelancers aren’t employees, they are beholden to their new and existing customer/client base. Their work falls more in line with a partnership with clients.
While not every client is as mentioned, there are some who may try to take advantage of the situation. Depending on your work, inevitably, you’ll eventually deal with someone who’s incredibly demanding or picky.
There are unscrupulous people out there who’ve committed intellectual and property theft. Meaning, they take advantage of the freelancer’s services without paying them.
We need to be picky when choosing our clients, and even new freelancers would do themselves a favor by thoroughly vetting each client they sign on with. Is the juice worth the squeeze?
6. Start Off with a Low Rate
Since COVID and the Great Resignation, we have seen the burgeoning of the freelance community. It has become far more common these days.
This also means we have a somewhat saturated market, depending on which niche you are filling. This can make rate-setting even more difficult.
Of course, you want to be paid fairly for the services you rendered and not undercharge your client. Conversely, increasing prices can also be a tough sell to a new client or even a long-existing one.
Nobody relishes the idea of paying more for the same service, regardless of how long it has been since they accepted any price increase. But, you don’t want to price yourself out of the market either.
If you set rates too high, there’s a great chance of losing out on potential customers. Make sure you understand how to price your work and set an appropriate rate from the beginning.
Do some research. There are plenty of freelance sites out there with visible hourly and per-project rates. Search for professionals in your niche, read their online reviews, and see what they have charged for their services in the past.
This is how you set up a client base and build up your repertoire. Clients want to get the best work for a fair price. That alone can set you up for an edge over your competition.
7. Play to Your Strengths
One of the most common pitfalls for freelancers is that they spread themselves too thin. They accept a lot of work that doesn’t play to their strengths.
To properly position yourself in the market, announce your specialties. Assess what is your strongest suit. Are you well-versed in Phyton programming? Are you a WordPress expert? Do you have an impressive creative writing portfolio?
You should highlight your special skills and experience in your profiles on social media, freelance job boards, your website, and any other platforms. Clients are keener on hiring specialists than generalists.
Thoughts to Ponder
While there are freelancers who just took the plunge without thinking about planting their stake in the industry, it is still best to know what to expect before making your move. Perhaps they did it more out of necessity than choice and could wing it.
Even so, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. So, take heed of our advice on becoming a freelancer because it came from experience.
What we laid out here is a roadmap that marks the things we encountered along the way on our own freelancing journey. So, we know they can help you in setting up your own venture.