Freelancing in today’s competitive marketplace has become a valuable source of income. It’s so valuable, in fact, Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, estimates that as much as 30% of the U.S. workforce is involved in freelancing.
If you’re just starting out in your freelancing career, the learning curve can seem overwhelming. Here are four tips to help you get started successfully as a freelancer in this competitive marketplace.
Find Your Passion & Follow It
Many new freelancers make the mistake of creating a freelancing career around what they’re already doing. If you’re not passionate in your job, you won’t be passionate in your freelance career. First, identify what you’re truly passionate about in your life and work. Freelance graphic designer, Preston D. Lee, says you must answer the question: “What projects make you stay awake at night with excitement?” Use your own answers to find a niche and make it your own.
Understand Why You’re Freelancing
Some people fall into freelancing through necessity, some have the luxury of planning for their freelancing career, and still others find themselves freelancing because there’s a demand for their skills. Whatever your reasons are for freelancing, make sure to write them down, know them, and own them so you can always keep your eye on the reason. When things get tough, you’ll want to remember these reasons. If you’re having trouble coming up with your own, Freelance Switch has a list of 10 reasons freelancers do what they do.
Market & Network
It’s important to get really comfortable with both marketing your business and networking. When you’re a freelancer, you carve your own path to success. Develop a marketing plan and build a network of contacts to create a solid foundation for your business. If you need tips for networking and marketing yourself, Freelance Switch has 50 Simple Ideas.
Start simple with business cards and a Website, and grow from there. Don’t try to create everything at once, and don’t underestimate the value of word of mouth. Develop a solid portfolio and use it to showcase your skills.
As a freelancer, you’re responsible for all areas of the business, so it’s important that you learn about taxes, contracts, and state laws regarding doing business in your industry. Learn about these details well before you need them to help prevent major missteps and help lower your risk of legal consequences. A number of sites like Nolo.com can provide legal resources, or visit IRS.gov for tax specifics. You’ll be working as an independent contractor, so know both your rights and your responsibilities.
Jump In, the Water’s Fine
Change is scary, but many freelancers will tell you nothing prepares you better than making the leap and learning how to survive as your own boss. Remember to create a plan, but also keep in mind that over-planning can, in itself, lead to the death of a freelancing dream. Mike Worrell, a freelance contributor to Freelance Switch recommends, “Prepare in advance. Then quit your old work life cold turkey.”