How to Become a Freelancer and Land Your Dream Job
Freelancing makes us think of freedom and flexibility. Yet, it involves taking a forward-looking approach that emphasizes efficiency and effectiveness, too.
Freelancers know how to actively search for their next opportunity. As a result, many make it a priority to create a website that will properly showcase their offerings in the best way possible. Furthermore, thanks to the advancement of online marketplaces for writers, educators, artists and website designers - to name a few - it’s never been easier to make connections with potential clients and get hired. These tools will help fuel your success and show the world you mean business.
What is freelancing?
Freelancing refers to anyone working independently rather than committed to a specific employer, who pays them a consistent salary. Oftentimes a freelancer chooses to work for multiple clients at the same time. One of the burning questions faced in the world of freelancing is whether it is a viable career. The most effective way to make it as a freelancer is by turning a well-defined passion or expertise into a service that you can provide to a client in return for payment. This means that you’ll be able to put into good use your talents or specialties, adding extra value for your customers. By providing something that’s beneficial to your clients, you will also stand out from your competitors.
Advantages of freelancing
In recent years, there’s been a surge of full-time freelancing in the U.S., bringing the total number of freelancers in the nation to 57 million, up by 4 million since 2014. These statistics signal that the appeal of becoming a freelancer is only getting stronger.
Here are the key freelancing benefits that have lured millions to the so-called brighter side of the workforce:
Flexible hours. Unlike the typical 9 to 5 working day, you can choose and set your own hours through freelancing. In fact, you can take advantage of working during a time where you are the most productive version of yourself. Perhaps you’re a night owl or rise to the occasion as an early bird? Either way, it’s up to you.
Higher compensation. Freelancers can take home more money upfront than their salaried peers because they get to keep all the profit.
Low-investment to start. Ideally, you want to start a business that requires minimal overhead costs. In most cases, you just need a computer and stable internet connection. This is in striking contrast to work spaces that have to rent offices, buy expensive equipment and pay for maintenance.
Work where you want. Reflective of modern times, the ability to work wherever is truly a dealbreaker for many. As the acceptance of remote work continues to prove feasible and productive, people will seek more opportunities as digital nomads.
Choose your own clients. It gives you an opportunity to match your skill sets with the right clientele. You will be able to excel at giving them what they want, thus establish a solid presence in your field. In turn, your relationship with customers will be built on a strong foundation of loyalty and trust.
Control of your work-life balance. By having the freedom to manage your own work schedule, you are more likely to improve your work-life balance. This means you’ll find more time to give priority to your family, friends, hobbies and any other area of your private life.
Like the ying and the yang, there’s an issue of dualism in freelancing. As a self-employed person, you’ll have to take on additional responsibility, like taking care of your taxes and setting up your own retirement plan and medical insurance. There’s also a fear of not finding enough work to sustain yourself. That said, being aware of these different challenges and realities that many freelancers face will help you prepare and overcome any obstacles.
How to become a freelancer
From building a website to promoting your business, here’s our guide on everything you need to know about starting a successful freelancing career that earns you money.
01. Decide what services to offer
Let your passion or expertise shape your services. That way, you will be more confident in your abilities to produce high-quality work, as well as possess the drive and determination to get better at what you do. This will create new opportunities and help drive your operation.
Here are some of the most sought-after freelance work to consider:
Copywriters create clear and engaging copy for agencies, publications or websites.
Data analysts gather and interpret information that helps businesses and organizations make critical decisions and identify any inefficiencies.
eCommerce specialists focus on helping businesses and entrepreneurs, who are not tech-savvy, optimize their online store and boost overall web performance.
Graphic designers translate their clients’ concepts into visual and physical forms, such as illustrations, images and logos.
Marketing strategist takes data, quantitative or qualitative, to determine the best way to support better promotional strategies and seek new market opportunities.
SEO strategist specializes in improving website rankings on search engines by employing optimization tactics, like internal linking and keyword tags.
Web designers are responsible for coming up with the look and feel of a website and its layout.
Web developers perform all the technical aspects of a site. They build and then analyze web performance to meet their clients’ site goals.
02. Create a website
Creating a freelance website can be likened to a professional online representation of who you are and what you’re all about. It also provides you with a digital storefront for your business where you can send potential clients to check out your work and attract new ones as you grow. Furthermore, a website allows you to receive payments immediately.
The first step is to choose a fully customizable and designer-made website template that suits your needs. Consider what you want to achieve with your site, such as in its layout. For example, if your business relies heavily on visually descriptive content, you’ll want to prioritize space for photos over text.
The second step is to add an online scheduling software that conveniently lets your clients book services or meetings to discuss potential projects. Using a scheduling tool also helps you manage and scale your business with an array of features that include setting business hours, auto adjustment for bookings in different time zones and multiple payment options, like PayPal, credit card or cash.
03. Pick a niche
Finding a niche lets you own a topic, making it easier for you to build a reputation as that irreplaceable someone who’s doing one thing really really well. It’ll also let you charge more for your services since clients will view your expertise as a matchless and invaluable source.
Start by evaluating your skills and interests and come up with a variation of service business ideas. Having options is an important part of the decision-making process. For example, a web developer might get into the niche of eCommerce. That means when a business is looking to open an online store, they will choose you based on your specialization over a general web developer.
04. Define your target market
It is impossible to try to sell to everyone. But when you know exactly who you are catering your services to, you'll be able to better tailor your marketing efforts to them. Bottom line: you need to know your cliente very well in order to close more deals.
The benefits of defining your target audience are multifold. To start, consider whether your services will be for men, women or both. Then, you can think about what kinds of marketing messages will appeal to them. This will make it easier for you to pitch, promote and send effective campaigns via your web content, social media or emails.
05. Sharpen your skills
Freelancing is about developing your portfolio as you go. The only way to get even better at what you do is by taking on more responsibility and more projects. Each job you complete is an opportunity to grow within your industry.
As a freelancer, you’re also running your own business. Only you know when to scale up by adding new services or offerings that can solve your clients’ issues. This means staying up to date with the latest trends in your industry via networking or learning a new skill. You can always check out online courses, such as Udemy or Coursera, to acquire more profitable techniques that will strengthen your status within your field. Additionally, learning gives you a competitive edge. Having recognized certifications can improve your marketability and resume for the specific jobs you’re vying for. Taking out time for personal self-enrichment also lets you gather new ideas and get inspired.
06. Build your brand
While the marketplace can seem fierce, you can stand out by developing a branding image. With a strong brand, you will be able to attract and potentially influence your ideal client. There are several ways to build a brand and become a recognizable authority in your field. Elements like your logo, design and even tone of voice that’s unique to you lets people know who you are and what you stand for. First decide on a name for your brand. Using your own name may be the simplest option, but that could also limit your own personal image. If you choose to trademark yourself, then everything with your name will be linked to your professional persona. Make sure your logo design and other branding assets, like your website and social media accounts, stay consistent with your brand name.
Finally, you’ll want to develop your brand voice. It reflects your distinct personality and shapes how you communicate with your clients. To find your unique brand voice, begin by telling your own story. It can be fun, cheeky, decisive or philosophical and should always stay true to you and your values.
07. Choose a pricing strategy
Probably the most important question to ask yourself at this point is “How much should I charge?” Before you start taking on clients, you need to know how to price your services the smart way. To be frank, it’s not just about money, it’s also about your quality of life. You don’t want to work 60+ hours per week for multiple clients just to stay afloat. Your goal is to be making money and living well.
There are different pricing strategies that allow you to work less hours and increase your income. Consider these and find one that fits your lifestyle:
Hourly rates. This is the most common form of billing. Charging your client by the hour lets you take on projects and work within a flexible time frame. Say you’re a web designer and are hired to build a site. Depending on the type of job, you’ll need to take more time to create a multi-page site over a one-pager.
Daily rates. As a freelancer, you’re not expected to record specific hours worked, but you’ll need to make the most of your time during 6 to 8 regular work hours if you choose this route.
Weekly rates. Here, you’ll be operating within a full-time work schedule of up to 40 hours a week. This option is great for long-term projects.
Monthly retainers. A client pays you a fixed amount to retain your time and services. You can be hired to take part in a 3-month project by an agency and set your retainer at x amount per month, ideally within a regular work week.
Fixed-fees. The amount is usually based on the time you expect to complete a job. There’s a focus on the outcome rather than the process and clients are guaranteed a secured price, regardless of how long the project might take you. In turn, you’re motivated to get the job done as fast as you can.
08. Take care of your finances
The fact that you’re making money on your own terms means that you’ll need to work even harder at managing your finances. It’s important to stay on top of your accounting, invoices and billing. Be organized and find a paper filing system that works for you.
It’s never too early to talk about your retirement plan. Luckily, there are several options for opening your own. In the U.S., you can choose between a Traditional and Roth IRA, One-Participant 401(k), Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP) and a defined benefit plan. You can determine which account best fits you based on the requirements of each one.
Furthermore, separating your personal from your business accounts will make it easier to track your money when you pay taxes. If you’re a freelancer in the U.S., you’ll need to pay a self-employment tax, consisting of Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you’re a freelancer elsewhere, consult with your country’s tax agency for more information.
09. Find job opportunities
As a free agent, you should always be working toward for next lucrative project. Today, there are great channels where you can look for that big chance to earn you money online and perhaps get you a foot in the right door of top clients. You can search across general online job boards like Upwork and Guru. Or you can try sites that are designed to match clients with freelancers, such as the Wix Marketplace. You can also connect with prospective audiences via social media platforms like LinkedIn, the professional’s choice.
When pitching on job boards, remember to take time to write out your introductory post. You’ll also want to show off your best work that's reflective of your expertise, add a link to your online portfolio and include any client reviews to build credibility. Be clear about your rates and the types of services you offer. Finally, personalize your post by adding a great headshot and fun fact about yourself.
10. Promote yourself
There are lots of ways to scale your freelance business. Having your own website is a gateway to growth. From your online platform, you can create quality content that speaks volumes about you and your expertise.
In order to really drive traffic to your website, you’ll need to optimize your online presence via SEO, or search engine optimization. You can start by doing keyword research to find specific terms people use when looking up services within your area on search engines like Google.
Incorporating these keywords, which tell us the intent of online searches, into your content can improve your site’s position within organic search results. As a result, you can potentially expand your reach across audiences.
Another way to market yourself as a freelancer is via social media marketing. With nearly 3.8 billion active social media users, there’s a massive audience that simply cannot be ignored. Use your social media presence to access new crowds of potential customers. Try out different tactics, like frequent postings and stories around your business, to drive engagement.
By Cecilia Lazzaro Blasbalg
Small Business Expert & Writer