Guest Post from Eliza Medley
Are you ready to start working again after a break or to ditch your office job to become a freelancer? There are hundreds of freelancer jobs out there waiting for you. Working on your own is a dream for many people, but the freedom you get as a freelancer comes with challenges and responsibilities. Many people struggle when they switch from a 9 to 5 job to freelancing.
That’s not going to be the case with you, though. Here is a set of rules that you can follow to make it as a freelancer.
Rule 1: You are a business
The biggest mistake so many freelancers make is treating their new occupation as a job. The truth is, freelancing is not a job. It is a business.
When you have a job, you’re essentially a cog in the wheel. You’re only doing one thing that contributes to the business earning money. Say, you’re a designer who works 9 to 5. Your job is to come up with creative design ideas and make them come true, whereas other people at your company talk to potential clients, discuss projects, hire new employees, organize designers to do the project, collect payments from clients, file taxes, and pay employees. Everyone in the company has a job to do, but no person alone makes a profit, it’s a collective effort.
When you’re a freelancer, you’re doing all of those things that are taken up by a dozen or so people in the company. As a result, you get to keep all the profits, but being an employee and a boss at the same time can be tiring.
The general rule here is when you’re planning, wear a business owner’s hat. When you’re looking for clients, wear a salesman hat. When you’re working, wear an employee hat.
Rule 2: Look for jobs 80% of the time, work 20%
Your best shot at being a full-time freelancer is having one or several clients who you work with on a long-term basis. It’s almost as stable as having a 9 to 5 job because you don’t run the risk of losing all of your income at once.
However, for most freelancers, getting to this point takes a lot of time and effort. You’d have to find clients that you have a mutual understanding with and build trust with them. When you’re starting to look for a freelancer job, the odds are it’s going to be a one-off project.
For the first year at least, you will have to work much harder as a salesperson, than actually do your job. So the rule is to learn about salesmanship as much as you can and spend 80% of your time looking for work.
The rest 20% of the time, work hard to bring in cash and establish trust and reputation.
Rule 3: Look in the right places
While you’re going to spend a huge portion of your time looking for jobs at first, you need to make that time efficient. You need to know where to look.
The best way to get your first client is by asking your friends for a reference. If you have over 200 Facebook friends and know a lot of people at work, the odds are at least one of them knows a guy who knows a guy who is currently looking for a person like you.
If you’re not big on networking, you can check freelance websites for jobs. It’s a sure way because employers who post there need a freelancer and desperately so. The drawback? There may be hundreds of freelancers with better creds than you who are willing to work for less.
Don’t try to get a job on these websites by lowering your price, though. Present a good portfolio and be the first one to bid for a low-paying job. This will help you work up the credentials on the platforms to get into more expensive jobs.
The last way you can get freelance clients is through cold emails. Reach out to the companies who may need your services or to agencies who may have too many jobs for the on-site staff and are willing to outsource it. Keep following up, and you will get a client sooner or later.
Rule 4: Develop routines
Working in an office environment is easier than you think. Despite constant distractions from colleagues, you have a decent routine set up. You know when you have to get up, when to go to work, when to eat, and when to finish. And you know exactly how much you’re going to get paid.
As a freelancer, you have none of that. Veronica Wright from Cake HR Software points out that most of the company’s freelance employees struggle with time management precisely because they work from home and sometimes get lost in leisure. Those freelancers who show stable results each month have a very structured day.
If that’s a problem you’re experiencing right now, start developing routines. At the very least, you need a routine for starting your day and going to work.
Rule 5: Ask for a reference
If you’re going to get just one thing from this list of rules, get this. Always ask for a reference after you finish a project.
The thing is, only about 3% of any market is actively hiring. If you try to get clients via cold emails, you’re going to get a miss in 97% of cases just because the people you’re contacting don’t need what you offer.
However, if you ask the business owner you’ve just worked with to refer a friend or an acquaintance who is looking for freelance services as well, you’re tapping right into that 3%.
Ask for reference every time you finish a project, and soon you won’t have to spend 80% of your time looking for clients anymore.
About the Author: Eliza Medley is an experienced tutor, educator, and psychologist. Eliza is fond of blogging, motivation articles, and education tips. Follow @Eliza_Medley on Twitter.