Career Advice for the Smart Job Seeker
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6 Steps to Launching a Freelance Career
Freelancing has become a hugely popular and increasingly common career choice for professionals seeking flexibility, autonomy, and the opportunity to pursue their specific passions.
In contrast to traditional employment, freelancers work independently, often on a project basis, and are not bound to a single employer. A large number of freelancers have previously worked in business, and have chosen freelancing as a way to create their own path.
This shift in work dynamics is driven by technological advancements, changing attitudes towards work, and the desire for a better life-work balance.
In this article, we’ll explore what freelancing entails, look at common freelancing jobs, discuss the pros and cons of freelancing, and outline 6 specific steps you can take to successfully launch a freelance career (because, if you’re reading this, it’s something you’re likely considering).
What is Freelancing?
Let’s start with what freelancing is.
Freelancing is the practice of working as an independent contractor, rather than being employed by a company on a long-term basis. Freelancers, also known as gig workers or independent professionals, offer their skills and services to clients on a project-by-project basis.
This arrangement allows for greater flexibility in terms of work hours, location, and the types of projects undertaken (not to mention, freedom from traditional workplace structures and demands).
Some of the key differences between freelancing and traditional employment include:
- Flexibility: Freelancers have the flexibility to choose when and where they work, often enabling a better life-work balance
- Variety of projects: Unlike traditional employees who may focus on specific tasks, freelancers can work on diverse projects for different clients
- Independence: Freelancers operate as their own bosses, making decisions about their work and business without going through a hierarchy
Why is Freelancing on the Rise?
There are many reasons contributing to the increasing popularity of freelancing. The top ones include:
Technological advancements such as digital platforms and communication tools make it easier for freelancers to connect with clients globally
Many professionals seek greater control over their work and career, which freelancing provides
Freelancers can tap into a global marketplace, accessing a wider range of opportunities and clients
Common Freelancing Jobs
Let’s take a look at some of the most common freelancing jobs. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives an idea of which type of professionals typically pursue freelancing as a career:
- Graphic Designers
- Writers and Copywriters
- Web Developers
- Social Media Managers
- Virtual Assistants
- Digital Marketing Specialists
The Pros and Cons of Freelancing
If you’re currently deciding whether or not a freelancing career is a path you should pursue, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls as well as the benefits. In our experience with coaching professionals who are seeking an alternative career path, the top pros and cons we typically point out are:
- Flexibility: Set your own schedule and work from anywhere
- Diverse projects: Work on projects that align with your specific skills and interests
- Independence: Be your own boss and make decisions about your business without others’ input
- Income stability: Income can be irregular, especially when starting
- Self-employment taxes: Freelancers are responsible for handling their own taxes (and insurance, pension contributions, etc.)
- Isolation: Working independently can lead to feelings of isolation
6 Specific Steps to Launch a Successful Freelance Career
#1 Self-Assessment and Skill Identification
Before venturing into freelancing, it’s very important to conduct a thorough self-assessment to identify your skills, strengths, and interests. Although you may have a clear idea of what you want to do, this is the time to really think about what you bring to the table, and to pinpoint anything you need to improve to increase your odds for success. This will help you position yourself in a niche market and effectively market your services.
Consider what you excel at and how these skills can meet the needs of potential clients. Try our Self-Assessment MasterClass Self-Assesment MasterClass to help you sharpen your focus.
Sarah was an in-house Marketing Coordinator who was continually overlooked for the promotion she wanted (and was qualified for). Despite asking to work more on the content generation side, her boss didn’t want Sarah to pivot or climb because she was doing such as great job in her current role. Instead, Sarah began volunteering in her spare time for a local non-profit, which valued her passion for content creation. What’s more, Sarah discovered a genuine strength in crafting compelling blog posts and persuasive communications. By focusing on these talents, she successfully launched a freelance career as a non-profit/NGO content creator, attracting clients who valued her ability to tell engaging stories.
#2 Build a Strong Online Presence
In this digital age, a robust online presence is crucial for freelancers. Potential clients will want to be assured of your legitimacy as a professional, which a digital presence helps to demonstrate. Create a professional website or portfolio showcasing your skills, previous work, and client testimonials. Utilize social media platforms to connect with potential clients and fellow freelancers, expanding your network and visibility.
Johnny, a freelance web developer, not only created an impressive portfolio website, but also actively engaged with his target audience on LinkedIn (through commenting on company posts, following the organization, connecting with key players, and giving advice on forums). This online presence not only showcased his skills, but also led to direct enquiries from potential clients impressed by his work and knowledge showcased on various platforms.
#3 Set Clear Goals and Define Your Niche
Set realistic short- and long-term goals for your freelance career. Because success will almost certainly not happen instantly. Define your niche by narrowing down the services you offer. Specializing in a particular area makes it easier for clients to identify your expertise and increases your chances of attracting relevant opportunities.
Anna, a freelance graphic designer, set a goal to specialize in creating visually striking social media graphics. By honing in on this niche, she became known for this particular expertise, attracting clients specifically seeking her style of eye-catching designs for their social media campaigns.
#4 Create a Solid Business Plan
Treat your freelance career as a business by developing a comprehensive business plan. Outline your services, target audience, pricing structure, and marketing strategies. Consider financial aspects such as budgeting, invoicing, and tax planning. A well-thought-out business plan will serve as a roadmap for your freelancing journey. It can also help you to secure funding from schemes to support entrepreneurs and the self-employed.
Freelance start-up advisor Miko crafted a detailed business plan that included financial goals, marketing strategies, and contingency plans. This plan not only provided clarity, but also served as a reference point for adapting to changing market conditions, ensuring the sustainability of his freelance consulting business. (An added bonus: he was in a great position to advise his own clients how to create a business plan, as he’d recently made one himself)
#5 Network and Establish Relationships
Networking is an incredibly powerful tool in the freelancing world. Over 80% of jobs in the corporate world are filled through personal connections, and the rate is arguably even higher for linking freelance workers with specific opportunities. Attend industry events, join online communities, and actively engage with peers and potential clients. Establishing genuine relationships can lead to referrals, collaborations, and a steady stream of clients.
Giovanni, a freelance writer, actively participated in writing forums and attended conferences related to his niche (pharmaceutical industry developments). By networking with fellow writers and editors, he not only received valuable feedback on his work, but also secured writing opportunities from industry publication editors and websites who recognized his skills through online interactions.
#6 Deliver Outstanding Work and Seek Feedback
This one’s a no-brainer. Your reputation and long-term success as a freelancer are built on the quality of your work. Consistently deliver outstanding results and exceed client expectations. Encourage clients to provide feedback, testimonials, and referrals. Positive reviews enhance your credibility and attract more clients.
Emilia, a self-employed home health nurse, made a point of not only meeting but exceeding patient expectations. By delivering empathetic and knowledgeable healthcare support, she received lots of positive feedback and patient referrals, leading to a steady influx of new individuals and families to support in her community.
Major Freelancer Platforms and Sites
Many freelance professionals work either exclusively, or complement their independent projects, through work available via freelancing websites. Here are seven of the biggest and most trustworthy sites to pursue freelance projects through:
- Upwork: A popular platform connecting freelancers with clients across various industries
- Freelancer: A global freelancing platform offering opportunities in writing, programming, design, and more
- Fiverr: Known for its gig-based model, Fiverr allows freelancers to offer services starting at $5
- Toptal: A platform that connects top freelancers with high-profile clients in fields like software development and design
- LinkedIn ProFinder: LinkedIn’s platform for connecting freelancers with clients seeking professional services (not available in all markets)
- PeoplePerHour: A platform that matches businesses with skilled freelancers in areas like writing, design, and marketing
- Guru: A platform where freelancers can showcase their portfolios and connect with clients seeking specific skills
Without a doubt, freelancing offers a unique avenue for individuals to take control of their careers and enjoy the benefits of independence and flexibility. By following the 6 specific steps we’ve outlined above, aspiring freelancers can set the foundation for a successful and fulfilling career.
Let’s conclude with a final look at the considerable benefits of freelancing:
- Flexibility: Work on your terms, setting your own schedule and choosing projects that align with your interests
- Independence: Be your own boss, make decisions about your business, and enjoy autonomy in your work
- Diverse opportunities: Access a wide range of projects and clients, allowing you to diversify your skills and experience
- Global reach: Tap into a global marketplace, connecting with clients from around the world.
- Personal growth: Freelancing encourages continuous learning and personal development as you adapt to different projects and client needs
- Life-Work Balance: Achieve a better balance between work and personal life, tailoring your schedule to suit your lifestyle
- Identifying your unique strengths through self-assessment is crucial. Pinpoint your strengths and passions to define your unique selling points – before you pursue your freelance career
- Create a professional website and leverage social media to showcase your skills and connect with potential clients
- Clearly outline your short-term and long-term goals. Specialize in a niche to stand out in a competitive market
- Treat your freelancing career as a business. Develop a comprehensive business plan for your services, pricing, and marketing strategies
- Actively network with peers and potential clients. Attend events and join online communities to establish meaningful connections
- Consistently deliver high-quality work and encourage clients to provide feedback. Positive reviews build credibility and attract more opportunities
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