This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
Many people are wary of switching from their day job to freelancing because they think they won’t earn as much money. They know all about the benefits, like setting your own schedule, but they think making a steady income is not one of them. That’s a myth.
Freelancers make more than traditional 9-to-5 employees at $21 an hour (even more for freelance writers who earn $ 24.70 an hour). But we’re talking about your average freelancer here and the reason you may have decided to quit your dull and limiting office job is to escape mediocrity, right?
It's not cliché to say, “The sky is the limit,” if you know how to manage your freelancing business. Do it right and you could earn up to twice more as a freelancer than you did in a regular job.
One of the biggest freelancing dilemmas when starting out is how much to charge. Most people make the mistake of thinking they should set their rate low until they have built their reputation, but they end up starting a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
When high-paying clients see a low rate, they associate it with poor skills. If you once worked for $6 an hour, how do you convince someone to pay you 5 or 6 times more?
Charge what you are worth. Think about all of your expenses, particularly those that an employer now covers for you like insurance and taxes. Think about your skills. If you’re a writer, do you satisfy (or exceed) the needs of those looking for freelance writers?
Choose your niche.
Marketing yourself as a jack-of-all-trades will not bring you more money. You may get more work but it won’t be valuable work. You run the risk of being viewed as an amateur, desperate for money and lacking the proper skills.
Instead, you should capitalize on your competitive advantage and market yourself as an expert in your industry. This list shows the fastest-growing skills in the United States.
One thing they all have in common is they are very specialized. For example, freelance medical writers are among the highest paid, earning as much as $71,000 annually. In general, technical writing jobs tend to be more lucrative because they require specialized skills and knowledge.
Create a killer portfolio.
Think of it as your ID card in the freelancing world—show; don’t tell. Creating a stellar portfolio to showcase your expertise is absolutely necessary for beginners. Since the goal is to present yourself in the best possible light, choose only your best pieces. Avoid trying to include as much as possible because quality means more than quantity in this case.
Don’t have anything to show? Create a portfolio for your ideal client. Think about who that person or organization is and put together a portfolio based on potential needs. You can build your own website (or hire someone to do it) or choose from one of many portfolio sites out there.
Build your online presence.
You’ve got be all over the place, marketing yourself aggressively and building your network of connections. You should invest some time in completing and polishing your LinkedIn profile because around 85% of all recruiters go there before any other place.
Do not miss an opportunity to guest post whenever it arises because that will help get your name out there. The luxury of working anytime and anywhere does not absolve you from being proactive.
On the contrary, being your own boss means you will need to step up your game if you want to make a steady income. Even if you didn’t write the post, leave a comment and link to your website.
Keep learning new skills.
You cannot afford to become stagnant. The freelance economy is growing and becoming even more competitive. Those who lag behind their competitors will find it difficult to obtain jobs, especially when you consider that freelancers in some parts of the world can afford to set their rates lower than maybe you can.
Take online classes, watch videos and tutorials, read e-books and learn from the best in your industry by reading their blogs and articles.
Do not put all your eggs in one basket. One of the downsides to freelancing is you will inevitably go through a dry season (or two). To minimize this, you need to diversify your clients and income.
This is where starting your own blog comes in handy because it allows more clients to flock to you instead of you always searching for them. Do not be shy about asking for referrals from clients. Good old-fashioned word of mouth is what many freelancers rely on.
After all, if you’ve done a great job for your clients, why not ask them to recommend you to their friends and colleagues? Build your online presence across different freelance platforms and do not repeat the mistake a lot of people make by focusing on just one—no matter how good it seems.
Start cold pitching.
This is one of the most effective and underused techniques for finding new clients. How do you do it? Say you come across a website or blog with a design and concept you like, but it needs better content, which is your expertise.
You don’t know if they’re interested in your services so you connect with them to find out. But before you try this, do your research by reading about the most successful cold pitches and trying to emulate their style. What can you offer their business? Post some links to your portfolio. Throw in some ideas to help them take their business to the next level. Show that you have taken some time to study their website or blog.
Learn to manage your time.
With your freelance business growing, you will find yourself tempted to take on more projects. But that could be a double-edged sword if you bite off too much.
As a freelancer, one of your biggest challenges is building credibility. Bad word of mouth spreads like wildfire and you want to avoid becoming known as someone who doesn’t complete projects.
There’s another aspect of time management to pay attention to. While being a perfectionist can result in higher quality work, it’s important to not let it interfere with efficiency. You don’t want to spend ages working on a project, at the expense of taking on new projects and making more money. Strike a balance and allow yourself a break when needed.
Target your ideal clients.
Some freelancers complain they don’t get jobs because they can’t compete with low-ballers. That’s just a (bad) excuse. They are not your competition. You should find clients who appreciate what you’re bringing to the table and are willing to pay for it. Figure out the type of business you want to work with and reach out.
One of the main reasons freelancing keeps growing is because quality and dedication are rewarded. In a corporate job, a lot of external factors can influence your success. When you’re a freelancer, your success depends entirely on you. Your odds are good if you’re proactive and continue to learn new skills. You’ll not only be happier than you were in your day job, you’ll find yourself making more money too.
Kira Carr is wedded to her job as a freelance writer and blogger at writersdepartment.com. She writes about useful tactics and strategies for new freelance writers and bloggers.