12 quick tips for aspiring freelancers

Jul 14, 2017

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.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to meet with some of my fellow freelancers in a workshop held near our place. I just knew about the event a day before, and because I was excited to meet other freelancers (it was my first time to meet with fellow freelancers), I asked one of the organizers if I could drop by and meet with her and everyone in the event.

I was glad that they welcomed me to the event and had a chance to talk to some of them. When I left, I was thinking ― the freelancers who attended the event must be lucky because there are workshops designed to help them launch their freelance business. Many of them are just starting in the industry, and some are still contemplating leaving their office-based jobs to become full-time freelancers.

Looking back, I thought, that was one thing I never had. I started freelancing in 2008 and I hadn't heard of an organization helping out freelancers succeed in the industry. Or maybe I was just unaware of such support available in our area.

If you're contemplating freelancing, consider these 12 quick tips to get you started:

Ask yourself these questions and be honest

Do you think you're cut out to be a freelancer?

Or maybe you're just looking at freelancing as an "escape" from the 9-to-5 job you're in right now?

Not being happy with your full-time, office-based job does not always mean that freelancing is the way to turn things around. Also, being happy with your 9-to-5 job doesn't always mean that you have no chance at launching your own freelance business.

So, before you dive into freelancing, think about this several times: Is freelancing the career path that you want to take?

Don't quit your full-time job yet

Freelancing is a totally different world. No matter how excited you are to leave your 9-to-5 job, you still have to be realistic.

Here's what you can do:

Start as a moonlighter. Keep your day job while you take part-time freelance jobs. Just make sure your full-time job won't suffer because of the amount of time you need to spend doing freelance jobs.

Take part-time freelance jobs that are aligned with what you are currently doing. That was how I started. I was in the academe, so I started as a freelance academic writer. I wrote and edited research papers, speeches and other academic papers. It was easier for me because I had the skills needed to do the jobs. Doing a totally different job while you're employed full time could be so tiring, so I suggest that you leverage your current skill sets while moonlighting.

Listen to what people are not saying

When you finally decided to transition to freelancing, expect to hear a lot of comments or remarks. Your close friends will be excited for you. Some may doubt your decision. Others will ask you endlessly, "Why? What kind of career or future await you if you're just working from home?"

You may respond to them, but you don't necessarily have to listen to them. Your own voice should be louder than their voices, and that's what you have to listen to. With a lot of misconceptions going around about freelancing, you're better off doing your research to learn as much as you can about the industry, so you can make an informed decision.

Set clear boundaries at home

First, have a home office or any distraction-free spot in your house where you can focus. So, when you're ready to work, you just need to go to that spot and your body knows it's time to work and time to focus.

Second, let everyone in the house know when you're working and why they should not disturb you unless there's an emergency. This is important when you're in a call with your client. If your family understands the nature of your job, you'll certainly get that kind of support from them.

You may also consider staying at co-working spaces where you can meet and work with other freelancers.

Invest in a good equipment and a reliable Internet connection

You can't function well if you don't invest in these basic requirements. And always be ready with backup plans. If your ISP fails you, you need to have a backup Internet connection or maybe a pocket Wi-Fi. Your clients don't care whether your Internet fails so have some decent equipment and backup plans ready.

Be comfortable with technology

Because your clients are from other parts of the world, you will communicate with them using technology. You should know how to use at least the basics: Skype, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. It may sound obvious, but I've encountered subcontractors who didn't know how to use Skype on their desktop PCs.

Brush up on your communication skills

To thrive as a freelancer, you must have good communication skills, i.e. writing, reading, listening and speaking. Whether you are a virtual assistant, a graphic designer, a web developer, or a content creator, you will benefit tremendously from having great communication skills.

How? Well, you will have to write emails, talk to your clients, negotiate with prospective clients, write proposals, read tons of references, do web research, etc. Everything that you will do, basically, is communication.

Seek support from industry groups

Here's the truth: The freelance industry is not very friendly to those who are just starting out. The competition is so high. And if you end up competing with each other, nobody can get ahead.

Don't ever compare yourself with other freelancers. Remember that even if you have the same job description or title, you are still different from each other. Find out what makes you unique and position yourself around those traits that make you stand out.

Take advantage of meetups for freelancers in your area. It's good to hang out with your fellow freelancers, share your skills and talk about your experiences.

Develop the habit of learning

Every freelancer is a learner. Unlike in an office where your manager arranges relevant training for you each month or quarter, in freelancing, you're the only one in charge of your own professional growth.

If you don't enjoy learning (and I mean learning on your own) or you're not keen at upgrading your skills, you will be left out. The skills you acquired in college are no longer enough to make you thrive as a freelancer.

For example, journalism students might have learned writing, editing, proofreading, data gathering and interviewing while in school, but as freelance content writers, they need to learn other skills, including search engine optimization (SEO) and content strategy, which they probably haven't heard of while in school.

Adopt the right mindset

Freelancing is a business. You will be self-employed, which means you will do practically everything for yourself. You will do your own marketing, manage your finances, do the actual job, manage your resources, pay your bills, negotiate with clients, etc.

You may hear others say that as a freelancer, you are your own boss ― this may sound great, but in reality, you are still accountable to someone else and that is the one who helps you pay the bills.

Build your freelance portfolio

I know what you're thinking right now ― what if you haven't really started freelancing? Well, remember tip #2? While you're a moonlighter, document all your projects and do great jobs that you can include in your portfolio.

It makes sense, then, to take part-time freelance jobs that require the skills that you are already good at, so you can deliver an output that you can be proud of, and therefore worth displaying on your portfolio.

Build your personal brand

Once everything is set, you're ready to build a strong personal brand that can help you win clients even in unexpected places. Don't skip this part!

Remember that with a strong personal brand, you can make winning clients and landing high-paying jobs easier, and thus making freelancing a much more rewarding experience.

By considering these 12 tips in getting started with freelancing, you will be better equipped and be fully prepared to dive into a new journey. Good luck!

A freelance writer and editor for nearly 10 years, Virginia helps businesses win more clients through high-quality, engaging content. Plus, she helps freelancers and other professionals leverage LinkedIn to build a strong personal brand that generates business.