Congratulations on taking the decision to go freelance! You’re joining the fast-growing ‘gig economy’, tipped to become the norm as companies seek greater flexibility in their workforce – and employees seek greater flexibility in their working lives. Many of us find the freelance life to be a more rewarding way of working. Here are some top tips from the freelance community to help you as you start out in this brave new world!
There are a growing number of websites that help connect freelancers to organisations that need support. Do your homework – some of these sites will be better than others. Even if you aren’t planning to rely on these for clients and contracts, they can be a good place to ask questions and build relationships with other freelancers.
Check out freelancer groups on LinkedIn and search ‘freelancer chat rooms’ to find a few options.
Do be aware that it might take some time for the money to come rolling in. Not only will you have to find your first clients, but even once the work’s done you’ll need to wait for that invoice to be paid.
Remember that freelancers charge more than the equivalent of a full time salary because they have to cover sickness, holiday and quiet times in their fees.
Many freelancers wait until they have saved up enough money to cover 3-4 months of no income – or rely on a redundancy payment – before getting started. You could also look into a loan: but you’d need to present a robust business plan to repay it the sum promptly.
Some freelancers manage to walk into work pretty quickly thanks to existing contacts, but if you need to start afresh in building up your client base, this takes some focus and planning.
Be clear about who your audience is and why they need you. Will you need a brand? If so, this is a helpful article. You’ll almost certainly need a website: there are lots of online website building tools, or you can work with an agency to create something attractive but budget-friendly. Read more tips on setting up a website.
Once you have a brand and website, work on a plan to reach your audience. Make sure you consider email, LinkedIn and other social channels, local advertising and attending relevant business events.
Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool there is. Make a list of people you’ve worked with in the past, plus friends, family and other contacts that might be able to help you. Contact them all and let them know you are open to freelance work. Chat to other parents in the playground about their jobs: many a business relationship has started at the primary school or nursery pick-up.
In the early stages of freelancing it doesn’t pay to be picky. Even veteran freelancers find it hard to decline work, in case that client doesn’t ask again in the future. If a job isn’t going to pay what you were hoping for, it could lead on to other things. So find reasons to say yes, instead of ways to say no.
Also say yes to non-work invitations. If you’re moving to freelance from full time work, try to enjoy your new-found freedom. Say yes to lunch with a friend or a jog round the park. Soon you could be too busy to fit those things in, and regret not taking a breather when you had the chance. Enjoy your freelance adventure!