Freelancers work as their own boss, providing service to many clients and enjoying the opportunity and freedom of determining what to charge, when to carry out the work, the potential to earn more, and many more benefits. This is just the tip of the iceberg. In this article we’ll take an in-depth look at what’s involved in freelancing and how you can become a freelancer.
Freelancers are essentially self-employed people and when effective, they can earn much more than an employed person doing the same work. Additionally, it allows an individual to decide their own work-life balance. A mother or father may choose to pursue fewer hours working and more time with their family. Therefore, they may offer their services on a part-time basis and choose projects that satisfy their requirements.
When you become a freelancer, you operate similar to an independent contractor in that you are free to control how you complete work, taking into account the client’s needs and specifications.
Freelancing is a great opportunity for people to create the life they want, especially if it enables them to pursue an area where their passion lies.
What is the Difference Between a Home Based Business and a Freelancer?
People who have a home based business are self-employed and can work for several clients at any given time. They also benefit from the sound management of their business, the opportunity to reap financial rewards, set their own schedule, and decide when and how work is carried out.
A freelancer is subject to the same tax rules as a self-employed person. The only difference between the two is that a freelancer tends to offer a service within an established market where businesses tend to focus on meeting the needs where a gap exists in the market.
While freelancing sounds very attractive, it is not for everyone.
To judge if this is the right path for you we have compiled a list of advantages and disadvantages to help you decide.
Advantages of Being a Freelancer
1) Becoming a Freelancer is relatively fast and easy to get started.
If you already have the skill and you plan on offering that skill as a service to potential clients, then it is quite fast to launch your freelancing career. It essentially involves you finding and attracting clients.
It can slow things down when you do not have the right skill a client is looking for. It is not impossible but just requires a little extra work and learning beforehand. You would be surprised at how little experience you actually need to get started as a freelancer. By looking at the skills you have listed on your resume, you can find one that you can offer clients.
If you have established a good connection basis on networks like LinkedIn, then this is a tremendous benefit when you begin your freelance journey, by making it easier to find potential clients. It is not only important for attracting clients, but this network is a great way to get the message out there that this is what you do. The LinkedIn network can further give you the support and help you may need along your journey,
Having your own website where you can build up a list of clients is a great way to build a network too. If you do not have a website and can’t afford to have one built initially, LinkedIn will give you the ability to get your freelance career off the ground until you can get your own website.
One of the most important things in freelancing is your network. From the onset, if not before, build your network. It is also important to have contact with other freelancers. This is great for advice and support. They can help you with questions about the price to charge for your service and where you might find clients. They will also be able to give you advice, support and their own personal stories and experiences. Attend events, professional associations and conferences. This is a great way to build and establish relationships.
2) Many Freelancing careers are relatively affordable
Many freelancing ventures will have a relatively low, or zero, required initial investment. If you already have the service or skill you are going to offer clients, then there is a good chance you already have the technology, software, equipment etc. necessary to offer the service.
If you are a developer you will be able to build your own website to start attracting clients which will significantly lower your costs.
3) The increasing need for Freelancers
There has never been a greater need for good quality, reliable freelancers. With the current economic climates, many businesses do not have the means to carry as many staff as they once had. As a result a lot more tasks and activities are outsourced to freelancers.
Businesses are seeing the benefits of remote workers when they need a project completed. This is the best time to start taking advantage of this and building relationships with the companies that run in this way.
4) Freelancing can allow you the freedom and flexibility
You are free to decide your own schedule; when you want to work, where you want to work, carry out the work as you see fit, etc. This is a major bonus to being a freelancer. When employed by someone else, we do not have the freedom to decide when to come to work and what we will work on each day. Freelancers are more independent than employees. We work according to someone else’s schedule and whatever projects they assign us. Working as a freelancer, allows us to decide that schedule.
If you have enough stable work, you can decide which clients you would like to work with. At the beginning this is trickier since you will need to hustle in order to land clients and build your network. But as things become more stable you can decide which clients and projects you would like to work on. If you enjoy working on more than one project at a time, you can. If you want to do different more diverse tasks you can opt to do so.
5) Freelancers operate on their own terms
One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you don’t have to answer to a boss. You are not being micro managed. You have all the control and make all the decisions. There’s no more working in a cubicle or sharing an office. You don’t have to be concerned or worried about who is looking over your shoulder.
Other than your clients, you will not have to answer to anyone else. This means that you can work on the terms you decide. So you can decide what hours you work, when you start each day, whether you can finish early on a Friday etc. Being a freelancer gives you more flexibility when agreeing terms and conditions with your client.
You also get to design your work environment the way you like it. You can play the music you want when you’re working, drink as many cups of coffee as you like, take your lunch when you feel like it. You can choose to work in different rooms each day etc. Freelancing allows you complete control over your work environment.
6) Work-life balance
Freelancing means that you can enjoy a better work life balance. It ultimately enables you to spend more time with your family and less time sitting in traffic and commuting. You can decide where you want to carry out the work, whether sitting in a coffee shop or in a park. You can travel and work at the same time. If you want to sleep in until noon and work into the night, it’s your choice. You can decide when you are most productive and then design your working life around that.
You can design your work-life to match your needs whether you would like to work part-time hours or fully maximize your freelancing potential. The choice is yours. It allows you that flexibility to attain the style of life you want to live. Attend those meeting or appointments as you need. Because you can decide your work hours, you are free to schedule your work projects as you see fit.
7) Higher income potential
Freelancers have the potential to earn a higher salary than they would earn in the same place of employment. It is not uncommon for freelancers to earn at least three times more than that of their employee counterparts – if not more! Your rate is not set by a boss, you have the power to decide the rate you change the client.
If your work is good, high quality, and meets the needs of the client you can charge them a fee representing that value. This means your income no longer depends on getting a raise from your employer. You have control over your income. If you feel you need to charge for your work, then you can raise the price.
As a freelancer you can also work on multiple projects at the same time, provided you can do so without jeopardizing quality. This allows you to maximize your income.
The type of skills you cover and the level of competition can play a huge role in determining the fee you charge clients. If your skill is highly valued and there is little competition, you can command a higher price and get higher profits.
Being a freelancer provides you with the opportunity to benefit from the profits. You can use them to expand your business or as you see fit. It also provides you with the motivation to go out there and give your best, as the rewards will be yours and not your boss’s.
Being a freelancer is essentially the same as running a business. It is exciting and challenging at the same time. It will give you the opportunity to really learn every aspect involved in running a business. You will be responsible for everything; not just the projects you work on. You will be in charge of money, attracting clients, financials, and managing the overall running of your freelance business. This added responsibility can have a rewarding and motivating effect on an individual.
For a freelancer, there is a direct link between work effort and reward which is not always the case for an employee.
9) Skill development
Freelancing gives you the opportunity to learn more skills or develop your career in a way that suits you and your needs. Your skills and abilities will broaden and develop as you work for more clients and different companies. This will enable you to build a unique skill set and give you more opportunities to attract new clients and perhaps enter new industries.
Working for many clients gives you the opportunity to broaden your reference base and expose yourself to new opportunities and experiences. This will further develop your skills and make you more attractive to potential clients.
Disadvantages of Becoming a Freelancer:
1) Freelancing can take some time to build a client base
Building and growing your clients to the level necessary to support your needs or family, can take some time. It will need a lot of work and networking to get yourself known within the industry.
The demand for your service will ultimately depend on your skills. Depending on the skills, a change in that industry may alter the demand for your service.
2) Freelancing work can be irregular
There will be periods of ups and downs, making it difficult to sustain a regular cash flow. Your workload will, at times, be sporadic, so too will your income. This makes it somewhat more difficult than receiving a regular paycheck from your boss. You need to take risks and not be overcome by stress. It is quite stressful at times so it is important to know your limits and make sure that this lifestyle is for you.
However, it is possible to manage this by preparing for slow periods. Budgeting for the hard times will be essential. Not to mention, being ready to work hard during the busier times and maximize the benefits. It is possible overtime to expect when your payments from clients will actually come in.
3) Freelancing will require you to be very organized
When you have multiple clients and projects you will need to be super-organized and well able to manage your time. Time management skills are essential when it comes to delivering quality work to meet deadlines. You have to have effective contracts and paperwork in place. You need to keep on top of your work and make sure that you are being effective. You also need to keep in mind that along with your other responsibilities, you will also be in charge of customer support – which can often be time-consuming. Freelancing will need self-discipline and motivation.
Freelancing requires being able to work under pressure and meet deadlines. You have to be able to follow-up on work as well as ensuring that clients pay for that work. You will also need to fit in time for marketing, advertising, legal work , sales and financials etc. There is plenty of software, both free and premium, that can help you stay on track, organized, and manage your social media more effectively.
It is also important to make sure that your work is also off quality. As there is no one watching over our projects or supervising our activities, it is easier for us to become complacent. This can result in missing deadlines or producing work that is less than adequate. It is very important to avoid this as it will damage our reputation and potential to attract future clients.
4) Pay may be lower than expected.
Due to the sheer amount of freelancers out there, competition is high. In order to get noticed, it’s helpful to charge a lower price. While this is a good way to attract clients, in the long-term it is not practical. Therefore, if you intend to use a low price strategy make sure it is a short-term plan and then seek the relevant price for the quality of the work provided.
In order for an effective freelance career, you have to earn more than what you would have earned in your job. When you are a freelancer you lose out on the employee benefits you would have gained through employment such as sick leave, holiday pay, pension etc. Therefore you need to factor this into your target income. Not to mention all the costs that you will incur as part of your freelance business.
How much more you need to earn will vary. It will depend on your own circumstances and what you would like to make, but normally twice or more of your old salary is enough. So this means taking your previous salary and multiplying it by 2 or 2.5 for example. The intention here is to generate a return that will compensate you for the expenses you incur in running your business and the employee benefits you lose out on.
Being your own boss and working from home can have some bonuses, however, it can also make things difficult. There will be distractions and other things that we could be doing instead of working on projects. There will only be ourselves to keep us on track.
Working from home makes is easier to get caught on a personal call with a friend for hours or just stick on the tv in the background and before we know it an hour has passed and we haven’t done a tap. Or friends calling around because they know that you are always at home.
6) Personal Time
On the other hand, when working from home, it is very hard to switch-off. You can spend all your day working on your freelance business and when you sit down to watch tv with your family you take out your phone or laptop and do more. Working for yourself can sometimes make it difficult to distinguish between work time and personal time. It’s easy to get sucked into working all the time because the line between work and home is so thin.
As a result your personal time suffers. When trying to set up your freelance business it will undoubtedly need a lot of work and effort, but it is essential to keep on top of your health as you do so. Taking breaks, resting and enjoying some much-needed personal time is an important way to maintain your health and manage stress as you build your client base.
Separating your personal life and working life is difficult when you essentially wake up in your work everyday.
7) Risk of not getting paid
With any business there is always some risk that we will not get paid for our work and within the freelance industry it is extremely common. This means it is important to keep on top of the clients that owe you money. Make sure to send them the invoice as soon as you have the work completed.
One major disadvantage of freelancing, that is often overlooked when we are considering a career as a freelancer, is isolation.
Freelancers spend a considerable amount of time working on projects alone.
When we are in work there is usually constant interaction with other teammates or lunch time chats in the office canteen, but as a freelancer we are usually working on our own. Our contact with a client is more than often done via email or phone. In this regard it is important that we take time to get outside and take breaks. Keep contact with outside world and look to your social circle for support.
When working alone there is no one to consult with if we have a problem or question. When working for an employer we could always seek advice from other co-workers or managers. However, many issues and problems can be solved by asking questions in a forum about that topic etc or on answer sites like Quora.
While most of the time starting out as a freelancer require little or no upfront investment, sometimes money is needed to buy your own equipment and software if you do not already have it.
How to Become a Freelancer:
1) Decide your services
Starting out as a freelancer will involve you determining the service you want to offer clients. Focus on a skill or service you developed from the area you work in or have worked in before. But make sure you enjoy doing it.
If you are still in your job it is a good idea to start building your network before you leave. It is also a good idea to start freelancing on a part-time basis to ease into it. Start small and gradually build up your client base. Websites such as Upwork, ProBlogger and Freelancer are useful places that can help you find some projects and clients.
You could begin by contacting local business to see if they need your services. Reach out by sending emails highlighting the services you offer. You’ll need to follow-up on these if you want to generate leads which is time-consuming, but can also lead to long-term professional relationships.
2) Creating your brand
A strong brand plays an important role in determining your success as a freelancer. By successfully establishing your brand, it can really set you apart from others and enable you to gain a competitive advantage.
This is where having your own website, blog and social media accounts such as Facebook, Quora, Google+ and twitter, can come into play. These mediums will allow you to reach much more clients than traditional means.
Centering these around what makes you unique and your message, can really help prove your brand. Your personality plays an important role in establishing relationships and clients. If people do not like or trust you they are unlikely to buy anything off you. By being active on social media and asking and answering questions you can build your brand and engage with potential clients. Establishing online communities, or groups, is another good way to build a following. Reach out to influencers on social media.
It is also a good idea to speak at events and seminars. This will allow you to portray yourself as an expert in that area and further strengthen your brand. Attend industry events and network like crazy. Be sure to have plenty of business card ready to hand out. Every contact you make counts.
When dealing with clients, it is important to act professional. You want to build trust with your clients and make sure that are aware that you are competent and capable of delivering the high quality work that they want. To help with this be organized, have proper contracts and rules in place.
3) Build a portfolio
A portfolio is a great way to demonstrate your work, quality and abilities. Obtaining positive testimonials will further increase your chances of success. This is difficult at the start and may necessitate the need to undertake pro bono work to make a start on building your portfolio.
When building your portfolio it is important to consider the type of clients you want to attract in the long-term. It is tempting to use everyone and anybody to build your portfolio, but using the right clients to build your portfolio can really set you up for the long term.
It is also important to remember that it’s not necessary to have loads of examples in your portfolio. Three or four good examples of your work is enough to attract clients. Otherwise you will spend much of your time undervaluing your work and even damaging your future potential pricing. Once you gain your experience, set your prices based on what your work is worth and don’t drop below that price.
Another great way to get new clients is asking for referrals. We may not like doing this but it can actually be a very effective way of landing new clients and can by done by sending a simple email to previous clients/ Here you should ask if they need extra help and to keep you in mind for their friends and colleagues who may need some work done.
4) Determine your price
Knowing what price to charge is tricky. Your network of other freelancers will be able to help you decide the right price to charge. You can check and see what fees they are charging.
Once you start getting rehired by clients for providing them with quality work, this is a good sign that your price is correct.
There are many tools online that will help you establish your rate to charge. The Freelancer’s Hourly Rate Calculator provides an hourly rate based on your business expenses, personal expenses, billable hours and desired savings.
5) Get yourself a good accountant
It is important to have a good accountant from the get go who can help you set everything up properly and give advice on expenses, taxes and setting up the business. An accountant can help you come up with a plan to help you budget for your expenses and taxes each year which can make it a lot easier. They will be able to advice you on which expenses you can offset against your income to lower your tax bill.
You can also join groups such as:
- The Professional Contractors Group (PCG) (UK)
- Independent Professional Contractors Ireland (IPCI)
- Euro Freelancers
- Freelancers Union
- The National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
- US Press Association
6) Create a business plan
Creating a business plan is a great way to put everything in your head down on paper. This helps keep you on track and clearly see your goals. It may seem like extra work but it is definitely worth doing. It is perhaps one of the first things your should do before you pursue freelancing.
By preparing a business plan, it will help you find any potential issues and challenges which you can then address accordingly or set up ways of dealing with them. It will also allow you to clearly find how you are going to attract clients etc. There is a misconception with freelancing that you can just stay at home and the work will come to you. This is not the case, especially with the sheer amount of freelancers out there offering their services. You need to put yourself out there and find the work and clients. Freelancing requires work and effort to make it a stable business to support your family.
Creating a plan for even 30 days ahead is a great way to set goals, set up financial targets and keep yourself on track. It will allow you to see clearly what is your minimum requirements and goals to keep your head above water.
7) Keep your costs low
Make sure that you work as efficiently and as effectively as possible. Keeping your costs low will enable you to maximize your earnings. Look closely at what is working for you and what is not. By establishing what is not working you cut it or alter it so you generate a return.
Consider how the costs of certain activities could be reduced. Can some of your marketing be done using free methods. Can you use free social media tools instead of paid tools?
How to be a Successful Freelancer
1) Plan your day
One of the biggest things with being a freelancer is using your time effectively. We need to be organized, productive, and good at prioritizing.
A good way to make sure that we are efficient and stay on track, is to make a plan for each day. Do this in advance. For example, we can make plans on a Friday evening that will carry us through the following week.
There is plenty of software, both free and not free, that can help a freelancer with productivity, organization, scheduling, billing etc.
However, make sure you don’t get too overwhelmed with different softwares and especially make sure that you’re not spending on products that you really don’t need.
3) Learn to say NO
Learning to say no is important and oftentimes very difficult to say. It is important not to take on extra projects and clients where you do not have the time to meet their needs. If you do not say no and instead take on these clients there is a risk your work will deteriorate and this may have many negative consequences, particularly for your existing clients. It is also important to say no when you don’t have the skills required to complete the project required and can’t get someone with the skills to help you complete the job. This is very important because it can damage your reputation and future potential to attract and land clients.
It is also important to know when you should say NO to a particular client. These clients are more trouble than they are worth and are not worth the time and effort in completing the project. They are hard to get in contact with and take several days at a time to come back to you or they are constantly trying to get more work than initially agreed done for free. These clients are usually easy enough to spot and once we have worked with one or two we become excellent at identifying them.
An effective way to deal with such clients would be to say something like “I think that another freelancer will be more experience in your industry or Unfortunately my workload is too busy at the moment and I wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time needed for this project.”
It is always a good idea to keep a close eye on what your competition are doing. Watch their social media and identify what they are doing right etc.
If they are getting more clients than you, you need to analyze why. Maybe they have a more effective marketing strategy than you, or they are easier to find etc. By identifying these you are now better placed to take action and adjust your marketing strategy or make yourself more visible to clients.
By taking note of the quality of work provided by your competition you can set up ways to enhance or offer an even better service. When you’re networking with other freelancers you can share and exchange knowledge. You can then see if there’s any way you can better this to make you stand out.
Researching the type of service you want to offer will help you deliver a better service and satisfy the needs of your target market. You need to find what your target market needs help with? How would they like that problem solved? Can you solve that problem yourself with your current strategy or do you need to learn a new skill? Could you join forces with someone else to offer a complete service to your clients?
Useful Websites for Freelancers to Find Jobs
- College Recruiter
By now you should have a good idea as to whether freelancing is the right choice for you. If you feel excited by the benefits and feel you can overcome the disadvantages, then start taking steps to bring your freelancing ideas to fruition.
Remember it will take time to become established. If at all possible, start part-time while holding on to the financial stability of your day-job. You will have to make the leap to full-time self-employment eventually and that’s daunting. But it’s much better to do so with a safety net and a growing reputation than nothing at all!
Good luck and happy freelancing!