Freelancers are self-employed professionals working, full-time or part time, for a wide range of employers, not necessarily being committed to any single employer on a long-term basis.
Freelancing is very popular in the technical and creative fields such as writing, translation, music, web/graphic designing, animation, marketing, IT, accounting, data entry and many more.
People might pursue freelancing for a wide variety of reasons – for being able to work from home, for being your own boss, for flexible work scheduling, out of passion, as a means of living, as an interim source of income while searching for jobs, by students to support their expenses etc. etc.
As every other profession, freelancing also comes with its distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s first discuss about them in brief before getting into the main subject matter.
The Pros and Cons of Freelancing
The Bright Side
With so many freelancing sites such as Toptal, Upwork, Frelancer, Guru, PeoplePerHour, Crowded, Flexjobs and 99Designs, it is quite fast and easy to start freelancing with whatever skills you possess and that too at an affordable cost.
Getting registered and getting started is free in almost all the freelancing sites with some charges being made in respect of premium memberships, certifications, highlight features and other special services. However, such charges are nominal and the features and services offered are optional, too.
There is always a very high demand for freelancers – small employers prefer freelancers since they cannot afford full timers, while big employers prefer hiring freelancers for receiving the most from the existing pool of available online talents.
As a freelancer, you are your own boss (besides the client); you are in the position of accepting all the associated responsibilities and claiming all the credits and benefits of your hard-work. It is you who is to decide the time, place and manner of conducting your activities (staying within the constraints of the projects, of course).
You can also make choices regarding who to work with, as you gain experience and expertise.
The Dark Side
Low initial pay, lack of job security and longer time to get established are the main drawbacks of freelancing. Initial remuneration which can be as low as $1-$5 per hour (and that too in an irregular fashion) with no additional employment benefits cannot be endured by many freelancers, and they decide to call it a quit.
Dedication, patience and perseverance are the tests you need to go through successfully before you are established in the profession.
Freelancing often involves focusing on more than one project at a time. It, therefore, requires proper tracking of each project regarding stage of completion, revisions required, deadlines, invoicing and the like.
Difficult employers make it even worse – the ones coming up with fake projects, or with inconspicuous demands, or with a love for making delayed payments.
The Need to Stand out as a Freelancer
Although no authoritative figures on the exact numbers of current freelancers have been published, but it is certain that there are some millions of freelancers who are actively involved as such.
The good news is that the majority of freelancers are mediocre and also that the professional and experienced freelancers are not interested in low-yielding projects.
Nevertheless, the internet has successfully translated the concept of the global village into a reality; there are numerous other freelancers from various geographical regions and possessing the skills similar to yours, all of who are in search of the same prospects as you are.
Here comes the need to stand yourself out from the crowd to which you belong.
If ever a tiger is after a group of people in a jungle, which one of them has the greatest chance to survive (escape)?
Obviously, the one who outruns the other persons, and not the tiger itself! Such is the level of competition amongst freelancers – outperform others or get disappeared unnoticed.
If you want to speed up, you need to change lanes, otherwise you’ll be stuck there forever.
Approaches to Successful Freelancing
Going by the saying “Successful people don’t do different things; they just do things differently”, below are some ways of making yourself stand out from your competitors and move towards a successful freelancing journey.
Have a professional resume
Your resume ought to be written in a professional and interesting way so as to be able to impress the readers and get them attracted to you.
It must state out your major achievements and the diversities of work profiles you were exposed to, clearly indicating your strengths and fields of expertise.
It must also contain links to your LinkedIn profile where you can elaborate on your professional achievements through sample works.
In order to make yourself marketable, you need to blow your own trumpet but in a more so neutral and humble manner.
Have a professional social appearance
You are perceived as you appear. So, try and appear as professional as possible all throughout your business website, tweets, social networking sites and blogposts with no awkward and unprofessional pictures and posts.
Do not waste your energy in criticizing others and finding their faults, and avoid making negative comments regarding your profession and industry.
This would do no good to anyone, including you.
Build your brand
People recognize and identify you with the brand you create for yourself. Always prefer using your professional name – the one that somehow best describes your field of specialization – when interacting online, be it twitter or LinkedIn or anything else.
Alternatively, you could use a tagline (motto) beside your real name to draw clients from specific industry or location of your preference.
Having a business website would be great but not compulsory in the beginning and can be postponed till you cannot do without it in your later stages of freelancing profession.
Enhance your reputation and credibility
You need to enhance your value by generating reputation and credibility.
You can do so in two major ways:
by including samples of your previous works (in the course of employment, as a volunteer or professional, in college magazines, as newspaper articles, blogs etc.) along with testimonials, feedbacks and reviews thereon.
you can take up numerous tests and certifications online to enhance your credibility.
If you are completely new to freelancing, then participating in contests can help you not only with getting temporary projects but also to receive ratings and reviews.
Focus on niche
Do not approach whatever work you find but confine yourself only to those jobs that you are skilled at and are capable of completing successfully.
This not only reduces the competition you face but also builds up your confidence and introduces you to the prospects pertaining to the niche you target.
You can slowly enlarge the periphery with the possibility of raising your charges afterwards.
Instead of waiting for prospects to approach you (which can happen only after you get established), you need to search for and approach potential clients in a professional way.
Remember that professionals never fail deadlines. Be honest and intimate the client of any possible departure from deadlines, seeking approval for any adjustments courteously and professionally. Don’t hesitate to clear doubts and to apologize.
Keep in touch with clients
Stay connected to the clients during the project, ensuring their satisfaction all throughout the project. Take the project as a means of building up relations rather than a one-time assignment. References and repetitions are possible, as such.
Keep in mind that people prefer e-mails to phone calls and that too, only in moderation without making them annoyed.
Learn to welcome any form of feedback. While favorable feedbacks are encouraging, unfavorable ones help you brainstorm and identify your shortcomings, and to work upon them.
Do not compromise on quality
Only accept that much of work what you can afford to manage. A bad remark about your professionalism can spoil your credibility and career. Also, never skip to proofread your work before finalizing.
Prioritize on value deliverance
Clients approach you (or the other way around) for solutions to their problems, so put your efforts in first understanding their problem.
A well-understood problem is half-solved. Besides, some clients may not be fully aware of their exact requirements; discuss more with them, suggest them and help them build insights – this is what experts are capable of!
Learn and update continuously
Utilize the idle time (when you don’t have enough project in hand) in strengthening your skills, learning and updating yourself on the recent developments in your field of involvement, and planning for the future courses of action.
Maintain a positive attitude
Always be ready to revise your work as per the requirements of the client (sometimes even multiple times).
You will most certainly come across a situation (every freelancer has that experience, at least once) when a work you deemed a masterpiece is treated as shit by your client.
In such circumstances, don’t let your ego hurt and do not lose hope; rather focus on customer satisfaction.
As you mature
Avoid being ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. Focus on any particular field(s) that you are far better at than your competitors. Move towards being an expert from being an average scorer.
Establish a strong online presence
Build your business website detailing the services you offer and containing the demo of your work samples, clearly indicating your field of expertise along with a link to your LinkedIn profile, personal blog spot, e-mail address and contact number.
Use social media profiles such as Facebook and Twitter to promote your website, and blogs to market your specialization through regular posts, discussions and answers to queries.
Choose your projects and clients. Focus on quality and not quantity. Instead, discover new ways of offering value-added services in respect of the projects and clients you choose.
As an experienced freelancer, your every minute counts. You are no more a rookie, so you need to be able to work more in less time, effectively mastering the tools and techniques that contribute in raising your productivity and efficiency.