Freelancing has started to attract many people in recent years, and it looks like the field is going to keep climbing in popularity. And while many people seem to see it as a fast track to easy money, the reality is anything but that.
While it’s possible to eventually find yourself in a position where you earn more than you would at a full-time job, and for only a fraction of the hours, it’s a huge grind to get there. When you’re first starting out, you should be prepared to last for at least a few months with practically no income at all.
Learn from Someone Who Has Already Done It
Freelancing is a combination of different skills. And like anything that involves skills and experience, you can progress much faster if you learn from someone who has already gone down the same path. If you know anyone who has built a successful career as a freelancer, ask them for advice on getting started.
You can also ask around online forums and specialized freelancer sites. The community is very helpful as a whole, and people are usually eager to answer questions and point you in the right direction. Just make sure that you do some of your own research first. People generally don’t take well to newcomers who arrive out of nowhere and expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter.
Hard Skills Are Only About Half of What You Need
Being good at what you do is only half of the recipe for success. You may be the greatest artist out there and still not land any gigs if you don’t have any soft skills. What are soft skills? It’s everything that’s not directly related to your work specialization. Acquiring clients, establishing initial communication, handling your schedule, organizing your budget, and doing your taxes – pretty much all the auxiliary work that comes with being a freelancer.
Any experienced freelancer will readily tell you that hard skills only make up about 50% of your success. In some cases, even less. Since you’re new to this game, you probably won’t have anything under your belt in the soft skills category. Read some books on the subject and try to polish your skills as much as possible before reaching out to your first potential client.
Streamline Your Communications
Look for ways to streamline and simplify your communications as well. There are many ways to utilize modern solutions to accomplish that. Check out Greenvelope’s guide to text message invitations, for example. It might seem like something exclusive to personal relationships, but just read between the lines and you’ll quickly identify at least a few opportunities to utilize those ideas in your own communications. Greenvelope has put a lot of time into building a comprehensive guide on the subject of text message invitations, so give it a try and see what you can pick up from it.
Try to develop your own unique style of communication as early as possible as well. If your clients can identify that a message is from you before even reading the sender’s name, you’re already on the right track.
Learn to Market Yourself
This is a subset of the soft skills we mentioned above, but it’s also its own separate category. Just because you’ve got what it takes, doesn’t mean people will want to buy it by default. Every client will need some additional convincing. You should also put some effort into improving your skills on that front. Freelancing requires you to be able to align your message with the client’s expectations, tailoring everything to their personality and past experiences with them. The sooner you start to see your offer as a product you’re trying to sell, the easier you’ll find it to navigate the market.
Don’t Stop Looking for New Clients
Working as a freelancer is never stable. You might eventually find yourself in a situation where you have several long-term clients who keep you supplied with steady work, but that’s never guaranteed to last.
People come and go, especially in an environment where they’re not bound by contracts or other legal obligations. Give every client the best treatment you can, but also assume that you might unexpectedly lose them the very next day. With that in mind, never stop searching for clients. This is especially important in the beginning when you’re still trying to build up your profile.
It can take a few months before you start seeing results, and it can feel pretty discouraging until you get there. But once you’ve gone over the first major obstacles, you’ll start gliding along much more smoothly. You’ll find it easier and easier to acquire new clients and keep them engaged for a long time. From then on, it’s just a matter of being persistent and continuing to develop your skills.