Although working a 9 to 5 job can be rewarding and offer a consistent paycheck, it doesn’t necessarily breed passion or enthusiasm. Also, working a regular job can be limiting, particularly when it comes to working hours or time off.
So, it’s no wonder that more Americans are switching to freelance work. In 2018, the total number of people freelancing went up to 56.7 million, which is over three million higher than the number in 2014. Also, with the COVID-19 pandemic, more individuals are trying to figure out how they can go into business for themselves.
If you’re interested in freelancing full-time, you need to know what to expect. This guide will illustrate the five steps to go from a standard 9 to 5 to the life of a freelancer. Let’s begin.
- Set Your Own Schedule – Are you a morning person or a night owl? Freelancing allows you to set your schedule to be when you’re most productive. That said, you may need to work with clients at various hours, but you can get most of your work done when you want. This flexibility also works well for taking time off for vacations or personal needs.
- Charge Your Own Rates – When was the last time you got a raise at your job? As a freelancer, you get to set your own rates based on your skill level. At first, you might have to charge relatively little, but once you get a few clients under your belt, you can increase your pay accordingly.
- Scale Up or Down – Perhaps you want to become a freelancer to take control of your professional career. Or, maybe this move is a way for you to set up a business. The beauty of freelancing is that you can work as much or as little as you want (depending on your financial obligations). So, if you’re passionate about your work, you can turn it into a full-blown enterprise.
- Location Flexibility – Finally, being a freelancer means that you don’t need to work in an office or a cubicle. Often, you can work from home or wherever you can find an internet connection. So, even when you’re on vacation in a tropical paradise, you can still make some money to pay for your travel accommodations.
Although these benefits are impressive, you also need to be aware of the downsides, such as:
- Taxes – Be sure to save a portion of all of your earnings for tax season. Otherwise, you’ll get hit with a massive bill at the end of the year. Ideally, you can pay quarterly to avoid large sums.
- No Guaranteed Work – It can be hard to find clients when you’re starting. Sometimes, you’ll get lots of work and other times, you’ll struggle to get paid. Freedom can be a double-edged sword, so you need to be ready.
Becoming a freelancer is easier to do now than ever before. There are plenty of platforms available to find work, and it’s pretty easy to communicate with clients and get paid. Here are the five main steps to switch from a 9 to 5 to freelancing full-time.
Step One: Decide Which Services You’ll Offer
First and foremost, you need to know what you’re selling. As a freelancer, you’re the product, so you need to know what will appeal to your clients. Here are some ways to ensure that you pick the right path for yourself.
- Blend Passions With Talents – Everyone is good at something, and if you’re lucky, you can leverage that talent into a money-making opportunity. Ideally, your skills and your passions will align so that you’ll be more motivated to get work. The worst thing would be quitting your day job only to do something you’re not passionate about. Write down a list of interests and skills and see where they overlap.
- Do Some Market Research – Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean there’s demand for it. For example, you might be the world’s greatest mime/juggler, but it might be hard to get paid a lot to do that. So, once you have your list of ideas, start looking to see what demand is out there. The easiest way is to search for people doing the same (or similar) jobs. If there are a lot of identical freelancers, there’s probably sufficient demand. If you’re one of a handful, you might struggle to get clients.
- Consider Your Resources – What will you need to complete jobs for clients? For example, if you’re a freelance handyman, you’ll need tools and equipment to handle various tasks. If you’re a writer, you basically just need a laptop and an internet connection. Look at your current resources and figure out what you’ll have to buy.
- Try to Find Clients – Ideally, you should already know some people who may be interested in your services. In some cases, you might have a couple of clients already, even if they’re just friends and family. You’re in a pretty good position if you can start with a few customers on your roster.
Step Two: Create a Profile on Freelance Marketplaces
Because freelancing is becoming so popular, there are more sites to list your services than ever before. Promoting your skills on multiple platforms makes it much easier to find clients right away. Some of the top freelance sites include:
Some platforms are centered around a specific type of job, such as writing. Other sites have listings for all kinds of freelance work, from general labor to data programming. If you’re focused on a niche, you should look for websites that cater to it. This way, you can be sure that clients will want what you have to offer. Here are some tips for building a profile:
- Give Some Background – Let clients know who you are and why you’re so invested in this kind of work. If your passion comes across in your profile, you’ll attract better clients.
- Provide Samples (if Possible) – Ideally, you’ll have some completed work that you can show to prospective clients. Similarly, if your work experience is in the same field, you can post your resume. If you don’t have samples, see if you can create some from scratch on your own. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you can make some logos or website assets for a fake brand.
- Be Detailed – Make sure that clients know what to expect when hiring you. If you’re new to the industry, be sure to mention that.
Step Three: Build a Website
While freelance platforms can help you find clients, it’s best to have your own website. This way, you can connect with people directly, and you don’t have to worry about paying a commission or fee for another site.
Thankfully, building a new website is simple with platforms like WordPress. Better yet, you can get a new page up and running for free, although you will have to buy and register your domain. If you’re not design-savvy, you can use programs like Wix or Squarespace to make your pages pop.
As a freelancer, be sure to include these elements on your site:
- Contact and Work Info – Let prospective clients know how and when to get in touch with you. For example, if you want to keep your weekends free, post that on the contact page. Similarly, if you want to stick to “work hours,” list them on your site.
- Samples and References – Put your samples and testimonials front and center. This way, new clients will see what you have to offer without clicking around too much.
- Booking or Payment Portal – In some cases, you can conduct business through your site directly. For example, clients can book your services on a calendar and pay a deposit upfront.
Step Four: Design Your Brand
Remember, as a freelancer, you’re the product. So, you need to present yourself accordingly. Even if you’re just using your name as the “brand,” you want to make sure that it illustrates who you are and the kind of work you do. Otherwise, you can create a DBA (doing business as) name and use that for your branding.
A brand helps you stand out from a sea of freelancers, and it makes you look more polished and professional. Ideally, you can reach out to clients with a snappy logo, business cards, and even branded invoices. As you gain a following, you can branch out into swag and merchandise or sell physical products based on your work.
Here are some tips on designing a brand for yourself:
- Create a Great Logo – If you’re a freelance writer, you want a logo that reflects your writing abilities. If you’re a freelance mover, your logo could incorporate graphics like a moving truck or dolly. Your logo is a first impression, so you want it to be the right one.
- Create a Brand Identity – Although you’re the product, you’re selling a version of yourself, not the whole package. If you’re a mover, that doesn’t mean clients will also be interested in your movie collection. Your brand identity should reflect who you are to your customers – reliable, trustworthy, dedicated, etc.
Building a brand takes time, it’s not something that you will do over night. However, it’s important to look professional from start. Businesses that you want to work with will judge you not only on your work but also on your appearance.
In the early days you don’t have to spend a fortune on creating a professional brand identity with all in one business platforms such as Tailor Brands you can create your initial brand materials – logo, business cards, and website for less than $30.
Step Five: Create a Marketing Plan
Creating a personal brand is just the first step. Next, you need to promote yourself across various platforms, including your website. Fortunately, you don’t have to invest a ton of money in freelance marketing. You can use tools like:
- Social Media Accounts – Be sure to create a separate profile from your personal one. This way, your posts can focus on your professional work, not your everyday life.
- Search Engine Optimization – Do some keyword research related to your industry and optimize every page on your website. Doing this will help you rank higher and get noticed faster.
- Word of Mouth and Online Reviews – As you get new clients, ask them to rate you on sites like Google or Yelp. You can also create a referral program to incentivize them to recommend you. That said, you also have to provide outstanding service for this tactic to work.
- Networking – Always carry some business cards with you since you never know when you might run into a potential client. You should also go to industry conferences and conventions to meet new people.
Overall, while switching to freelancing full-time can be exciting, it does require a lot of time and energy. Now that you know what to expect, you’re prepared to make a smooth and successful transition. Happy freelancing!
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