A freelancer is a self-employed person who is not bound by the so-called commitments of a job. A Freelancer (usually) does not take long-term jobs and likes to plan his/her work timings as per the jobs in hand.
I have freelanced in past through websites like upwork, guru.com and freelancer.com. Also, i have trained working professionals to become successful freelancers.
All of them have done quite well for themselves. As a matter of fact, some of them have successfully transformed freelancing work into full-time businesses.
How to become a successful freelancer – Tips:
Finally, we reach the section you have eagerly been waiting for. Here are some simple steps to help you become a successful freelancer.
Aha! Here is your chance to look dapper. Time to get dressed in a three-piece suit as if you are heading for a business meeting.
I was joking. Leave the dapper look to the corporate. What is the point of being a freelancer if you cannot work wearing a vest and shorts 😉? Where is the freedom in wearing a suit?
By asking you to become presentable, I meant presenting your credentials in a well formatted, presentable format.
On freelancing websites, you get to create your profile. Work towards making it presentable. The profile is your brand identity. Spend some time on it.
Likewise, you must have a website to showcase your work. Use a website theme that goes with your work. If you are a photographer, have a website that relies a lot on images and so on….
Remember, you do not work for a company now. You are yourself a product that you are trying to sell. The more presentable you are, the better are the chances of you landing a gig.
Learn to market yourself
What’s marketing, mate? I know geeky guys are scared to shit when you ask them to market themselves.
Dude! If you cannot market yourself, you cannot freelance.
Marketing here does not mean creating ads about you. It very simple means making yourself presentable (something I mentioned earlier) and making good proposals.
And for god’s sake, do not hire marketing people to promote yourself.
There is no one on earth who can market you better than yourself. For some reason, if you cannot make good proposals or do not know what to do with your skill set – go back to “mother internet” and learn the tricks of the trade.
As they say “No Pain. No Gain”.
Get some discipline in your life
You might be thinking in your mind “Hey! You sound like someone who is giving a generic life advice to everyone. Why is it so specific to becoming a freelancer?”.
I know, everything I have written is so generic that it applies to everyone in life.
Here is the catch. What I have written holds more meaning to freelancers as their inability to bring discipline to their new-found freedom ruins their freelancing careers.
You have no idea, how many freelancers I have ended a contract with because of their lack of commitment to stick to deadlines and go incommunicado without any prior intimation.
I perfectly understand that you are a freelancer who wants to work as per your convenience but what does your client tell his client about your unprofessional behaviour?
I have had projects tank because of outsourcing mistakes I have done in past.
From what I have observed, in discipline is a major issue with freelancers. They earn some bucks and spend it recklessly 😊. (millennial, are you listening?)
Screw the project and forget the client. Since the client is sitting 1000 of miles away from you and you are not a company he can sue, you make him work as per your whims and fancies.
Trust me, this is the biggest reason for failures of freelancers. That’s why I emphasize a lot on getting discipline in the work regime of freelancers to build trusts with their clients.
You get discipline by pro-actively working with clients. Simple things like:
- Communicating properly via chat or calls.
- Sending weekly reports.
- Sticking to schedules
- Maintain a proper project plan and sticking to it.
- Letting clients know beforehand about any urgent issues.
- Prioritizing work as per deliverable agreed
Will help you succeed.
It’s not easy being a freelancer. You are working from home (most of the time) and family starts taking you for granted. They will expect you to do things, you wouldn’t do if you were working in a job.
Talk to them and explain to them, why your presence at home cannot be confused with you having little or no work to do.
A little discipline and planning are all you need to succeed.
Once the trust develops, there is no dearth of work in the market for freelancers.
Learn the language of Masses: English
Before you start spitting your patriotic B.S on me, here is a food for thought “Where do think does the majority of freelancing work on the web comes from?”
It’s from all the first world countries where the language of interaction is English.
How do you expect to interact with clients if you do not know their language?
Please don’t tell me, you plan to use google translator because it is a horrible tool. A tool where the meaning of language gets lost in translation.
Learn English to succeed as a freelancer.
Make use of web-based tools to help you with freelancing
Time is money. You as a freelancer will have to make good use of time to earn some good money.
How can you do that?
I recommend you to use tools like skype for calls, task management software like trello, asana or teamwork for better project interaction with clients and a scheduler like google calendar to take care of your work reminders.
Do not forget to have an account on PayPal, stripe for receiving online payments.
Plainly speaking, since you are on your own. You will need all the help possible to succeed as a freelancer.
Let automation handle some of your workloads.
What is the fun in Freelancing? Well! Let’s learn that in the next section.
The Growth of Freelancing Economy
Thanks to the Internet, the freelancing economy has grown at a very good pace in the last few years.
- Around 36% of U.S workers work from home and they together contributed around 1.4 trillion dollars to the economy in the year 2017.
- The amount of 4 trillion dollars is a 30% increase in comparison to the contribution made by the work from home workforce in 2016.
- 77% of freelancers feel that they are more financially stable after switching from full-time jobs to freelancing.
- And if trends are to be believed, more than 40% of U.S population plans on freelancing in coming few years. They Say, 2020 is the year 😊. I have already started preparing for the day.
(stats source : https://www.upwork.com/press/2017/10/17/freelancing-in-america-2017/)
During our EDP training programs, I meet so many people who want to get that extra source of income (in addition to their full-time jobs) or are looking to leave their jobs and start working on their own.
Since most of them have not had any entrepreneurial experience, they are majorly interested in trying the waters of entrepreneurship as a freelancer and if things go well – hire a team and transform their freelancing into a full-time venture.
To be frank, not everyone is interested in running ventures and building businesses. There are many, who want to work as freelancers without taking the burden of running a small business on their head.
A few years back, my wife wanted to get back to work. She was earlier working with me and had to take a long sabbatical because of kids. Anyways, kids started school and she started looking for work opportunity which allowed her flexible hours.
Full-time jobs were totally out of question. Before you interrupt me with “the flexible hours and work from home” argument. Here is what you must understand – the chances of any new employee getting flexible hours to work or work from home is very rare.
These opportunities are generally reserved (not the quota system) for old employees or for job seekers who have not had a career break.
The ones getting back to work after a long break do not so soon gain the trust of employers.
I suggested freelancing to my wife. She started working on some freelancing websites as a content writer and today, happily works from home – 15 to 25 hours a week (the money hasn’t been bad either 😉 ).
She has all that she wanted. Flexible work hours, a job matching her skill set, Good earnings and an amazing spouse (blushing :D).
Though, she might not agree with me on the last point – I think she at least will agree to have flexible work hours and earning decent money through her freelancing career.
What are the most in-demand skills in Freelancing?
I will get to statistics later. Let me address this question from my personal experience.
Since most of the work happens online, the most in-demand skillset in freelancing has to be programming or coding in open source languages and platforms like LAMP, WordPress, Magento, etc.
The second most in-demand career has to be Digital marketing, Content writing and then there are other in-demand skills like virtual assistance, telecalling, etc.
As per GetSmarter, website designing, graphic designing, photography, content writing and digital marketing were the top most in-demand skills in the year 2017.
With demand, comes a huge supply of freelancers and we have a lot of them. All the countries contributing to the major chunk of freelancers are south Asian countries.
The marketplaces are flooded with freelancers looking to make easy bucks. Thereby, making it very difficult for good freelancers to stand out from others.
This brings me to the inevitable question: “How can one become a Successful freelancer?”
I mean, how do you stand out of the crowd?
There is absolutely no secret formula to succeed. If there was one, I would be the first one to consume it as I have tried to find a shortcut to become rich for years 😉 (with little or no success).
Freelancing v/s Full-time jobs
Living life as a freelancer is amazing (if the money is good). Still, freelancing has its own set of issues. Yeah…They tricked you into thinking – grass is greener on the other side.
- You will have full freedom to do whatever you like. You can create your own work calendar, you can decide your own work days – off days. You are your own boss! Now, how empowering is that?Unfortunately, It’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have all the freedom in the world. On the other, you will be living without a support where you slip a little and you will not even have a notice period to serve.
- You will be minus insurance, job security, free office coffee, free travels, etc, etc. Please forget all the perks given to you by your last company. They are all things of the past. You are better off forgetting them as now, you will be living minus all past benefits.
- You will have to live with the thought that there are going to be times when you will have no work which will be different because, in a full-time job, you got paid even when you had no work to do. Frankly speaking, it should not be such a big deal as freelancers make a lot more than their jobs. If they plan smartly, they can save for days without work.
- Your home is your office and there is nothing like it. You can just get up from the bed and start working on your laptop. Think of the invaluable time you will save that you earlier saved while commuting and getting ready for office. Okay, do not take the last point seriously….please bathe, brush and live like a normal human. Do not confuse living like a freelancer to living as a primitive man.
- There will be a lot of distractions to get away from. Its good to be your own “Boss” but have you learned to work without a boss? Do you know what it takes to be successful with no one sitting on your head? Understand this point clearly. You are not reporting to a boss now and have your own time calendar to adhere to, but do you have the discipline to keep away all the distractions?
Life as a Freelancer is fun. I have lived it and have mentored enough freelancers to know the pitfalls.
I wish you luck. May the force be with you!