A freelancing career can be an attractive prospect.
It allows you to be your own boss and make operational decisions based on your individual needs and goals. In addition, freelancing has become more accessible in the last several years. The rise of effective remote working tools, in particular, has boosted the ability of talented professionals around the world to work for themselves. In fact, Zippia reports that around one-third of U.S. workers are freelancers in some capacity.
That said, this doesn’t mean your planned shift to freelancing is guaranteed to be successful. Alongside its many benefits, a freelance career path can be challenging. The accessibility of such roles can also result in a great deal of competition, too. It’s vital to commit some time, research, and energy to taking steps that can set you up for freelance success.
Get to Know the Challenges
Freelancing can offer some fulfilling opportunities to explore projects you’re interested in. Not to mention that the flexibility can be a potential boost to your quality of life. However, that’s not to say that it’s always going to be plain sailing. Gaining an understanding of the challenges involved with freelancing can help you to better plan to address these before they become problematic.
In general, some of the primary challenges freelancers face include:
- Inconsistent income compared to a regular 9-5 job;
- A sense of isolation where freelancing involves primarily working from home;
- Juggling administrative tasks alongside the core role, including invoicing and marketing;
- A lack of structure may result in the tendency to overwork, risking burnout.
In addition to the general challenges, there may also be some specific to the type of freelancing or industry you’re entering. For instance, animation and games development can be notorious for crunch culture, in which workers are expected to work excessive hours to meet tight deadlines. It’s important to do your research and understand the nuanced challenges of your freelancing field.
Such challenges aren’t necessarily insurmountable or a reason not to freelance. Self-discipline, planning, and problem-solving can help you to address them. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of these elements so that you can make more informed decisions about the reality of freelancing.
Plan Your Transition Period
Full-time employment and freelancing are very different experiences. Making an immediate leap from one to the other without effective preparation is rarely recommended. This can see you struggle to navigate new challenges or experience additional forms of stress. The result tends to be that you don’t necessarily give yourself the start that can set you up for long-term success.
Instead, it’s important to take some time to plan the transition from your 9-5 to self-employment. You may be able to better cope with initial financial uncertainty by assessing your potential needs early and putting aside some savings for several months or even years. Be realistic, too, about the workload you’re likely to be able to manage in your early months. Develop schedules that allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
You might even find it helpful to plan a softer transition. See whether you can start freelancing as a side hustle in addition to your current job, so you can build up some clients. Alternatively, you could reduce your full-time work hours, committing the rest of the time to your independent work. This means you can rely on a certain amount of money coming in until you’re ready to make the complete switch.
Gain New Skills
With most freelance roles, your skills are the primary element you’re selling to clients. Gaining valuable new skills gives you an edge over the growing number of freelancers you’re competing with.
You can use eLearning resources to gain additional technical skills in areas relevant to your freelancing activities. For instance, if you’re planning to work in marketing, video editing, or user experience (UX) development, you may find it useful to take an online course in graphic design. By learning about essential concepts such as typography, balance, and color theory from experienced professionals, you can gain knowledge that will make you more attractive to potential clients.
In addition to technical skills, it’s also important to focus on learning about areas that support your day-to-day life as a freelancer. This could include developing better interpersonal communication abilities. You might also find it helpful to take a course or watch a video tutorial on basic accounting, which enables you to better manage your freelancing as a business.
One of the difficulties of moving from full-time work to freelancing is the loss of structure. Most businesses have solid systems in place that keep everyone on track, productive, and efficient. When you become a freelancer, you may not immediately have this supportive framework in place. It’s essential to stay organized so you can maintain productivity at work and have a healthy work-life balance. Prioritizing tasks, avoiding multitasking, and taking breaks when you need to can all go a long way to helping you stay on track.
You can also create a clear and accessible filing system. Make physical or digital folders for each client and your administrative elements, such as tax records. Create a simple naming standard for files that you can apply consistently. This means that you can easily and quickly access required documents as and when you need them. It also tends to make administrative work less stressful.
You might also find it useful to adopt a project management software platform into your workflow. Card-based systems, such as Asana and Trello, enable you to maintain full visibility of the tasks you must complete and the deadlines for each. This means you can make responsible decisions about how you schedule your week to attend to your task priorities, minimizing errors that can lead to overworking.
Perform Regular Outreach
Being a freelancer is closer to running a business than being an employee. You need to frequently spend time identifying prospects, reaching out to them, and pitching your services. This isn’t just about making sure you have a new client ready when a project ends. It can also diversify your income, so you’re not overly reliant on a single source. Not to mention that your efforts can help you gain more lucrative contracts as your experience grows.
Start by regularly performing market research. Look for news stories in your industry to identify new projects businesses are embarking on that your skills may be relevant for. Connect with your professional network to discuss potential leads or recommendations. Talk to previous clients about their upcoming needs, or consider pitching new projects to them.
In addition to reaching out to clients directly, you should also maintain a website that you can utilize for marketing purposes. Host promotional videos and other content that highlight you as an expert in your field. Create a portfolio gallery that shows up-to-date examples of your work in a variety of niches, industries, and styles. This last element can be particularly useful for sending links to prospects based on the most relevant portfolio for their needs.
Setting yourself up for freelance success requires careful consideration. Get to know the challenges you may face and take the time to plan a gentle transition from your 9-5. Gain new skills that are relevant to your target industry and adopt strong organizational habits. Remember that you’re running a business, so you’ll need to perform regular outreach to find new clients.
Alongside these components, you should also bear in mind that the freelance landscape is constantly changing. New tools, practices, and even roles emerge over time. You can positively impact your success by staying on top of these developments. Incorporate them into your practices in ways that benefit your clients and, ultimately, your business.