Have you always dreamed of working for yourself? Perhaps you’ve tried your hand at the gig economy and love the flexibility of setting your own hours and taking time off for important life events without worry of losing your job. The internet is filled with freelancing tips for beginnings, but sometimes they overlook the importance of the little things.
Some roles are better suited for freelancing than others. For example, graphic designers, web designers, developers and artists all fit well into the freelance model. You might even work for a company at the moment but would rather build something that’s all yours.
Freelancing isn’t an easy job. You have to be disciplined, have multiple skill sets and know how to run a business. Gathering freelancing tips for beginners is a great place to start before you strike out on your own.
How Do I Begin Freelancing?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 155 million wage and salary earners in the United States. Approximately 36% of the workforce is part of the gig economy if you factor in the number of working adults versus how many aren’t in salary or wage-based positions. Those skills can include anything from programming to marketing to consulting to delivery services, such as DoorDash and Instacart.
You might wonder how people take the leap and jump into freelancing as a full-time career. You must have a certain mindset, but you can also make some preparations to create a more favorable environment for success.
Save an Emergency Fund
Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. While that might be a bit extreme, you should prepare for the worst. You quit your cushy salary position and start your new freelance design business. The next day, your car breaks down, eating into your savings.
Make sure you have enough money to get through six months to a year of expenses plus any emergencies that might arise. Worst case scenario, your business fails and you pick up some work until you can try again.
Conduct Market Research
Spend time looking at the competition in the area. How much demand is there for your services? Can you offer something unique the other providers can’t?
Know who your target audience is and what their pain points are. The more you know, the easier it will be to find your customers when you branch out into freelancing.
One of the best freelancing tips for beginners is to work your connections. Before you open your freelance company, do a few freebies for local charities or friends. Gather examples and testimonials. You’ll also be able to ask for referrals.
Most initial jobs come from family and friends. They will tell others you build websites or write content or create logos. Word-of-mouth is a powerful form of marketing.
Approximately 83% of consumers say a personal recommendation from someone they know makes them more likely to buy from a company. The person can even be someone they meet in passing. They are more likely to believe peers than anything you can say about your own work.
Top Freelancing Tips for Beginners
Are you mentally prepared for the ups and downs of gig work? Freelancing tips for beginners can help you overcome some of the struggles newbies face. However, you’ll still have dry spells without new clients, people not paying invoices or a difficult customer who isn’t happy with anything you do.
Once you feel you can stay motivated through the roller coaster ride of freelance work, check out these tips to build momentum:
1. Learn Basic Accounting
One of the top reasons for business failure is cash flow issues. Around 33% of small business owners said cash flow was their biggest challenge. If you want to make sure money isn’t an issue when growing your new business, you must get a handle on where your money is, what’s going out, what’s coming in and how you spend it.
Get in the habit of inputting receipts and receivables as soon as they hit your desk. If you don’t have time to do it, look into hiring a freelance bookkeeper to handle the work for you.
2. Define S.M.A.R.T. Goals
If you want to succeed as a freelancer, you must set some excellent goals and stick to them. However, you can’t just throw something out there, such as “I want to make a million dollars this year.” Your goals must make sense to where you are with your business, the market and be relevant.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that helps you set achievable goals that will spur you on to success. The letters stand for:
Freelancing tips for beginners often state to set goals, but the way you set them makes a big impact on how many times you achieve those objectives.
3. Set Your Rates
Part of your market research should have shown you how much others in your area charge for the same services. In addition to knowing the going rate for your freelance work, you must sit down and consider what you need to make per hour to justify working for yourself.
Ideally, you will make more freelancing than you did working for a company. However, our best freelancing tips for beginners include not settling for less than you deserve. If you can go up to the local fast food restaurant and make more per hour than you make designing for clients, something needs to change.
4. Review Your Client List
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you probably have clients who’ve been with you from the beginning. These customers can be pure gold, referring others and cheering you on. Unfortunately, they can also be your worst time drain, demanding more and more for lower pay.
You likely did early gigs at a lower rate and you may hate to raise costs for those people who supported you. As you grandfather them in, think about how much of your time they take. Do they call every day and text you nonstop? If so, you may be making 18 cents an hour. Freeling them gives you time to land additional clients and removes a lot of aggravation from your life.
5. Create a Work/Life Balance
You’ve likely heard of the Great Resignation occurring since the pandemic hit. People no longer want to live all their waking hours working. They want better pay, benefits and time with family and friends. The Great Resignation may even be the reason you want to freelance.
In the United States, there are approximately 11.3 million open positions, with a voluntary quit rate 25% higher than prepandemic. However, it doesn’t benefit you to quit your job, open your own company and work around the clock.
Set some firm boundaries about work hours and private hours. Don’t answer the phone, emails or do business outside your typical schedule.
More Freelancing Tips for Beginners and Experienced Professionals
As technology changes, new ways of freelancing will appear. Ten years ago, people didn’t use apps such as Lyft and DoorDash like they do today. Sites such as UpWork and Fiverr were still growing. You had fewer ways to reach new clients via social media opportunities.
Stay open to the changes and try new things with your freelance business. Over time, you’ll see what works for your specific business model and what needs tweaked. Determination and working smarter instead of harder goes a long way toward building a successful freelance career.