13 Tips To Becoming A Successful Freelancer

Do you love to write? Have you ever dreamed of turning your passion into a full time career? Just imagine waking up in the morning excited by what the day had in store and the numerous projects just waiting for you to sink your teeth into and enjoy. Making the jump to full-time freelancer can be a scary move but sometimes you just have to brave the unknown and have faith that everything will work out for the best.

Types of Freelance Writing Services

As little as two years ago I made the decision to become a full-time freelancer. I knew that I wanted my life to be much more than the daily 9-5 grind and I had decided to bite the bullet and just go for it! It has been a wild rollercoaster ride since then but now I stand here before you as an integral part of the awesome SEJ team. I also write, edit and consult for small business brands such as Hard Rock Cafe, Travelodge and Best Western. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I could be so successful doing what I love but here I am and I love it. You can do it too! Go freelance and never look back!

1. Start Small

You’ve got to get your feet wet and build a portfolio. Laying the groundwork early on can add immeasurable value to your future endeavors.  Before you make the jump to full-time it’s important to build a solid foundation. Using your weekends and evenings to cultivate a starter portfolio will help add credibility to your work and give you a taste of what employers are looking for. When I began my journey, I combed through sites such as Up work, Prolonger and Freelancer for small jobs that could help me find my footing in the freelance world. Begin with what you know and write content that reflects the field you’re in or that you’d like to move towards. You never know who is watching or in this case reading and there’s always the possibility that your work as an amateur can lead to innumerable referrals as a professional.

2. Do Not Work for Cheap—or at Least Not Too Cheap

Begin small but don’t stay small! Getting exposure means that you must put yourself out there and show what you can do. Sometimes this looks like working for less for the purpose of gaining that crucial experience. A word to the wise, work for less but not for free. One to three portfolio pieces shall suffice when you’re starting out. You want to give prospective clients a taste of what you have to offer and then once you’ve got the ball rolling, esteem yourself on par with other writers at their pay grade. You have a lot to offer to the world of professional writers and you must value yourself by setting your worth from the onset.

3. Niche it Down

Creating a niche for yourself is much like throwing on that signature scarf that has come to be known as your mark, your fashion style, the one thing that sets you apart from the crowd. Discovering exactly what your niche is can be half the fun! Now you may need to go down a few dark alleys before you realize exactly where your path lies. However, if you’ve got the patience and wear-with-all to manage the bumps along the way, you’ll discover a particular style that is uniquely yours.

The added benefit of honing in on one specific area is that you become a relative expert in your chosen field.  It can take time to discover just where you fit in but once you’ve got a handle on exactly what feels right you’ll find that doors you never knew were there will magically open for you.

4. Do Your Research

Research counts! You really need to know your industry inside and out!

If you’re thinking to become a small business social media consultant, then it’s imperative that you immerse yourself in the field.  Delve into every facet of what small business owners are facing in this day and age and ask as many questions as possible.

What types of services should you be offering? What goals do small businesses have? What types of marketing plans are small businesses leaning towards and how can you incorporate this into your own business model? These are some of the questions you might think to ask yourself and others.

Social media is a fantastic place to broadcast your small business. But if you’re going to market yourself as a consultant with expertise on the industry, then you must have the research to support your claim right at your fingertips!

5. Get Professional

In the beginning business cards were the order of the day. Any well-established professional would keep a stack in their pocket to distribute to prospective clients. Since then we have evolved. What once was a business card has transformed into a website. Professionalism mandates that you must possess a website or a small portfolio posted on another website. This adds credibility to your product or service in the eyes of the general public. Gone are the days of looking through the yellow pages to find goods are services. Now any potential customer can simply type a request into a search engine and voila they have a slew of companies to pick from. Therefore, a website is fundamental in establishing your business and creating a solid marketing campaign.

6. Create a Client Intake Process

Developing systems that support your business can only serve to add value and credibility to your service. Creating a client intake process will help you manage your clientele and will showcase your professionalism to prospective new clients. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a newly established entrepreneur, your website must seek to impress and inspire trust in your customers. Your consumers need reassurance that they are putting their money and faith in the right hands.

Web designers can be fantastic resources upon which to draw support for these particular situations. They can assist you to map out a plan and implement effective tools such as mood boards on Pinterest or Google Docs to keep contracts and other research organized.

The appearance of professionalism is paramount.  How you are perceived can make or break how effective your business becomes. You can never underestimate the value of a well-organized and systematic approach to website design so put the effort into the processes and the processes will pay off for you in the end!

7. Network!

Networking is alive and well in this digital age. Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have completely changed the face of marketing. Making connections is just as important as it’s ever been for the success of a small business. However, the landscape has changed drastically. You need to know how to navigate the terrain in order to get over the mountain and successfully launch your freelance enterprise. Be helpful, real, authentic and generous when seeking to establish an online business relationship. Your efforts will be appreciated!

A suggestion or two can always point you in the right direction. Tips to help you establish connections.

  • You might want to look towards Facebook groups built around books or podcast that you love.
  • LinkedIn will allow you to search for groups related to your industry and that’s always a good place to begin.
  • Posting insightful and thoughtful comments on sites such as Quora or your favorite blogs can readily get you noticed.
  • Email people within your field that inspire your admiration
  • Reach out to influencers on media sites such as Twitter

8. Figure Out Your Tax Situation

The tax man cometh and the tax man goth no matter what work you do!

Taxes are a part of life and you needn’t be scared of them. You may need to do a little homework and research in the beginning to determine just exactly how much you need to set aside. However, once you’ve got the hang of it, it’ll just become part of your daily life. Embrace the change and you’ll discover that it’s never as hard as you once imagined.

Now as a starting point, it’s a good idea to set aside approximately 30% of your earnings for those nasty taxes. As I’m not a professional in this arena, you may wish to consult the IRS website to get a more accurate estimate on applicable taxes. TurboTax and H&R Block can also be helpful in the process.

Fear comes in many forms and taxes is just another way it appears. Conquer your taxes, conquer your fears and just do it! You won’t regret it!

9. Get A Handle on the Fear

Fear is a natural response to the unknown. It’s important to expect them and manage them effectively. In order to do this, you need to know exactly what your fears are. Take a piece of paper and write down everything that scares you about becoming a full-time freelancer. You can’t effectively challenge your fears until you know what they are.

For me it was the fear of not making enough money to survive that had me paralyzed. I had to face this fear head on and come up with a viable real-life solution that took the pressure off. In my case it was thinking of the worst case scenario. If I didn’t make enough money at the game, I needed to know how I was going to pay my bills. The solution just readily popped to the surface. I had been a waiter for many years prior to being employed full-time and if worse came to worse I could fall back on this skillset to supplement my income if necessary.

When pushed to the wall, there is always a way. You too can find the solutions to your fears but you can’t be afraid to try! Perhaps our greatest fear is that we are more powerful than we know! Have a little faith and put your fears to the test!

10. Learn to Recognize a Red Flag Client

It takes all types! Clients come in all shapes and forms. Some you’ll enjoy working with yet others can have you running for the hills and pulling every last hair out on your head. The trick is to recognize the characteristics early on and avoid unnecessary hardship. Problem clients are easy to spot once you get used to the signs. They are those clients that constantly haggle on each and every point of a contract or who can’t readily commit to a start date. Perhaps they are rude from the get go, condescending and difficult. However, they show up for you, you’ll learn to pay attention to the knot in your stomach when you just happen to see their email address pop up on your screen.

For these occasions you’ll want to develop a go-to catch-phrase that you can easily send off to politely decline the opportunity to work with these individuals. Now you can be creative with your replies but here’s a quick example to get you started:

At this time, I’m afraid I will not be able to effectively accommodate your needs. Thank you very much for considering me but perhaps another freelancer might be better suited to assist you in your goals.

Some clients are more trouble than they’re worth and you are well within your rights as a freelancer to pass on projects and clients that will be cause of frustration and turmoil for your business.

11. Learn to Say No

Being your own boss has it’s perks. You get to set your own schedule, determine your work hours and pick ONLY those projects that speak to you directly.  As an entrepreneur it’s tempting to dive into every project full throttle. However, it’s not always to your advantage. Sometimes your skill set is not quite the right fit for a project or the prospect of working with a particular client may be too much of a burden to bear.

What you really need to determine ahead of time is which types of projects you’re willing to take on. You’ll learn to follow your gut in these circumstances. When you’re finding yourself excited to begin a project than you’re heading in the right direction. There may be times that you need to take on a few pieces that are less than favorable just to pay the bills but at the end of the day it is your choice and you have the right to pick and choose what works for you.

12. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Referrals

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to elicit business and referrals are a vital component of making this tactic successful.  Don’t be afraid to ask for praise. While this might feel awkward in the beginning it will ultimately lead you to a more profitable future. Perhaps you might think to set up a Facebook page and invite clients to like, comment and share their experiences with your organization. Another option is to compose a generic email and send it to all current and former clients.  Perhaps it might go something like this:

I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with you throughout the course of your project and if there’s anything else you need feel free to contact me for additional help. If you feel my services have been helpful would you kindly keep me in mind if your friends/colleagues are looking for similar work. I would greatly appreciate it!

Be forward and to the point and you’ll be surprised at what comes back to you!

13. Just Do It

Much like having children, there will never be a right time to make it happen. There is no such thing as a perfect set of circumstances when all aspects of life align to make the transition to full-time freelancer seamless and easy. You must expect the element of fear and fight back ferociously with drive and desire. Sometimes in life the journey is just as important as the destination and for these situations you must feel the fear and do it anyways. The rewards of making your passion your life’s work will completely outweigh any struggles and obstacles you face. Just do it! A world of writing awaits!