Since I made a start at freelancing work, it has been a gamechanger for me in the last two years. Now I’m regularly asked how to start freelancing work by others. It’s a strange scenario; I’ve always been a company man, trying to climb the corporate ladder for more than ten years. So I never had the idea of working for myself.
At the same time, freelancing could be a stressful experience. You could sometimes find yourself in a scarcity mindset, thinking about how many clients you need to pay rent or medical bills.
It can quickly turn into a hustle with you on a neverending treadmill that burns you out. Or you can start earning thousands but have a pair of golden handcuffs — you have all this money but no time to spend it and demanding clients.
Freelancing could be a career too. The only thing is the freelancer must take ownership in crafting the role, lifestyle, and even the benefits they receive for hard work. Frustration and burnout come when we work haphazardly without thinking about the future.
Remember, when you start freelancing, the goal is to work on your terms, work with people you enjoy, on things you enjoy, and manage your career. If you’ve been freelancing for a while and you haven’t started to think about crafting a career, it’s time to do it. Here are ten steps on how to help you start your freelancing work and turn it into career.
1. Take note of the parts of the work you love most
When we’re freelancing, our goals usually surround getting the work done in the fastest time possible. The more we can do, the more money we can make, regardless of the rate.
Sometimes, we miss the good parts of freelance work. We even have selective attention towards the negative things about freelancing like extended hours or demanding clients.
We can recall why we started freelancing in the first place. But what about the work itself that makes it worthwhile? Even if it’s work we’re not excited about doing, there are positives we can draw from it. For example, we may like the research process or being creative when designing websites.
Start taking note of the things you love best. Then look for ways you can do more. People that succeed in their careers find a lane that inspires or pleases them. Freelancers should take some time to do the same.
2. Hire help early. It saves you time and earns you more money
Just because you’re a freelancer, does not mean you have to do it alone. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll soon realize you have more work than you can handle.
However, there are still other parts of your job or life that need attention. Or, if you want to grow, you just won’t have the time to pitch and prospect. We have to spend money to buy back our time and make more money. That’s why we’re hired as freelancers, after all. Clients are buying back their time.
Hire a VA to help with essential tasks you just can’t get to. In some cases, you can even hire another freelancer to help you with the workload. It’s a great feeling to be able to work with a clearer mind.
3. Track your expenses and learn about taxes
Most freelancers are working with bills and other demands looking over our shoulders. Finances should be top of mind. Track your expenses and look for ways to build savings. It’s a liberating feeling to work without the stress of finances. It helps you create better work.
As I’ve been learning the hard way recently, start addressing your tax situation now. In your country, taxes always catches up with you. Learn about how it applies to freelancers and how you can benefit.
4. Know when to switch off
We often wear long hours as a badge of honor. But we do so at the expense of friendships, relationships, networking, and our hobbies. The advantage of working a 9–5 is the ability to clock in and clock out.
Yes, if we work more, we earn more, even at high hourly rates. But to what end? I’ve been struggling with this recently, as my goals have increased, and I’ve spent more time working at the expense of family and friends.
Nothing is wrong with a powerful work ethic. However, would that extra hour be worth spending time with your family? What would a future version of yourself think if she saw you chose more work over family? Set some work hours and stick to it. Taking time to unwind and interact puts you in a great headspace to start working again.
5. Would YOU hire YOU to do that work?
When I was starting, I can’t recall the number of times I’ve applied for a job that just was not a good fit. I knew deep down I didn’t want to do it, but the money looked good, or the work looked easy.
Building a great, stress-free freelance career comes down to the quality of work. Take yourself out of every work situation. Would you hire yourself to do the job?
If the answer is no, it’s best to walk away for your sanity.
6. Spend time making your clients’ lives better. You’ll be handsomely rewarded for it
Recently, I was able to bring some reliable SEO freelance writing results to a client. As a result, we re-negotiated our rate so I can do more of the same. It’s ironic because I was looking to add a new client. All I needed to do was to exceed expectations.
If you have a core contingent of freelance clients that you like working with, one of the best things you can do is go out of your way to make their lives better. How can you make or save them more money? What other skills can you do — for free — to create a fantastic experience?
If you can make them more money, and show it, you’ll be paid more money. If you can’t, you can leverage your hard work to find other clients that would pay you handsomely. You can’t lose going the extra mile.
7. Find freelance friends
There are no watercoolers to chat next to when you’re freelancing. It can be a lonely road. Even introverted freelancers need to work on connection. Find a freelance community where you can learn, interact, and make lifelong friends.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth
You’re not hiring me to push the buttons. You’re hiring me to know which buttons to push.
One of the most frustrating things about a traditional job is the inability to scale your income. Your hourly rate won’t change (unless you have overtime) unless you change jobs, and even then, it won’t change much.
Freelancers can have a fulfilling career by charging the right rates for their services. The better they get, the more they can charge.
At the same time, many freelancers are afraid of asking for what they’re worth, even with specialized skills. You’re assuming all the risk by working for yourself. Make sure to ask for and charge what you’re worth.
9. Start broad if you have to but land on a narrow niche
Nothing is more stressful than doing projects you do not want to do. Freelancers can often find themselves working on projects that don’t fulfill them. It’s fine at first, especially if you’re trying to get your feet wet. But it’s imperative that you find 1–2 lanes that you enjoy. You have a more enjoyable freelance career and can start being recognized as a subject matter expert.
10. Build-in small rewards and incentives
Don’t be afraid to reward yourself for all your hard work. You may not have a boss, but that’s a good thing. You can now be the boss you always wanted — Pat yourself on the back. Make sure to allocate money to get yourself something for your hard work. It does not need to be grand, but it’s good to see some physical manifestation of your labor. That can also encourage you to earn more so you can do and have more of the things you enjoy.
Freelancing is not for the faint of heart. It can be lonely, the pay ebbs and flows, and we can place a lot of pressure on ourselves. But we can also craft a fantastic career. We need to be intentional with the steps we take. What would be the ideal working situation? What would make a remarkable freelancing career? Start from there and reverse-engineer that dream career. Start freelancing work today, and create that dream career tomorrow.