5 Tips for Starting Your Freelance Career

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The freelance economy is growing, pushed in part by the pandemic and quarantines. Freelancers are more in demand than ever, with an increasing number of employers willing to and even preferring to hire independent contractors.       There are many benefits to working this way, namely flexibility. A freelance career allows you to choose your projects, hours, and pay. Of course, transitioning from a standard job to a career freelancing can be overwhelming. Ensure you understand the basics of freelancing and take advantage of resources and advice from people already working independently.   Connect with Other Freelancers   Networking is essential to most careers, but it is even more important when you have to hustle to get work. Connecting to other freelancers is a great way to find job leads and new projects, but it can also provide invaluable resources as you begin your new career. Find freelancing groups online, on social media pages, and in real life in your community. These seasoned professionals can give you advice on getting started. You may find a mentor to help you along the way and eventually be able to connect with and assist other up-and-coming freelancers in the future.   Establish Your Brand   Companies use their brands to attract work and customers. Freelancers can do the same. Having a strong brand sends a message to potential clients. It tells them who you are, what you can do, and what to expect when working with you. A brand makes you a known entity rather than a wild card. Building a brand from scratch as an individual is not a simple task, but it’s worth your efforts. Try these professional tips for building your brand:   Do some market research to find your niche and your target audience. Your research should also look at competitors, what they offer, and how they brand themselves. Develop a personality. Will your brand be playful, serious, trendy, creative, etc.? Create a name, logo, and other design elements to match your chosen personality and niche. Be consistent with your brand. Keep it in mind for every email, social media post, job pitch, and other communication you make. Work with a professional reputation management company if you have some skeletons in your online closet. They can help remove negative posts, reviews, and comments to solidify the desired image of your brand.   A brand isn’t always essential for freelancing, but it can set you apart. Clients will be more drawn to a brand they recognize and trust than an unknown.   Make Yourself Visible   Without the support of a known company behind you, it’s up to you to increase your visibility. There are several ways to do this; starting with a website is one of the best first steps. Everything else you do should point back to a clear, branded, and effective website. Also important is social media. Build your brand’s platform on all the essential sites: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. As a freelancer, you can utilize these sites for free brand-building, marketing, and networking. Make sure everything you do on these sites is professional and consistent with your brand message. While social media is essentially free, it does require upkeep and effort. To create a meaningful presence, post valuable, targeted content regularly. Connect with influencers in your industry, share their content, and engage with followers.   Try Everything Once   Freelancing can be feast or famine. Don’t expect to have steady, consistent work of your choosing, at least initially. During those lean times, be willing to try new opportunities. Try a job you’re not sure about doing. If it works out, you have a new skill or niche to offer to clients. If it doesn’t work, you don’t have to do it again. The same goes for learning opportunities. Try out free webinars and training sessions to learn new skills or to network with a group you don’t yet know. These can lead to new connections and the chance to offer additional services to your clients.   Don’t Work for Free   It can be tempting to get your feet wet and gain experience by doing projects without pay. Those offering no-pay opportunities claim your work will open doors and help you network, but most are simply looking for free labor. Doing work for free sets a bad precedent and devalues your time and skills. An exception may be to do a project for a non-profit or a charity you support. This can help you build your brand and provide sample work as you hunt for new jobs.   Taking the Plunge   Starting a freelance career can be a risk, but it can also lead to big rewards. You may want to start doing it in your spare time as you keep your regular job. This is a safer way to get started, but ultimately, if you believe in your abilities and want a freelance career, take the plunge.