As a freelancer, you need to be both the employee and the boss. That means you choose the companies you work for, the projects you take on, and you make your own schedule. It also means you will need a business strategy to make sure everything runs smoothly. No matter what field you’re in, there are some simple ways to build your freelance career at home.
- Start Saving
Building a business from home means you will sometimes need to adjust for dry spells without a lot of projects. You’ll want to be able to focus on taking work you actually enjoy, and not desperately struggling to get contracts to pay the bills. Saving money before you lose your stable monthly paycheck will help you be less stressed later.
- Figure out Your Niche
Every career has thousands of qualified people who want to work from home. Dreaming about never having a dress code or needed to sit through endless meetings is incredibly tempting and makes freelancing a popular option. You will need to set yourself apart and give clients a reason to choose you over the competition.
- Make a Website
When you’re searching for information on a job or an employer, you probably search online first. You want to make sure they’re real and reputable. Well, employers are thinking the same thing. Giving them an easy way to find out who you are and what you can do will give you a competitive edge. Making a professional website with links to your work will give potential employers an interactive resume that showcases your skills.
- Take a Few Test Contracts
Try freelancing out before you commit to doing it fulltime. Remember to track the hours you work and the money you make from these side jobs while keeping your main source of employment. You’ll learn if you like freelancing, and more than that, what kind of income you can expect to make. It will also give you the chance to build a reputation and get recommendations for when you’re ready to go fulltime.
- Find Reputable Job Sources
The hardest thing about freelancing is finding work. There are a bunch of great websites out there that can help you find contracts. The biggest thing to remember about these sites is that they are businesses too, and they sometimes get a cut for finding you a contract. You will need to come up with a rate that accommodates for the fee you’ll pay for using these sites. Also, talking to former coworkers who have moved on to other jobs may give you new sources of freelance work. It never hurts to ask!
- Don’t Take Shady Jobs
I know this sounds simple. But I’m going to stand up and admit that recently, I got burned. I only worked for the job for one week, but I got scammed out of several hundred dollars and about 20 hours of work. If they can’t provide real business credentials or they make you wait for payment, move along! My best advice is to do a test piece of work for the company and then have them pay you. This will give you an idea of whether or not you can trust them.
- Find Long Term Contracts
For some reason, this concept eluded me for much too long. I was taking a string of one-time jobs that were done extremely quickly and I found myself pretty stressed about looking for work. Searching for jobs that will give you a steady source of income over weeks or months will help reduce your frustration and give your income some padding. As you see one contract coming to a close, you can start looking for new work. Picking up an occasional single-deliverable jobs isn’t bad, but having a few steady sources of work will help you in the long run.
- Keep a Contact List
There are plenty of times I’ve gotten jobs from circling back to ask a project manager if they needed anything else. If you’ve done good work, then it’s likely they will have more for you to do if you give them some time and then check back in.
- Keep Samples of Your Work
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me to send them samples of my projects. Keeping a file with a variety of work samples that you have permission to share will save you from scrambling to fulfill requests and make your life a lot easier. If you’ve done a great job on a specific project, ask the client if you can use the work in your portfolio. You may get some “no” answers, and you may need to redact some information. But in the end, getting some high-quality examples of your work to share will help you a lot.
- Be Ready to Be Flexible
When companies hire freelancers, it’s often because the work they need is beyond the scope of what they typically do. This means they may not really know what they need until you’re in the midst of a project. Learning to roll with changes and find the drive to try out new facets of your field will earn you a great reputation. It can also help you find new skills you never thought you could do! Try not to get frustrated when things change, project work is always a process.
There are times when freelancing will seem overwhelming and you’ll wonder why you decided to leave your cushy, stable income job for a world of self-directed chaos. Eventually, you’ll hit your stride and pick up a few regular contracts and you’ll remember that you can be your own best boss.
Anything else you’d recommend for new freelancers? Let us know what helped you the most when you started your freelance career in the comments below!