As the New Year holiday draws near, you might be so focused on celebrating that your career can feel like an afterthought. That’s ok for now, but as soon as January 1st comes around, you will probably get to thinking about ways to make 2017 your best year ever. One way to do that is to make sure you are doing work that you actually enjoy. If you’re a new freelancer or a veteran in the field, there are some ways to make sure your 2017 freelance career is filled with engaging projects, new clients, and a steady paycheck. Here are some ways to breathe some new life into your freelance career this year.
1. Get Recommendations
If you’re already a freelancer with a few clients but you want more, then get your current clients to write some recommendations. Not only are they great to have on-hand when a client asks, but they can also be a big mood booster. Who doesn’t like reading good reviews of your work. It might feel awkward to ask former or current clients to send you praise on-demand, but it’s important. Those positive quotes and ringing endorsements can help you get more clients. Plus, you can incorporate them when you work on tip #2 on this list.
2. Build an Online Resume
Clients want to see freelancers that are organized and have clear track records of success. After all, they might be hiring you without ever meeting you or in some cases talking to you outside of an online platform. Help to inspire confidence in your skills by building an outstanding online resume. It’ll also save you time when you’re applying for jobs and need to recreate your work history or send samples of previous work. I also really like having an online resume because it’s so easy to update when I get a new skill or portfolio piece. Instead of needing to reformat my entire print resume to include the new information, I just add it to my digital one. While having a resume in a document format is important, it can also limit the amount of information you can include. Try building an online resume and sending the link with your next job application, I think you’ll be surprised by the positive response.
The New Year holiday often brings some reflection about the year as a whole. When you look back, which projects did you enjoy the most? Were they part of what you would consider to be your “core skillset” or were they more peripheral tasks you didn’t even know you enjoyed? Figuring out what types of work you really like doing can help you to get inspired for the upcoming year. Sit down and make a list of the projects you’ve done, and the parts you loved (you can also write the parts you hate so you can avoid those tasks in the future). If you have to wrack your brains for ANYTHING that made you happy during your project work, then tip #5 is a good way to work on that problem.
4. Learn More
There are plenty of online and in-person courses taught by experts that can help you to expand your skills. Just because you’re great in your field doesn’t mean you should let your career stagnate. Instead, find a class in a field or skill that is related to your work but not just a repeat of everything that you already know. For example, if you are a writer take a document design course. This way, when you turn in new text to clients you can also recommend the best way to present the information. Your clients will be impressed and you will become a one-stop-shop for all of their document needs. Find a way to learn new skills that will contribute to your current freelance business, and you might stumble on something you are really passionate about.
5. Do a Trial Project
If you’ve ever thought “I’d really like to try…” then do it now! Yes, you’ll be getting entry-level pay for the task, but it’s a good way to figure out if you do actually like the work. Searching for freelance projects that accept newbies to the field you are interested in will help to ensure you don’t accept a task that is way too tough for you to complete. But there is no time like the present, so you might as well give yourself a shot. If you are too nervous to actually charge for the work, then see if there are any projects you can do if your friends need help. I had always been interested in script writing but didn’t know enough about it to actually take on script work. Luckily, my friends formed a company that needed a commercial to promote it. I got my shot to try writing a script and found out I really do enjoy it (and they ended up paying me because they liked the script). Plus, your friends will usually be honest if there are improvements you can make, which will help you out when you go to charge for similar projects later.
6. Review Your Prices
Freelancers often forget that they can get raises too! How long have you been using the same rates? If you haven’t changed your prices recently, it’s time to consider if you are still being paid fairly. If you are charging a lump sum for a project that takes a lot of time and effort, consider asking the client to switch to an hourly rate. This won’t be an easy transition, and you’ll probably have to prove that you’re worth the price bump. Still, if you’re doing a great job they’ll probably be receptive to your request. If you are taking on new clients, add a few dollars to your current rate when you are negotiating. While it might not feel like much, your self-rewarded raise will start adding up.
7. Ask for More Work
If you don’t feel comfortable asking for a raise, you can always ask your clients for more work. I have gotten many projects from existing clients just by telling them I had available slots if they had more projects. Since they don’t know your current workload at any given time, lots of clients will hold off on giving you work for fear of overwhelming you or monopolizing your schedule. While considerate, this won’t get you the full workload you need. Just sending a nice message saying, “I’ve got some extra time this month, are there any extra projects I can help you with?” can open up a lot of new opportunities. Test it out with your favorite client, and you’ll start getting more of the work you love.
If your city has a local business network, then try attending an event or two. One thing you’ll need to do before going to these events is that business cards are key. You might not have the backing of a business, but being a freelancer means you’re always open for new opportunities. Networking events give you the chance to meet new potential clients and generate good buzz. A quick chat over snacks and drinks can lead to great new work.
Forget why you were passionate about your field? Then volunteer your services to get some of that inspiration back. There are plenty of charity organizations who need help with high-profile or large projects but don’t have the budget for an experienced professional. It’s always good to give back, and if you can do something you’re good at or interested that benefits the world, then that’s even better. Volunteering can be a great way to get that spark back in your current field or figure out if you could actually do your hobby professionally. If you’re a weekend photographer, volunteer to photograph an event, or if you like to play around with web design, make a website for a group that needs one. There are countless ways for you to help.
10. Redo Your Profiles
If you freelance on any platforms, it’s probably a good time to review your freelancer profile. Most people forget to update their bio after they first make it. That’s fine, you’re probably pretty wrapped up in getting jobs done, and your bio is pretty low on your to-do list. However, remember that clients are looking at it to see what your freelance skills are, and they’ll hire you if you’ve got a great bio. Review what you wrote all the way back when you signed up, and see if you can make any meaningful changes or additions.
While “new year, new you” is often a stale and overwhelming place to start making improvements, the list above isn’t so daunting. Choose an item or two to try every week, and by March you’ll have implemented a bunch concrete changes that can really help your career. Make sure 2017 is about doing work you enjoy, and you’ll find your freelance career reaching new heights!
Do you have any ways to get yourself moving in the new year? Share your tips for kicking off 2017 right with other freelancers and job seekers in the comments below!