Everything You Need To Know Before Starting A Freelancing Career
“Wouldn’t it be great if I had the means to earn some extra cash in my free time?”
I still remembered sending out the invoice for my first job as a freelancer. It was exciting to see the money finally being credited into my account. While a freelancing career offers you total control over your work life, there are a few things I wished I knew before starting out as a freelancer.
To give you a little bit of context, I have been freelancing as a content writer while I am studying for my professional course over the past two years.
1. You need to always have a plan.
The freelancing field can be incredibly saturated and it can be hard for you to stand out and differentiate yourself from other freelancers on various freelancing platforms. Before starting a freelancing career, here are a few things to consider:
- The type of product or services you will provide – It helps if the product or service that you are providing is something you are passionate about. Your personal identity will help you to build your personal brand and unique selling point which helps you to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
- Pricing – The amount you want to charge for the product or service you are providing. It goes hand in hand with the value you are able to provide and also what is the market rate for the existing product or service.
- The level at which you are able to commit – You should ask yourself if you want to do this on the side on top of your studies/full-time job or venture into entrepreneurship to truly kickstart your freelancing business.
- Your budget – As a freelancer, it is best to kick-start your freelancing venture with low-cost or free options to minimise expenses when you are starting out your freelancing career. This includes to the manner in which you approach clients and the platform on which to showcase your work.
- A deadline – This deadline would be the cut-off point for you to decide if you want to venture into a freelancing career on a full-time basis or pursue other options.
2. Freelancing can be uncertain and unstable.
Unlike a regular employee who receives a fixed and steady paycheck on a monthly basis, freelancers are reliant on the payment they receive upon completing a certain number of projects. This can be demotivating as your income is directly dependent on the amount of effort you put into your freelancing career.
A great way to overcome this is by having a diversified stream of income so that you are not completely reliant on the payment you receive as a freelancer if your clients do not provide you with any business opportunities.
Personally, I find that my student status allowed me to comfortably explore freelancing on a relatively small scale whilst I was still studying for my professional exams. Furthermore, I was lucky to meet clients who have provided me with a regular amount of work.
3. Self-discipline is key.
As a freelancer, you are your own boss. As much as we strive for work-life balance, you are more likely to work 24/7 as a freelancer since you are not tied down to regular working hours like an employee. While it presents an opportunity to control your time, it can be hard to stick to a routine if you lack self-discipline (don’t worry, I was guilty of this and suffered from severe burnout).
To achieve optimal efficiency, it is important to craft a routine that allows you to work and rest well. Once you developed a routine, your body naturally knows how to set healthy boundaries with your work thus enabling you to pursue both your professional and personal interests as a freelancer.
Personally, I use Notion (a project management and note-taking tool) to identify the status of the project I am working on by visualising the deadlines I have to meet for the week. It also allows me to schedule time for a quick snack break or a walk in the park!
4. You have to be a strong communicator.
While you have the ability to turn off your camera or mute yourself during team meetings at work, it is so important to cultivate strong communication skills as a freelancer. Being a strong communicator not only puts you in a place where you are able to negotiate with your clients (especially the difficult ones), but it will also help you in building your personal brand.
One of the scariest things I had to deal with as a freelancer would always be negotiating the price for a project. Being an introvert, I was always afraid of charging the right amount that reflected my value; hence I tended to price my services a little lower to secure a particular client.
Over time as I built my portfolio and had enough experience, I became more confident in talking to and maintaining meaningful relationships with my clients.
5. Constantly cultivate a network.
Networking is another part of the freelancing game. To me, the art of networking is the craft of building and cultivating professional relationships with other individuals. In your freelancing career, there are usually two types of people you should have in your professional network:
- Budding freelancers in your niche – These are the best people you should have within your niche! They are your tribe – the people you can confide in when you are struggling in your freelancing career and also people you could refer to if a particular freelancing gig is not right up your alley. Chances are, someone else in your freelancing network would be able to do so (and are more likely to return the same favour to you too).
- Clients – Most of the clients I met as a freelancer came from my LinkedIn network. Having a good working relationship not only helps you to tackle difficult conversations like pricing, but they also help to give you a steady source of work so you wouldn’t have to find new clients as frequently. This provides you with some form of stability as a freelancer.
Whether you are a budding freelancer or an established one, there is always something to learn in your freelancing journey. The list does not cover everything about a freelancing career but should be enough for you to kickstart your journey as a freelancer.
Like any freelancer out there, the most important advice you can take away is to start. If you don’t take that first step, you’ll never know if you are going to succeed.