Six Tips to Make It Through Your First Year of Freelancing
If you want to start freelancing and you’re scared, it’s understandable — you are taking a great plunge into the unknown.
However, there’s no need to worry — most freelancers earn great money, and 81% of them say it took them less than a year to get to that point. So all you need to do is survive the first year (maybe even less), and from then on, you’ll be living your dream life.
So here are some tips to get you through your first year as a freelancer.
Try to Stick to a Schedule
If you’re transitioning to freelancing from a much more traditional office job with fixed hours, you’ll have a lot of adjusting to do.
First of all, you’ll probably be working from home for the time being, so there’s no more putting on a business casual outfit every morning, commuting, and greeting your colleagues. You’ll be rolling out of your bed and onto the chair in front of your desk.
Next, no more working hours. This means you can easily get overly excited and start working at odd times of the day (or night) and even catch yourself staring at your screen for many more hours than the standard eight.
So if you don’t want your home life and work to merge into a monstrous chimaera you’ll grow to hate, you need to set up your own schedule. Try to set your working hours, at least approximately, and factor in the necessary breaks. Give yourself the structure you need to stay productive but sane.
Slash Your Expenses
Sure, there’s a good chance that one day you’ll be earning much more as a freelancer, but for the time being, you need to set realistic financial goals and budget wisely. Your income as a freelancer will be wildly unpredictable in the beginning. Until you establish yourself and get some regular clients, you’ll never know how much you’ll be able to spend each month.
Think about where your money goes and slash any “luxury” expenses. For example, you can eat out less often, refrain from impulsive shopping, and cancel any unnecessary subscriptions.
If the thought of living a more ascetic lifestyle scares or depresses you, remember that it’s only for a while. Once your business starts blooming, you’ll be able to afford it all. For now, be mindful of your future self and tighten the purse strings.
Establish a Brand
If you want to get noticed, you need to make some effort when it comes to your image. Wherever you’re promoting yourself, people need to see who you are, why you’re unique, and what you can offer.
In other words, before you start offering your services, establish your brand. Even if it’s just you, pick a name for your brand. A solid business name seems much more reliable to potential customers than First and Last Name Freelance Writer, for example.
You may even pick a logo. Of course, if you’re a designer, you should create your own logo. It’s the first thing that your prospects will notice about you.
Most importantly, create your value proposition carefully — it will be the most important thing for attracting potential clients. When you figure out your value proposition, i.e., the main reason they should hire you, it will serve as your business philosophy, which you can use everywhere to promote yourself.
Market Yourself Everywhere
As a freelancer, you may find new clients in the most unusual places. That’s why it’s important to promote your work everywhere — both online and offline.
The first and essential thing you’ll need is a website or some kind of online portfolio. You may think that a quality portfolio could cost you serious money, but there are many websites that allow you to make one for free.
Another important thing when promoting yourself is to be present on as many platforms as possible, especially social media ones. LinkedIn is a great way to connect to clients and other professionals in your field as well as get some useful advice on and insight into how to market yourself.
The point is — no matter how great you are at what you do, it’s no good if no one knows about you.
Even though establishing an online presence is vital for your success as a freelancer, nothing beats old-fashioned face-to-face networking. You need to get out there and attend as many events as you can and make sure to have professional-looking business cards with you.
Chances are, you have worked in your field for some time now, and you know plenty of people in the same branch of business. Don’t be afraid to contact some of your former colleagues and clients and ask them to put in a good word for you.
Actively reach out to people and let them spread the word for you. Those who already know how great you are at what you do are your best advocates. They can make good word travel fast.
After all, personal recommendation can kick-start your freelancing efforts as nothing else can.
Expect the Unexpected
You might have a perfect, idealized picture of your future as a freelancer, but put it aside for the time being. You need to be ready for a wild ride with many ups and downs.
The crucial thing is to try and anticipate as many obstacles as possible and to always expect the worst. Freelancers deal with all sorts of problems, from micromanaging clients to unpaid invoices. You’re likely to experience something similar at first yourself, but you shouldn’t let that discourage you.
In time, you’ll learn to deal with difficult clients, avoid scammers, and many more useful tricks that will make your work easier. However, in your first year, you should brace yourself for all sorts of challenges.
If you begin this new chapter of your life with a positive attitude, you’ll have much higher chances of surviving your first year and thriving as an independent, self-employed professional.
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