A Checklist Of Ten Things To Know Before Freelancing

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Working independently has become one of the biggest drivers of the ever-growing gig economy, as millions of former full-time employees are looking to hand in their resignations, and join the freelance workforce.

Driven by the prospects of having better flexibility, and increased autonomy in their daily schedules, independent and freelance workers have shown to share the same level of optimism.

In a report by McKinsey and Company, a global consulting firm, research shows that independent workers are far more optimistic about future economic prospects, compared to the average American employee. Additionally, the same research revealed that more than a third of those who participated in the survey feel that more economic opportunities will become available in the coming 12 months.

For many employees, especially those in full-time professions, the allure of working as a freelancer, or perhaps an independent contractor is now more possible due to the widespread adoption of technology, and the ever-green prospects of the gig economy.

However, opportunities to work on projects you want, and collaborate with like-minded professionals, besides your colleagues don’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. Getting to a space where you feel that your side hustles can help pay your bills requires physical and monetary investment, and above all, time and experience.

Building A Career As A Freelancer

Becoming a freelancer, and building a successful career from working as an independent contractor, requires you to understand how your responsibilities and duties will change, but also the different roles you will need to fill.

As part of the process, you will need to answer some important questions beforehand. This will help you create a roadmap going forward, and ensure that you have a long-term goal you can work towards.

For starters, ask yourself why you would want to become a freelancer. You may be enticed by the freedom and flexibility of working at your own pace, however, this requires you to manage several different projects all at once.

Furthermore, how well are you working under pressure, or constantly motivating yourself? Now that you are working by yourself, you will often need to find the motivation to complete work within a given time frame and ensure you meet your client’s deadlines.

Matthew Hart, entrepreneur and founder of Axlewise, an automotive blog says, “One of the biggest, and perhaps most important building blocks is having the confidence to take risks. You’ll never know whether or not your decision is the right one, and relying on your ingenuity, experience, and knowledge will help ensure you are making the right choices that will benefit you.”

Part of the process requires you to weigh out the pros and cons, and while at times it may not feel that you are making any progress, becoming successful will require you to trade off the comfortability of a full-time job, and perhaps other known benefits that you used to enjoy while working for someone else.

Today, it might be easier to start building a career as a freelancer, partially due to the accessibility of technology and the virtual workplace environment, yet, before taking the leap and becoming a freelancer, it’s imperative to make the right choices and have a contingency plan ready.

A Checklist For Beginner Freelancers

You might already have some of the basics covered for becoming a freelancer, however, there are instances where you will need a bit of guidance along the way.

In the following section, we will review some things any novice freelancer needs to take into consideration before taking the plunge and launching their freelance career.

Market and industry demand

As part of the process of becoming a freelancer, you will need to consider whether or not there is a demand for your services. Market trends tend to change, as consumer and business interest shifts, which is largely based on economic developments.

With this in mind, as a freelancer, you will need to make sure that you have a marketable skill, which you can sell to potential clients. Typically, there are different functional abilities, that are more technical, and often require you to have some form of formal education or training. The other category – advisory skills – will be more dependent on your level of expertise, and hands-on experience in the field.

Having marketable skills, or expertise in something that is currently experiencing high demand will help you to find your feet faster. Additionally, you can take up an extra course, or a few classes as a way to help you become more confident, but more importantly marketable to clients.

Building client relationships

Now that you are working for yourself, you will need to start building a network of potential clients. You might already have a few contacts here and there with whom you have done work in the past. However, to create a sustainable career out of freelancing, you will need to become more people-orientated and build lasting relationships with more clients.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t happen overnight, and there will be times when you might find yourself having more time on your hands than physical work. Using this opportunity, you can start looking at where you might find your next client, and how you can foster a meaningful relationship with them.

Networking is one of the best ways to build your clientele. You might find yourself working with a person or business that is highly connected with other people who might require your services. Freelancing is mostly about finding the right people to work with, but making sure you build a lasting and trustworthy relationship with your clients.

Working with finances

From the start, you need to start thinking of your freelance career as a small business. Part of running any successful, and profitable business, is knowing how to work with money and finances.

The first building block of working with finances is knowing what the current market value might be. This will help you determine how much you can charge clients and businesses for your services. Secondly, you will need to consider how much experience you have, and how efficiently you can get the work done. This will help you estimate how much you can charge clients, and to make sure you’re overcharging, or even undercharging.

Finally, as a freelancer, and microbusiness owner, you will need to control all the financial aspects of your business. Everything from income, and expenses, to filing your taxes will now rely on you. Financial administration can take up a lot of your time, however, it’s an essential part of your career, and you will often find yourself having to juggle multiple tasks outside of your comfort zone. 

Being self-disciplined

As an entrepreneur, you can set up a work schedule that suits your needs. More than this, you have the ability to choose which projects you want to work on, and how much new work you want to take on at times.

While being your own boss allows you to choose your working hours, and who you want to work with, it’s important to remember that these opportunities don’t come without being self-disciplined.

While some people may work better when they are being supervised, or told what to do, as a freelancer, you may need to have the self-motivation to look for new projects, tackle difficult tasks, and realize that from time to time you may be wearing many different hats. Being self-disciplined is what will set you apart from competitors, allow you to grow, and build a more successful career as time passes.

Setting up a portfolio

You might already have a portfolio, but in case you didn’t know, your portfolio is one of the biggest and perhaps most important selling points of your freelancing career.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you updated your portfolio, included new references, changed the design and layout, or more importantly added that successful project that helped you land other jobs?

Your portfolio is a visual representation of your skills, whether you’re a photographer, designer, software engineer, or even a writer. Make sure that you dedicate enough time and resources to create an impressive portfolio, but more importantly, that you update it as you progress.

Being forward-thinking

While you may be currently working on completing certain deadlines, or even signing off on new work, you will always need to think two, three, or even ten steps ahead. Planning for the future is one of the many tasks a freelancer needs to understand well if they are looking to become successful and build their career.

Going with the flow of things, and doing your own thing will only take you so far in your career. Instead, focus on which direction trends are growing, or how the market may be changing and evolving into new territory.

Consider the opportunities you may have, or how you can align yourself to be more versatile. This will help you overcome unforeseen challenges, and give you the chance to build a safety net. Thinking beyond right now, and where you are heading will help you align yourself with your overarching goal of becoming a more practical, and successful freelancer.

Taking everything with a pinch of salt

There will be a lot of times when you might feel like completely giving up. Not every client will be satisfied with your work, and not every project will go according to plan. At the same time, not every job you apply for will be as satisfying as the previous one or allow you to fully express your creativity.

Disappointment is part of the process, and you might feel disappointed to get back up and going again. Right from the start you will need to learn how to set boundaries, understand that one disappointing review won’t determine the road forward, and that making changes will be part of the process.

No one ever said that being a freelancer is easy, and being in control of your own work, and making your own money will definitely teach you how to be more patient with yourself, but also with others.

Learning proactive communication

Aside from being able to complete multiple projects at once, and also having to oversee the administrative tasks of your career, you will also need to be a good and thorough communicator.

Communication is key to understanding what clients want, and how you can make their project become a reality. More than this, it also allows you to voice your opinions, share insight, or even learn something new.

Being an effective and proactive communicator means that you can keep your clients informed as the project develops, and creates a two-way communication channel that ensures everyone is informed, and up to date.

While there may be a thing such as under-communicating, there’s also the possibility of over-communicating. Make sure that the message you want to get across is insightful, and carries valuable points, without overstepping boundaries, or leaving out any important elements. Being a good communicator takes time to craft, and it’s a skill every freelancer should learn or foster over time.

Saying No!

Don’t be fooled, you might find yourself taking on more work than you can handle, especially in the beginning. Never forget that you are allowed to say no, or decline any work that you won’t be able to get to at the very moment.

It’s better to say no than to disappoint a client by missing deadlines or making mistakes that will cost you both time and valuable resources.

You will need to learn to say no, and more often than you might think. When a client wants to pay you less for more work, you will need to say no. Projects will take up all your time, for minimum return? Say no. Does someone want you to make changes or improvements to something without compensation? Say no!

There will be countless times where you will need to say no, for many different things. The sooner you become aware of these things, the easier it will be for you to free up your time, and focus on the work that directly contributes to your freelancing career.

Asking for help

We all love being perfectionists, and as a freelancer, you want to ensure that the product or service you deliver is in line with the standards you have promised your clients. However, when things become overwhelming, and you begin to lose track, you will need to let go of your pride and reach out to someone you can trust.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help, whether this may be for professional or personal reasons. Asking a friend or another professional to help you out will help you get things back on track again. Make sure to set boundaries for yourself, and communicate this with your clients.

The bottom line is, that there may be times when you feel like everyone and everything is against you. In these instances, make sure you have a lifeline to reach out to or someone who can help advise you or simply give you the answers you may have been looking for all this time. Asking for help is normal, and you will be surprised how often you begin to do it once you’ve become comfortable with the idea of being a full-time freelancer.

Closing Thoughts

We get that being a freelancer isn’t for everyone, however, for those who may be looking to take on a new challenge, or ready to plunge themselves into a completely new direction of their professional career, freelancing could be their next big move.

While there’s a lot we can learn from other seasoned professionals, it’s best to get a clear understanding of the type of person you are, how you deal with difficult situations, work under pressure, and how self-motivated you may be.

The more you know about yourself, within a professional capacity, the easier you will know what type of freelancer you may turn into. Give yourself time, and remember, that nothing ever happens overnight, and you will sooner or later you will begin to reap the benefits thereof.