How To Be A Freelancer

How To Be A Freelancer

Freelance work can provide a sense of independence. However, it can take effort to maintain workflow as freelancers learn to market themselves to clients. Knowing who you are and who your target audience is, can help you understand how to sell your services. Freelancing also requires strong time management skills, as you will continually look for work while on the job.

By Timothy Mably

As freelance work is growing in popularity, more people are leaving traditional jobs and becoming contractors. Statista found that by 2027, it is estimated that 86.5 million people will be freelancers, making up half of the U.S. working population. Partly a result of the Great Reshuffle, employees are turning into freelancers.  

Jobs that can be done remotely are among the most frequent freelance opportunities, including many creative positions such as graphic designers, web designers, writers, editors, and photographers among others. Although a college education is usually not required, freelancers tend to have a bachelor’s degree related to their respective field.

Instead of working for one specific employer, freelancers can have the freedom to work for many different companies or individuals. In turn, freelancers become their own authority to an extent, as they take on clients at their preferred pace. 

While they have a schedule they determine on their own and have the option to be flexible, they must manage their time well between working and finding additional work. This dynamic requires organization in planning and strategically well-spent time. Unlike a typical office job, freelancers have to set their own boundaries and decide the schedule that works best with their productivity. Before anything else, a freelancer must have good time management skills

Disadvantages of Freelancing

Pay rates can fluctuate depending on the field, as they can make money hourly, daily, or for a specific product they create. For example, freelance writers can be paid per article they contribute to a site. With that in mind, stability can be an issue for some freelancers, especially those who are just starting.  

Additionally, due to plenty of competition, pay can be relatively low and require that freelancers hustle to make a decent income. This coincides with the lack of health insurance or other benefits freelancers may not be offered, as they operate outside of an organization.

Considering the financial component of freelancing, it can be perceived as a risky venture. However, there are several ways freelance writers, photographers, and more can stand out from the competition and flourish in their work.  

Marketing Yourself is Key

In a LinkedIn Learning course on freelancing, creator coach Jay Clouse says, “Whether you like it or not, freelancing means that you are running a business, and that is a totally different skill set than photography, design, development, or illustration. If you're going to freelance, you'll need to quickly get comfortable with learning to be a business owner.”

Clouse goes on to address how selling yourself might not feel natural and can be uncomfortable, especially when it comes to rejection. However, presenting your services to a potential client is key when pursuing work as a freelancer. 

Since freelancers are not represented by a company or even a team, the weight falls on them to represent themselves and appeal to clients online. For that reason, it’s important to maintain a portfolio of the work you are most proud of to share with followers. Journalists can utilize free sites such as Muck Rack or Clippings. Photographers can showcase their work on a personal website or Instagram. Many other resources exist which enable freelancers to remain independent and curate their online image. 

LinkedIn remains one of the best ways for freelancers to network and grow their connections. LinkedIn trainer and co-founder of Freelancers in Belgium, Jenny Björklöf, says that to stand out, it’s important to craft the right headline. She lists several points for its significance, as it is the first thing people will see on your profile, and can cause others to accept a request to connect. Your LinkedIn headline also has the potential to put you in more searches. “Pretend to be a potential customer or a collaboration partner. What words do they use when they look for someone like you? Or even better, ask your clients.” 

Björklöf warns that while you should be catering to a general demographic, you shouldn’t be too generic. “An easy way to stand out from your competition is by adding a meaningful description and your value proposition to your headline. Don’t just state that you are a photographer, or copywriter or an innovation consultant. Add something more.” 

"Don’t just state that you are a photographer, or copywriter or an innovation consultant. Add something more."

Instead of stating that you are a graphic designer, you should consider what a client might be looking for in a graphic designer. For instance, you might sell yourself on the ability to reinvent a company or embody their brand identity in your work. Being aware of your target audience is important for anyone selling a service, but it can have a particularly major impact in the freelance world.

Pricing Your Services

When there is overwhelming competition within your field, pricing your services might feel intimidating. While you don’t want to lose potential income, you also want to have clients who are consistently willing to pay for your work. Although you can compare price listings of other freelancers who do similar work, there are other methods that can be useful. 

Many freelancers use an hourly rate, but that can have its drawbacks as it can limit your earnings in the long run. As Clouse says, “Hourly pricing also creates a disconnect between you and your client. Hourly rates mean you'll want to work more hours, while your clients want you to get the project done as quickly as possible. And if you work efficiently and do great work quickly, you're actually penalized for it.”

In the LinkedIn Learning course, he goes on to recommend using a retainer, which is an agreement between a freelancer and a client to retain their services. This can accumulate to a monthly fee, and it can make work seem like less of a risk. It can pan out that a client who puts you on retainer doesn’t request the amount of work typically associated with their cost. Clouse also suggests value-based pricing, as opposed to an hourly rate. 

A value-based approach can be subjective based on how big a client’s profile is, and how much they will pay for your services from someone else. This takes competition into account and ensures that you are not losing money in the process.

As satisfied clients stack up over time, their testimonies can be incorporated into your website and be easily leveraged to find more work in the future. Although freelancing requires key entrepreneurial skills such as time management and self-marketing, you can flourish with a career in a field you are passionate about.

Top Takeaways

How can you become a freelancer and what does freelance work entail?

  • You must have good time management skills, as freelancers have to look for work and focus on work at the same time
  • You must know how to market yourself and stand out from the competition to attract clients
  • You must charge rates that make sense for your services and particular field

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