Let’s face it: freelancing has become more popular than ever with more people discovering its benefits by the minute. The prospect of an optimal life-work balance that has become wishful thinking in our day and age is alluring to many people (and well it should be!).
However, before you declare freelancing is your salvation, you should know a thing or two about additional costs, taxes, health insurance and finding a steady inflow of jobs.
Luckily, all of these can be solved, but you’ll need a good plan, a great portfolio, lots of customer feedback and (most importantly) patience.
Freelancing: Sole Income Source or an Added Bonus?
- Going Solo
Freelancing can be either a source of additional income or a full-time occupation. Different freelancers choose different options, and there are pros and cons to both options.
The usual mistake new freelancers make is thinking that setting up an online shop will solve all their financial worries for as long as they live. The number of people who have come up with that idea is making the prospect even more difficult. With more online shops, competition will be tougher.
Finally, online shops don’t become popular overnight. How do you think Google and Facebook have risen to the rank of Internet government? By charging freelance business owners for ads. If you fancy the idea of being your own boss, you should know that that means you’ll have to maintain your brand’s online presence continually, boost your marketing efforts to beat the competition and communicate with your audience on a regular basis. Your shop’s website will need to appear on the first page of Google search, which means you’ll have to study SEO and work very hard indeed to remain top-ranked.
Nothing of this is impossible, but hardly manageable if you’re planning to work solo. On the other hand, employing professionals costs money, and learning the ropes of the business costs time, so plan carefully!
- Finding Gigs
Of course, not everyone dreams that big. Many people don’t want to run their own business no matter how lucrative the prospect may become in the future.
There are numerous opportunities for freelancers to find online gigs and make a decent living from their work. Here, there are two types of people: freelancers making a living solely from the gig economy and freelancers substituting their income by various gigs.
If you’re a highly skilled professional, you may find that a gig from time to time may not be that cumbersome and can be highly lucrative. Engineers, for example, often do consulting work on the side while retaining their well-paid traditional positions. For them, freelancing is a means to add some extra money and set it to the side.
Other freelancers make their living solely from the gigs they take, which is, as a rule, troublesome for people just starting out. For one thing, there are myriads of people looking for the freedom freelancing offers, meaning that competition is fierce.
Much depends on the choice of online marketplace. Free marketplaces such as Freelancer are known to attract cheap workforce from other countries. These freelancers lower the rate for others who live in “expensive” countries, so it may be better to look for different marketplaces.
Some skill sets are in more demand than others. Just as is the case with traditional work, people with expertise are always in demand. The problem with freelancing in the beginning is – you need to make potential employers aware that you’re available for jobs.
For many freelancers, this means accepting the gigs priced at a lower rate until they have built their reputation online. For others – it means getting their former clients to leave feedback on their social media profiles. Professionals should always consider creating a website that includes their portfolio, sample work, work experience and customer feedback. Blogging is also highly recommended, as it is free and can boost your online presence dramatically if SEO is employed and the posts cross-promoted on your social media pages and via email.
Communication With Clients
Communication is the key of all marketing efforts and freelancing is exactly that – marketing yourself and your skills online. Whether you’re looking for gigs or running your own online business, you’ll need to continually respond to queries and address any potential misunderstandings and complaints.
Note that there will always be employers and clients who don’t know what they are actually looking for in many cases. These people are likely to be unsatisfied with your work no matter how good it is, so make certain to pick your clients wisely. One poor feedback can ruin your prospects faster than you can imagine.
Know the Ropes
Firstly, freelancing should not be the grey zone. That basically means that you need to set some standards before even you start looking for gigs. You should be aware of two things: contracts and rates.
It may sound terrible, but not all employers look for skilled professionals. In fact, there are many freelancers out there looking for cheap-rate freelancers to help them get started with their online business. Thus, you can expect to see numerous underpaid gigs looking for writers and SEO experts.
Don’t settle for such offers! Look for the gigs that pay a regular rate secured by a contract.
Now, not every contract is a good one. Freelancers should in particular insist that the contract include the following information:
- The scope of work
- Payment amounts and timing
- Work ownership
- Early termination
- Reimbursement of expenses (where applicable)
When working with a client for the first time, it is also a good idea to secure a deposit. Some online marketplaces offer escrow services, meaning that the moment the employer accepts your application, the funds you are to receive are secured by the marketplace.
Whenever possible, look for gigs on such marketplaces.
Setting Your Rate
We’ve already seen that a cheap workforce can affect rates dramatically. What does it mean for professionals looking to bring their expertise to a new level?
Don’t despair! Skilled workers will always find a way to the right employer; they just need to be persistent.
That being said, it is crucial that you set your rate as to reflect all the additional costs. Freelancers need to cover their own taxes, health insurance and retirement plans, to name a few extra expenses.
Depending on your expertise, rates may vary. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with lower, average and maximum rates, and don’t go either below the minimum or above the maximum.
Freelancing is a great way to attain more freedom and bring your career to the next level. Many freelancers say that they wouldn’t commit to a 9-to-5 work because they don’t want to compromise on flexible schedules and free choice on which projects to accept. Others run their online businesses employing other employees. A win-win combination!
If you decide to commit to freelancing in the long run, remember to be patient. It is alright to start modestly and build your reputation on the go. In time, you will discover that there are more jobs to choose from than you ever dared to imagine. Freelancing is, after all, a highly rewarding way to live.