Freelance 101: How To Get Started On Your Freelancing Career

Freelance 101: How To Get Started On Your Freelancing Career

Thanks to the so-called “gig economy” (a business model popularized by Uber, Airbnb, and even classifieds like OLX) more and more people are getting into freelance work. If you’re not familiar with freelance, then read on and find out more. 

First, what does it mean to freelance? It simply means doing work for someone and getting paid for it despite not being their employee, either per output or through a retainer fee.

Know What You Can Do.

One can do freelance work in almost every conceivable field. The artistically-inclined can take on writing, graphic design, and photography gigs. Meanwhile, the technically-inclined can take on programming jobs. The multi-lingual can find work making translations or teaching others another language. In this digital age, there’s always someone looking for a programmer. There are plenty of possibilities. One can even work as a freelance model!

If you don’t work for an employer, you can take in as much work as you’d like. That’s the advantage of working totally freelance. However, for those with employers looking to make some extra cash on the side, it may not be as simple.

Before taking on any freelance work, make sure you talk to your employer first. Besides making sure you can still handle your workload for your regular job, it’s best to check if your contract allows you to take additional work.


Work Your Contacts.

So you’ve decided to go freelance. What now? Find a client, of course!

Your best bet is to start with what you already have. Maximize your network by mapping out which of your friends—online and offline—can help you get started. With just one or two, you can begin to build a foundation for your business and expand from there.

However, if you feel you don’t have enough connections to start, you can use websites to show off your portfolio and attract attention from potential customers. Another option is to sign up for accounts on sites like OLX specifically designed to help intrepid freelancers.


Sell Your Personal Brand.

In the freelancing business, it would be good to establish a personal brand. Remember, you’re selling more than a product or a service. You’re also selling your ability to create or perform. Let your work speak for not just what you’ve done, but also what you can do. 

You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you bring to the table?
  • Who is your target audience?

Once you’ve figured those out, put it all together, package it for every possible channel, and broadcast it. This is how you market yourself.


Plan It Out.

Now that you know what you have to offer, it’s time to plan how you’ll deliver on it.

Start by plotting out your long-term vision. Think of where you want to be in 5 to 10 years and note some milestones you want to achieve. Once you have this down, you can think in terms of targets. You can use the tips here to start and then adapt it to your brand and vision later.

You can use a notebook to keep track of your plans and strategies. Also, make sure you have the right equipment or materials. Note anything you need to buy or repair so you won’t have to worry about them. Be very careful with this. You wouldn’t want to loan or buy equipment you won’t be able to pay for.

For example, if you want to get a car for your freelance work, make sure you can afford it. If you take out a loan to buy and a car, you’ll have to factor in the interest rate. It’s possible to trap yourself in debt with this so try to be frugal whenever you can. 

Finally, while freelance work normally doesn’t have specific working hours, you still want to be productive. Plan out your day with calendars and to do lists such that you can get work done. However, don’t forget to set aside time for rest. Work is important, but so is rest. Work yourself too hard, and you might get sick. And that might cost you more.


Get It On Paper.

Make sure you have a contract before you start any project. If you’re working with people you trust, then you can probably work on an assurance of one.  However, the idea is that you want to avoid miscommunication down the line between you and your client. 

The contract should clearly state what your client’s expectations are. At the same time, you should know your terms and commitments, as well as your client’s compensation terms. By the time you sign the document, both parties should have hammered out and agreed to all the details.

Don’t forget to file all of your contacts in a folder or cabinet in case you need it.


Keep At It.

Once you’ve started any contract, commit to it. Even if it’s a part-time gig, don’t treat it that way — make time for it and stick to the schedule.

It may seem frustrating, especially in the beginning. There are people who may seem like they have it easier because of some advantage. The world is simply unfair at times. It’s difficult to compete with others who started out with bigger networks or had more capital. But that doesn’t mean things are hopeless. Try to find some ways to collaborate instead of competing with others. While some have it easier, the fact of the matter is that everyone still has to work hard.

The most important thing is keeping at it. Working freelance can be tremendously difficult. However, it’s only through constantly striving at it that breakthroughs become possible. It’s not about luck. It’s about hard work.

Peter Dinklage, a successful American actor who’s known for his role as Tyrion Lannister on HBO’s Game of Thrones series has this to say of luck and hard work:

I feel lucky. Although I hate that word—”lucky.” It cheapens a lot of hard work. Living in Brooklyn in an apartment without any heat and paying for dinner at the bodega with dimes—I don’t think I felt myself lucky back then. Doing plays for 50 bucks and trying to be true to myself as an artist and turning down commercials where they wanted a leprechaun. Saying I was lucky negates the hard work I put in and spits on that guy who’s freezing his a** off back in Brooklyn. So I won’t say I’m lucky. I’m fortunate enough to find or attract very talented people. For some reason I found them, and they found me.

In the beginning, it will be tempting to take on whatever job you can get—including work that pays in “exposure”—but never sell yourself short. Know your worth. Work your way up and build your portfolio. And most importantly, except to convictions of honor and good sense, never give up. 

Are you interested in freelancing? Have you started freelancing yourself? Tell us your story in the comments! You’ll never know. Someone looking for a freelancer might see it.