Published April 05, 2012
Working freelance can be exciting and stressful. You don’t have the same job security as someone employed full time with a salary and benefits. You might not know where you will receive your next paycheck. You are responsible for yourself. This can be inspiring. You don’t need to ask someone’s permission to do anything, like take time off. You are your own employer. That’s a nice thought, isn’t it? But breaking into the world of freelance is often bewildering. Where do you start? Here is a simple guide to starting out as a freelancer.
Work on your skill set
Sir Walter Scott coined the term freelance in his 1820 novel “Ivanhoe” in reference to medieval knights who swore no allegiance to a master. These knights had a set of skills for which you could pay them. Just like these knights, you need to develop your skills to the point where someone would want to employ you temporarily. The key to freelancing is developing the necessary skills for your industry. You need to find out what skills people need and then offer that service. It’s often difficult to determine what skills a certain industry needs and to learn these skills if you are not a part of that industry. Therefore, a good first step before freelancing is to find a steady job with great learning potential. Seek out forms of apprenticeship. This may even be an internship. Don’t be too proud if you are looking to absorb abilities and knowledge of a field. Very often, talented freelancers don’t intend to go freelance. They acquire many skills on the job and realize after the fact that they no longer need the job and can excel — and even make more money — on their own.. You should continue cultivating your abilities after you are earning a steady freelance income. Since we live in an ever-changing world, we need to stay up on the most recent developments.
Compile a portfolio of your experiences
If you were running an operation and needed to hire an independent contractor for a job, you would look for someone with a proven track record of success. For someone starting out as a freelancer this can be a disconcerting catch-22. You need the job to get the experience and you need the experience to get the job. For this reason, you may need to begin by volunteering, interning or working for less pay, initially. This is simply a means to an end. While working you need to cultivate your portfolio. Save whatever work you do. Organize it into an aesthetically pleasing and presentable format, such as a quality booklet or carefully crafted PDF file. Don’t allow all of your hard-work to drift away. This time helping others as a volunteer or intern is also time invested in yourself. Make sure you have evidence of your work successes so that you can charge money in the future.
Diversify your income
One of the hardest parts about being a freelance worker is perpetually chasing new employment opportunities. It can be easy to rest on the contacts you have already made. But be wary of investing all of your energy into freelance work for only a few companies. If you merely work for one or two organizations, you might as well seek full time employment to gain the health benefits and so on. You might find yourself in a dire financial situation if you don’t diversify the sources from which you receive payment. If one company no longer needs your services it could cause serious problems. If, on the other hand, you work for multiple places, the loss of one outlet won’t cause as much damage.
Develop thick skin and self-confidence
Resilience is a powerful virtue that is sometimes woefully in short supply. Going freelance will be difficult. You need to grow a thick enough skin that you can experience rejection many times and persevere. You need the self-confidence to continue despite setbacks and challenges. You shouldn’t be arrogant and ignore constructive criticism that may improve your skills or lot in life. Heed well-meaning advice from kind people who are truly trying to help. An honest assessment of our abilities is difficult to hear but it is sometimes necessary. We all need to learn from time to time. Even the best workers out there need to hear hard truths. But you shouldn’t let these criticisms break your spirit. Learn from them and grow from them. Learn to disregard mean-spirited and perhaps envious comments. The life of a freelance worker can be an uphill battle, especially in the early stages. With determination and tenacity you can find your own place in the working world on your own terms.