By Rhonda Campbell
Roll the clock back and only a few professionals were considering steps to take to build successful freelancing careers. Rising corporate mergers and acquisitions, increasing employee health insurance premiums and dwindling job security once imbedded in traditional gigs pushed a skilled workforce toward freelancing.
More people are taking on freelancing careers
Just a year ago, Forbes reported that one third of American workers earned their income from freelancing careers. From writers to graphic designers to virtual assistants to computer technicians to marketing specialists, people launch freelancing careers for a variety of reasons, including to:
• Gain more control of their day / set their own work hours
• Achieve real work/life balance
• Spend more time with their school aged children
• Build a sustainable clientele that grows and strengthens with each successfully completed project
• Give themselves salary and pay increases throughout the year and especially as their knowledge and hands-on experience advances
• Work across fields and industries
• Get more out of their college degrees, non-school based learning and independently developed skills
• Take vacation when they want
• Telecommute without drawbacks
• Stay out of rush hour traffic / save money on commuting expenses
The rewards of working successful freelancing careers are enticing. Yet, it can take months, sometimes years, to build a strong client base. The good news is that it can (and is) being done. It’s also encouraging to know that it takes major corporations months and years to build a strong client base. You’re definitely not alone there as a freelancer.
Actions to build rewarding freelance careers
Steps toward building successful freelancing careers call for dedication, passion, commitment, knowing where to find good freelance jobs, lots of marketing and an unapologetic belief in your skills, knowledge and abilities. Begin by identifying one to three (try to keep it to no more than three) services that you enjoy providing others.
Do you enjoy making others laugh? Do you like helping other entrepreneurs market and grow their bottom line? How about consulting human resources leaders on best practices to retain top talent? Are do you love creating animations and artwork that develops brand or tells a story that engages consumers?
What skills do you have that could help you deliver these services? For example, you could use writing skills to make others laugh and help grow a business’ bottom line (i.e. copywriting, ad writing, direct email writing, script writing). You could use software and conceptual sketch art skills to create illustrations that develop and strengthen brands.
Make sure that you love using the skills. If the skills are sharpened, there’s a strong likelihood that you do. Get licenses, certifications and academic credentials that clients seek from freelancers that they hire. Utilize resources like Mediabistro, Journalism Jobs, Craigslist, Upwork, ProBlogger, 99Designs and Guru to source for freelance jobs.
Extra tips for serious freelancers
Another step that you can take is to create job alerts at job boards like Indeed, CareerBuilder and Monster. Employment agencies also let you create job alerts. This saves you the time of logging in and out of job boards every day. Instead, let the jobs come to you.
Apply for jobs when they are fresh. In other words, apply for jobs that have recently been posted. Save your resume at job boards, so employers can find you. And you definitely want to create an online portfolio that showcases your work and skills. You’ll be surprised how many prospective hiring managers will check out your online portfolio before they set up an interview with you.
WordPress and Weebly are some of the tools that you can use to create an online portfolio. I created my online freelance writers portfolio with WordPress; it’s helped connect me with clients as I continue to grow my freelancing careers.
More tips on how to build successful freelance careers are to:
• Network in-person and online
• Join professional groups that your prospective clients frequent or are active members of
• Keep in touch with current and former clients. You could do this by sending clients holiday greetings, birthday wishes, congratulating clients on their milestone achievements, etc.
• Negotiate for competitive pay rates (Don’t be shy about asking for rates that align with your skills. If you’re hesitant to ask for what your skills are worth early on, if you keep at it, this hesitancy may likely vanish — that’s a good thing!!)
• Let contacts know that you are accepting new clients.
• See the value in one-time gigs.
• Develop at least 12 clients, as some clients will give you work for months or years, while others will only give you work for a few days or weeks. With freelance careers, you could also stop receiving work from a long standing client absent notice. It’s a part of the working environment. That’s why having a pool of clients is good.
• Manage a healthy budget.
• Look for new freelancing jobs each day. Make this a habit.
Stay the course. If you’re good and you treat your clients with respect and show them appreciation, don’t be surprised if a former client pops back into your job life and ask you to start working on new projects or assignments for them.
Always do your best work. Your work is your voice and it can open lots of new doors for you. If needed, be willing to take on a traditional gig to pay the bills, even if only on a part-time or temporary basis. if you take this route, do it without shame or embarrassment and continue to sharpen your learning and freelance job skills.