01 Jul Becoming a freelancer: Is it right for me and how do I get started?
The Gig Economy is rapidly growing and the number of self-employed people in the UK has doubled in size in the last couple of years. There are a number of reasons why becoming your own boss is attractive to so many people, with lots of great benefits this lifestyle has. This trend is also surrounded by some catchy phrases, such as “escaping the 9 to 5” or “getting out of the rat race”, that catch people’s attention.
However, before you get caught up with the idea of becoming self-employed and hand in your resignation notice, it is important to slow down and see if this is the right career path for you and your future goals. This article will help you make up your mind and give you some valuable tips on how to get started in a smart way.
Should you become independent?
Many people fantasize about the idea of freelancing for all the wrong reasons. They think that self-employment equals working a lot less hours while earning a good wage. The idea of not responding to anyone and working on your own time also sounds like a dream. However, if you are interested in becoming independent just for these reasons then it’s probably not for you. Being your own boss is not easy and you will be putting a lot of effort in, especially at the beginning. So, you need to be doing it for the right reasons.
How do I know if it is suited for me then, you ask? Well, there are some personal characteristics that a self-employed person should have to be successful. See if any of these matches you:
- You have a specialised skill (service) that you can sell;
- You feel like becoming a freelancer would help you achieve your career and personal goals better than being employed;
- You are organised, independent and able to do your work without someone managing you;
- You are motivated and driven by your independent work ideas;
- You are not afraid to be out of your comfort zone and push yourself;
- You are ready to do a variety of tasks that are not directly related to your specialisation;
- You are willing to take a smart risk to achieve your goals;
If you found yourself agreeing with most of these statements, you are likely someone that could succeed as a freelancer and such a career could be suited for you.
Getting started as a freelancer
If self-employment aligns with your goals and personality perfectly, there is nothing to wait for. Getting started may be scary and confusing, so try to break this process into small steps that will make it more manageable. Here’s some of the most important ones:
Define your goals and objectives
Your long-term goal is probably to be a successful freelancer. However, it is important to have more specific goals and objectives than that, so you can actually monitor your growth. Set yourself some SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based) that you have to reach within a certain period of time. These can be anything that you think defines success.
For example, it can be the monthly salary that you would like to earn in a year’s time or a number of loyal clients you would like to have. Once you have your yearly objectives, you can break them down into smaller milestones that are short-term. This way you will not only be able to track your progress but the whole process will seem much more achievable.
Know your market
Market research is the step that no business or project should ever skip. It is not different for going self-employed either. Before starting, you should look into whether your specific market is already full of freelancers with no jobs, what sort of prices they are setting on average, what sort of services stand out and are most successful. Perhaps you will find a very specific niche that will be more suited to you and bring more clients. Understanding what the situation is in your market and whether it will be profitable will ensure that you don’t put empty efforts into something that won’t succeed.
Specify your clientele
Once you have a market in mind, you need to be specific with what sort of audience you are trying to appeal to. Otherwise, you will end up trying to approach people who are not interested in your services. Learn to target those who will likely benefit from what you do and who can afford your services. Perhaps you also want only long-term projects rather than one-off gigs or you are only interested in a specific style or genre. All of these things will help you understand who your buyer persona is and you will be able to provide them with quality services tailored specifically to their needs.
Build a portfolio
More often than not starting as a freelancer means working for very little money or even for free just to build a portfolio. Having one is absolutely essential, as you cannot expect people to buy your product without any point of reference to what you are capable of. Therefore, almost every client out there will ask to see some examples of your previous work. A diverse portfolio will not only help you get more clients, but it will also help get rid of the ones that want something different and therefore won’t be happy with your services. This will save you a lot of time and nerves in the long run.
Decide on your pricing strategy
As mentioned above, you may have to start with much lower prices than you would like to. Set and attractive price based on the average market prices. You also need a strategy on how you will approach your first clients. Perhaps you will offer them the first piece of work for free, as a trial, or offer a bundle deal for a good price. Once you start building a reputation from your clientele and get more experience, you will also be able to gradually increase your rates.
When deciding your pricing, it is also important to think on a yearly basis, rather than just your monthly salary. Consider days that you won’t be able to work, for instance, the sick days and holidays. Additionally, take into account your business expenses and the potential taxes you will have to pay out of your salary. Considering these things will allow you to better calculate how much you should be earning and how many hours you should work.
Learn how to sell yourself
As a freelancer, you will have to deal with a lot more areas than just the one you specialise in. This includes marketing, or more specifically, selling yourself. You can be the absolute best in your category, but if you don’t know how to showcase your skills in the best light possible, your clients will struggle to trust you.
When you are writing to prospect clients, make sure you don’t just copy and paste every message. Personalise your emails to each client and write them in an engaging, yet professional way. You should be able to cover your strengths, demonstrate your expertise, showcase your previous work, anticipate any objections and answer questions before they are even asked. You may spend more time on one email, but that email is a lot less likely to end up in the trash box.
Start off easy
Changing your whole lifestyle to become a freelancer will be challenging in many ways. Make sure you don’t push yourself too hard at the very beginning. If you get successful enough to get quite a few offers from the start, consider accepting only the best ones. This may sound crazy, as you would be losing money, but you want to prioritise the quality rather than the quantity.
If you take on more than you thought you can handle, you will be struggling to finish it on time and the quality of your services is likely to suffer. So, start off easy and once you’ve done a few gigs you will better understand how much work you can manage and what sort of tasks you tend to struggle with.
Looking for support?
Going independent does not need to mean that you’re all on your own. You can get support to kick off your career quicker and reach your growth objectives.
At ASfB, we have a nurturing program to help entrepreneurs on their journey. Our experienced team of professionals will support every step of the way, with business development advice specifically tailored to your needs.
Call us on 01202 755600 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for an informal chat.