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A Quick Guide to Becoming a Freelancer
Freelancing comes with endless freedom, but also endless responsibilities. Businesses have accountants, marketing teams, benefits administrators, and everything in between. However, if you want to be your own boss, then these responsibilities fall on—you guessed it—you! Before taking the plunge into freelancing full-time, consider sticking with your day job with a steady income until you get your footing.
Before you can begin your freelance career, you need to figure out what it is you want to do. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Why do you want to freelance? Can you afford it? How do you plan to present your “brand” to future clients? Who is your target audience? Asking yourself these questions will help set you up for success in your field. Most companies and start-ups want a specialist to complete the job – wouldn’t you? Decide what your biggest selling point is and go from there. If you love graphic design, think of one area that you’re best at. Maybe your niche is designing graphics for t-shirts, but consider who those t-shirts are for. Continue narrowing down your market so you can brand yourself as a specialist in whatever field you’re in. This will allow you to build a dependable reputation and control how clients perceive you.
Showcase your skills by creating a portfolio or a website that features your best work. When a potential client sees your website, they’ll want to see your past experiences, your personality, creativity, and, most importantly, how to contact you. Keep your website domain name and social media handles consistent so it’s easy for potential clients to find you. Your online presence is often the first impression a new client will have of you, so make sure it’s professional, consistent, and on-brand.
Now that you have some of the groundwork out of the way, it’s time to start selling yourself and landing gigs so you can start earning money. If you already have a few clients lined up, great! If not, there are job sites for freelancers to help you get started. Ask friends and family for referrals, and consider reaching out to companies directly to offer your services.
Managing money as a freelancer can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out, since you won’t know how much income you’ll have and how steady that income will be. Now’s the time to put on your accountant hat and start to develop a monthly budget. Start by tracking your revenues (income) and expenses. Find your monthly income by adding everything you’ve made in a year and then dividing it by 12. This will give you a rough estimate of how much you can spend and save each month. Each time you get paid for a freelance project, write it down, and every time you purchase an item to complete a project (e.g., a Photoshop subscription), write that down, too. Keep track of all of your fixed expenses, like rent, insurance, car payments, etc. Create a spreadsheet or use an app like Mint to track and organize your income and expenses.
If your budget is doing its job, you should be earning more than you’re spending. It’s tempting to use that extra money for travel or fun activities, but it’s more important to start saving some money and funneling at least 30% of every paycheck into a separate account to cover self-employment taxes. Don’t forget about retirement (you do want to retire, right?) – consider contributing to Individual Retirement Account (IRA) each time you get paid for a project. Your future self is already thanking you!
Freelancing is an enticing choice for many reasons, but it’s still a huge career choice that requires a lot of work, especially in the beginning, in order to be successful. If you’re ready to make the leap, congrats! If you’re still on the fence, why not freelance part-time to see if it’s right for you? After all, freelancing is about flexibility and freedom.
How to start your career without a college degree
Not everyone heads to college after high school. Some jump straight into the workforce. You might think they’re at a disadvantage because they don’t have a college education, but there are many well-paying and satisfying careers they can pursue. Some opportunities are even higher paying than those that require a degree.
If college isn’t the next step for you, here are some tips for starting your successful career on the right foot:
Opt for on-the-job training
The best way to hone your skills is on-the-job training. It’s real-life experience that presents you with the normal day-to-day activity and the unique challenges that you won’t encounter in the classroom. Maybe you followed the technical or vocational training path in high school and can work as an apprentice in your field of interest. You could also opt to voluntarily shadow a skilled professional who can show you what an average workday entails.
Contact some professionals in your community and set up a time to meet. Even if it doesn’t result in a position, you’ve earned some networking experience and the chance that you’ll be top of mind in the future. The U.S. Department of Labor website can also help you find an apprenticeship in your area.
Take your idea to the bank
Innovative ideas for products and services happen every day. If you’ve got an idea for something unique, a product that fills a need or makes life easier, you could be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs. They’ve proven that you don’t need a college degree to change the world.
David Green is the founder of Hobby Lobby. He was also a high school graduate who started the company with $600. Steve Madden, shoe designer, dropped out of college, Wolfgang Puck, chef and restaurant owner, left high school at the age of 14, and Wally “Famous” Amos, founder of Famous Amos Cookies, joined the Air Force at 17. Clearly, a college degree isn’t the golden ticket to success.
Consider the military
In addition to serving your country, joining any one of the military branches can also be a jumpstart to a successful career. Whether it’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, or Coast Guard, they all provide educational benefits and job-placement programs. Moreover, all tuition and fees for trade schools or public in-state colleges are covered by the U.S. government. If you’re interested, check out each branch’s website for more information or contact your local recruiter.
Earn a training certificate
A popular alternative to a degree program is a short-term certificate training program. From healthcare to web design, and court reporting to information technology, these programs can help you develop the skills you need and increase your chances of finding a well-paying job. With a few months of hard work and commitment, you’ll be better prepared and more qualified for the opportunities in your field. Here’s a list of high-paying certification programs that offer the potential for advancement.
The governance structure and policy and program priorities differ for each state. The Association for Career and Technical Education has a database that includes details about the system for each state’s technical schools.
Think about law enforcement and firefighting
Some law enforcement agencies require 60 hours of college credits, but many only require a high school diploma or GED. Detention officers, police officers, police dispatchers, and U.S. border patrol agents, are just a few. Many people pursue a career in the criminology or criminal justice field in order to serve their community. Not only can it be interesting and exciting, but especially rewarding, too.
Another career in courageous service is firefighting. Although it does not require any post-secondary education, recruits must participate in vigorous physical training exercises. Nearly all U. S. firefighters must also be certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) before they’re allowed in the field. This training can take up to one year to complete and also results in EMT-Basic certification.
In today’s job market, there are many opportunities for those who don’t choose the college route. While it may not be in the classroom setting, you can still continue to learn, sharpen your skills, and rise to the top of your field.
Eight things you should do if you lose your job
Regardless of how you got there, unemployment is difficult to face. Unfortunately, companies are sold and bought. They downsize, file bankruptcy, or simply close their doors every day, and some employees are left out in the cold.
It’s a traumatic experience that can be scary and overwhelming, especially if you have bills to pay and a family to support. It’s undoubtedly a difficult season in a career, but it can also be an opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go, a sort of self-discovery.
Here are some smart things you should do in the days and weeks following your new employment status:
1. File for Unemployment Compensation
Generally, the government offers financial benefits to workers who meet specific eligibility requirements and have lost their job “through no fault of their own.” While the dollar amount will be significantly less than your lost salary, it can provide some funds to help you stay afloat until you secure another job. The application process had been a hassle in the past, but it’s become much more streamlined. In some states, it’s as simple as a phone call or an online submission.
Each state manages it’s own program. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website for information on your particular state and to file a claim.
2. Consider your health coverage options
Even if you don’t have any serious health issues now, you shouldn’t forego any health insurance. At the very least health insurance offers you protection from unexpected medical bills that can result from events like a heart attack or stroke, a broken leg, or a visit to the doctor’s office when you have the flu. When you lose your job, you’ll have the option to apply for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) health coverage, but you can also consider an individual health insurance policy.
3. Get the details on your retirement plan
While we’re on employee benefits, you should also find out what happens to your company-sponsored retirement plan. Some plans allow you to leave your account intact with the current administrator, but others require you to take a distribution. If you take a distribution, there may be some tax penalties if you don’t roll it over to another retirement account within 60 days. Be sure to get the details and consult with a tax advisor before making any financial decisions.
4. Re-evaluate your budget
Without a paycheck, your monthly budget will likely have to be reworked. Consider all of the non-essential bills you pay and items you purchase on a regular basis and make adjustments. Skip your daily Starbucks run, cut your own grass, and put your gym membership on hold. While nobody wants to give up these luxuries, the fewer bills you have when you’re unemployed, the more financial breathing room you’ll have while you’re between jobs.
5. Give your resume a facelift
Update your resume with your most recent position, any additional skills you’ve learned, training you’re completed, or recognition you’ve earned. Resumes have changed over the years, so if you haven’t needed one in a while, check out the updated formats and styles.
6. Google yourself
Speaking of marketing yourself, you should really Google your own name. Employers will likely search your name to see what you’ve been up to before they ask you to join their company, Make sure it’s all positive, appropriate, and employer-friendly. If not, this is your chance to clean up your social media accounts and adjust your privacy settings.
7. Network, network, network
The majority of job interviews are earned through networking. Connect with everyone in your professional network and let them know you’re searching for a new position. Look for local networking events in your community, schedule informational interview meetings with people in your industry, use your LinkedIn account to connect with potential employers, and reach out to your alumni network. You’ll never know where your connections will lead.
8. Keep your chin up
Not only is it frustrating, but being unemployed can really hurt your self-esteem. When you don’t see progress, it’s hard not to be discouraged. Keep networking, keep sending out resumes, and keep busy. It’ll be well worth it when you find the right job. In the meantime, work on the things you’ve never have time for; go for a run in the middle of the day, volunteer at the food pantry, organize that closet, or read a good book. This may be the only chance you’ll get, so use it wisely.
Show me the money: Smart ways to negotiate a raise
In today’s economy, most employers may still offer the token cost-of-living increase, but you shouldn’t expect more than that with your annual review. That’s not to say, however, that you can’t negotiate a raise, especially if your performance has gone beyond their expectations.
Maybe you’ve taken on some additional responsibility or have consistently put in extra time and effort to keep a project on schedule. If your department has benefited from your work, it might be time to speak up…and you know, money talks.
Here are some tips that will help you prepare your case and navigate the tricky terrain of salary discussions:
Track your accomplishments
Your manager may notice that you’re doing a great job, but if you think you deserve a raise, you’re going to need to prove it. Keep a list of accomplishments that includes key successes, contributions to projects, and leadership roles you’ve assumed. Think tangible and quantifiable examples that prove your worth. When you show consistent performance, it demonstrates drive, capability, and dedication, and will help move your agenda forward. Specifically, it will help identify your value based on outcomes that are important to the success of your organization and give you grounds for greater compensation.
Know how much you’re worth
Do your research. It’s critical to know what others in the same industry, and with the same job title and qualifications are being paid. Proposing a salary that’s in line with the going rate will help justify your request and add a dose of reality to your ask. Employee turnover is costly to an organization. If a company can compensate an already trained, high performing employee instead of replacing them with one that can take months to get up to speed, it’s well worth the investment. Check out Salary.com or Glassdoor.com. Based on your geographic location, cost of living, qualifications, and experience, these sites will help calculate a realistic salary range.
Consider the entire compensation package
Sometimes outside factors can impact your request for a raise like recent layoffs, new cost-cutting measures, or a downturn in the industry. Some companies may not be in a position to increase your salary, but other benefits can be just as valuable. Flexible hours, additional vacation time, stock options, a bonus plan, a car allowance, or working from home can make your life easier and your job more enjoyable. It may not be the money you’re looking for exactly, but it does have value.
Negotiate the no
Stay professional at all times and remain calm during your discussion. Even if your employer says no to a raise, ask for constructive feedback and set a performance plan for moving forward. What additional things you can do that will warrant a salary increase? Set up another meeting to reopen negotiations again in three to six months.
Once you start the conversation, your manager will understand where you’re coming from and can become an ally in your pursuit. Maybe there’s an advancement opportunity in the future, the possibility of upgrading your current position to a new title, or a chance to showcase your project management skills in a meeting. While a raise may not be in the budget today, give your manager a chance to build their own case to sell an increase to upper management.
Above all, don’t give them an ultimatum, unless, of course, you’re willing to follow through. If you come to the conclusion that you need to look elsewhere, it’s best to start searching while you’re still employed and earning a paycheck.
Just do it
It can be a nerve-wracking process, but if you believe you deserve a raise, ask for it. No employer wants their star employee out looking for other opportunities outside of the company. The worst they can say is no, but you’ll have brought your accomplishments and value to their attention. In the end, they might just realize your true worth.
Tips for a Successful Interview
Congratulations! You did it – your resume wowed a potential employer, and you landed an interview. Now it’s time to focus on how to make that interview a success. Keep reading for some tips on how to make that happen.
Before the Interview
The first steps to having a successful interview come way before the interview even begins.
It takes preparation and a big chunk of time researching your future employer. Be sure to clean up your social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) to ensure that everything posted is something that you’d want your employer to see. There are many resources on the internet for practice questions and even sample answers to turn a negative question into a positive response.
It’s important to feel comfortable, so dress for the part. Try to find photographs of employees to see how they dress and get a feel for the company’s culture. If you’re unsure of the company’s dress code, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Once you have a feel for what you’re going to wear, lay your clothes out the night before, along with a copy of your resume and a portfolio, if necessary.
During the Interview
Bring a notepad and pen to the interview, along with questions that you want to ask the interviewer at the end. Arrive early, and if you’re nervous, try listening to some music or walking around the block.
So, now it’s finally time! Walk into the interview with confidence, give a firm handshake, and formally introduce yourself. Answer each question calmly and just be yourself. Make good eye contact throughout the entire interview and write down any questions you may think of to ask after the interview. If a question catches you off guard, stay calm and don’t use any fillers like “um, uh, hmm…” Simply take your time and think through each question.
Here are a few example questions to ask your interviewer:
- What is the biggest challenge someone in this position will face?
- What does an average day look like?
- What do you think the difference is between someone who has excelled in this position and someone who has not excelled?
Don’t forget to ask about next steps and the company’s timeline for filling the position – not only does this further convey your interest, but it can help quell any of that “why haven’t I heard anything yet?” anxiety.
After the Interview
Everyone loves to be appreciated, so write a thank you letter and mail it to your interviewer. If you’re working with a tight timeline, an email works, too. Thank the interviewer for his/her time for meeting with you, and let them know that you hope to be working with them in the future. This will also help them remember you even more, increasing your chances of getting the job.
Landing a new job and a higher salary
There are lots of ways to increase your income, but many of them include ideas that make you give up something in return. Weekend side jobs, upcycling and selling on Etsy, renting a room in your home, or getting paid to fill out surveys about your brand loyalty—they all require more of your time and attention, a luxury most people don’t have. Yes, they’re feasible, but difficult to manage while working five days a week in a full-time job.
Why not replace your current full-time job with one that’s higher paying? We know that’s easier said than done, but the job market is full of opportunity. In fact, in 2017, the ATL is ranked #6 on a list of the best cities for job seekers, according to NerdWallet.
Don’t know where to start? Resume not updated? Networking not your specialty? Regardless, the Jobvite Job Seeker Study says that 82% of you are up for a new position, so let’s get going!
Update your resume
Your resume is the first impression you make on a potential employer. It stands between you and the first step in the interview process. It needs to be an excellent representation of you, your abilities, and how you can contribute to the overall success of the company. For free tips, resume samples and templates, and even cover letters, check out Resume Help, Thumbtack, or Resume Genius.
Position yourself socially
According to Jobvite , 67% of job seekers used social media to find their current position. 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn, and 55% used Facebook. You might think Facebook is your mom’s social network, but if more than half of recruiters are using it to advertise positions, you may want to beef up, or clean up, your profile page. It’s also an excellent place to gauge corporate culture, as is Instagram, so get busy stalking the pages and stories of potential employers.
LinkedIn is a more logical place, given the depth of career and job search networking available to you. It’s the largest professional network on the internet. You’ll be able to connect with employees of companies you’re interested in and position yourself to more likely be found by a recruiter.
Consider adding more detail to your job history and use your profile headline to your advantage. With 120 characters, describe who you are, what you do, and what professional benefit you can provide to the viewer. Use keywords that others might use when searching for someone in need of your services and skills.
Search online jobs
There are thousands of job sites on the world-wide-web, so we’ve identified some of the most popular. These allow you to search based on what’s most important to you like the type of job, title, salary, and your location. Try some of the more traditional sites like Monster and CareerBuilder,two of the largest online job boards. Another well-liked and highly rated site is Indeed,which pulls opportunities from thousands of sources including company career sites, newspaper classifieds, job boards, and associations. LinkUp only posts positions from company websites, so you’ll often get access to some unadvertised jobs. If you’re in a profession that has a site dedicated to your specific industry, like Dice or Idealist, be sure to take advantage of it, but don’t let it limit your search. Post your resume on multiple sites because there’s not one site that covers all your bases.
Don’t limit yourself to online resources, though. There are other opportunities, likely in your own backyard. Check these out:
Many churches in the metro Atlanta area offer high-attendance job networking groups. Roswell United Methodist Church offers one of the largest groups. Another popular association is Christ Centered Career Groups (C3G), which is sponsored by North Point Community Church. Marietta’s Catholic Church of St. Ann offers CareerQuest, and The Employment Network meets at St. Brigid Catholic Church. Be sure to check out your local church, clubs, or organizations to see if they offer similar opportunities.
Job fairs and career expos are held almost daily across Georgia. There are multiple websites that list current events and resources for job seekers. Bookmark them and check them often. Try Atlanta Event and Atlanta Career Fair Events.
Securing the next job of your dreams doesn’t necessarily mean changing your commute. Be sure to check out your current company’s job posting site. Let your manager or your Human Resources department know what your interests are. While it’s best not to broadcast your intention across the company, letting select others in on your career aspirations may be wise. After all, it’s in the best interest of the company to retain talented employees.
Start building relational capital with other managers now. Simply meeting for coffee or lunch will give both of you a chance to get to know each other, and your initiative could bring more attention to your qualifications and your contribution to the company. You’ll never be noticed if you’re quietly eating your leftovers in the break room.
Dress for success
At the risk of stating the obvious, dress like a successful person in your profession. Polish your shoes and paint your nails. While qualifications should outweigh appearances, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. If you want your future employer to think you have it all together, that you take pride in yourself, and you care about the details, be sure you convey that message every way you can. It’s subtle, but hey, we’re approaching it from all angles here.