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.