The popular opinion is freelancing gives one the desired flexibility, the option to work from anywhere, and for however long they wish to. The reality is that, just like any start-up, the initial periods as a freelancer are fraught with uncertainty, risk-taking, making mistakes, and building one’s reputation. A new term for freelancers is micro-entrepreneurs, and rightly so because one must work hard and long to build their client base and establish a regular income stream.
There are many instances online of people earning six-figure incomes as freelancers and quoting astronomical rates for their services. However, the reality is that the freelance market is growing, and many new professionals are taking up freelancing as a side hustle, a worrying trend for many businesses that cannot ensure their employees are working only for them.
Yet, freelancing can be a rewarding experience, and with patience and persistence, freelancing can become a lucrative career choice.
A freelancer is a self-employed professional who works on a project-by-project basis. A freelancer does not work for the company, but with them as a consultant on a project. Freelancers are experts in their field, hired for their singular expertise in their field. Their demand stems from their experience, and they win the project based on their portfolio.
Most freelance jobs are posted online, and applications pour in from around the world. This means that one is competing with equally or more talented freelancers in their field at various price points. Even though it is marketed for its flexibility, freelancing requires one to be available to clients when they need them. Deadlines exist for freelancers too, so they may find themselves working for over 12 hours some days. To earn a steady income, and to create a steady income stream, one must have more than one client at a time. This means that one is answerable to more than one boss, and both expect you to deliver on time.
At the same time, as the boss of one's own business, freelancing gives a professional a lot of freedom to shape their career and take it in the direction of their choosing. With a little planning and strategizing, one can attain freelance nirvana, that is, become a full-time freelancer.
Side hustles are part of generating revenue streams that have always existed, but freelancing has made it easier to find suitable opportunities. Students can create an account with any of the many freelance job portals and start applying for freelance projects with winning proposals. With experience and finesse, one can start building their portfolio. Student days are also the period when one can generally afford to work for low pay, and as they build their reputation and portfolio, their earning potential will also improve.
The rules for those who are working full-time but wish to work as freelancers are different. As a full-time employee, one enjoys perks such as steady monthly income, insurance, health claims, and other benefits. These benefits are not available to freelancers. Thus, the income they generate must cover all these expenses, plus leave some surplus for savings for the lean period. Thus, it is pertinent that one plans and saves adequately while establishing themselves as a freelancer.
For any person, the rule of thumb is to have:-
Besides this, if you have children, then there must be enough funds put aside to pay their fees for at least a year. For a freelancer, income will be irregular, and even if your earnings are sizeable, it is better to put aside savings to protect yourself from market uncertainties.
Try to quit your job on a good note, because even your current employers can become potential clients. At the same time, build a professional network on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. Once you are serious about your intention to become a freelancer, communicate your availability as an update.
Freelancers must have proven skills, and you must build a portfolio that shows the diversity and range of your expertise. You may be a super-specialist, but even in this, you can show how many different types of clients you have worked with.
As a freelancer, one must learn the art of marketing and sales. You can do this by creating a strong digital presence. Leverage the potential of social networking sites, create your website, or regularly write blogs, articles, comments, vlogs, and posts for niche websites in your field. Make it a practice to document your work and give your expert opinion or comments so that you are viewed as a serious contender in the field.
As a micro-entrepreneur, you must have good management and administrative skills, at least till you are in a position where you can hire someone to manage these aspects of your work for you. You must know how to manage your data, customer communication, deadlines, scheduled meetings, create winning sales pitches, and handle the finances and other administrative tasks. All of these must be balanced with one’s errands and tasks.
It is easy to extend one’s business hours as one does not have a fixed schedule. Thus, the most important aspect of a freelancer's journey is never to lose sight of finding time for a personal life.
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