Most small businesses start today as a side hustle first. While some Americans have shifted to independent temporarily, more have shifted to make it their full-time careers. According to the Freelancing in America Survey, 35 % of U.S. workers are now freelancing. In 2019, 57 million people worked as freelancers. We can see this number growing especially during the pandemic.
Many people lost their jobs during the COVID-19 and they are putting themselves back to work by pitching their skills to companies, including their former employers, as “free agents.”
Your flexibility as a free agent can be appealing to employers who need to get the job done but don’t want to pay for things like health insurance, taxes, and retirement benefits — which is associated with full-time employees. You can use this demand to your advantage and build a freelance business to support yourself, stay current in your field, and keep moving in an unstable economy.
Tips to Become a Successful Freelancer
Here are the five tips to help you become a successful freelancer.
1. Be Professional.
Just because you may be working from a home office doesn’t mean you forget your manners. The same standards of professionalism you used in the workplace apply as a self-employed professional. Set up a workspace that is conducive to doing business and working long hours. Make sure you are in quiet surroundings when making calls — your clients should not hear the TV blaring, your child crying or the dog barking while they’re considering whether to give you money to work on a project for them.
2. Be Meticulous About Tracking Your Hours.
It’s easy to lose track of the time you spend on a project when you’re not punching a time clock. Often, independent contractors find themselves spending more time on a project than they would have if they were working in a regular office environment. It is up to you to ensure that you’re getting paid for the work you’re putting in and complete projects in a timely manner.
To set a realistic hourly rate, Michelle Mangen, president of Your Virtual Assistant, based in Sarasota, Fla., suggests surveying the competition. “When I first started my business as a virtual assistant, I asked other VAs what they charged, and that’s how I figured out my initial pricing strategy,” says Mangen. Be sure to include project management time in your bids; interaction with clients eats up lots of time.
3. Focus on a Niche Specialty.
You cannot be all things to all people. A successful freelancer focuses on a specific niche customer or industry. Examine your transferable skills, figure out the pain points of your target customer, find out where those skills are in demand, and go after the business. Also, seek out work that may fulfill a passion that you wouldn’t have gone after on a traditional job. For example, if you are a CPA who enjoys cooking, you could specialize in doing accounting work just for restaurants.
4. Build a Web Portfolio.
Potential customers and recruiters will search online to find information about you before making contact. That’s why it’s essential to have a website and online presence that displays your expertise.
You can start by using free portfolio website builders especially if you don’t have web development skills.
Website builders like Wix, Ucraft, and Strikingly are super handy with their drag-and-drop editor.
You can also establish a LinkedIn profile to help you showcase your portfolio. (Read my article Are You Google-able?)
5. Be a Networking Machine.
Don’t sit in your house and do all of your socializing online. Seek out local networking events and trade associations in your field and join the chapters in your area. Keep your elevator pitch handy. When you’re out in the community, whether you’re in transit to meet a client or running errands, talk up your business to your banker, your local merchants, and the parent on your child’s baseball team who is an executive at a company that could use your services.
Carry business cards at all times. Make sure contact information is updated and includes all places they can find you online.
Finding work: Many websites help freelancers develop their businesses and stay sane in the process. Here are three good resources.
- Upwork. The site connects freelancers with companies looking for help.
- Freelancer. Companies and entrepreneurs use this online hub to post their projects and expertise and find good matches.
- Guru. A freelancer marketplace that also handles payment processing. The site features profiles and websites of 250,000 active freelancers.
Do you have a favorite website for finding freelance opportunities?