Many people tend to think that freelancing is easy-peasy, that they will just fling their resignation letter into their boss’ faces one day with a dramatic monologue to accompany it and ride off into the sunset where the land of milk and honey awaits.
Reality couldn’t be more different. Freelancing is a tough career to break into and quitting your job to freelance full-time is a surefire way to the poorhouse. The smart way to begin working as a freelancer is to quietly stick to your day job and begin on the side. Usually it takes a while before you can earn enough money to dramatically resign from your day job.
Here are a few tips that could help you speed up the process.
Pick your skill-set(s)
Think carefully. How many things do you think you are good at doing, off the top off your head? Are you good at writing? Coding, maybe? Or it could be baking, languages or even fire breathing? How many of those skills are marketable? Chances are that you are good at something that you can sell. Different clients have different requirements. There are many people who need websites designed, true, but there are also people who need hats knitted, even though their numbers are smaller. The trick is to try and be as much of a polymath as you can. Most of us are good at more than one thing – it is not unusual to hear of writers who also take photos and make films on the side. Consider monetizing all the skills that you can monetize. However, it is important to remember to not be the jack of all trades and master of none. Stick to two or three skills you are most confident about and develop them further.
So you have decided to sail the high seas of freelancing. All well and good, but how will people know about you? Marketing yourself is how you let the world (and potential) clients know that you exist, are available and will do a good job. Most of us are sadly not very good at marketing ourselves. The qualities required for successful self marketing are objectivity in relation to yourself and the capacity to look at the world through others’ eyes. Self knowledge will enable you to be aware of your shortcomings and pitfalls – you have to be honest with yourself when it comes to analyzing your capabilities. Don’t take on something you can’t handle, but don’t sell yourself short either. Try and see yourself through your potential clients’ eyes. Selling something is all about selling the story that goes with it. What is your story? What is your pitch? Do you have one?
Pitch like it’s baseball
If marketing is selling yourself to the client, pitching is selling your ideas, by storify-ing them. Pitching can be a scary process for many who have never done it before. The only way to do it is gird yourself and just go ahead and send out a round of pitches to potential clients. Don’t be worried about rejection, because you can be sure that they will all be almost invariably rejected the first time you try. This doesn’t mean you can give up though. Freelancing requires considerable moral courage – to go on in the face of impossible odds and not give up. Pitch, pitch and keep on pitching till one of them is accepted. There is no other way to go about it.
Confidence, not Arrogance
The process of pitching ideas that just get rejected can be very demoralizing. If you get dismayed at that stage, you won’t last long in the freelance world. In order to be a freelancer, you will need nerves of steel. And even more importantly, you’ll need to be confident. Be brash, be cocky. Be in their faces. Clients love hiring people who exude that air of casual, easy confidence because they think you know what you are doing. Of course, it is also important to actually know what you are doing, but the client doesn’t know anything about you yet. They have no way of judging; they can only know what you project to them. Projecting confidence also inspires confidence in your clients regarding your abilities.
Word of mouth is still the best publicity
Thanks to the current era of freelancing portals and sites, most freelancers have started ignoring their best tool for publicity: word of mouth. When you are just starting off, it is essential to let everyone know what you are doing, be it your third cousin or the neighborhood greengrocer. Let as many people know as you can – you never know when someone might hear about someone else who needs a person with your abilities and skill-sets. Keep in touch with people and make sure they remember you when they hear the words freelance writer/developer/designer or whatever your skill area is. Referrals are the most important tool to getting work as a freelancer; try and get as many as you can, from as many people as you can.
Are you a Freelancer? Do you need help? Let me know.