As more people begin to look for alternative sources of employment that go beyond the usual office or factory job, freelancing is often an idea that interests many people – either as a source of extra income or as their primary career.
The concept of freelancing is nothing new; people have been doing it for centuries. The Internet has simply made it easier for people to work for themselves, as it opens up the whole world as a potential client, not just companies and people who are located locally.
Neither these days is freelancing reserved just for creative professionals like writers and artists. People now hire themselves out as freelance marketers; freelance customer service agents and much more and increasingly these people are working almost exclusively online.
Why Do People Choose to Freelance?
There are a number of reasons that people decide to freelance rather than tie themselves down to a single job. For many it is about creative freedom while for others it is simply the nature of the industry they are in – some industries simply employ a great many more freelancers than they do permanent staff. For others it may be that a decision to freelance comes after the loss of a traditional job. For most people though it is a combination of all these reasons.
What all freelancers have to realize though, before they even begin to work for themselves, is that they have not chosen an easy path to wealth or even to getting paid on a regular basis. But for those who persevere the rewards can be very big indeed, personally and financially.
Freelancing for Beginners – Creating Your Brand
Before you even begin looking for work as a freelancer you need to give some thought to your personal brand. These days a brand image is not something reserved for large companies but it applies to individuals as well.
Creating your brand is about more than just putting together a portfolio of your work if you are a writer, artist, web designer or other creative professional or a list of past experiences and great references if your niche is more cerebral or administrative. These things are of course very, very important but every other freelancer will have these things too, a successful freelancer needs to build a brand that sets them apart from the pack.
You may just be one person but you need business cards, a website (crucial in this Internet obsessed age) and a social media presence. These things should all have one consistent “feel “to them both in terms of a visual (a personal logo) and context (presenting the same image and information across all mediums)
Building your brand does not have to cost a lot of money though. Setting up a website is relatively inexpensive these days and social media accounts are for the most part free. Business cards are also far less expensive than they used to be, especially if you opt for a larger, Internet based service.
Freelancing for Beginners – Getting Ready to Bill
The one thing that many otherwise very smart freelancers are not so good at is billing, invoicing and actually ensuring that they get paid for the work they do. To be successful in this area you need to have a system in place right from the start, even if some of your jobs come from a website like Odesk or Guru who essentially bill for you.
There are in fact a number of very good systems available – either free or at a very low cost – that a new freelancer can use to keep themselves, their work and their finances organized. Here is a little information about some of the best:
– Zoho is a free to use service although many of its more advanced features are only offered on a paid basis. For the beginning freelancer though a free account should be all they need to stay organized, track time if necessary, invoice clients and keep track of all the money they have coming in, even if it is for a number of different sources. There is also Zoho writer which allows you to create and store documents and presentations “in the cloud”, convenient if you are on the move a lot and work on several different computers and devices.
– Freshbooks is another very good time tracking, invoicing and accounting software that is inexpensive to use (it is actually free until you have more than three clients). although it lacks the extras that Zoho does it is very easy to navigate and the interface is very clear. The accounting portion of Freshbooks is detailed while being easy to understand which is very important. As a freelancer you will be responsible for paying all your own taxes so your books need to be good!
– Central Desktop offers many of the same features that Freshbooks does but it is especially good for freelancers who find themselves working in teams. Users can easily share and edit each other’s files of many different kinds – everything from Microsoft office documents to Photoshop files – and communicate in real time chat in a secure environment.
Freelancing for Beginners
– Finding Work!
There are many places beginning freelancers can start looking for real paying jobs. Virtual staffing sites like Odesk and Guru offer a great many opportunities for beginning freelancers and the jobs listed there, while they might not be the highest paying, are a great way to gain entry into the world of freelancing, get an immediate source of income coming in as well as gain some good feedback and testimonials to further build your reputation and brand.
Gumtree can also be a good place to look for freelance “gigs” as can similar sites like Backpage. There are a number of scams there too though, so you should proceed with caution. Never agree to meet people in person in anything other than a very public place and never pay anyone for the “chance” to apply for a freelance assignment.
As you gain experience, you will probably find that a lot of your assignments, gigs or jobs come from referrals from previous or even current clients. For this reason keeping in touch with previous clients is important, even if it is just the occasional email to say hi. You should also always ask for a written testimonial or recommendation whenever you can to help build up to your hopefully growing reputation!