Wondering how to get started as a freelancer?
This is a question I am asked regularly by newbie freelancers.
It’s a bit of a chicken/egg question.
Do you start with a website?
Do you start with business cards?
Do you do a course so you know you have the right skills?
There is no 100% correct way to get the ball rolling as a freelancer but here is the advice I share with the freelancers who I mentor.
How to get started as a freelancer prologue: Be good at what you do
You can’t make money as a freelancer if you’re not good at what you do. So prior to step #1, make sure you are confident about your skills.
If you’re not reasonably high on the ladder of ability, that is the place to start. Enrol in a course, find an industry mentor and practice, practice, practice.
#1 Decide if this is what you really want
If you haven’t already, my initial advice is to make sure you’re clear about what freelancing involves and whether you really believe it is right for you.
Go through the pros and cons of freelancing vs having a job. If you need immediate security and stability, freelancing may not be the right path. If you have some wiggle room and flexibility for things to build slowly, plus you are 100% willing to commit to making it work, you should be ok.
Write down a list of what you want your life to look like. Will freelancing enhance or diminish that picture?
Remember not to buy into the ‘dream’ of tapping away for a few hours at a laptop then having the day entirely to yourself. It’s not always like that, especially in the early days.
Read more: “You can be like me”
#2 Decide WHAT you are going to offer
By this I mean what’s your ‘job’ title.
“I am a freelance makeup artist”
“I am a freelance personal branding consultant”
“I am a freelance copywriter”
From the word go, you need to be clear on what you have to offer. A business plan can help with this, even if you’re only making a few notes in each section.
Once you are clear on what you are, get clear on how you are going to help people.
“I am a freelance makeup artist who specialises in creating timeless looks for wedding parties”
“I am a freelance personal branding consultant who helps mumpreneurs to create an impactful presence.”
“I am a freelance copywriter who helps health industry professionals promote their business and win their ideal clients”.
This is your ‘elevator pitch’ and it’s gonna come in handy!
(Note that you can help lots of different types of people but pick one to start with so you can be articulate about what you offer).
#3 Write down your goals
Write a list of huge goals (e.g. make enough money to semi-retire at 50) and a list of achievable ones (e.g. have six steady clients on retainer).
Now choose three or four goals from your list and figure out how you are going to achieve them. They may need to be broken down further, e.g. find my first client.
Don’t overwhelm yourself! The huge goals will be more realistic once you start knocking off the smaller ones.
#4 Make a plan
Your next step is to figure out how to achieve your goals. It could be as simple as setting up a business email address and emailing twenty people who you think could help you.
It might be to ‘brave up’ and head to your first networking event.
Your plan could start with updating your LinkedIn profile and connecting with people you would ideally like to work with.
Of course, the most important thing about your plan is that you take action, even if it is only one small step at a time.
- Ring a web developer.
- Write a blog and put it on your social media.
- Email your ideal client.
Take the steps to bring your new business to life.
To answer the question, “Do I need a website before I start telling people I am a freelancer?”, you don’t. Websites take a while. Start the process but don’t use not having a website as an excuse to hold yourself back.
#6. Don’t stop
There are no rules. There is no exact science about what will work.
Your email may not get a response. So pick up the phone. Or email someone else.
Your Facebook business page may get no followers. So start a Facebook Group instead and figure out how to direct more people to it. Or switch to LinkedIn and see if your ideal people are there.
And PS, you won’t immediately get an avalanche of clients from one networking event. Show up again. Make friends. Get to know people. This is when things will start to come together.
If it’s not working, try something else.
To answer the question of how to get started as a freelancer, start with some thinking and planning. Figure out what you want to achieve. Then start taking the steps to make things happen.
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