The rise of the gig economy has provided more opportunities than ever for freelancers to start their own businesses. Here are our insider tips and strategies to help you build a successful freelance career that can sustain you for the long haul.
Develop a vision. For many people, the very first obstacle to becoming a successful freelancer is the largest. It's the voice in their heads saying they won't be able to do it and shouldn't even try. You can overcome this barrier by viewing your idea as a business plan instead of a passing whim. If you still aren't completely sold, spend some time researching your market and potential competitors to gauge demand and assess whether your idea is different from or comparable to existing businesses.
Find your market. At this point, you should know what you plan to offer as part of your freelance business. Whatever it is, you will need customers. Ask yourself who could benefit from your product or talents. You can get some good ideas by studying requests on freelancing websites and online classifieds. You should also look to see which businesses your competitors are targeting. Finally, don't be afraid to think outside the box and sell your service to companies that may not even realize they need it.
Sell yourself. If you are just starting out, you may lack references and past work that demonstrate your abilities. In turn, it's important to make yourself look as professional as possible. This means developing an impressive collection of marketing materials that should include, at minimum, business cards, a website and active social media accounts. You should also look into creating a logo that will set yourself apart from less professional freelancers.
Bolster your portfolio. It's very unlikely that you will gain much business without being able to prove your work. To get your portfolio up to speed, consider doing some discount or complimentary work for anyone who will accept it. Whether it's a charity, non-profit organization or family friend, you need someone to give you a chance to show your skills. While it may be frustrating working for little to no money, the work will pay for itself when it helps you gain more lucrative opportunities.
Get a head start. Before you even think about quitting your day job, make sure you build up a decent amount of clients. You should also put enough cash away to keep your freelance business viable if you have to look for work to replace a lost client.
Diversify your client list. In the world of freelancing, payments often come late or, sometimes, not at all. If you get 80 percent of your income from a single client, what will you do if that company cancels your contract, goes out of business or refuses to pay your fee? To avoid financial catastrophe, try to diversify your client list, so you aren't too reliant on one single payer. Even if you have to turn down some work, it's a good idea to spread your proverbial eggs across multiple baskets in case someone lets you down.