In the past few years, the freelancing industry has seen marked growth. In fact, as recently as 2011 theFinancial Times (UK) reported a growth of 12 percent in the number of freelancers since 2008. Thanks to popular and professional broker sites, like Elance, opportunities for the professional freelancer have grown exponentially.
Freelancing is one of the most rewarding career choices. It allows for flexible hours, noteworthy freedom, and the ability to choose your clients—not to mention it makes people happier. The 2012 Freelance Industry Report claims that approximately 90 percent of freelancers report being happier after going solo.
If you’ve thought about freelancing, there is no better time to take the leap to independent employment than the present. But what if you have little to no experience? Do you feel intimidated because your industry experience is minimal or because you’re nervous about just how to freelance? Don’t worry. The following steps are designed to get you started.
Step 1: Choose Your Craft
The truth of current business is that almost anything can be outsourced, and companies often prefer it to creating an in-house position. There is a strong likelihood that one or more of the skills on your resume contain freelancing opportunities.
Choosing your craft will require a little out of the box thinking. We’re not all computer programmers or graphic designers. Sometimes it’s our secondary skills that provide strong opportunity. For example, if you are a strong writer or administrator, you have the potential to develop a freelance writing or personal assistant business.
You don’t need a specific set of skills, or years of experience, to step into the freelance market. The most important foundation is one of confidence, determination, motivation, and a strong drive to educate yourself continually.
Step 2: Brand Yourself
Freelance success hinges on personal branding. Creating a brand is vital because it sets you apart from the expanding crowd of freelance businesses and services inundating the net. Take care in crafting your brand. It should:
- Identify who you are and what you stand for.
- Establish an online presence (i.e. a website, social media profiles, and blog).
- Clearly communicate your unique selling proposition (i.e. what makes you special).
Niche marketing is especially useful for branding. For example, if you’re a graphic designer you might choose to brand work for startup businesses only. Specializations will make you attractive to specific clients and simultaneously give you a strong chance of success.
Step 3: Build a Portfolio
Here’s a fact few people realize about the freelance world: your portfolio sells better than your qualifications. People are more interested in seeing what you can do. You can tell them what you’re capable of, but seeing is believing.You should use two tactics:
- Build and display a portfolio. Samples, examples, and links to successful projects will show prospective clients that you’re worth their time and a good investment.
- Leverage testimonials and reviews. When you’re first starting out, don’t turn away pro bono work. It might initially seem like a waste of time and energy, but it’s often this type of work that earns positive testimonials and reviews.
Step 4: Sell Yourself
You can’t beat a good pitch. And you shouldn’t seek out paying clients until you’re confidently able to demonstrate your abilities with a quality portfolio and glowing testimonials. Your ultimate goal is to build a reputation. Once you’ve accomplished this task through pro bono projects, it’s time to start selling (or pitching).
So, to whom should you pitch? If you took care in crafting your brand, then you know exactly whom your audience is and who among that audience make up your ideal clients. Those prospective paying customers will take your specialized approach much more seriously than if you kept to general or generic service offers.
Where will you find potential clients to win over? In a word:everywhere. Potential buyers are scattered from Google search queries to social media channels and everything in between. The possible places to market are vast and endless. Focus on your niche, and discover where your ideal prospects hang out. Then, make your presence known.
Step 5: Gamble
No, don’t hit the Vegas strip and gamble away your savings in an attempt to startup. Securing freelance work is a game of numbers. The more prospects you contact, the more likely you will be to find work.
Volume and relevancy are important. Market, and do so often and in volume. Target your volume toward relevant areas where your ideal customers will see your pitch. The more you work the numbers, the better your chances of landing a project.
Once you’ve started acquiring work, do your best to deliver unmatched quality. Word of mouth referrals will be an extra boost to your marketing endeavors.