How to Freelance

How to freelanceSince we often discuss ways to earn extra income to accelerate your progress toward paying off debt, we decided to write a post about what it means to be a freelancer and how to freelance for those who might be interested.

What is a freelancer?

A freelancer, is someone who’s self-employed, building their own business instead of working for an employer. A freelance business is slightly different than a small business, and is normally made up of a company of one, or as some call it, a solopreneur.

Anyone who offers their services as an independent contractor in areas like web design, marketing, copywriting, painting and etc, is considered a freelancer. Running your own freelance business is both liberating and stressful, but for many entrepreneurs (like myself) we thrive on this type of risk and reward scenario.

How to start freelancing…

Freelance Step 1: Establish your brand

Before you can be successful at freelancing, you need to first establish your brand. Are you building a service based business, a product based business (which could mean physical or digital) or a combination of both?

When you reach out to potential clients, you need to know exactly what your brand is, so you can accurately portray your business to them.

People want to work with an expert, and even if you don’t view yourself as an expert – yet – you still need to emit the confidence that you believe in your brand and your business. This applies to anyone from a solopreneur to a large corporation, and it’s the first step in learning how to freelance.

Freelance Step 2: Build your portfolio

Once you’ve narrowed down what your business will be, it’s time to build your portfolio. When you’re just starting out this is especially difficult because you don’t have past experience to prove your worth. I faced this when I started my freelance business over a year ago and here’s how I built my portfolio from the ground up.

Start a blog or website. If your business is web design, it’s essential you have a website to display your talents. If you plan to interview experts, you need to have a blog where you record videos and display your skills. The best way to showcase what you do, is to build a living, breathing portfolio by starting a blog or website.

Work for free. In the beginning you won’t have the luxury of opportunities dropping in your lap, so you’ll have to go out and hustle to make it happen. The best way to get on the radar of potential clients or influential people, is to offer your work for free. Start off by offering a trial run, for 2 weeks and if they aren’t impressed with your work, they can let you go. But if they do like your stuff, work out a deal where they start paying you. Be sure to ask to for a recommendation or a referral too!

Get paid to learn. This method goes along with the working for free tip, but it’s a little better since you’re getting paid from the start. View yourself and your business in the intern stage (because, you probably are) and look for clients who are well connected, offer mentorship, and other valuable services. At this stage of the game building your reputation and proving your worth is much more valuable than money.

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Freelance Step 3: Under-promise and over-deliver

When you first start freelancing, you’ll be tempted to say “Yes” to every opportunity that crosses your path, and to promise them everything under the sun. You’ll find out the hard way, like I did, that it’s better to be selective when choosing your clients, and to always under promise and over deliver.

Wouldn’t you rather give yourself an extra day or two to complete the project and get it done a day early – than to over extend yourself, get stressed out and produce not only poor quality work, but be late in delivering it?

I know you’re probably thinking – clients won’t hire you unless you’re fast and promise to get the job done ASAP. Well that might be true, but ask yourself this: are you building a fast-paced, mediocre quality brand? Or are you going to deliver high quality goods and services, even if it takes extra time?

What’s your secret sauce?

To be truly successful at running a freelance business you have understand your secret sauce – that special something that sets you apart from all the other freelancers, businesses and brands out there.

Discovering your secret sauce, is quite simple. In fact you probably don’t even realize it’s something special, because it comes so naturally to you.

Your special something could be how passionate you are, and how much you care about your work and your clients. Unfortunately, finding someone who is passionate and excited about their work is a rare find today, and that in itself will set you apart from the thousands out there.

Learning how to freelance and starting a freelance business takes a lot of work, time and effort but the sacrifice is worth the reward when you get to work alongside people that are changing the world. I feel extremely blessed to work with people that inspire me, and can honestly say I would do it even if I wasn’t getting paid!

Image credit: boguslavovna

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  • http://www.onesmartdollar.com/ Sean @ One Smart Dollar

    Love that you added under-promise and over-deliver. This is what I try and live by. It reduces the amount of pressure that is on your shoulders. You will also get a much better reputation.

    • http://carefulcents.com/ Carrie Smith

      Very true! This is something I recommend to anyone who wants to start freelance, because I learned the lesson the hard way. :)

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Great tips! Running our own business I can attest to all of these being vital. Building a brand is extremely important, however the under promise and over deliver is just as much so, if not more. We try to do this ourselves and it really can help build a solid client base.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      Glad you liked the article, John! Sounds like you are already executing many of these tips.

  • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde

    These are such great tips. I’ve also made the mistake of taking on projects that were not the right fit. Now, I’m much more selective and only choose projects that I have an aptitude for or am really passionate about.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      That’s a good strategy! It’s always better to focus on the projects you can get excited about.

  • http://twitter.com/eemusings eemusings

    The last really is key. I tend to lack confidence in myself anyway and I’m always so pleasantly surprised when I get gushing feedback!

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      Yes, I agree! I think almost everyone who works at creating something (be it an article, a website design, a blueprint for a building, etc.) enjoys hearing that their work is appreciated.