I once took part in a competition in which the video had to be presented what a day in the life of a freelancer looks like. The short films recorded by the participants of the game were even touching – they told about getting up at 12:00, quiet work in a cafe, which was basically a break between coffee and cheesecake, after which you quickly spend the entire afternoon in the company of friends. I had no doubts – none of these people work as a freelancer. The reality is completely different.
Who is actually a freelancer today?
If we look at the definition of a freelancer according to my favorite encyclopedia, Merriam-Webster, we will find out that this name has its origin in of the Middle Ages, and it meant mercenary soldiers – free lance means “free spear” in a fairly free translation. However, the modern definition defines him as a professional in a given field without employment with one employer. Exactly what field?
As it turns out, it’s hard to list all the activities you can freelance. Well, it’s hard to list all that can be done remotely! Although initially this model of work is associated with professions known as “creative”, such as graphic designers, UX designers and photographers. On my way, however, I came across freelancers with more surprising professions. Let’s start with the trainers – among my close friends I can mention experts training in public speaking, time management and charisma. But for freelancers, training is not necessary. Because this name can be called, for example, a psychotherapist! After all, he has regular patients, but not employers, right? This is by no means a fake example – I know a therapist who works with her clients remotely from the Canary Islands.
If you do not know how to verify whether your profession can be freelance, I have advice for you. If you live in a big city check out the next digital nomad meeting. I guarantee you that you will meet people working in the entire spectrum of professions – from programmers, through recruiters, to laughter yoga instructors. After a few conversations, not only will you find out that someone is probably already doing something similar – you will probably also get some practices and tools that will allow you to transfer your profession to a freelance model.
The possibilities don’t stop there. In retrospect, this change is not only inspiring, but fun for me – I remember that when I finished my studies, it was planned to start a career in recruitment. After the internship, however, I changed my direction. Reason? It was not a remote job at the time and I thought it would be necessary to become attached to one company.
How do I start?
If this entry was a sentence length, and I was one self-employed experience would be: start after your working hours.
Seriously. At work as a freelancer, jumping into deep water often ends up in the same way as jumping headlong in untested places – there is a great chance you will hurt yourself. Everything has to be built gradually for many reasons.
First and foremost – the customer base takes a long time to build. As a nomad, I often find myself in a situation where I am approached by people I meet in a city where I have not lived for two years. Working remotely is usually not an obstacle, but the basic principle does not change – your brand recognition in the local market takes time. After the first orders are completed, someone will mention you to a friend who just needs the services you provide. But this demand may not appear until months later!
Where to find orders? Much depends on what you will be doing and how you prefer to communicate with clients. Personally, I am a bit more conservative in this respect and I like to meet a potential contractor in person. What is the best place for that? That’s right – meetups! This is always a great first step to introduce yourself. Exactly – to present. Because one of the best ways to build an expert brand is to take the stage. As an expert in a particular field, you will often meet clients – sometimes in the most unexpected places. Did you think that during a meeting about the promotion of an online store, you will meet, for example, a web designer who makes business cards? I didn’t know, but I still use his services.
What if we prefer to do everything online? Of course – nothing stands in the way! A great example of a portal where you can start working as a freelancer is Upwork. The portal acts as an intermediary in cooperation between the contractor and the client and provides security, thanks to which you can be sure that your work will be remunerated on time. However, it is connected with a commission charged by the website. Often, however, customers satisfied with the cooperation made through Upwork will pass you on. And the flow of orders from command is a scenario that everyone is striving for.
Of course, it doesn’t end with Upwork – you can also try your hand at platforms such as Fiverr or Freelancer, although on these portals you have to reckon with a more difficult one market situation – there are many freelancers working for very low wages.
Due to the above, I personally suggest staying with the most effective social media. The one that was created for professionals, LinkedIn. Why? For two reasons – first, positioning yourself as an expert is much easier there. Posts have much larger ranges, there are few people creating their content compared to other users, and users are used to accepting “cold” offers. If you think about it, this is the best place to sell directly! Of course, this process is best automated – for this you can use a tool such as LinkedIn Helper and try to generate leads with campaigns sent this way.
What to be afraid of in freelancing?
It is only after a few months of self-employment that I understand why the answer to this question is usually “everything”. It’s hard to count all the pitfalls that you can fall into when working as a freelancer and they are slightly different in each profession. The basis for everyone, however, is the same – work organization and business strategy .
Working in a freelance model, in practice, you act as a one-man company. And this company must have established customer acquisition sources, marketing, financial security for the harder months, and many other details. According to the Pareto principle – 20% of your actions will guarantee 80% of your income. However, before you get to what is “your 20%” you have to try everything.
I have already given a few ways to get leads. Unfortunately, the difficulties do not end here. After all, you have to discuss the terms of cooperation with the contractor. Many times, this may involve lengthy contracts until all important points are covered. And yet this is not the time for which someone will pay us – and so are meetings. Therefore, at the beginning, the valuation of a freelancer job will almost always be unreliable. Because either we know the market rates and we lack experience, which means we take too much, or – what is more popular – the work will be priced too cheaply, because “alternative costs” such as time for meetings and discussing the terms of cooperation can take as long as the execution of the order itself.
As you read these suggestions, you’re probably thinking, “I’ll do it differently.” If so, then you definitely have the right attitude to work as a freelancer. But even perfectly planned activities will not bring fantastic results if you do not lead to their full implementation. Do you remember the ideas about YouTube freelancers I mentioned earlier? By organizing your work this way, you probably won’t be able to make a living. Unfortunately, there is nothing more important in self-employment than rigor. As Jocko Willink repeats “Discipline = Freedom”. For what joy is the freedom from being self-employed, if we are prisoners of our own indolence? Finishing work at 23:00 and not finding time for myself all day long, it is rather difficult to find the advantages of such work.
I realize that some people may be wondering at this point why people like me choose this type of work model at all. I can only be responsible for myself, so let me tell you my motivation: I just hate having a boss. Seriously. For me it was enough encouragement and the reason why I quit my job most of the time, and more importantly – the comfort resulting from my sense of independence was a decisive factor for me, which makes me not going back to my job. And although working as a freelancer or a sole proprietorship involves numerous obligations and a number of minor sacrifices, it was a price that I would not hesitate to pay again. And you? Why exactly do you want to become a freelancer?