A freelance career is an attractive but occasionally daunting prospect. The freedom to manage one’s own time and workload, plus the ability to negotiate competitive remuneration for services, is balanced against the very real risk of a lack of a consistent income. With that in mind, the decision to stop being a full-time employee and start out as a freelancer is not one to be taken lightly, and a number of important factors must be considered.
A freelancer’s trade is their skills. These dictate the services they can offer, and what they have to sell to prospective clients. Gauging skills is a critical first step for anyone wishing to go freelance. Anyone in this situation should consider the following:
What is it about these skills that make me unique, and how will I stand out from the crowd?
How can I combine my skills with other attributes to create a competitive and attractive offer?
Once this toolkit has been established, there are two other significant areas that a freelancer must get right: marketing and administration. These are areas that would typically be managed by an employing organization, but that someone going it alone must be prepared to manage themselves.
A freelancer effectively needs to sell themselves to get work, which is why it is so important to properly explore the unique services or approach they can offer. Similarly, it is important to give thought to the channels through which this offer can be marketed, and ask the following:
Where will my prospective clients be most likely to notice me? It is important to target marketing material to ensure it is noticed by the right people at the right time.
Am I effectively represented in all media? A good marketing campaign will employ all manner of channels, including online, ambient and face-to-face media.
Am I properly utilizing my network? Word-of-mouth is arguably the most effective method of marketing, and successful freelancers devote a great deal of effort to maintaining contact with influential people.
Administration can be a time-consuming and onerous process, but it is essential to get this right to ensure that things run smoothly from a business management point of view, allowing the freelancer to focus on delivering their service. Things that many permanent employees take for granted, such as pay, invoicing and tax, must all be managed personally by the self-employed, and investing in a support organization that will take care of a great deal of this will maximize a freelancer’s effectiveness and profitability. Contractor pay is an especially complex area in which it can be invaluable to get some external support.
The life of a freelancer can be tough, but it can equally be extremely rewarding. There is without doubt a perceived lack of security compared to a role in permanent full-time employment. However, the rewards are potentially huge, with many freelancers listing freedom and the ability to command higher fees as some of the biggest advantages. With the right preparation and expert support, these benefits are within the reach of anyone willing to take the necessary steps.