Got a job that’s totally boring but pays the bills? Well, it may not be the ideal job but you can use it as a starting block to discovering a whole new career in a job that you really love. With job uncertainty on the rise, working as a freelancer is the smart way to diversify your income, make more money and dictate your own hours.
In truth, most freelancers start out moonlighting and volunteering through a second job so they can get the essential skills, build confidence and slowly break into the industry. It’s the safest way to start out because it still provides a regular pay cheque whilst you forge out your new career.
Test the waters
Starting a freelance career in times of job uncertainty has its benefits. Whatever work you get will boost your income and give you the confidence to eventually go out on your own when you are ready. There’s no point being dramatic and quitting your job before you have a solid network of contacts and a steady stream of freelance work. Test the waters first. Use this time wisely to develop your skills, get your name out there and build a solid client base BEFORE you quit your day job.
Put yourself out there
The key to getting work and building your ‘brand’ as a freelancer is self-promotion. You need to look professional and market your specific skills to potential clients. It’s an ongoing process and something that doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t skimp on your marketing as this is the face of you and your new business. You will need business cards and maybe a website or online portfolio/résumé to showcase who you are, what services you offer and how people can contact you. This doesn’t mean you have to spend loads of money as some online services can be free. Shop around and you’ll certainly find something within your budget. When you’re just starting out, don’t waste your money on paid advertising as your work initially will come from your friends, family, business contacts and referrals from happy clients.
Time is money, so overestimate
Answering the question “What’s your rate?” is a challenge for every freelancer. Don’t fall into the trap of underpricing yourself just because you want the contract. Rates will vary, depending on the job, so when you’re quoting an hourly rate, overestimate time and money. This will cover you for time taken of the job is complex or for things like bookkeeping and administration. As you get more experience, you’ll learn to read your clients and will have a better idea of exactly how much time certain jobs will take you. Don’t forget about all those late nights and weekend hours you’ll work to meet deadlines so make sure you account for these in the quote if you need to. The longer you work as a freelancer, the better you’ll get at using your ‘poker face’ when quoting your highest rates.
Keep on top of your bookkeeping
You’ll soon discover all the ‘behind the scenes’ activities involved with running your own business. There will be quotes to prepare, invoices to send, payments to chase up, tax to pay and accounts to reconcile. If managing your accounts isn’t your forte, find yourself a good bookkeeper. You can’t afford to fall behind on this stuff because it will affect not only your cashflow, but possibly your credit rating (if you fall behind with paying your bills). Online accounting programs like XERO make it easy to keep on top of things if you want to have a go at it yourself.
So, now you have a better idea of how to start out working as a freelancer, you’re one step closer to working in your dream job where you control the hours that you work and exactly who you work for. When the time’s right, you can finally quit that boring old day job and embrace the lifestyle that so many freelancers enjoy.