How to Earn a Living From Freelancing
How you make a living from freelancing will depend on part what your starting point is, and to a small degree your location.
There is a world of difference between an experienced and successful graphic designer of 20 years who has just been laid off and a school leaver who wants to start out making a living writing.
The word freelance doesn't mean a type of work, but a way of working. As a freelancer, you make a living from freelancing by doing what you do best for many companies/clients, rather than being employed full-time by one company doing the same sort of work.
Freelance jobs can be found in every job: writers, graphic designers, programmers, all the way through to public relations professionals and proof-readers. Any job can provide opportunities to work as a freelancer, but some are more likely to present opportunities in sufficient number that it's worth looking for these roles.
So, firstly. you need to sit down and write down your list of skills. Be very specific at first. e.g. don't think of yourself as a freelance graphic designer, but target specific areas to go for, so maybe freelance logo designer, or freelance book cover designer. Pick a niche. This will focus your efforts and enable you to produce a good portfolio of that type of work. Building a strong portfolio is important, as this is what you can show to potential new clients to show them the depth and breadth of your skills.
It's tempting, at first, to list 20 skills you have, but focus down on maybe 3-5 that you know you are particularly strong at.
As a freelancer, you'll need to stand out from the crowd.
Look at your short-listed 3-5 key areas you are going to target and write one strong paragraph that sells your service to potential clients. In one paragraph, tell them why they should hire you to work as a freelancer. "I can do this, I've done lots of it" isn't a pitch. Nobody will hire you if you simply say you can do it. Try to come up with your Unique Selling Point (USP). "I can do this, I've done lots of it .... I can guarantee you a turnaround of 48 hours" is a bit more punchy. Now you've given them a reason to hire you, now you're competing on time.
Think about the USPs you could offer - speed is not right for everybody and won't work at all for some freelance jobs. A short, clear statement of your ability will win most freelance jobs.
FREELANCE JOBS: GETTING PAID
When you earn a living from freelancing jobs, you no longer have one payday per month. You can, quite literally, have 30 paydays a month! Or be paid several times a day.... although this is unusual it is achievable :)
If you are working for local companies, they will probably expect you to produce them an invoice at the end of the month, then wait a month before they get round to paying you with a check. This is quite slow and old-fashioned - and, on average, you will find it takes them 60 days to pay you from when you invoice them, meaning it could be a full three months before you're paid for the work.
If you're working online through freelance job websites, the norm is to be paid once your work has finished and your client has signed it off. Payment is quite often instantly by Paypal. I've had instances where somebody has asked me to do some freelance work for them, I've done it in the next hour and just 10 minutes later the payment's arrived by Paypal. This is probably fairly unusual, I was working with an organisation who are on the ball and want to retain good talent. However, the time between doing the work and being paid is significantly faster online.
Many freelance jobs websites have an escrow system, where the client pays the money up front into an escrow service and as soon as they sign off the work you submit, the funds are freed from escrow into your bank or Paypal account.
Just be wary of giving too much time to companies who are slow at paying, if they turn out to be a bad payer you could have wasted weeks or months working for them, never to receive a dime. My experience has been that this happens more often locally, when I invoice, than when I do work for online companies.
Mix N Match Freelance Jobs
Try to get a mix of incomes on the go.
Mix and match your assignments across as many types of clients and different sized jobs as you can, until the cashflow becomes more regular. If your first freelance job is full-time and lasts 6 weeks, that's a lot of time devoting your energy into one payment. And at the end of it you're back to square one with 0 clients.
It's better to pitch to many clients and have money coming in regularly and have a regular turnover of smaller clients.
Cashflow is the main thing you have to keep an eye on.
YOUR FREELANCE PORTFOLIO
For many freelance jobs, you'll need a freelance portfolio - this is simply some online evidence of what you can do. It doesn't have to be work you've done as a freelancer in the past, you can simply create a portfolio to get up and running to earn a living from freelancing.
If you're a writer, then that will be a place where you can showcase your writing and writing styles. One great place to build an online portfolio for freelance writers is right here on Hubpages, you can create pages just like this with the minimum of fuss and no technical skills, just by signing up (free) and writing.
Once you've published your first hub, you own the copyright to your work and you're completely free at any future point to adjust, amend, update or extend it as often as you wish - much easier than producing paper-based portfolios, or even your own website. Hubpages also has fantastic power within Google and can get you worldwide exposure and traffic. Click here to join Hubpages and create a portolio.
If you're not a writer, then you can still use Hubpages to build a portfolio. Graphic artists, for example, could upload examples of their work - and the hubs you write can be an explanation of the techniques or tools used, or what message you were trying to portray. Some graphic artists will bring attention to themselves by producing short tutorials of techniques.
Photographers love hubpages too, for showing off their portfolios and talking about their equipment and photography in general, again, short tutorials, with examples of their work, are a fabulous way of raising your profile and letting people get to know what you can achieve.
There's also a profile page you get, where you can pitch your skills. The only rule in Hubpages is that you should write good informational hubs and not over-promote. Over-promoting is defined as linking more than two times to the same website in any hub, so think about engaging the reader, not thrusting your services down their throats.
Click here to join Hubpages and create a portolio
Once you have your web presence sorted out, your portfolio ready to rock, your unique selling point and pitch sorted ... it's time to pitch for freelance jobs and start to earn a living from freelancing.
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FINDING FREELANCE JOBS
Where you find freelance jobs will depend on what you are freelancing in. For writers, there's the obvious routes of looking online on freelance jobs websites and bidding on jobs. Graphic designers can also use this route.
Freelance PR professionals, though, need to get out and about, networking with people, get in with the movers and shakers, join local business groups.
Think about the industry you're in:
- Are there any online forums to join? Maybe you can put a link to your website/portfolio in your signature.
- Are there any local events you need to attend and network at?
- Are there any national events you can plan to be at?
- Start a local or regional group if there's nothing.
- Pick up the phone and get phoning round all your old contacts, let everybody know you're in business.
Getting your own web presence is pretty much essential these days. Even if you're technologically challenged and want to offer freelance bookkeeping to local businesses, it's more than worth your time creating just one simple page that lays out what services you provide and how to contact you. To not have even one webpage these days is as much a mistake as to have not had business cards 10 years ago.
Get business cards printed. Keep some with you all the time, network, talk to people, hand out your card.
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