If you've been considering making the switch to a freelance career or just adding a side gig, this article offers some tips and encouragement.
The number of self-employed Americans is on the rise. Some reports estimate that over 50 million Americans are freelancing full or part time. This is close to one in three working adults.
The benefits of self-employment are well known. Being your own boss and the potential for a higher income are usually at the top of the list. Additionally, many corporations increasingly prefer to hire self-employed professionals as contract workers instead of expanding their full-time employee count.
Picking an industry and finding clients
Freelancers are in high demand, which means there is plenty of work available. Gig marketplaces offer a broad range of jobs. Some examples are virtual assistants, writers, designers and marketing specialists. However, the majority of available jobs may not suit your expertise or financial goals.
Start by identifying what you're good at (and enjoy doing) and how that translates to freelancing.
Here are some examples:
- If you’re good at software development, you can build Shopify apps and stores or WordPress sites and plug-ins.
- If you're skilled at writing essays and stories, you can create or proofread copy.
- If you're good with a camera, you can do portrait or commercial photography.
- If you’re knowledgeable about statistics, you can offer data mining and analysis.
- If you’re adept at video production, you can offer video-editing services.
- If you have a very pleasant voice, you can record audiobooks, elearning courses or video game voices.
- If you're skilled in accounting, you can help others understand tax codes and deductions.
Once you've picked an industry, the next step is to find a client. According to successful freelancers, the best approach is old-fashioned relationship building. Reach out to friends and former colleagues to land your first client and then word-of-mouth referrals lead to more clients.
Alternatively, a quicker but less-empowered approach is to source gigs on marketplaces. Most marketplaces manage the client payment process, so, as a freelancer, you won't have to invoice clients directly.
Ultimately, the long-term livelihood of your freelance business depends on your ability to find clients yourself and then build a steady supply of work.
Building a freelance business and growing revenue
As a freelancer, building your business and growing its revenue falls squarely on your shoulders. That's the challenge facing anyone who's willing to work independently.
Some of the best practices for building a freelance business are to:
- Set clear financial goals for your business
- Find a niche where you can demonstrate value (and earn a profit)
- Enable existing clients to help you find new clients
- Build your reputation and your personal brand
- Strengthen your craft
Risks of freelancing and how to navigate them
Given a low barrier to entry and nearly no startup cost, anyone can start a freelancing side hustle. It is competitive, however. There can be a temptation to lower your rates to win a new client and grow overall revenue, but it’s important to stay disciplined about the value of your time and the profitability of each client.
Additionally, a common pitfall is taking on a large project that requires subcontracting parts of the whole. This is a worthy growth strategy, but it introduces third-party risks.
Building a freelance business is both challenging and rewarding. With a long-term mindset, you can establish career independence, plus the majority of self-employed professionals report higher levels of job satisfaction and higher income than their peers with traditional jobs.