So you have decided to be a freelancer. Good for you. But before you start freelancing, you should be clear on what you want to achieve (your goal), where you are right now (your start point) and how to get there (your strategy). You can get clarity on these by asking yourselves some tough questions. The answers to these questions will prepare your for a profitable freelancing life ahead. So be ruthless, don’t build stories about yourself in your mind and write down the answers to following questions:
1. Will I be a part time / full time freelancer?
Mostly applicable to those who have jobs or other vocations – but also to be considered by students, housewives etc who will never have enough time for full-time freelancing. This will depend on various factors like the amount of time you need to devote to your freelancing career and cash “runway” i.e. how long your savings will last at the current cash burn rate. My advice is to start small, get adequate experience and build up your reputation before you quit your secure job and go full-time freelancing.
2. What am I good at / passionate about?
You are good at something – writing, singing, photography, programming…something. Everyone of us is unique and has a passion about something. The fact that you are reading this post is because you want to channelize that passion for a rewarding experience. Identify your top talent and skills that excite you and motivate you to work. In professional life, there is no greater joy than getting up in the morning, all excited to begin the job you love and have passion about – it then transforms from work to pleasure. If you have a unique skill set which is much in demand then you have hit the freelancing jackpot.
3. What kind of competition am I up against?
Here you must consider points like how many freelancers are in my area / marketplace with same skills that I have, how much fees do they charge, do they charge “hourly” or “flat-rate / per project” and so on? The Internet has dissolved geographical boundaries because of which anyone, anywhere can access online freelance marketplaces. Hence location or area does not matter with regard to competition on Internet based freelancing marketplaces. But I do think that the most important criterion is your skillset. It is not surprising to observe that easier the skill, larger the number of freelancers you are competing against. For example, data entry is the easiest skill and almost everyone can do it. So how do you compete against this? For the answer read next point.
3. What is my USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? Do I need to update / enhance my skill set?
This is an extension of the last question. How do you stand out from the crowd to ensure that your proposals are seen by potential clients? You need to have something extra to make the buyer consider you favorably. Remember the data entry example I mentioned in the last point? One way to increase your chance of getting hired by clients is to emphasize how fast i.e. number of words per minute you can type (which means start typing practice), how accurate (so make no or few mistakes), and what tools you have that the competition doesn’t etc. Now this point is not only about upgrading your skill, but also about how you market your services and also the way you interact with clients or potential employers. Now apply it to your skillset and make that difference. For those who are not yet adequately skilled, I suggest learning / upgrading yourself. I have listed many online courses on the tools page….invest some time and money on these courses and get ahead of others.
4. What are the resources that I need?
The obvious answer here is that you will need at least a computer or laptop with the required software and an Internet connection. In certain cases, you may also need other hardware (foot pedals for transcription, a DSLR camera for photography etc.) The non-obvious answer is – can you farm out or outsource some of your own tasks to someone else, maybe your friend? This will free you from time consuming small jobs to let you focus on your core expertise that generates the bulk of your revenue. For example, you have expertise in web development but you spend lot of time in setting up the hosting, databases, site security etc. So why not outsource this task to others – if not to your friend, then to other freelancers available on fiverr.com etc. You will understand it as you get along in your freelancing career.
5. Which are the freelance marketplaces where I need to be?
There are hundreds of freelancing websites with more setting up every other day. But you should concentrate on only a few of them. Do not spread yourself thin by registering on all market spaces – you will simply not have the time and energy to bid and work on them all. Just register and focus on one or two online freelance marketspaces and perhaps a digital goods market, if applicable to you. (I have explained various types of freelancing marketplaces in this post.)