Tips To Launch Your Career As A Freelancer
“Freelancer”, once a resume code word for “unemployed”, has quickly evolved into the staffing of the future, especially among millennials. Recent grads, seeking the autonomous freedom of self-employment, but feeling the financial constraints of student loans, have embraced freelancing as a promising career opportunity. Freelancing allows one to enjoy many of the perks of self-employment, but opportunities to participate in “big-business” as an independent contractor. Bigger companies are also welcoming this staffing trend with open arms, as it fosters lower labor expense by transforming a historically fixed cost into a more accommodating, variable one.
Challenged to adapt my always entrepreneurially-inclined professional pursuits to my husband’s transient military service demands, I quickly feel in love with the opportunities freelancing offers. While we were never able to stay in one place long enough for me to open my “dream biz”, The Hanna Banana Ice Cream Emporium, freelancing allowed me to take advantage of many entrepreneurial opportunities with super cool, change the world start-ups—all the excitement without the investment!
With cultural utilization of mobile technology and today’s “connected” society, freelancing is now easier than ever. If you’d like to ride the wave of the freelance economy, check out the following tips for launching your career as fabulous freelancer:
While I may boast my badass clogging abilities, or extensive education regarding biochemical fermentation processes, those skills don’t receive high demand on the freelance market. However, my social media savvy combined with start-up promo experience gets quite the response from new companies seeking affordable talent, thus leading me to “brand” myself as a start-up marketing consultant.
We all have a few “special talents” up our sleeves. Identify your top five; take a skill inventory assessment and brainstorm your strengths. Bring in the crowd; ask your friends and family, “What am I good at?” and jot down their feedback. Others often have a more objective perspective of our talents than ourselves. Review your results. Identify what “tools of the trade” you offer that may be in high demand, and define your unique brand.
Never underestimate the power of a “cold call” (or in today’s world, “cold e-mail”) to a company you find interesting. Taking the initiative communicates A LOT to your potential employer/client; it says you’re self-motivated, prepared, and resourceful.
Do your homework before the intro; find out as much as you can about the company’s mission, its founders, and its market. Snoop out direct points of contact (LinkedIn!). Research the founder’s alma mater, past press releases, supported causes, top competition, etc. Know everything you can about who and what makes their company great, before you approach them. This is your chance to shine, so make it count!
When identifying potential clients, I simply make lists of start-ups that I think are cool, and whose strategy appears to be lacking in the area of my particular expertise. Be prepared to present key points of what skills or strategies you will bring the company upon initial contact. Don’t show all your cards, just a few “teasers” to demonstrate your value.
Few companies are going to “seal the deal” on first point of contact, so closing the first convo, be prepared to route them to more info regarding your background and expertise. In today’s tech-oriented world, you’re going to need more than a business card and resume on $2/sheet paper. Get visible on LinkedIn and/or invest in an online resume—a website displaying your professional pursuits in detail Upload Your Resume. Like promoting a product, a freelancer must make their product—themselves–accessible and appealing to potential “purchasers”.
Most employers are nervous to pay freelancers an hourly wage, and quite frankly, I don’t blame them: 1) Freelancers are usually operating without direct supervision (i.e. from their own home or local Starbucks), and 2) the contracting company may have no prior experience working with you, thus very little reassuring rapport has been established. To make yourself more appealing to companies, consider structuring your compensation requirements within one of the two following guidelines—flat rate or performance based.
If you’re delivering a completed project, such as: web page, brochure design, editorial services, consider proposing a flat rate, or per job, fee. Contracting companies will not be happy if conclude your gig with “surprise” charges—additional hours, overestimate costs, etc. Put their mind at ease by negotiating a flat rate fee before starting on a project. Such an agreement puts the “risk” on the freelancer.
Performance based compensation—music to an employers’ ear. While such an arrangement may not be applicable to all skill sets, anyone with abilities that will yield quantifiable results, such as: increased sales, increased website traffic, etc., should consider how a performance based compensation scale might work for them. This communicates the freelancer’s confidence in their own abilities, instilling good faith in the client.
Start-ups and distressed businesses are the #1 utilizers of freelancers that I have encountered. Such organizations are often forced to make lightning speed changes, and operating on a shoestring budget. When freelance marketing for a start-up, I presented an aggressive, tactical, (and expensive) marketing campaign comparable in scale to that of their competitors. Instead of receiving a round of applause for my B-school approved strategy, I was met with quizzical looks. The CEO finally broke the silence with a curt, “We don’t have money for marketing. Figure out a way to promote for free.” He was serious!
While freelancing may require you to be exceptionally innovative, don’t forget that it often provides you the same degree of flexibility it may require. Freelancers often set their own hours, don’t have to deal with annoying co-workers, and can work from anywhere (the beach is my personal fav). However, don’t fall into the trap of viewing your freelance gigs as the “corporate” experience pajama-style. Freelancing will require you to bring your A-game—organized, efficient, and professional—and those delivering results will be rewarded.
Incorporate these tips into your freelancing strategy and enjoy the freedom and unique opportunities the diverse freelance market has to offer.
By Hannah Becker
Hannah Becker, serial entrepreneur and MBA student, is author of The Motivated Millennial: An Entrepreneurial Guidebook for Generation Y. Passionate about entrepreneurship, Hannah is committed to encouraging millennials to pursue their entrepreneurship dreams. When not rolling out a new marketing plan, or re-vamping product development, Hannah can be found attempting to ride dressage on her Friesian mare, Miss Scarlet. Visit www.themotivatedmillennial.com for more information and resources to aide your entrepreneurial journey.