The job market is evolving, and many millennials are discovering that they want flexibility in their careers. With more and more jobs going digital, this dream is easier than ever to attain, but working remotely isn’t always a walk in the park. Here are a few tips for getting started on your freelance journey and what to expect:
1) Consider beginning your freelance hustle before leaving your 9-5 job.
Freelance work often comes in waves and can be inconsistent, especially when you’re just starting out. It also requires discipline and the flexibility to work outside of normal hours. As you’re preparing for these changes, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself by testing the freelance waters while you still have a steady paycheck coming in. This will allow you to build contacts so that you’re not starting from scratch when you go off on your own. Apply to part-time positions that aren’t too demanding and set aside a few hours after work or on the weekends to accomplish those projects. The extra income will provide a cushion when you finally take the plunge.
2) Save at least three months worth of living expenses before taking the plunge.
Most full-time jobs pay on a schedule, which is rarely the case when freelancing. Invoices often have to travel through various departments before they can be signed and a check is mailed, and it’s important to have a safety net. In addition to that, unless you’re lucky enough to snag a full-time work-from-home position, health care and other benefits are rarely included in your pay. Most of the time you’ll operate as an independent contractor, so it’s also important to track your expenses and set aside funds for tax season. Saving a few months’ worth of living expenses will relieve some pressure so that you’re not constantly scrambling to stay ahead of your finances.
3) Take advantage of networking opportunities.
Freelancers rely heavily on word-of-mouth, and it’s important that you get out and meet the movers and shakers in your industry. Pay attention to their business needs and make sure they know your name and what you do. Get to know other freelancers of all types, as they might be willing to pass along a job when their work plate is full. Freelancing can be lonely and networking events are great opportunities to socialize and be seen. They can also be quite informative and provide tips for getting and retaining clients.
4) Automate invoices and track your expenses.
It’s easy to get your finances mixed up when you’re working several contract jobs, so get organized early. It’s a good idea to begin tracking your expenses prior to freelancing full-time so you can see how much miscellaneous money you’re spending and where you can cut back. Meal prepping is a lot easier when working from home and can save you a lot of money. Explore apps like Ezy Invoice that allow you to automate invoices so that you don’t have to worry about remembering when to send them. These apps can also help you track which clients pay on time so you can prioritize their business.
5) Beef up your references and testimonials.
Companies that hire contractors are taking a big risk and trust is important. Freelancers are often responsible for managing themselves, so employers need to feel confident that the people they hire are using their time wisely, capable of communicating clearly, and work well independently. Instead of asking them to make a blind investment in you, be prepared with strong references from previous employers and testimonials about your quality of work.
6) Keep an updated online portfolio and stay active on job searching networks.
Resumes are becoming a thing of the past, especially since freelancers often work for multiple clients at one time and take on one-off projects. It would be quite a task to constantly update your resume to reflect your growing experience, and an online portfolio is a more realistic way to get you noticed by would-be employers. Make sure that your portfolio emphasizes your specialties and keep it updated as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to be active and share your work on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter.
7) Join freelance sites.
There is an ever-expanding list of resources for freelancers to tap into when beginning their job search, including Remote.com, FlexJobs.com, Upwork.com, and Freelancer.com. Keep an active profile on these sites and bid on jobs whenever possible. This will be especially useful as you build up your freelance portfolio and gather testimonials.