- 1. Understanding the reality of the independent worker: Getting started as a freelancer means that you'll deal with every single aspect of your work life
- 2. Assessing your level of skill: on what basis do you want to start your freelancing career?
- 3. Preparing financially and logistically: do you have a financial safety net?
If you’re here, chances are that you’re looking for a clear-cut answer to a complex question: “how to get started as a freelancer?”. Let’s make things clear: there is no simple answer to this question. Even more so given the current transformation of the working environment and the growing popularity of freelancing. Twenty years ago, it was easier (in some respect) to get started as a freelancer and build a career. Nowadays, having skills and expertise are not nearly enough. You need to know how to proceed and what mistakes not to make.
To get started as a freelancer, there are three main criteria that need to be addressed. First of all, you have to make sure that the freelancing life would work for you. Next, you need to focus on the skills you can leverage to start a career. Lastly, you need to answer the hard questions: do you have the resources or are you actually capable of becoming a freelancer?
Before you get started as a freelancer; is this life for you?
On paper, freelancing is the ideal career. You get to tackle a variety of projects, you don’t get bored, you are free to manage your own schedule and you make a living. Who wouldn’t want to earn a small fortune without having to physically go to work? Who would say no to being able to work in their pajamas whenever they want?
That being said, the picture-perfect image of freelancing is far from the truth. Sure, those whose careers are already pretty far along can do all that, and more. But when you get started as a freelancer, your reality won’t look like that.
The standard journey is basically the same for everyone. You study, you obtain your diplomas, you add lines to your resume and then, you try to find that first permanent work contract. For most young workers, getting that first paying job is the end line. Or at least, the checkpoint they have to reach to start the next game: career advancement.
To be frank, this mindset is perfectly understandable. It’s actually the norm. Having a standard job, receiving a periodic salary and having advancement opportunities embedded in the job is a literal jackpot!
When it comes to freelancing, the independent worker is more often than not seen as an occasional worker. To most people, the freelancer is still someone who goes from job to job, from one small scale projects to the next, with no stability, no guarantees and no work security whatsoever.
These views are exaggerated. But there is some part of truth to be found there. Getting started as a freelancer can be the way to a stable and healthy financial situation, while retaining the advantages of career advancement. The main difference stems from the fact that the freelancer has no human resources manager that takes care of stuff for him. To get started as a freelancer, you must understand that every single aspect of your professional life depends, and is managed, by you.
Regarding work security, is freelancing really less interesting that an office job? With our current context, are employees or civil servants more confident in their job security than freelancers? I’m among those who think that getting started as a freelancer lifts most of the illusions we have regarding the “working world”.
What skills do you need to get started as a freelancer?
Writer, graphic designer, coder, developer, project manager, voice actor, virtual assistant, etc. There is a huge variety of skills in demand in the freelancing world. Even in obscure niches and very specific sectors, you will be able to find projects to work on.
Even if your skill or expertise counts as eccentric, there are chances that you will find a way to make it into a career. The important thing is less what you are an expert in, it’s whether you really are an expert. To showcase this point, let’s talk about content writing.
Most people know how to write; not everyone knows how to compose a text. When it comes to writing for the web, even less people understand what it entails. It can be learned pretty fast, and when all is said and done, it’s pretty easy to understand. However, if you are trying to get started as a freelancer in content writing without knowing anything about the job, you are headed straight into a wall.
Unfortunately, unlike coding or graphic design where there is a clear difference between the work of a beginner and an expert, everyone thinks they are suited for content writing. That’s one of the reasons why so many people look to writing when they start freelancing. Even when they aren’t able to write without spelling mistakes.
To get started as a freelancer, you need to have actual skills and hone them. You must have a certain degree of mastery in your field. At the very least, you should have prior experience of the work; or a real understanding of the tasks and work required of you.
That being said, even without any actionable professional experience, there are ways to get started as a freelancer. Let’s say freelancing is your first job ever. You will absolutely need to be good in your field. When it comes to experience and insight, a lot of freelancing jobs will allow you to learn on the job. But once again, if you don’t have the bare minimum when it comes to skill, you will likely get nowhere as a freelancer.
Do you have the resources to get started as a freelancer?
Other criteria can be pretty intangible, but the money question is as tangible as they come. In simple words: do you have the financial capacity needed to deal with the chaotic rhythm of your early freelancing career?
When one gets started as a freelancer, there seldom is a steady stream of contracts and opportunities to deal with the usual expenses of the “young worker”. Rent, transportation, various bills and medical expenses may well be beyond your reach.
If you’re a young graduate looking to get started as a freelancer, it can be easier. Chances are that you can choose to extend your situation and accommodations that you already benefited from as a student. Sharing rent, going back to your parents’ place, and leaning on your support network to deal with bills and such.
For an office worker that wants to start freelancing, it’s a bit harder. If you don’t have the option of leaning on a support network, the transition towards freelancing will need to be gradual. Start by building a client list, and work by steps to launch your freelancing career. Most importantly, you will need to save enough to survive through the first few months as an independent worker.
The worst-case scenario would be the young graduate or office worker that can’t depend on any support network. Maybe someone who was let go from their previous job, or a student that can’t access their scholarship funds anymore? In this scenario, there is no financial capacity whatsoever. You may be able to get started as a freelancer, but without funds, you will still be a long way off from actively building your career. After all, there are “running expenses” that need to be dealt with in order to supercharge your freelancing career.
In particular when you’re just getting started, you will need to get all the financial and logistic support you can get. That will give you breathing room in order to give the right impetus to your career as an independent worker.
If you’re here, it certainly means that you want to know how to get started as a freelancer. Three criteria need to be taken into account before starting a freelancing career:
- Understanding the reality of the independent worker: Getting started as a freelancer means that you’ll deal with every single aspect of your work life
Your pay, your finances, career advancement, client prospection, performance reviews, scheduling, retirement fund, etc. If you think managing everything fills you with dread, maybe you should consider other options that freelancing.
- Assessing your level of skill: on what basis do you want to start your freelancing career?
Whether you are a graphic designer, a writer, a coder, a project manager or a videographer, your skill level must be above a beginner’s. Clients are not looking for apprentices. They want to benefit from the expertise and insight of high-level professionals in each field. Are you already at that level? Or do you have the kind of training that makes you worthy of such claims?
- Preparing financially and logistically: do you have a financial safety net?
The very first contracts you will get may not be enough to pay the bills. Do you have the kind of support or the means by which to reduce your living expenses? For example, can you decide to move back into your parent’s house? As an office worker, have you already saved enough in order to ensure an uneventful transition toward freelancing?
These are the answers you need to provide before you get started as a freelancer. These are, in the absence of a better word, the recommended prerequisites in order to start your freelancing career the right way.
The illustrations on this page were provided by PixelTrue