¬†When You’re New to Freelancing…
One of the most common questions asked from community members is “How Do I Become a Freelancer? Where can I find jobs?”
¬†This question is likely so commonly asked because, for freelancers -¬†there is no set course which we can start upon, or any kind of blueprint for success. And, consequently, because there IS no syllabus for building a freelance career, those who are looking at it from the outside tend to romanticize it, and want to know how to join the party. Those who have gone ahead and made the recent jump to a work-at-home, self-reliant, 1099-form lifestyle are often suddenly hit with a new and alarming realization that there is no “manager” or franchise operation that will outline and “book” the amount of work/pay it¬†will take¬†for them¬†to be able to eat this month. So what do these panicking newbies do?¬† (After they grab their asthma inhaler or¬†emergency tape of deep-breathing meditative yoga.)¬† They frantically beg the writers and professionals of every vaguely¬†popular¬†blog to reveal all their “trade secrets” – it’s a matter of imminent starvation, after all.
They soon realize that no matter how wise (and gracious) the bloggers’ replies may be, nothing in any reply can really quell the initial (and sometimes on-going) worries about 1. How, where, and from whom do I find work…. ever? and 2. How do I make someone pay me enough money for my work? and sometimes, even 3. How can I be sure I’ll be paid at all? What if I get ripped off? These questions run through¬†the freelancing novice’s mind. And, sure enough, if you check out a prominent blog by a freelancing professional, there are bound to be at least half a dozen comments and/or questions related¬†something¬†close to:¬†”I just started freelancing – please tell me what to do!!”
Last time I checked, MIT didn’t offer a master’s program in Freelance SEO services, or Work-from-home Web Design. Anyone can wake up one day and say, “okay, now I’m a freelancer” – in whatever industry or field they want. However, whether or not those same people will, in a couple years, be very happy for choosing a freelancing life, or rummaging through every cupboard for¬†the last bag of stale pretzels¬†- well, that depends on at least several things.
Becoming a Freelancer: Finding Freelance Jobs
The first thing anyone should know about freelancing is that it is not a get-rich-quick plan, or even a “I-really-really-hate-my-boss-so-I’m-gonna-tell-him-to-shove-this-job-up-his-@&%$!!-and-start-freelancing-tomorrow-and-be-financially-independent-with-all-the-freedom-in-the-world.” If this is your idea of how freelancing works – well, you may hate your boss, but unless you want to be eating relish packets from the hot dog stand next month, don’t quit your job just yet.
Freelance jobs come in many, many forms. There are freelance translators, freelance writers, freelance SEO and website content managers, IT and computer tech freelancers, software designers, website developers and website designers, consulting services – to name just a few of the possibilities. Obviously, if you do not already possess some fairly marketable skills in website design or translating, you cannot expect to acquire freelance work in these industries. Despite what you may read online, or what you may glean from various online sources, you can no more become a successful freelance writer or SEO content manager if you do not have knowledge, skills and training in these areas. Just because one might have the ability to write words down, does not make him or her a professional writer, and the same applies to SEO and website content. There are quality standards that clients expect from a freelancer.
Many beginning freelancers start out through job marketplace websites, such as MyServiceConnection. While MSC is the only website with a totally comprehensive job marketplace, covering almost all industries of work, most other freelance marketplace sites are more industry-specific. For example, translation work can be found on many different translation¬†job databases and marketplaces, such as huge, well known sites like Proz.com,¬†to smaller, privately owned company¬†sites that may focus on just a few¬†categories like¬†French translation, document translation, or¬†IT translation.¬† But, translation work can also be found in arts & technology marketplaces, such as Freelancer.com and Guru. Then there are job marketplaces which cover web design, web development, software design, and other areas of technical and/or IT skills, such as Rent-a-Coder.
Others may put a bit more financial investment into starting up a freelancing career, and have their own professional website created, through which they obtain direct clients. While this is less common, and may take some time to build up steady clientele, it is usually more stable, and allows much more control over freelance income. As a freelance service provider who has direct clients,¬†once you become established, you essentially¬†run your own business.
¬†Freelancing can take a lot of time to turn into a productive, lucrative choice of income. How long? It depends upon many things. Such as..? Well, let’s list¬†a few¬†off, just to give us starting point. And because everyone loves a good blog¬†list.
Factors that Impact Freelance Work
1. What your freelance services are -¬† Are you a web designer? A business consultant? Internet marketer? Writer? Translator? These industries are worlds apart in regards to the value that’s placed upon a single service provider.
2. Are you cut out for freelancing? – Just because you want to freelance, doesn’t mean you should. Working for yourself by working for clients means you need to be
c. Hard-working (even harder-working than you felt like under¬†your ogre¬†boss)
d. Customer-service oriented
e. Good with time management
f. Willing to work for less than you think you’re worth (at least at first)
(and that’s just a starting list of characteristics -¬†knowing how, where and to whom to market your services¬†also makes an enormous difference)
3. Do you have¬†the resources to freelance?¬† – If you want to start freelance translating, than you should have some type of MT software or program.¬† If you’re a video and web editor, than you should have a full-fledged Adobe¬†design suite, and so on.¬† If you are going to¬†provide admin services, than you’ll need to have a¬†copy/fax machine,¬†at least a double phone line, and other pertinent office supplies.¬† You get the idea.¬† Don’t expect to¬†be hired to build a house if you don’t have any tools.
4. Do you¬†have the time (and/0r the money)?¬† – Earlier I¬†advised people who hate their boss not to quit their job¬†to¬†take up freelancing¬†- but the same applies even if you love your boss but want to quit anyway.¬† It is extremely rare for anyone who starts out freelancing to do well enough¬†to make it a sole¬†means of income, within¬†the first several months.¬† It takes time to build up clientele, or to find steady sources of work.¬† Some¬†industries are intrinsically more lucrative and easier than others, but are also over-run with competition (i.e. web design).¬† If you’re an IT genius, you shouldn’t have too much trouble after several months; sometimes even sooner.¬† If you’re a translator, or even more challenging, a freelance writer – it can take anywhere from six months to a few years to¬†acquire clients and/or steady workflow and income.
There are a lot of other industry-specific factors that¬†determine the success of a freelance career.¬† In general, though, simply¬†know what you’re getting into¬†before you get into it.¬† Be prepared, be well-equipped, well-informed, and have¬†at least some idea of where to find work within your freelancing niche.¬† Here are some general suggestions for a few common¬†freelancing¬†and outsourcing industries:
Translators and Translation jobs:
Proz.com, Trally.com, Tomedes.com
Writers, Beginner Techies, Technical Writers, SEO Writers:
Freelancer.com, Guru.com, Elance.com,¬†oDesk.com¬†¬†
Intermediate to Advanced Techies:
Rent-a-Coder, Find-a-Coder, Peopleperhour.com