We list some tips and tricks to help alleviate the anxiety that comes with going solo, so you can flourish as a full-time freelancer. With the desire to strike the coveted – and often elusive – work/life balance, freelance work is having a moment.
As a result of the pandemic, employees’ expectations of their employers, and their mindset toward traditional corporate employment, have changed – with more professionals opting for the autonomy that freelancing provides.
The Cut reported that a study from Upwork (one of the largest freelancing platforms) found that “36% of the U.S. workforce did freelance jobs during 2021, an increase of 2 million people from the year before”, with that number expected to rise in the future.
In Canada, specifically, a study by accounting software company FreshBooks found that “30% of traditionally-employed professionals plan to transition to self-employment over the next two years”, with FreshBooks further estimating “that a total of seven million Canadians [will] make the transition to freelance or start their own business in a short amount of time”, reported The Globe and Mail.
It’s not surprising, given the benefits that freelance work can provide… location independence, increased freedom, flexible hours, compensation control, etc. However, like all things, there is risk involved when it comes to going at it on your own – time management, financial insecurity, finding clients, etc. – so, whether it’s a personal choice or a forced decision to become a full-time freelancer, here are some tips to help you ease into the transition from full-time to freelance.
1. Refresh Your Resume and Level Up on LinkedIn
This may seem fairly obvious, but your resume and LinkedIn profile are essential. Like any job, employers want to see your skills and easily identify how you can benefit their organization. LinkedIn, in particular, is great for combining both your resume and portfolio – allowing you to showcase your skills, experience, personality, testimonials, and your best work. Take the time to freshen up your resume, highlight your skills, experience, and achievements, and update your LinkedIn profile (if you haven’t already upgraded, LinkedIn Premium is worth considering).
2. Strut Your Stuff by Updating Your Portfolio
In the creative industries, you’re only as good as the work you showcase. Use your portfolio to make yourself shine – whether it’s a website or a PDF portfolio, gather up the samples that best demonstrate the work that you do (and want to do), and use it to bolster your professional brand.
3. Get Organized
It’s cool to be your own boss, but with that, means thinking like a boss, too. Don’t underestimate the power of a trusty planning tool. Whether you’re old-school and prefer a written diary or enjoy online organizers – this is essential for keeping track of your projects, deadlines, and managing your time effectively.
You also want to make sure you keep a record of everything! We’re talking invoices, finances, and hours worked – keep them #reciepts! It doesn’t need to be perfect, and it does take time, but documenting it all will help you in the long run when the time comes to do those taxes – and make sure that you’re on top of things.
4. Set Clear Boundaries (and Budgets) for Yourself
There is a temptation to take on too much work when going freelance, especially when just starting out. Often, you’ll want to say yes to every opportunity for financial reasons or for added experience. It’s important to remember that you can still ‘burnout’ as a freelancer, and you need to set clear boundaries for yourself. Decide on your core working hours, allow yourself to disconnect, be clear with your clients, and factor in time off (as a freelancer, you won’t have paid vacation days, but you need to remember to take a break – even if it’s just a long weekend every now and then).
Budgets are important, too – both for what you spend and what you hope to bring in. Make a list of all your monthly expenses (including health insurance, retirement savings, etc.), and market yourself at a competitive rate. Whether you decide to charge per hour or per day, having a minimum rate will ensure that you aren’t underpaid.
5. Manage Your Expectations
Expect that the transition to freelance is going to be difficult before it gets easier and that it will take a few months to start seeing results. But this is no reason to feel deflated. If you are aware of the risks involved, you can prepare yourself and manage your expectations accordingly. Be confident in your abilities and your decision to freelance… lots of professionals have found success freelancing, and so can you.
6. Start Spreading the News and Leverage your Network
This is one of the most important things you can do as a freelancer. Your network will help determine what work you get and keep. LinkedIn is a great platform for networking in the digital age, but so are your former colleagues, friends, and friends of friends. Leverage your connections and get the word out. Putting yourself out there can be intimidating, and often vulnerable, but it will pay off in the long term. Referrals, testimonials, and networking events are a great way to broaden your network and maintain a steady flow of work (and dollars!).
7. Reach Out to Recruitment Agencies and Join Freelance Platforms
Most recruitment agencies have clients who are looking to hire freelancers, and that can be incredibly beneficial to help you streamline your needs and break into your desired industry. Recruiters will also serve as your advocate, with some even offering benefits for their freelance talent. We, at Creative Niche, are one such agency. Specializing in the creative and tech space, we’re always looking for skilled freelancers to join our roster of talent, and we offer competitive benefits to improve your freelancing experience. Freelance platforms like Upwork or Fiver are also great tools to help connect you with like-minded clients who are looking to hire freelancers for short-term projects. You’ve got options, explore them all – you’ve got nothing to lose.
Becoming a full-time freelancer may seem daunting, and there are legitimate anxieties that come with doing so, but, oftentimes, the benefits outweigh the risks. Set yourself up for success by being aware (and prepared) for flying solo, and you too can flourish as a freelancer.
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