What is freelancing?
The essence of freelancing is that you offer your skills to companies or individuals on a project-by-project basis. As an independent contractor, rather than an employee, you can control where, when and how you work. Freelancing therefore gives you more flexibility than any part-time working request is likely to do and more freedom than owning your own business. It can be a perfect set-up for parents wanting to fit in work around school hours.
If this all sounds too good to be true, the downside is that there is much less security than in more structured employment: most freelancers have peaks and troughs in their work. You’ll also need to be self-motivated and comfortable with using your sales skills, particularly when you’re getting started and targeting your first clients. Once you have some client referrals and start to build a reputation you will find it much easier as word of mouth is likely to become a key source of business.
How do I get started?
Before you get started with looking for freelance work, there are some important questions to ask yourself about how and where you are going to work and what kind of work will you do. If you don’t get these clear, you might find yourself taking on work that you don’t really want to do because of the content, hours or location, but you only discover this once you’ve started the project. Some key questions to ask yourself are:
- What are the specific skills I want to offer my clients? What is my niche? Think of yourself as a brand: what are my Unique Selling Points?
- What are my non-negotiable requirements on working hours and locations? How does my ideal working week look?
How do I find clients?
- Approach your former boss or work colleagues (a very common way for returners to dip a toe in the water)
- Referrals from your network
- Freelance job sites
- Low-cost advertising
- Offering a free trial
- Cold calling
- Using social media as a marketing and networking tool
Another option for freelancers is tying in with one or more larger organisations who take on skilled and experienced professionals for freelance projects. This may be particularly appealing if business development is not your strong suit! Look for businesses in your sector which take on ‘consultants’ or ‘associates’. An increasing number of ‘virtual’ professional services businesses are resourced largely by independent freelancers, for example:
Strategy consulting: Eden McCallum
Law: Keystone Law, Obelisk Legal Support, Lawyers on Demand
Marketing: Stop Gap
Copyrighting/graphic design: Quill