So you’re thinking about going freelance
Here are a few things you need to know
I’ve been reading a few articles lately about a shift in the American
economy to a freelance marketplace. Essentially, the gist of it all is
that the economy is still in rough shape and that, as companies begin to
hire again, they’re offering freelance or contract jobs, with none of
those fancy benefits that full-time employees get.
Charles Hugh Smith on DailyFinance.com
wrote back in the beginning of this year, “The U.S. may acquire a new
nickname this decade: Freelance Nation. Not only are many of the jobs
that have been lost unlikely to come back, but those that do are
increasingly likely to be freelance, temporary or contract positions
rather than permanent jobs with benefits.”
And Eve Tahmincioglu on MSNBC wrote, “For some businesses, these
contingent workers could become a permanent solution, eliminating a huge
swath of full-time jobs.”
These jobs can apparently fall into just about any sector, including tech, media and finance.
Canada isn’t in quite so dire a situation but you still might wind up
taking contract or freelance work. Should you find yourself considering
going full-time freelance, here are a few tips to help you survive.
I’ve been working as a freelancer, with varying degrees of success, for
almost 20 years. I’m a writer, or “writer,” really. These days I prefer
to call myself an “editorial content provider.” Your job might be
different but many of the rules are the same. Some of these, I should
add, are “do as I say not as I do” type things. We all do our best.
In order to work as a successful freelancer you will need:
To get over any shyness issues you might have.
- freelancer is always looking for work. Even when you’re working, you
- should still be looking for work. This means joining networks, searching
- job boards and signing up for newsletters. It also means cold calling
- or emailing strangers and offering your services. Never underestimate
- the value of a cold call. People will tell you it’s a bad idea. They’re
- wrong. They couldn’t be more wrong. Every single client I have at the
- moment I met through a cold call. I have, in fact, never landed a
- worthwhile job through an ad.
To do your research. Before you approach anyone you
need to learn everything you can about them and their organization. This
applies to any job search, of course, but more so when you’ve
approached someone out of the blue and they’re already wondering why
you’re wasting their time. Wow ‘em by demonstrating that you know what
they’re about, then show them why they need you.
A thick skin. Unless you’re the luckiest so-and-so
on the planet, you are likely going to experience a lot of rejection —
probably more than you think you can handle — and maybe even worse than
that, silence. Even if you’re the best at what you do. You know why?
Because people suck. Half the time they won’t even open your email or
give you the chance to show them how good you are. They won’t return
your emails, even to say “Thanks but no thanks.” They can’t be bothered
with you. They might be shooting themselves in the foot, but they don’t
know it and they don’t care. Get used to it. Keep trying. You have to
believe that someone will eventually say “yes” instead of “no.”
To get organized. So, this is probably the one I’m
worst at. Ideally, a freelancer runs his or her business like a well
oiled machine. You need to govern your own work hours. You’ll need to
keep charts of your jobs and project due dates, records of your invoices
and records of all the jobs you’ve applied for or bid on, as well as of
all the people to whom you’ve reached out and whether they’ve responded
or not. You’ll also need to sock money away, so you’ve got something to
give the government come tax time.
Ambition. So, I was going to say “to learn to live
in fear,” but that seemed a bit negative. Here’s the thing, I live in
constant fear that I’m going to run out of work and then not be able to
find more. That’s what people who go freelance mean when they say they
miss “security.” There’s none of that. Granted, I’ve never had it, so I
don’t know what I’d do with it if I did. But, if you have had it, giving
it up can be frightening. Deal with this by constantly setting new
goals. Like I said, you should be looking for work even when you already
have work. But you can also be sharpening the skills you already have,
learning new ones, making new contacts and broadening the scope of your
one person business on a daily basis by setting new goals every day.
When you haven’t got a boss to drive you, you have to drive yourself.
Eye of the tiger, baby.