Freelancing sounds like a great idea on paper, and it definitely is in practice as well. For one thing, you can make your own schedule. You can decide what projects to take on, and how much to charge (more or less). And since you’re getting paid by the project, you know exactly how much effort to invest, and how much money you’re getting out of it. There’s no overtime, no end-of-the-month quotas. And, most important, you get to do the thing you like for a living.
But freelancing comes with its own set of drawbacks. For one thing, the pay is not as reliable as it would be if you were employed somewhere, and received a monthly paycheck. You kind of depend on the whims of the market. Luckily, there are plenty of successful freelance resources out there to help you organize your career as a creative freelancer.
Organize Your Schedule
The first bump in the road your most likely going to hit is making your own schedule. Every project has a deadline, but if your deadline is weeks ahead, you’re still going to feel like you have tons of time. And you may find yourself cramming a week’s worth of work in a couple of days or even a single night.
Underestimating the amount of time you need to complete a task might also make you take on more than you can carry. Though it may sound like a dream for early-career freelancers, there is such a thing as having too many tasks at once.
These mistakes are common for beginners, and it’s only natural that you’re going to need some time to figure out your ideal workflow. Still, organizing your schedule is a must, especially when those projects start coming in. Unlike a desk job, here you’re going to have to keep everything in check yourself, from daily schedules, to managing feedback, to accounting and finances.
If you want to keep yourself organized, it’s best to find an app that makes sense to you immediately. If you find something that seems needlessly complicated, or is just unappealing to you, move on. There are plenty of programs out there, so you should be able to find one you like. You can always stick to basic apps, like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Trello or Slack. Most know how to use these apps, so it’s easier to share stuff with others, since you don’t have to go through the whole process of explaining how the apps themselves work.
If you find you lack inspiration, or if you want to develop your skills even further, there are plenty of sites that offer online tutorials for a variety of fields.
Finding Freelance Work
Now comes the tricky part, finding work. Most freelancers at the start of their career commit a few simple errors in their approach. Focusing your energy on the right things can help you be more efficient with the most valuable resource at your disposal: your time.
Advertise Your Work Online
First step in getting yourself noticed by potential clients is getting your work out there. You don’t even need a fancy, personal website. Behance.com is a great platform for sharing your design portfolio. Plenty of freelance designers showcase their works there, and a lot of clients use to find potential collaborators. Blogs are also a great idea, if you’re into writing, photography and illustrations.
To maximize your chances of getting clients, be sure to link these platforms with your social media pages, and update as often as possible. Creating an artist page on Facebook is a great way to ensure that everyone in your friends list (and their friends’ lists as well) know about your work and skills.
Ideally, you’ll want to post new content daily, or at least a couple of times a week. This ensures that you’ll appear as often as possible in your friends’ daily news feed. Don’t post too early in the morning, or very late at night, otherwise people might not see the post.
As a freelancer, you’re going to have to be your own PR manager as well. The best, most reliable way of finding clients is by networking. Everyone know that being in the right place, at the right time is essential if you want to make it big, no matter what you’re doing. Since there’s no way of knowing what the right place, or the right time is going to be, make sure you go out as often as possible, so you don’t miss the chance for your big break. Go to social events that are somehow linked to your field, like exhibitions, shows, or poetry readings. You have a better chance at finding potential clients in an informal setting like this, if everyone is already interested in the same things as you.
In this case, it would be a good idea to invest in some business cards. Rummaging around for pens and paper might take away from that professionalism you’re trying to inspire. Though professionally made cards tend to look best, you can always make your own, and save some money in the process.
Finding Jobs via Online Platforms
There are many online platforms that help potential clients find creatives in various fields. Upwork.com (formerly called ODesk) is perhaps the largest such platform. It advertises projects in all sorts of fields, from creative writing, to coding. Projects tend to be short, so you can get quite a lot of work to add to your portfolio. Toptal.com is a similar platform, but it tends to favor more experienced freelancers, with more advanced portfolios.
Apply for Competitions
If you’re working in a creative field, it would be a good idea to invest some time in competitions. Not only is this a great opportunity to see how you fare compared with other professionals in your field, but winning a prize also gives you a chance to add an ‘Award Winning…’ title next to your name. To say nothing of the prizes! Festivals and other such events are also a good opportunity to meet other working people in your field, and perhaps even finding potential collaborators.
Freelancing can feel like an ordeal after some time. The insecurity, and the downright loneliness of not working in an office can get to you. But there are ways you can maintain a positive attitude. Without proper motivation, you might end up spending your whole day sulking inside, unable to work, or to find work. Just remember that most of the setbacks you may encounter are only temporary, and, since you are the one who’s in charge, you can solve them.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help.