So you’ve spent time working “for the man” for a number of years, but have finally gained enough confidence in your skills to venture out on your own and become an independent contractor/freelancer. Deciding to break free from the chains of employment can be both exciting and scary, but you’ll need to know what you’re doing in order to have success.
How to be a Successful Freelancer
Freelancing isn’t easy, but there’s satisfaction in being an independent contractor who ultimately reports to no one but yourself. As you step into this exciting journey, keep the following tips and techniques in the back of your mind. They’ll keep you grounded and moving in a positive direction.
- Don’t Burn Any Bridges
If quitting your job and going out on your own is something you’ve always dreamed about, then you may have fantasized a time or two about how you would walk out that door and never return – possibly giving an unsavory gesture with one hand while quickly gathering your things. But, as much as you may detest your job or disagree with your boss, it’s imperative that you leave on cordial terms.
There is never any value in burning bridges on your way out. You don’t know if something will change. Keep your relationships as strong as possible and you’ll be viewed as someone who goes about their job the right way.
- Be Meticulous With Taxes and Finances
“The first year you set out as a freelancer can often be the hardest. There are financial hardships, and let’s face it, it’s more complicated than having an employer who deals with all the red tape,” freelancer Josiane Stratis says. “Don’t get me wrong. I love being self-employed. If I didn’t, I’d find myself a job with a regular paycheque. It’s just that my first income tax return brought me to tears!”
As a freelancer, you’re responsible for filing as a 1099 contractor. As part of this responsibility, you need to pay estimated quarterly taxes. If you underpay by a significant amount, you’ll end up owing a bunch at the tax deadline (and could be fined by the IRS). Be meticulous in how you handle taxes and finances so that you don’t lose track of what needs to be done.
- Always Seek Out New Clients
Stability is something that every independent contractor needs and craves. While there may be times where you have all the work you can handle, don’t allow yourself to settle. All it takes is one little shakeup and all of your clients could choose to do business with someone else.
It doesn’t matter if you have zero clients or more work than you can handle, it’s smart to always be on the lookout for new clients. This ensures that, when the inevitable droughts come, you’re prepared.
- Set the Right Price
Pricing is critically important to your success. Since your own your own business, you’ll find that you are in charge of every little detail. This means a job that may have taken you 25 hours when you worked for a company with secretaries and assistants, could take you 30 or 35 hours. You’ll learn a lot of this by trial and error, but try to avoid underbidding yourself.
On the flip side, you also have to understand your place in the market. If you’re just starting out on your own and making a name for yourself, you’ll need to offer less than the competition. Until you prove yourself, you won’t have much success fighting major competitors dollar for dollar.
- Discover the Power in Numbers
Just because the word “independent” precedes “contractor,” doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. As a freelancer, there is power in numbers and you need to do everything you can to surround yourself with people who balance your strengths and weaknesses. As you become more comfortable with what you bring to the table and how much you’re charging, what your profit margins are, etc., consider hiring some people to help you scale. This is when you’ll go from freelancer to business owner.
If launching a freelance business is on your list of goals in 2017, here are few things you should seriously consider before you venture out on your own:
- Figure out what you want to do before you start
- Nail down your business idea
- Join freelance websites
- Learn to love to sell and self-promote
- Practice good financial management
- Obtain licenses and permits if needed
- Work in a dedicated space
- Diversify your customer base as quickly as possible
- Your website is your #1 sales tool – buy a domain
- Don’t let pressure get the best of you
- Make sure you get paid 100% of the time
- Have some guts – If you don’t have guts, you can’t survive in freelancing business
- Set prices and rates that are reasonable and livable
- If you can’t stomach uncertainty, stick with certainty
- Stay relevant, stay sane, and stay connected with your profession
- Take breaks
- Avoid distractions
- Don’t work for work’s sake. Define your daily task
- Visualize your goal
- You need writing skills to succeed as a freelancer. Clear and concise writing is an invaluable skill
- Attend events, workshops, and participate in digital networking to help find more clients
- Social media marketing is an important skill to help you find clients
- Understand the trends in your industry: Research, research, and research some more….
There’s Never Been a Better Time
It’s easy to keep telling yourself that you’ll wait until next year, but the truth is that there’s never been a better time to venture out on your own and become a freelancer. Thanks to powerful tools and online resources, you have everything you could possibly need. Just remember to apply the secrets and techniques discussed in this article. You’ll find them invaluable in your pursuit of success.
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Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur, Social Media Week, CEOWORLD Magazine and the HuffingtonPost among others.