Whether you want to be a full-time freelancer or side-hustler, you’ll appreciate the freedom and flexibility--as well as the extra income--that comes with joining the gig economy. But we know that the foray into the freelance world can be stressful! To help you on your journey, check out the building blocks below as you prepare to launch your freelance career.

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Tips for aspiring freelancers:

1) Understand the realities of freelancing. Keep in mind that while freelancing sounds enticing, it’s still hard work. While you might escape office politics and bureaucracy, you’ll be, for the most part, managing yourself to ensure you meet client deadlines, track payments and accounting and to get new clients.

2) Establish your freelance career goals. Make sure you have the bandwidth to take on the scope of a project and commit to it. Determine these two factors:

a) How much time you can realistically allocate to freelancing, be it a full 40 hours a week, part-time, or merely a few hourly projects per month.  
b) How much money you hope to earn in a period of time. Are you looking to replace your full-time salary? Or are you just seeking extra income streams.

Photo by Daniel Thomas / Unsplash

3) Define your skills and value proposition. What are you good at? List a few, interrelated skill sets in which you’re qualified, be it customer service, blogging, web design, photography or interior design.

Ideally, you want to build a freelance career based on your professional experience. You’ll have an easier time marketing yourself to get paid for skills you’ve honed in a traditional workspace. But, freelancing does offer you the opportunity to leverage skills that are self-taught or rooted in passions and hobbies, especially if you opt for starting with a side-hustle rather than full-time. If you do freelance with skills outside of your professional realm, start building a portfolio now (like a personal website  featuring decor projects you’ve done) as well as a story (a bio or an “About me” page that explains your passion) that links you to the type of freelance work you want.

No matter the route, define the skills you want to leverage to grow your freelancing business.

4) Define your dream client. After you define your skills, think about the type of companies and professionals you want to work with, be they small businesses, nonprofits or tech startups.

What kind of industry do you want to specialize in? Beauty? Finance? Veteran-owned businesses? What kind of communities do you want to support?

When you’re starting out, you might not have the luxury of being picky. But it’s good to set goals early in the game.

5) Establish your online presence. Start building a strong online presence and social identity. A personal portfolio affords you a single location to build your freelance brand and you can’t get this started soon enough. Leverage free resources like Canva for logos, presentations, and graphic designs. Secure a domain name that matches your brand. Keep it short, relevant, and memorable so you can easily share your site on business cards and make it easy to remember for word-of-mouth referrals. If you’re feeling really ambitious, consider taking out some ads or doing a few paid social media campaigns to bring traffic to your website and highlight your professional profile. When it comes to winning freelancing gigs, having an online portfolio and professional social media channel is more important than a cover letter.

Photo by Rendy Novantino / Unsplash

6) Embark on proactive outreach to get new business. Cold calls and cold emails will eventually lead to burnout. Network strategically with your professional circles to secure new clients. There are also many new platforms such as Contently, Hourlynerd and Fiverr, which help connect freelancers with companies in need of specific services.

7) Consider teaming up with a creative partner whose skills complement yours. Seek another freelance professional whose skills pair, but don’t compete with, with your service, especially if this professional is already established with his or her own clients. For instance, if you’re a business copywriter, consider teaming up with a web designer. That way, when the designer is ready to launch a client’s site, he or she might turn to you to flesh out the content and perhaps maintain the site’s blog. If you’re an aspiring home stager, consider reaching out to successful realtors in the area who may need your flair for home design.

8) Stay competitive in the freelance economy. For those who are engaged in tech-related services, be it graphic design or web and mobile design, it’s essential to stay on the cutting edge of the latest platforms and latest tech tools. You can tap into online courses from places like Udemy, Coursera, and General Assembly, as well as other online professional associations, to stay current in your respective field.

9) Master time management. Whether you get paid per project or hourly, you’ll get a good sense of how much time it takes for you to fulfill your job. But you’ll also quickly discover how tracking time, t client follow-up, and invoicing will require a big time investment. . Consider apps and software to help you streamline some processes and make your time more productive. An intro to Quickbooks can help you automate invoices and track payments. Software like Docusign can electronically distribute and complete any freelance contracts. And apps like, Timely are available to integrate across  your productivity tools, calendar, computer files r, and more to track all your time in one place, automatically.

10) Do exceptional work always, because the best way to grow your freelance business is through referrals and word-of-mouth.

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