How to get started with freelancing

While given in the context of personal advice, it has powerful relevance in the career and personal aspects of your life, too–especially if you’re white knuckling to a job you hate, year after year. When I first made the decision to leave the security of corporate America to build my own career as a freelancer and yoga instructor, I’ll admit, it was terrifying. Now nearly two years later, I’m amazed and thankful, that I took the risk and went for it. Do I make as much money as I once did full-time? No? Do I love what I do, and look forward to working every day, because it actually doesn’t feel like work? Indeed.

If the idea of ripping off those golden handcuffs has appealed to you for some time but you haven’t, it may be because you’re haunted by one question: How to start freelancing in the first place? I recently wrote an article published at the Elance blog on the topic called “Overcome your freelance fears.” Check that article out, and read a few more insights below on what I’ve learned over the past two years as a freelance writer.

Say good bye to your ego. Your resume may be stellar and your salaried paycheck rather fat, but none of that matters in the freelance world. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t hype the assets you’ve developed in your full-time career, or decide on a minimum base freelance rate, but freelancing is just like starting your own small business in the sense that you need customers to start building your career. Certainly there are clients out there who have  deep pockets, but until you build your own worth in the form of a freelance portfolio, they probably won’t be willing to take the risk. Shoot for the stars and market yourself to those you are truly want to work with–but don’t turn your nose up at other opportunities that could be a valuable stepping stone to your long term success.

Make sure you’ve got cash on hand. Would a full-time employer ever tell you that you’ll be paid every four weeks–maybe even ten? Probably not. But a freelance client will have no qualms about making you wait for payment, and though it stinks, there’s not a lot you can do short of walking away from the project. As you build more clients, you can play a little more hardball, and you’ll also learn to prioritize your workload and set your rates based on who will you pay quickly and competitively, and who won’t. (Hint: Treat your fast-paying clients extra well).  While waiting for a client to cut a check can be frustrating, it needn’t be something that wrecks your personal finances. Make sure you have enough cash reserves to pay your bills so you’re not adding an additional headache to your freelance ventures–or going into debt in the process.

concept of the coworking center, business meeting

Be prepared to work. I love what I do and I believe that is worth far more than a dollar amount, but make no mistake, I earn every penny. If you’re not willing to put in long hours to build freelance success, and handle additional activities like taxes, marketing, and invoicing, it’s not going to be a career path you enjoy.

Become a private investigator. I love the excitement of finding a new project as a freelancer. Trust, I’m not finding them on a job board. One of the top questions I’m asked as a freelancer is “How did you find that job?” The answer? I’ve become an expert investigator. You have to learn to put the bread crumbs together, reach out to direct contacts and sell yourself. If you’re poking around on job boards or freelance web sites, you’re competing with thousands of others who want the same opportunity you do. Even if you find them, you probably wont’ make much money–because the employer has many others like you to choose from. Put on your Nancy Drew hat and start snooping around! The internet has made it so easy to conduct research and find information that you only have yourself to blame if you’re not using it.