With remote work on the rise, more people than ever want to become a freelancer or start freelancing. This begs the next obvious question – how to start a freelancing career?
Thankfully, not only is it more popular than ever before, but companies are getting more and more comfortable hiring freelancers.
Now, when looking for the ideal freelancers to learn from, you might be surprised to find that some of the best lessons we learned come from Han Solo. Yes, you’ve heard that right—the daredevil pilot and smuggler from the planet Corellia.
He regularly deals with imperial flees, force users, and droids, yet he’s been gifted with nothing more than quick wit, his Wookie friend, and the Millennium Falcon. Despite having all the chances against him, Han Solo is still notorious for being one of the slickest smugglers in the galaxy. And, although it is a titbit more exciting than web design or freelance writing, the fact is, it still makes him a fellow freelancer.
Now, here are some things you should know before you start your freelancing career. And don’t be surprised if we include some tips from the notorious Han Solo.
Build Your Connections
Knowing more people in your industry will always be a good thing.
Now, the word ‘networking’ tends to conjure images of busy events with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. And while that is sometimes the case, networking is a lot more than handing out your business card and hoping for the best.
The thing is, for a freelancer, the process of networking is a little different. You’re responsible for finding all your own business, and building industry connections can be a challenge. In fact, your office may be your living room, and you may be reading this in your pajamas right now (no judgment here).
But, just because you work alone doesn’t mean you should let yourself become completely isolated. Not only is that unhealthy, but it also makes it a lot harder to get your name out there.
People tend to trust recommendations that come from people they know, so by attending local networking events and conferences, you can introduce yourself to potential clients and practice some word-of-mouth advertising. Professional networking events are also a good opportunity to meet other freelancers and get advice about working in the industry.
As in any business, networking needs to be done right. When it is, it can have huge benefits for your business.
Get Your Feet Wet First
Whenever someone asks if they could become a freelancer, I always advise them to do it part-time at first. To get their feet wet and see if they’re really up for it.
If you’re planning on earning more money yet not willing to risk your job and your financial security, I’ll give you the same advice. Do some part-time freelancing. See how it goes. Freelancing part-time or as a side hustle is a great place to start. When there is less pressure to generate income immediately, you can be more thoughtful about your type of work and the clients you do it for.
For this reason, it’s actually a great idea to start a freelancing business before you think you need to. A freelancing career is often built from trust and client relationships, and those relationships take time to form. So if you start freelancing part-time or on the side, you give yourself time to create the crucial relationships you’d need to make a full-time living freelancing.
Now don’t get me wrong – juggling a full-time job while freelancing on the side is no walk in the park. It’s a balancing act, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But with determination and good time management, it’s not only doable but also extremely rewarding.
Define Your Target Clients
What is your target audience? Lately, many of my friends started working as freelancers, and I’ve been asking them that question. Some of them are designers. The most common answer I’ve got from them is: “Anyone who needs a logo, I guess.” And I have bad news for anyone who gives that sort of answer: You are doing it all wrong!
See, it’s your job as an entrepreneur to define your target audience, not let it define itself. Then, once you define who your target audience is, you go after them, hunt them down, and convince them you’re the perfect designer for them to work with. So, here’s what you have to decide.
What do you want to work on?
The first step is figuring out what kind of jobs and projects you most want to work on. What type of work do you enjoy doing most? How long do you typically want to work with one client? Do you prefer short one-time projects or an ongoing working relationship?
What kind of company are they?
Consider not only the kind of work you’ll be doing but also the kinds of companies or people you want to work with. Do you want to work with small business owners or major advertising agencies? Is there a particular industry you like working with most?
You have to know the answers to these questions if you want to start your freelancing career. After defining your audience, you can tailor your messaging and target your marketing to speak to these people. Once you start marketing to your ideal clients, you can stop taking on those headache-inducing jobs and start working on projects that leave you feeling fulfilled. Only then can you truly enjoy your freelancing career.
Pricing 101 (For Starting A Freelancing Career)
After finding clients, one of the hardest things to do as a freelancer is determining your freelance rates. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but you still need to be paid fairly for the time and effort you put into your work. And, you also need to make a living! Remember, there’s only one thing worse than charging a client too much – not charging enough.
Now, here’s what you can do.
You can research market rates for your freelancing industry to make sure you’re not over or undercharging. Consider factoring in any special equipment or software that you need to freelance as well, such as a camera and photo editing programs. Ask friends or acquaintances in the same field what they are charging, and check out the websites of other freelancers. Compare your skills, professional experience, and portfolios. Start slow and increase your rate when you have achieved a decent reputation in the industry.
No matter how you decide to charge your clients, you should always track how much time it takes you to complete a project. Of course, you need an accurate record to invoice your clients if you charge by the hour. But even if you charge per project, knowing how many hours you have put in will help you estimate charges for future projects.
Showcase Your Skills (On Your Portfolio)
You’ve probably heard the talk about how risk typically dominates the hiring decision. When a client feels that someone is particularly high risk (“Do they know what they’re doing?”, “Are they reliable?”, “Do they understand what I need?”), the default position is to put less money on the table. That way, if the project goes belly up, the client would rather have wagered less money.
So the obvious converse is that if you can prove that you are a very safe bet and that hiring you will almost certainly yield the business results they’re looking for, pockets will deepen. And here’s where having a good portfolio does the job for you.
The idea is that if you’ve been hired before and have done good work, you’re less likely to flake out. After all, presumably, someone paid you a good deal of money for that website you link to in your portfolio. And it seems to be still running, and it looks pretty good, so at least you’re less likely to disappear with the clients’ cash and not deliver anything in return.
Portfolios matter isn’t only to see how many projects you’ve worked on or what sort of industries you’ve catered to. Their goal is also to overcome an internal objection every client asks themselves: “How likely is it that this will get done?” Don’t ever forget that.
Learn To Pitch Yourself
Now, as we mentioned at the start, Han Solo is a great example of a freelancer. And he surely knows how to pitch himself. Great Obi-Wan Kenobi wasn’t looking for just any starship captain when he ventured into the Mos Eisley Cantina ready to spend his money. Right? Like employers everywhere, he needed that someone who stood out without even trying. Within a few minutes of talking to Han Solo, it was clear he was the only guy he could hire.
Remember, confidence is everything. Han Solo has a ship that can make the Kessell Run in less than twelve parsecs, and he’s not afraid to advertise that. So the lesson is – don’t be afraid to self-promote, and do it with the kind of confidence that will make you unforgettable. Of course, keeping a Wookie around for appearances is a pretty good move too.
Persistence Is The Key
Even the most successful and blissfully happy freelancers have dark days, especially in the beginning. Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself wondering whether you’ve made a mistake. If you and the freelance life are a good fit for one another, things will work out. Either way, a bit of self-reflection is any career-minded person’s friend.
Balancing patience and persistence is the key to a successful freelancing career.
The Internet’s vastness means endless freelancing opportunities, right? Well, yes and no. In theory, it’s easy enough to find gigs, but finding ones that can actually help pay the bills is entirely another matter. You need a good amount of preparedness, persistence, and positivity to succeed in the freelancing universe.
Settling should never be part of your freelancing career – you know how much effort you put in, and that should be duly rewarded.
So what’s my last piece of advice? What’s that final nugget of understanding you need to open the doors to your new career, new lifestyle, and impending financial freedom?
The simple answer is that there isn’t one. There is no one solution; there is no one path. Your puzzle is your own! And understanding how the pieces fit together is what will guarantee your success.
As for the rest of what you need to know? Start by reading this article. People will probably say you’re crazy to set out on this path of uncertainty, but don’t listen to them! Freelancing is something you really have to want and be prepared to work hard for. And the result of that is a lifestyle and a sense of freedom that is unrivaled by any other job in the world.
So prep it, work it, live it… and may the force be with you!