Explore what it means to be a freelancer, popular types, and how to become a freelancer in 2024. Find out whether this is the right path for you.
Venturing into freelancing offers a thrilling pivot from traditional employment, blending autonomy with lucrative rewards. While navigating the initial hurdles might seem daunting, the allure of crafting your own schedule and possibly doubling your income is undeniable.
Wondering how to excel outside the constraints of a more traditional workplace? By the end of this piece, you'll understand the essence of freelancing, how to become a freelancer, and the pros and cons of this type of work.
What’s a freelancer? 🤔
A freelancer (or Independent) works for themself, taking on project-based contractual work rather than being employed full-time by one company for a specific position. Freelancers typically don't commit to a singular employer for long periods and often juggle multiple contracts and clients at a time.
Depending on your expertise, you can work in nearly any industry as a freelancer, with web development, writing, and graphic design being some of the most popular.
Because you’re not an official employee, you often set your own hours and pay rate, which, while an excellent perk, also means you must do your own self-employment taxes and self-manage project deliverables and deadlines.
The pros and cons of independent work 💵
Every work type has advantages and disadvantages, and thoroughly considering these ensures you make a thoughtful decision when making a career shift. Here are a few benefits of freelancing:
- A flexible schedule: You decide when to work and aren't constrained by office hours. As long as you complete projects on time and effectively communicate with clients, you can work at any hour of the day and even become a digital nomad.
- More experience: You can work for many different clients and access more opportunities than a traditional job might provide.
- Control: You control how much you work, the type of projects you take on, and what you’re paid.
- Potentially more income: There's no cap on how much you can earn as a freelancer, as it depends on your expertise, the work you do, and how much you charge.
And here are a few challenges of being your own boss:
- Income insecurity: Sometimes, project work might be scarce, so before committing to being a full-time freelancer, build a robust network of clients to avoid income insecurity.
- Required discipline: You manage yourself, meaning you must be disciplined enough to stick to deadlines and deliver high-quality work.
- A slow start: Getting your first gig can take a long time, and building a network of clients can take even longer. But if you stay motivated and put in the hard work daily, you increase the chance your freelance career takes off.
- Potentially longer hours: Until you’re receiving consistent work, expect to take on project bursts that result in long workdays.
6 steps to start freelancing 👌
1. Choose a skill, refine your craft 👷
Before diving into freelancing, identify what ignites your passion and assess your proficiency in that domain. Enthusiasm will be your compass, guiding you toward mastery. Should you spot gaps in your skill set, online courses can bridge them.
When you feel ready, test the waters with a project or two. Direct experience not only hones your skills but also helps you ascertain your alignment with the work.
2. Understand pricing 💰
Crafting a pricing model requires a nuanced approach. It's molded by several variables, including:
- Industry norms
- Project intricacy
- Your expertise
- The client's location
- Project duration
While seasoned professionals command higher fees, avoid undervaluing your work. And although building a portfolio is essential, resist working for free to prevent being undervalued by opportunistic clients.
3. Choose the right freelancing platform 📱
Before investing time in building a personal website, prioritize joining a credible freelancing platform tailored to your skills. While some platforms are generic, others cater specifically to niches like writing, design, and digital marketing. Opt for platforms with safeguards that ensure you're insulated from potential scams.
4. Write great proposals ✏️
Engaging clients and addressing job listings will consume the bulk of your initial efforts, and crafting compelling proposals is key to grabbing a potential client's attention. A standout proposal should:
- Pinpoint the client's needs
- Showcase your expertise
- Present a project work timeline
- Highlight past freelancing work
- Suggest innovative solutions or approaches to the task
5. Build a portfolio 💼
Your portfolio is the mirror reflecting your capabilities. Initially, populate it with self-initiated projects or samples. As you amass completed projects, integrate those. Over time, spotlight work from esteemed clients and initiatives that best represent your skills.
6. Expand your professional network 👯
While it's advantageous to maintain steady work with a few clients, never plateau. Continuously broaden your network, delivering stellar work that paves the way for client referrals. And if you maintain a personal website, seek permission from satisfied clients to post their testimonials — a powerful magnet for potential clients.
Top 4 freelancing jobs in 2024 👍
If you’re not sure what to do as a freelancer or are wondering if your current freelancing niche is a viable option, here are four of the best freelancing jobs:
- Digital copywriters write engaging content for blogs, social platforms, and websites. Expect to earn about $34/hour.
- UX designers create intuitive and seamless user experiences for apps and websites. You can make about $49/hour doing this work.
- Social media marketers make entertaining and engaging content for social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter). Expect to earn about $22/hour.
- Frontend web developers create a website’s visible components like the home page interface, taking a UX designer’s mock-ups and making them functional. You can make about $57/hour doing this freelance work.
Find freelancing work at Contra 😁
Want to learn more about becoming a freelancer? Join Contra for Independents, a freelancing website that connects freelancers and those searching for their expertise under one roof. Ask our community questions about what it’s like to work as a freelancer, showcase your services without paying commission fees, and build a great portfolio all on Contra. Sign up today.
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