It’s official. The “great resignation” is here, and companies are struggling to hire and retain employees. In a recent analysis of over nine million employee records from more than 4,000 companies, the workforce analytics company, Visier found that resignation rates spiked from July to September 2020. Trend data for 2021 shows that resignation rates have already begun to climb, especially in the fields of technology and healthcare. Why the exodus? Workers are used to the flexibility of working from home and realize that working for themselves as freelancers is ideal. According to an analysis from Statista, the number of freelance workers is expected to grow to more than 50% of the total U.S. workforce by 2027. Even lawyers are joining the freelance revolution through talent platforms like Axiom Law and UpCounsel.
So how can you take the leap to become a freelancer or consultant? These tips will help get you started:
Understand why you want to freelance
Understanding why you are considering freelancing is critical. Be sure that you’ve defined your goal and that you’re in it for the right reasons. Why do you want to freelance? Is it because you want to work on projects that excite you, have a more flexible schedule or go all-in on that side hustle? Or maybe you just want to have more control over your career. If you’re doing it because you hate your boss, want to work fewer hours or earn more money, it’s probably not the right choice. Write down your “why” and revisit it every so often. It’s what will keep you from giving up when things get tough.
Don’t quit your day job
For most people, immediately quitting their day job to freelance is not a feasible option. This is especially true if you don’t want to go into debt or seek outside funding. A more realistic approach is to make a slow transition until you feel ready to take the leap. Take this time to analyze your financial situation. How much will you need to earn freelancing before you feel comfortable making the shift? Once you are earning enough to know you can make it work, then dive in headfirst.
Define your freelance offering
What type of product or service do you want to offer? Make sure it’s something that you enjoy and are good at. Also, confirm that there is a market for it. Determine how you can differentiate yourself from the competition. And don’t be afraid to have a narrow focus. It is often better to start small than to try to be everything to everyone. Having a specialty will also help you find your target market more easily.
Find a target audience for your freelance offerings
In the beginning, you may need to make some initial assumptions about whom you want to work with or sell to and target them first. If possible, conduct market research, even in an informal setting. Over time, you’ll develop a better understanding of who your ideal client is. While you may want to fight the urge to target everyone under the sun, the process of narrowing in on the customers that you work best with will help you achieve better long-term results.
Identify a platform
In the beginning, you will need to work hard to build your clientele. Freelance websites like Fiverr, UpWork and FlexJobs can assist you in finding clients quickly and earning employers’ trust along the way. There are even sites that specialize in different niches. For example, Mediabistro focuses on featuring freelance writers, designers, and editors, while Envato Studio connects businesses with freelance creative professionals, such as artists and actors. Leveraging these platforms will help you sharpen your skillset, grow your portfolio and, in turn, generate more referrals.
Ask for testimonials
No matter what stage you’re in as a freelancer, using testimonials should be a key part of your marketing plan. Don’t be shy about asking for them. These endorsements from satisfied customers can be a powerful tool to help you attract new prospects and continue to build your freelance business. Also, be sure to post them prominently on your website or social media profiles. If you are just starting, consider accepting a few projects pro bono in exchange for testimonials. Ideally, you’ll want to start with at least three to five endorsements. You might even offer to draft the copy yourself for their approval if the client is busy. Otherwise, provide some guidance on what you’d like them to focus on.
Joining the freelance revolution offers an incredible opportunity to control the way that you work. But it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and motivation to survive and be successful. The key is not to give up. When things get tough, revisit your “why.” When you find yourself living life on your own terms doing work you love, then you know you’re on the right path.