Becoming a full-time freelancer can be scary, especially if you haven’t planned accordingly. The key to overcoming this fear starts with strategy and preparation. Before you go all-in on freelancing, you first need to create a plan that will give you the best chance to succeed. Your plan should be composed of four steps:
- Budget wisely and save
- Find the right niche
- Identify what makes you stand out
- Create a portfolio
Completing these four steps will help you deal with the inevitable peaks and valleys a freelance career entails.
Step 1: Budget Wisely and Save
Don’t jump full-time into freelancing thinking you’ll be rolling in the dough from Day 1. Most freelancers need time to find a steady stream of paying clients.
Begin by looking at your monthly spending. Take steps to minimize your expenses, even if it means moving into a smaller apartment or taking in roommates. Set aside your savings until you’ve accumulated enough to live on for at least four months. Forbes has a helpful article on how to budget and save as a freelancer.
Step 2: Find the Right Niche
Once you’ve established a savings routine, your next step needs to center on identifying the right niche. Every industry and profession has a freelance market nowadays. So whether it’s copywriting, web developing, or any other industry – there’s a market for you!
Identifying the right niche not only helps you at the beginning of your freelancing journey, but it helps establish a foundation for your future marketing efforts. An article from Moonlighting (a freelance job marketplace) was recently featured in the USA Today. The article provides freelancers with four tips to help them market their freelance business. The first two are to “Develop your brand” and “Tell your story.” Determining your niche first can then help you develop your brand and your story in a way that appeals to your niche.
Step 3: Identify What Makes You Stand Out
According to an article by marketing guru Neil Patel, “A unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It’s what sets your business apart from others because of what your business makes a stand about.”
Becoming a freelancer means you yourself are a business. So like any business, tracking your competitors is critical. Whether you’re using a platform such as Upwork or Freelancer, or just using your own network to find clients, you should always keep an eye on what your competitors are doing.
By researching your competition, you’ll be able to find gaps in their methods and offerings. The flaws you identify can then help you craft your unique selling proposition. In an earlier post, Building a Winning Marketing Plan For Your Startup, we mention that the keys to successful marketing are positioning your products or services as ideal solutions to a problem your potential customers are struggling with.
This same approach applies when you’re determining what’s going to make you stand out!
Step 4: Create a Portfolio
When you first start freelancing, you might be worried about the lack of work in your portfolio. Don’t let this deter you. There’s a simple method to get around this predicament, and it involves the previous step.
While researching your competition, check out their work. For example, if you’re looking to become a freelance writer specializing in tech, research other tech bloggers. Doing this will help you see what’s trending. Once you’ve identified an interesting topic, you can then write your own article about it and publish it on a site like Medium for your portfolio. Repeat the process, and you’ll soon have a solid portfolio.
Every successful freelancer has experienced failure. The difference between those who ultimately succeed and those who give into failure is preparation and strategy. Following the four tactical steps above will put you on the path to success. So when you’re envisioning your freelance future, remember the words of the great Sun Tzu: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.”