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The freelance economy is booming and the reasons why aren’t too hard to figure out. If a company can hire a contractor to do the work of what once was an employee, the company could save a lot of money.
Each employee costs a company a lot more than just their salary. Social security, Medicare and other expenses may add a significant amount to the company’s cost.
When a company hires a freelancer, it only has to pay the cost of the work.
For these reasons, and many more, if you’re thinking of entering the freelance market, don’t let people downplay your idea. A lot of people are making a great living as freelancers, but just like any business, what you get out of it is related to what you invest. Here’s how to find jobs in the freelance business.
1. First Look Inward- If you’re not currently in the freelance market, you’re likely working for somebody or were in the not-so-distant past. If that business is one that could benefit from freelancing, pitch your current or past employer assuming you left on good terms.
Those who hire freelancers are constantly concerned with hiring the wrong person. Since you current or past employer already knows you, the anxiety surrounding freelancers is diminished.
2. Stick with areas you know- There are freelance jobs for just about everything. That doesn’t mean you should apply for everything. A common mistake made by new freelancers is to go after jobs they should not pursue. If you’re a programmer with extensive experience building websites, confine yourself to those jobs.
A job for a database administrator or graphic designer for a website might look appealing because of your experience, but you’ll probably put too much time into the job relative to what it pays and your product won’t be as strong as those who are already experts.
Remember, your reputation is everything.
3. Be Prepared to Work for Cheap- at least at the beginning. If you were to take a job at a new company, you would expect to “pay your dues” for a period of time. That could mean less money, less hours, and some grunt work. Freelancing is similar. You won’t get paid what you’re worth at the beginning, but as you do a good job, your rates will quickly increase.
4. But don’t work for slave wages- In your quest to break into the freelance business, you might be tempted to work for far less than you should. Yes, you’ll have to pay your dues, but that doesn’t mean working for next to free.
If you’re an expert in your field, you know the going rates. Working for 25 percent less has its advantages as you’re staring out, but don’t work for a fraction of what you should. If you set yourself up as somebody willing to work for ultra cheap, it will be difficult to break that reputation going forward.
5. Use the freelance sites- Sites like Elance can help match you with people looking to hire a freelancer. Much like looking for a traditional job, finding quality freelancing jobs takes a considerable amount of time.
Elance, for example, claims to have nearly 250,000 computer programmers and 250,000 writers looking for work. That will make it difficult to find jobs at appropriate prices.
Instead of looking at the most well-known sites, look for those off the beaten path. People know Craigslist as a place to buy and sell your old trinkets and gadgets, but it’s also one of the best places to find freelance jobs.
Use one of the Craigslist search engines to search job posting nationwide instead of just in your area.
6. You Need a Website- When somebody is interested in you, they first ask you to show them your work. Often, freelancers work for clients all over the world. The best way to show them your work is by directing them to your website.
It’s not so important that you use your website to advertise; freelancers often make the bulk of their money by word of mouth. Your website should be simple, clean, professional, and easy to navigate. A couple of pages are enough.
With even the most basic of knowledge you can put together a portfolio of your work without hiring a website designer.
7. Go Old School- If you wait for business to come to you, you’re not going to make it as a freelancer. Like anything, it will take money to make money. You’ll need some money to attend conferences, take people out to lunch, travel, and hob-nob.
The phrase, “pound the pavement” is certainly true in the freelance world. Those who are successful understand old school marketing. An email isn’t enough. Meeting people and forming relationships is essential.
And yes, you’ll likely have to make some cold calls.
8. Save Your Money- Some people enter the freelance market as a result of a layoff but others have dreams of quitting their job to work on their own. If you’re the latter, make sure you have three to six months of living expenses saved.
Many freelancers will tell stories of being flooded with work for a while and then going through a period of slow business. Freelancers know that always saving a portion of their earnings is essential to survival.
Are you a natural-born salesperson? Do you enjoy working hard and not having traditional work hours? If that’s you, freelancing would fit you well, but the hardest part of the business is finding the work. Plan to spend the bulk of your time prospecting, especially at the beginning.
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