From the recent recession to the constant advancement of mobile and digital technology, there are a number of reasons why many of today’s college students and recent graduates are learning how to freelance as they settle into a career.
They’re certainly not alone. Many experienced professionals see merit in the flexibility and potential of a career where they serve as their own bosses and hone the skills they enjoy practicing.
But, no matter where you are in your career journey, it takes more than a leap of faith to prepare for a freelancing career.
So before you decide if freelancing is right for you, learn exactly how to freelance… starting with making sure you have great answers to these questions:
What is Your Billable Rate?
Getting paid for freelance work is not as easy as providing an hourly rate and expecting someone to take it at face value. Any fair wage is going to be a balance between the work required and your experience level.
Certainly, the best way to figure this out is to already have gained some experience before you graduate college or quit your day job. If you don’t fit into that category, ask others within your industry, and do the research required to know where to begin your negotiations.
It’s easy when you’re just starting out to ask for too much because your eyes are focused on the end-of-year revenue goal that seems nearly unattainable. At the same time, many freelancers will tell you they started too low due to intimidation or the fear of an empty schedule. The beauty of a freelance career, however, is that most jobs are short enough where you can learn from your mistakes quickly and move on.
What Are Your Reasons for Saying “Yes” to a Gig?
There are other reasons for saying yes to a job than just the pay and the descriptions on your resume.
Let’s say you’re a graphic designer who has mainly worked for B2B technology companies. While you enjoy making a name for yourself in your niche, you’re also looking for opportunities to branch out. If a job gives you exposure to other industries and seems like a great fit, you may want to accept it for less pay than normal.
The same may be said for opportunities where you can make exceptional networking connections or learn about a new topic that interests you. Before you enter any freelance interview, come to an understanding of which of these other factors are most important to you.
What is Your Availability?
Successful freelancing requires ruling your schedule with an iron fist.
You may think you can treat your home office the same as your work office, but distractions are much more likely to arise in a space that is in your charge. The rug needs vacuuming. That load of clothes is just sitting there. Your phone is buzzing; you resist, but then realize you are no longer constrained by office etiquette regarding personal phone calls or social media usage.
So it’s imperative that you, as a freelancer, sit down and figure out your true availability. When can you work? How many hours a day and week do you have to work… really work? Once you have taken absolutely everything into account, only then can you give a true estimation of how many jobs you can take on at once.
Can You Meet a Hard Deadline?
Every freelancer lives and dies by deadlines. Understanding your ability to meet deadlines goes hand-in-hand with managing your schedule and negotiating a rate. Beyond your level of noble commitment, the base of this comprehension is to know how long it takes you to complete a task.
If you are a freelance writer of Web content, for example, and you specialize in writing 500 to 700-word blog posts, you should have a very precise idea of the time required to do complete each post.. If it takes you about an hour to conduct all of your research, and another two hours to draft the post, you’ll know what else can fit into your schedule (and how much you’ll be paid before making edits). The same can be said for career consultants who review cover letters, or accountants who review tax submissions. No employer likes to see a surprise on the timesheet, so make sure you provide accurate estimates.
Want to learn how to freelance? Take the time to answer these questions in detail. Then test your answers against reality. Your career, and your customers, will thank you for your diligence.
About the author: As a student at Harvard, John Lidington paid his way through college with freelance moving jobs and bartending gigs. While these jobs offered attractive wages and flexible scheduling, they did little to enhance his resume. Confident that there was a way to combine all three AND help businesses at the same time, John created HireOwl.
A native of the Boston area, John’s passion for Boston sports teams has not been dampened at all by his last 9+ years living in Seattle, San Francisco, and now NYC.