If it feels as if everyone you know is wholeheartedly embracing freelancing lately, it’s not your imagination.
Whether they’re dabbling in it on the side or looking to turn it into a full-time replacement for their day job, more people than ever are embracing freelance life for its many benefits.
Freelancing lets hard-working self-starters work remotely, make their own schedules, and focus on work they’re truly passionate about.
But there’s a fine art to successfully making a permanent switch.
Here’s what you need to know about how to transition to freelancing before you take the plunge for good.
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1. Do your research on freelancing
It’s just as important to do your homework before your dive into freelancing as it would be if you were changing anything else about how you earn your living.
You need a complete understanding of how freelancing works and where you’ll fit into the grand scheme of things first.
It’s also important to be honest with yourself about whether freelancing is genuinely a good fit for you.
While it’s true that record numbers of people are quitting their jobs in favor of freelancing, many eventually find they miss the structure, social stimulation, and certainty of traditional office work.
2. Decide which services to offer
Everyone’s different when it comes to how they plan to approach freelancing.
Some people genuinely love the work they’re already doing at their full-time job and know they want to do something similar on a self-employed basis. Others dream of doing something entirely different and more creative.
You don’t necessarily need to know every detail of what you want to do for the rest of your life right out of the gate, but you do need a fairly clear direction in mind before moving forward.
What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing most?
Consider how you might translate your skills and passions into valuable services others would pay for — copywriting, graphic design, web development, etc.
3. Freelance part-time for a while first
One of the best approaches when it comes to how to transition to freelancing is to simply try it on for a while before you turn it into a full-time thing.
Start by shifting your mindset and training yourself to think like a freelancer.
Begin honing the skills you’ll use to serve clients once you’re freelancing on a serious basis. Give yourself projects similar to the ones you want to be doing, set deadlines for yourself, and practice meeting them.
If you can, get yourself hired for some simple initial projects so you can get a taste of how things will work.
4. Explore the competition
Knowing what you’re good at and that there’s potential work out there is one thing.
You also need to get to know the market and develop a working understanding of where the services you’ll offer potentially fit into it.
Spend some time on various freelancing platforms, and check out the profiles of other freelancers in your field for a good look at how they market themselves to potential clients.
What are clients like the ones you’ll be serving looking for in a freelancer? What do you bring to the table that might help you stand out?
5. Know which skills are in demand
It’s not enough to know you’re an ace copywriter, graphic designer, or other professional who can be a great asset to the companies that hire you.
There needs to be a solid demand for the type of work you want to do, so you need to get to know the market.
According to Upwork, one of today’s leading freelancing platforms, web design is the most in-demand tech skill today, while social media marketing is the most sought-after marketing skill.
If you’re best at working one-to-one with a business’s customers, then you should know that customer service and customer support are the most in-demand areas of expertise.
6. Set your rates
One of the hardest things about how to transition to freelancing for most people is the process of setting rates (and with good reason).
Most people have been conditioned from early on to be uncomfortable talking about money or asking others to give them money in exchange for services.
Still, it’s an essential part of any self-employed person’s life.
Consider what your time and skill set are worth to you, as well as what other freelancers in your field are charging for theirs.
Evaluate whether it makes more sense to charge by the hour or by the project. Then set your service prices accordingly.
7. Know where freelancers look for work
Many people brand new to freelancing think that all they need to do is declare themselves open for business, and prospective clients will simply find them.
However, while that sometimes happens to experienced freelancers who’ve built a solid reputation, newer service providers have to work a little harder to land their first assignments.
Start by building a website to showcase your services and some of your best work.
Optimize it using best SEO practices, fill it with great content, and make it easy for people interested in your services to get in touch with you. But definitely don’t stop there.
Most full-time freelancers spend a fair amount of time actively looking for work.
Explore some of the best freelancing platforms out there, build profiles on the ones you like, and apply for new projects often. Market your services to your existing networks, as well.
You never know who might be looking for some extra help.
8. Build a solid portfolio
Although credentials and educational background may matter very much to your future clients, what most will really want to see is proof that you can do the job.
That said, every serious freelancer needs a portfolio of their best work.
Chances are, if you’re thinking about going into business for yourself, you already have some experience in your field of choice.
Add your best, most successful work to your portfolio, and keep adding to it over time.
You may also wish to put together an up-to-date resume highlighting work experience and other achievements that may make you a particularly valuable hire.
9. Work on your online presence
Every business needs a solid professional online presence, even if the business in question amounts to a lone freelancer hiring out their creative talents to other small businesses.
A website is a must, as are well-maintained profiles on your favorite freelancing websites, but you don’t want to stop there.
Update your LinkedIn profile, use it to network with peers and potential clients, and — if you haven’t already — start using the platform to post LinkedIn-friendly content.
Supplement that with robust presences on other social media platforms that are potentially right for your brand and industry — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, etc.
10. Embrace digital marketing
How to transition to freelancing successfully is all about building a great brand identity and making yourself seem like an irresistible asset to potential clients.
Digital marketing is a crucial part of all that. Your social media presence is essential, especially on LinkedIn, but that’s not all.
Make sure your marketing plan for your freelance services also includes:
- Starting a blog on your website and using it to boost your brand.
- Investing in paid advertising on Google, as well as across social media.
- Keeping an eye on the market and seize opportunities quickly.
11. Perfect your pitches
With over 57 million freelancers working in the United States alone, you’re potentially up against a lot of competition.
Your prospective clients are going to want to know why they should hire you instead of somebody else who does equally great work.
Great proposals and pitches are the keys to standing out in the right ways.
Be friendly and professional. Respect the client’s time and keep your pitches short.
Personalize your response by thoroughly reading the job description, addressing key details within your pitch, and attaching work samples that show why you’re an ideal fit for the project.
In this video, check out more tips on how to transition to freelancing:
12. Prioritize time management
It takes a while to really get the ball rolling when you first start freelancing. Sooner or later, though, things will pick up.
You’ll have many prospective clients and likely be offered more work than you can realistically take on. You’ll want to have a realistic approach to managing your time in place by then.
Maintain set business hours during which your clients know they can reach you, and then stick to them.
Be disciplined and work hard during those hours, but put your work down and return to the rest of your life after that.
Burnout is a genuine risk for busy freelancers, so resist the urge to simply work every day and at all hours.
13. Keep building on your skills
Another critical factor to remember when it comes to how to transition to freelancing is the importance of upskilling.
A good freelancer never stops learning and looking to become even better than they already are at what they do, so make ongoing improvement part of your plans for your professional future.
In particular, you should seek to learn skills that complement the ones you already have and make your work even more valuable.
For example, a freelance content writer becomes even better at what they do when they learn about related fields like SEO, content marketing, and social media management.
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At this point, you understand how to transition to freelancing from what is likely a lifetime of traditional work.
You’re prepared for the challenges you’ll meet and excited to reap the benefits of facing them head-on. Now it’s time to see to the security of your professional future as a freelancer.
One of the more challenging things new freelancers must learn to grapple with is how to handle finances, so it pays to be extra prepared.
Check out our comprehensive list of vital financial tips for freelancers for some excellent advice to get started with.
You’ll learn how to plan for retirement, manage health insurance, diversify your income, and more!