Whether you’re drawn by the appeal of having flexible time schedules and workloads, or because of necessity in this difficult job market, there are many reasons why people choose to embark on this a freelancing career.
Not too long ago, I was in a similar situation. Regardless of how much talent you have or which industry you’re in, here are some universal advice I believe will be useful to you, that I wish I had when kickstarting my freelance career.
Hone Those Particular Skill(s) That You Would Be Freelancing With
To even begin freelancing, you would have to be skilled in something tangible and valuable to clients before clients would be convinced to engage your services.
Therefore, if you are thinking of freelancing in a particular field, say, website design, you would have to be at least skilled in operating website designing software such as Adobe Illustrator as well as proficient in conceptualising website structures and design prototypes.
If you are unsure whether you already have the required skills for your freelancing venture, consider the fact that if you have used these skills well in your current or past employment, you would be good enough to begin your freelancing career, simply because you have been paid to use such skills.
Put Together A Portfolio Showcasing Your Skills
The subsequent step you would need to take before you get your first paying client is to have some projects in your portfolio to showcase your skills.
If your current or past employment provides you with opportunities to use past or existing work projects in your freelancing portfolio, be sure that you do not run into any legal trouble for doing so. Check your existing or past work contracts to ensure you are not violating business agreements with your current or previous companies.
Alternatively, you can offer to do some small-scale work for family members or friends to build up your portfolio. Even if family members or friends are unable to pay you in monetary terms, they could write testimonials for you at the very least, and you would have an added project on your portfolio to showcase to prospective clients.
While having more projects in your portfolio would be better in boosting your freelancing portfolio, having around three to five completed projects with satisfied testimonials would be enough to kickstart your career.
Decide On Your Unique Value Proposition For Clients
Whatever your choice of freelancing, you would be offering a value-added service that prospective clients might need. What is more, you would not be the only freelancer in the market providing your skills and services to prospective clients.
To avoid getting overlooked in an ocean of freelancers advertising their services, think of the unique value proposition you would be offering to positively impact clients and their businesses.
Frame your emails and advertising blasts according to this unique value proposition that you have identified to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition.
Expand Your Network
It can be isolating working as a solo freelancer, especially if you are more sociable and are used to working in teams. In light of this, I suggest expanding your network and connecting with like-minded industry figures and veteran freelancers to aid you as you ease into your freelancing journey.
You can learn industry-specific tips from conversations with experienced freelancers in your area of expertise to bolster your work quality and to boost your abilities to take on rewarding projects that might challenge your existing skills. Set aside a fixed pocket of time every week to network with prospective clients as well as freelancers in and beyond the industry you are in.
You would never know what work opportunities might come your way in the future due to your regular investments in networking and reaching out to clients.
Draft Legally Enforceable Contracts To Protect Yourself
You might have heard about horror stories of clients not paying up, demanding unreasonable amounts of time from freelancers beyond what was mutually agreed upon as well as threatening to sue freelancers due to perceived poor-quality work.
The best way to secure your interests as a freelancer and to save yourself a great deal of headache would be to draft out legally enforceable contracts based on Singapore law before embarking on any work with any client.
Even if you are familiar with the client you would be working with, it is advisable to have a written legal contract to refer to in case of unforeseen disagreements. In your contracts, include clauses such as payment terms, late payment penalties, the exact nature of the job scope you would be providing as well as whether clients have the right to take ownership of the work you would produce for them.
If you are unsure of how to draft a legal contract, consider engaging a lawyer to do so for you or simply write in clear and unequivocal language the contract out by yourself using legal contract templates that are prevalent on the Internet.
Establish Processes To Track Your Finances
Being a freelancer would mean that you would be your own accountant, administrative officer and human resource personnel all at once. While accounting, administrative duties and book-keeping tasks might not exactly be the most enjoyable parts of freelancing, having an organised system to keep on track with your finances and business expenses is crucial in having a sustainable freelance venture.
A simple rule of thumb would be do regularly complete certain book-keeping and administrative tasks on a daily or on a weekly basis. By doing these administrative and accounting tasks daily or weekly instead of procrastinating till the end of the month, you would be able to track down every single transaction immediately after the transaction has been made to ensure that you you’re your records as updated and as accurate as possible.
In my case, I keep a complete and accurate record of every expense (materials, bills, paid platforms) incurred due to my freelance work by filing purchase invoices, recording client invoices and client payments upon each transaction.
As I am already in the habit of recording every expense and income in my freelancing on a regular basis, I do not have to waste extra time and effort to clear up the backlog of outstanding payments and invoices to be made at the end of each month.
Be Humble And Willing To Learn Along The Way
It is normal if you are struggling as you ease your way into the world of freelancing. What is important is that you remain humble and willing to learn from your mistakes as well as from other freelancers’ experiences in order to streamline your freelancing processes, develop your portfolio and to score excellent clients.
We all start somewhere, and I wish you all the best on the start of your freelancing career!
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