All the buzz around freelancing has been going on for a while. But if you know people jumping from gig to gig, contract to contract, you may have heard more than the excitement, the freedom, and the adventures. Which made you wonder, at least once or twice: is freelancing right for me?
There is nothing wrong with asking this question.
Even nowadays, freelancing is still relatively new compared to traditional employment. It’s cool to hear digital nomad stories, but freelancing comes with quite some stress stemming from uncertainties and other challenges in real life.
While it’s a bit extreme to say only certain types of people will become successful freelancers, it’s at least fair to admit that:
Freelancing isn’t just for anybody.
Keep reading if you’ve been standing on the edge, testing water, and hoping to give freelancing a shot. The sole purpose of this article is to help answer your big question:
Is freelancing right for me?
What Exactly Does Freelancing Mean?
First of all, be sure you have a full grasp of the definition of freelancing. Many have been using freelancing, gig-working, and entrepreneurship interchangeably in the past few years.
While all three groups share similarities, they’re not the same. And understanding the differences can help you better determine which route is the most suitable for you.
Freelancing vs. Gig Working
While freelancers (independent contractors) and gig workers (temporary employees) are classified in the same category by the IRS, they’re quite different in real life.
The biggest difference is that gig workers are hired into an organization, while freelancers remain completely independent. Therefore, gig workers tend to pick up one gig at a time, then transition after the contract expires. In contrast, it’s common sense for freelancers to be working for multiple clients simultaneously.
Legally, gig workers often receive a W-2 form for the contracted period, whereas freelancers receive an F-1094 from their client or report independently on a Schedule C.
Freelancing vs. Business Owners
The line between a freelancer and a business owner can be more ambiguous, considering freelancers essentially operate as sole proprietors and often register a DBA with the state.
However, most freelancers never move forward into forming an actual business with employees and a leadership group. Instead, they continue to work independently or work tightly with a small collaborative team.
How to Become a Successful Freelancer
Various factors determine whether you’ll become a successful freelancer or if freelancing is the right choice.
Being a successful freelancer requires people skills. You don’t have to be an extrovert but should have excellent social and communication skills. It would help if you also manage your stress effectively, especially during the early stages before having a stable cash flow.
Meanwhile, if you know how to manage your time and multitask without falling off the track, you’re likely to succeed in freelancing. Critical thinking, strong logic, and creative problem solving are other skills a freelancer should have.
What to Expect as a Freelancer
Finally, let’s talk real-life stuff.
If you’re asking, is freelancing right for me? Well, the best way to find out is to talk to a freelancer who’s been in the game for a while.
And be prepared. If that person is honest, you’ll get not just the good, but the bad, the ugly, and the “wtf are wrong with this world.”
Can Anyone Become a Freelancer?
Yes, anybody can become a freelancer and succeed so long they hold themselves accountable for their growth. However, people who’ve always worked full time may find it more challenging than those used to working temporary contracts.
Also, some benefit more from becoming a freelancer than others.
Say you’re a mom with three kids whose schedule hardly accommodates regular employment. Then, freelancing might be your path to financial freedom without having to miss out on your kids’ precious moments.
Or, maybe you’re someone (like myself) who gets stressed out in a regular office environment. Then, becoming a digital nomad will allow you to build a great career without sacrificing your mental health.
If you’re convinced that freelancing is right for you, you’ll need this roadmap I’m about to give you. This simple five-step process outlines a basic path that will lead you to growth and success and help you maintain your results even during downtime.
Identify Your Service
Before getting started, you need to know what to offer. Remember, you don’t have to pick one. Instead, it’s much smarter to choose a few services that complement each other. For example, many content writers also offer social media management and basic SEO services.
Knowing what your services are is the first step to success. It’s also a good idea to put together a price list. Don’t worry — you can always update this later as you build more experience or get to know the market better.
Build a Portfolio
Now, it’s time to build a portfolio, a.k.a “this is what I can do and why you should hire me.”
JK. Plenty of freelancers get hired without too much experience. But a solid portfolio does increase your chances of getting better gigs.
Keep in mind: that your portfolio should grow with you. So don’t forget to update it often after you’ve gotten your feet wet!
Establish a Steady Cashflow
Now that you have the basic things needed to start working, it’s time to get serious.
I get it. You have big dreams.
But it would be best if you had stability before you could do anything else.
That’s why the next step is to establish a reliable cash flow. I also recommend creating a monthly budget sheet to know how much you need to live comfortably. Then, determine how much of that should come from freelancing.
Once you’ve established a steady cash flow, you should know how many projects you need to take on. It will also help you decide whether the current pricing is reasonable.
Develop a Personal Brand
Think about all those big names: Gary V, Grant Cardone, Ryan Diess… What’s something they all have?
Yup, you’ve got it — a personal brand!
You don’t have to go over the top on social media or run three podcasts plus two streaming channels. But you do need to present yourself as more than just another freelancer.
But don’t feel flustered if you’re unsure about how to promote yourself as a freelancer. None of us understood that at the beginning. Your brand will shape as you understand yourself more as a freelancer.
Network To the Top
Now that you have a personal brand, a portfolio, and enough cash flow to let you focus on things outside production, it’s time to…
Yes. Don’t underestimate the power of networking. The biggest jobs usually aren’t hanging on a public job board. Knowing the right people is key to elevating yourself when it comes to freelancing.
And I know most people instantly think of LinkedIn networking, which is fair. But keep in mind that building a network IRL is just as important, especially if your service targets a local market. So keep an eye open for those chamber events — you might find a good connection there!
Where to Freelance
So, where can you find freelance gigs? The answer isn’t limited to one or two places. Depending on your service, your Aunt Mary might be your first customer, or you may need to power through a few pages of freelance job posts before getting into the door.
Generally, these are the best places to get started:
- Established freelancing platforms
- Social media
- Your network, friends, and families included!
Fiverr and Upwork are the two best freelancing platforms for those ready to take freelancing seriously. They both let you develop a portfolio quickly and have decent long-term value if you want to build a freelance career.
There are also industry-specific platforms, such as ProZ for linguists, ContentWritingJobs for writers, etc. However, many new platforms are too immature to be worthy of your time. Meanwhile, fraud and scams are still prevalent.
So, keep your alerts high and always research before taking action. Also, understand what makes you competitive before diving into a freelance platform to avoid being dragged into a bidding price war (that you’re most likely to lose)!
Finding Gigs Through Your Network (Online & IRL!)
A more challenging yet recommended method to find new gigs is to leverage your network. This can be your LinkedIn network or people you know in real life. Since there is an established relationship, gigs found through your network often:
- Provide more stability
- Pay you better
- They are more likely to progress into a longer contract depending on the service.
- Turn into more referral opportunities after completion
Cold Pitching & Outreaching
I know… If you don’t have a sales background, you probably feel a tad bit uncomfortable pitching. Even long-time business owners still go around saying how they hate sales.
But hear me out.
The worst thing that could happen from pitching is getting ghosted. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never get a yes.
So, think about all those times you felt… damn, I wish I’d known those people sooner. Or when you found out that you missed a good opportunity even though you knew the right people — simply because you didn’t ask.
That feeling of regret sucks, doesn’t it?
So work on your pitches and aim at those high-value connections. There’s nothing wrong with advocating for yourself when you do good work.
So, Is Freelancing Right For Me?
Well… Phew! We’ve covered a lot in this article. And I hope you feel more comfortable answering the big question now.
Honestly, freelancing is such an exciting career choice because it frees you from the restrictions created by the traditional workforce but doesn’t necessarily make you as vulnerable as gig workers. In addition, since you can work with multiple clients simultaneously, you pretty much have all the say on how much (or how little!) you want to work.
It also gives you the freedom no other job could offer because you’re not “employed” by anybody when you freelance. Thanks to not having a manager or a boss, you can work during your peak hours, even if it means 2 a.m.
Oh, and you can do fun things when others are at work. Heck, take a day off for yourself!
Of course, all the perks do come with a lot of stress and anxiety. Freelancing is also still somewhat new, so everyone has their approach, which makes others’ experiences and models difficult to duplicate. This means that it’s often up to you to figure things out.
So, don’t feel bad if you decide freelancing isn’t the right choice. But don’t be afraid if you end up taking a shot at it. We only live once, so do what you think is the best for yourself.
But, if you do come to this side, make sure to say hi!
With a deep passion for content creation and creative writing, Xiao Faria finds a strong sense of accomplishment in creating high-quality content that engages the audience and benefits optimization.
Throughout years of practice, Xiao has learned to communicate with the readers in the most efficient and effective way. Her experience as a visual artist has only aided her in creating refreshing and entertaining content.