More and more of us are swapping the nine-to-five office life for the opportunity to become our own bosses. There are almost five million freelancers in the UK, and there are plenty of good reasons to follow suit yourself. As well as choosing where and when you work, and who you work for, freelancing lets you build your professional network, actively learn valuable new skills, and potentially increase your salary.
However, this can be risky. Regular work is never guaranteed, and you’ll also lose out on many key employment benefits such as paid holiday, pension schemes, and parental leave. Consequently, it’s very important to weigh up the pros and cons before handing in your notice.
Firstly, becoming a freelancer requires real commitment and motivation. You will be responsible for everything you do, from advertising your services and finding work, to chasing payment and dealing with admin like taxes and insurance policies. This setup also means you have to be financially prepared if some months are quieter than others, and requires determination to work extra hard to stand out from your competitors.
If you’re still convinced you have what it takes, it’s time to think about the role you want, and there are plenty of sectors where you can thrive as a freelancer. Read on to learn about taking control of your career in three very different industries.
Hair and beauty
Mobile salons are a hot commodity in today’s age of convenience, as people can now enjoy beauty treatments from the comfort of their own home—or sometimes even on wheels—at a time that suits them. This has become increasingly common in the industry, with 58% of hairdressers and 53% of beauticians currently self-employed.
In addition to obtaining the relevant qualifications, transport, licences, insurance, and equipment, if you’re an aspiring mobile hairdresser or beautician, you must keep your customers’ demands in mind. As noted by Salon Gold, “those who are committed to their high-street salons are there for the whole package” However, a client looking for a mobile nail technician, for example, is “more concerned with the job and the price.” Therefore, it’s essential to make these factors the focus of all of your advertising initiatives.
As you will be solely responsible for attracting clients, it’s crucial to get your branding and marketing spot on. Your website and all social media accounts—particularly visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest—must look stylish and professional, full of photos documenting the results of your services. This is especially important for hair and beauty businesses, as no customer will trust you with their appearance before seeing examples of your work first. And to really make a success of your business, passion is key. You can style hair or paint nails by simply working in a regular salon, but opening your own mobile salon means fully immersing yourself in the hair and beauty industry. As such, you should always keep up with the latest trends, and show a willingness to experiment with different styles and techniques.
Freelancing may be particularly appealing if you work as a graphic designer. Taking control of the jobs you accept means only working on projects that you find creatively stimulating, while building an impressive and varied portfolio. You’ll need to provide examples of your work in order to gain jobs, so you may be worried that your portfolio isn’t up to scratch when first starting out. However, writers at Wix recommend focusing on self-branding rather than expanding your body of work, as your portfolio is guaranteed to grow with experience. Your website is likely to be the main way you introduce yourself to potential clients, and is therefore the perfect place to show off your design skills.
Graphic design is an extremely competitive field. It’s essential to network effectively by attending as many industry events as possible to make contacts, as well as maintaining professional relationships with any clients you’ve already done work for. This means that, beyond hopefully finding new job opportunities yourself, you’re more likely to be directly approached by people in need of your services. As it’s such a broad field, you may decide to specialise in a particular area, like web design or animation, so you can showcase specific expertise.
In addition to using job listing websites and social media platforms to look for work opportunities, you can be even more proactive by creating and distributing pitches to possible clients. Though it’s inevitable that you’ll face a lot of rejection, it’s vital that, as a freelance graphic designer, you continuously research new ideas and concepts, and look for opportunities to put them into practice.
According to Conductor, there has been a 43% year-on-year increase in SEO job openings between 2017 and 2018, and the industry is expected to be worth $80 billion by 2020. Therefore, there are plenty of opportunities for freelancers in this field. While an understanding of SEO is a given, you need to first gauge your skill level and be prepared to build on this to meet the needs of your future clients. This means having all the necessary resources, tools, and software at your disposal. Get to grips with all the must-know SEO concepts and perhaps support your knowledge with supplementary courses in web design or coding. It’s also important that you’re knowledgeable about all kinds of websites and content management systems.
Once you have created a professional website listing your services—which could include things like manual link building, website audits, and on-site optimisation—you need to increase your online visibility and connect with others in your field. This can be done by joining digital marketing groups, or submitting guest blogs to publications which appeal to your target customers. You could also look for potential clients through social media. Ahrefs recommends seeing who has engaged with good online SEO tutorials—such as liking, commenting, or reposting—and then directly reaching out to them to offer the same services outlined in the article.
Make sure you encourage happy clients to leave reviews, as positive feedback will be crucial in helping you obtain more projects. However, you should also be prepared to accept any criticism in order to improve your services going forward.