How to Start a Successful Freelance Career

There’s something naturally alluring about a freelance career. It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist, a writer, a programmer, or a consultant, the gig life offers many of the same perks across all interests. You can set your own hours each day, accept or turn down work based on your own preferences, choose your own rates, and control your time off. 

Of course, if that all sounds too good to be true, it’s because it kind of is. That’s not to say that the freelance life doesn’t provide all of those things — it does, technically. The thing is, it also comes with a hefty dose of hard work, strained emotions, and lots and lots of learning curves. 

If you think you’ve got what it takes to become a freelancer, here are a few tips and tricks to help you find success as you adjust to your challenging yet rewarding new career.

Craft Your Resume

This may sound like typical job-seeking jargon, but it’s a critical piece of the freelance puzzle. If you’re going to be successful as a freelancer, you need to know how to sell yourself on a regular basis. Start by making sure that your resume or CV is up to date. 

Next, consider taking any certifications or lessons that may help give you an edge. For instance, a fledgling writer may have a hard time rising above the competition as they go up against hundreds and thousands of candidates just like them. However, a writer that has taken a certified SEO course and is familiar with things like keywords, linking, and search engine results pages is more likely to stand out from a crowd of candidates — both when trying to impress clients, and in marketing yourself and your services.

While there are always opportunities to pay for courses at a local college or online, you can also look for free courses from reputable sources or even consider offering free or discounted services to a client if they’ll help train you in an area that you want to learn.

Create a Website

While it’s up to you whether you feel you should create a blog or a full-fledged website to help with your freelance efforts, it’s always smart to at least have a basic site available. Creating a simple WordPress site can provide an easy place to post samples of your work, house a portfolio with links to published content, and even create your own original content for your site, aimed at attracting new clients.

Apply to Jobs

This is the part that’s the easiest to say and the hardest to do. Applying to jobs can be exasperating. The best advice here is to simply keep your spirits up and work on keeping up a thick skin. Simply put, you’re going to be rejected …often. It’s just what happens when you’re one out of a thousand applications.

Nevertheless, tenacity will eventually win the day. Keep your spirits up, focus on continually honing your resume, and research the best job sites for your particular field. They often change, but if you’re coming up dry, you can always start on one of the larger sites like Upwork or Fiverr. As you begin to have content published, you can then use them as samples to apply on other sites, hopefully with more luck.

Create an Application Template

While you don’t want every application to sound exactly the same, the truth is, freelancers can spend a lot of time applying to jobs. As you learn how the application process in your field typically goes, you may want to consider creating an application template to help streamline the process.

Using a writer as an example again, if you find that most clients want to know your experience, require samples of your writing, and ask if you’re a native English speaker, you can create an application template that answers these questions. Simply leave fields blank to fill in while applying and then always go over the final application thoroughly to make sure it feels personalized to that particular position.

Keep Tabs on Your Finances

Keeping track of your finances is a critical part of the freelance life. You no longer have an employer taking care of payroll, withholding taxes, or providing a steady, predictable paycheck. Once you find your rhythm, there’s a good chance you’ll be making more money than you would at a full-time position, but that doesn’t change the fact that managing your income, expenses, and taxes can be a lot of work. It can be confusing at times and even if it isn’t, it’s simple a bother that has to be attended to.

In order to make sure you’re handling your finances well, do your research and figure out roughly how much money you should be setting aside in taxes. Don’t forget to do this, or you’ll likely find yourself owing the government a hefty chunk of change when tax season arrives. 

It can also be wise to create a system to track your income, bill clients, and record payments as they arrive. You can use a spreadsheet, an app, or even a pen a paper. This can help you understand how much money you have to live on. It also enables you to roughly estimate how much you have per week or month and it can be helpful to have the information already on hand when you file your taxes.

As a final note, you may want to consider finding an accountant that you can form a relationship with. Having the advice of a professional readily available, even if it costs you a few hundred bucks in consulting every once in a while, can be an invaluable way to set your mind at ease, financially speaking.

Finding Success as a Freelancer

While freelancing has a ton of perks, it’s certainly not the easy way out —  it’s simply an alternative career option that always takes a lot of work and can provide a lot of satisfaction if you let it

If you’re able to stay committed to your freelance career long enough to get it off the ground, eventually you’ll find that the momentum can largely sustain itself. Not only that, but eventually you may even be able to turn your freelance career into your own startup. Whatever path you end up taking, though, it all starts with putting in the grunt work up front, keeping your spirits up, and working hard on a daily basis to establish that freelance career you’re looking for.

Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors on a regular basis. Indiana loves experiencing new things and sharing with others what she learns through her writing. You can chat with Indiana on twitter @IndianaLee3