What if you could have the freedom to choose your hours, make a few thousand dollars extra per month, take vacations when you want, pick who you work with, refuse assignments and work with a variety of creative and fun projects
Welcome to the life of a freelancer. In 2010, I made $220,000 as a freelance graphic designer, and in 2014, I made $275,000 as a freelance consultant. Both of these experiences have been one of the most exhilarating and challenging experiences of my life.
However, to become a full-time freelancer, you let go of regular pay, administrative help, benefits and health care, tech support and other things many employees take for granted. When you become a freelancer, you may also find yourself working alone, without the moral, creative and administrative support of co-workers.
At the core, you become an entrepreneur.
It's your job to lead, to clarify, to organize, to strategize and ultimately make your clients more successful than they were before engaging with you. If you can do this, you will never run out of work.
But the big question is: What makes a qualified, profitable freelancer?
4 Parts Of A Qualified, Profitable Freelancer
1. You've Been To Battle At Least Once:
To be a profitable and qualified freelancer, you must have some experience. This is completely relative to what you're freelancing on. It could be as much as decades or as little as months. Ideally, you would have some success, notoriety, or a portfolio within your area of expertise.
Critical Question: What freelance specialty do you have experience in? For creatives, it might be graphic design, UI and UX development, logo design, corporate branding, or advertising. Pick your specialty, grow your experience, and start there.
2. Gobs of Self Confidence:
Working with Creative Directors and Executives requires confidence and levelheadedness. If you have a strong, passionate personality that operates well on the fly and can articulate vision and persuade people, freelancing will feel natural.
3. PM Ninja:
No, I am not talking about working late hours either. I'm talking about project management. The best creatives, artists, and strategists will still fail if they can't get this area right. The ability to manage project timelines and client expectations, return emails, and answer the phone will support your shot at success far more than your skill set ever will.
Talent without happy clients equals failure.
4. A Niche Service, Program, or Strategy:
The best freelancers focus on a niche. For example, you might not be a web designer; instead, you're specifically an e-commerce web designer. Or, you might not be a marketing consultant, you're a customer acquisition and analytics consultant. This provides clients clarity on exactly what you can help them with. Secondly, having a 5-step-program, 3-hour discovery session, or 90-dayy package will help clients feel like they are buying a physical item, not just your brain.
If you've checked all four boxes above but just don't know where to begin. Here are 10 areas where freelancers are often needed.
1. Graphic Design
2. Web Design
3. Motion Graphics
5. Editorial & Copywriting Services
6. Marketing Strategy or Analytics
8. Logo Design
9. UI & UX Design
10. Web Development
But what do you need to get started? Let's say you have some experience, self-confidence, and a niche service and you're ready to move forward as a branding consultant for startups. What key steps should you take to get the fire roaring?
1. Get Your Business Essentials Out of The Way:
The last thing you want to worry about is looking unprofessional to professionals. Get your business legally established, launch a simple (clean) website, get professional head shots (you're selling you), update your Twitter account, choose an accounting and invoicing software, get your logo and brand ironed out, finalize any client on-boarding documents (questionnaires, etc.) and any legal agreements used during a client relationship.
2. Create The Best Business Card You've Ever Seen:
As a freelancer, your most important marketing material will be your business card. This is where you should spend much of your marketing dollars. And I'm not talking nice cotton stock with raised letters either. I'm talking a piece of Italian leather woven onto chipboard with your information literally hot-iron-branded on to it. Something so good that even people who don't like you will keep your card. I wrote an entire article on creating a great business card here.
3. Grab Some Fans:
If you have some qualified friends or colleagues who can attest to your skills, ask for a short 2-3 sentence endorsement for your website, brochure, or handout. Ideally, you could get these folks (or future happy clients) to record a short video testimonial. There's nothing that relieves "new client skepticism" like a good video affirmation from a past satisfied customer.
4. Create A Brilliant Content Strategy:
Freelancers sell information, wisdom, or action plans. I find it very disheartening when a so-called freelancer/expert is not providing public materials on the subject they claim to be so passionate about. I believe all freelancers should be writing articles (weekly), publishing short e-books, or producing videos on the topics they are freelancing on. This will not only increase confidence in potential and current clients, but create a built-in continued education program for your business.
5. Network More Than Anyone You Know:
But be careful you don't confuse being busy with being successful. Effective networking requires the discernment to know when to go or say no. By clearly understanding who your client is you won't make the mistake of attending events or meetings where they aren't.
Stop Talking & Start Doing
If you're ready to start your own freelance business but just don't know where to begin, let me help you. Our step-by-step startup course will walk you through every piece of the journey. If you're interested, check out my video below.
Have you ever thought about being a consultant? What's stopped you in the past? Let me know in the comments below.