If you’re considering becoming a freelancer, you’ll need two things to get started: a well-defined area of expertise and connections to potential clients. The first piece of advice you might receive is to add freelance writer or freelance photographer to your business card, but then what? How do you turn that into paying clients and customers? These five tips will help you start earning money on your own as a freelancer so that you can bring in an extra paycheck (or two) every month.
1) Know your audience
There are many types of clients, but no matter what you do, you need to know who they are. Are they businesses? Consumers? Both? How much money do they have to spend on freelancers like you? Will they need your service one time or would it make sense to forge a long-term relationship and become their go-to person in your field? These questions will help you determine where and how to market yourself as well as how much to charge. For example, if you’re an accountant specializing in helping small business owners file taxes, you might want to target local chambers of commerce and community colleges with classes on starting a business. Or maybe you’re an interior designer whose specialty is high-end residential spaces; if so, then private clubs may be your best bet.
2) Create samples they’ll love
There’s one aspect of freelancing that you can’t learn in school: how to deliver your work on time, consistently, and with top-notch quality. Your portfolio is your best chance to show prospective clients that you’re up to snuff—and it will make their decision whether or not to hire you much easier. Building up a strong portfolio is also important because it will give your new business legitimacy; clients are more likely to hire freelancers who seem credible and capable of getting results. If you don’t have any work experience yet, consider doing some side projects for friends or family members as practice building out your portfolio.
3) Develop relationships with influencers in your industry
Meet and get to know bloggers and other thought leaders in your field. That way, when you do launch your business, you can reach out to them with ideas or opportunities. It’s easier to ask friends for help if they already know and like you. The more influential friends you have (and vice versa), the better off your business will be in its early days. You never know—one of those contacts might be just what your fledgling business needs to get going.
4) Promote yourself like crazy
It’s tough to land freelance gigs if you don’t tell people what you can do. Start your own freelancing business and promote yourself everywhere from Twitter to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare. Make sure to market yourself online with every social media account you have! Make sure to include links to work samples so potential clients can get an idea of your capabilities. Share these samples not only in writing but also via video; it helps ensure that your message is coming across loud and clear. The more clearly you describe what you can do, your enthusiasm for the project, and why it excites you—the easier it will be for clients to want to hire you.
5) Ask for what you want
If you’re struggling to find work or negotiate with potential clients, it may be because you’re not asking for what you want. In fact, some experts claim that many of our biggest successes come from directly asking others to help us out; by doing so, we are more likely to get what we need than if we wait and hope things will fall into place. So if there is something you want or need – whether it’s working on projects specific to your area of expertise or joining a freelance network – ask! You never know who might respond positively and help make your dream a reality.