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Getting a successful freelance career off the ground

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Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:00 am

Office workers and other professionals with 9-to-5 jobs often dream of leaving the office behind and pursuing a freelance career of their choice. While many have succeeded at freelance work in the past, many more have failed, discovering along the way that perhaps the security and steady paycheck of their office jobs wasn't so bad after all.

As difficult as it can be to make a freelance career successful, there are ways to make it less like jumping out of a plane with no parachute and more like a calculated move that's both fulfilling and financially successful.

  • As the old saying goes, "Don't quit your day job." Perhaps nothing is more important when making the transition to freelance work than keeping a day job. The steady paycheck can help freelancers maintain financial flexibility while providing an income source that can help promote a new career path. Initially, many people have difficulty establishing themselves as freelancers. However, maintaining a steady income can make that initial difficulty easier to survive.
  • Don't put all your eggs into the freelance basket. While it's important for prospective freelancers to devote the time and effort necessary to make their new venture a success, it's important to maintain balance as well.For example, prospective freelancers often feel they must invest in the latest technology or build a home office. Allow for some success first, then gradually upgrade any old gear or build that home office piecemeal. Use the proceeds from successful freelancing jobs to make these upgrades, just as successful businesses do when investing profits back into their business.
  • Get online. Perhaps nothing could be a better friend to a prospective freelancer than a good Web site. Potential clients can visit a Web site with one click of the mouse. The Web site should look professional, but individuals can decide if the tone will be formal or casual and what their particular Web site will focus on. Include any relevant work from the past as well as a resume and mission statement to make sure prospective clients get a feel for who it is they are considering hiring.
  • Don't get obsessed with rates. While all freelancers have an idea in mind of what their work is worth, beginners should value experience over financial gain. Though not all jobs are worth taking, beginners must realize that a freelancer's success relies heavily on word of mouth and the size of their portfolio. Initially, it helps to dwell less on the money and more on the value of gaining that necessary experience.
  • Look into a new telephone plan. These days, it's not a given that every household has a land line. However, freelancers should use a land line as their primary contact number for prospective clients. Land line calls rarely get dropped, which can occasionally happen when speaking on a cellular phone, and clients might be turned off when interviewing someone whose phone keeps dying. When signing up for a land line, purchase voice mail service that can be checked via a cell phone to ensure any urgent calls can be retrieved instantly or while away from home.
  • Monitor social media. Recent reports suggested nearly 500 million people are on Facebook. While Facebook was once billed as a tool to stay connected with family and friends, nowadays businesses and freelancers use it to connect with prospective consumers and clients. Be careful when posting any personal information online, as more and more employers are monitoring social networking sites to see what current employees and even new applicants are up to. Social media should be used to a freelancer's advantage, not to his or her detriment.
  • Stay patient. Even the most successful freelancers can go long stretches of time without working. While that might seem heavenly to the average professional, it can be grueling to a freelancer. Remember to stay patient because work rarely comes flooding in for freelancers, regardless of their experience. That patience should also be extended to clients. Every successful freelancer no doubt has a horror story or two about an especially aggravating client. While it can be tempting to simply walk away from such a client, the damage done to a freelancer's reputation when quitting a particular job may prove irreversible.
  • Seek testimonials. Few things can be more beneficial to freelancers than a good reputation. Whenever a project is finished and the client is satisfied, ask them how the process went. Ask clients to fill out a quick survey that asks them about what they liked and disliked about the process. The former can be used to lure future clients, while the latter will illustrate that a freelancer wants to improve his or her service in any way possible. If clients agree, post positive testimonials on the Web site to illustrate any successes to future clients.



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