Freelancing can be a great way to pick up some extra money during a tricky economy, regardless of whether you have a job or not. However, the process can seem overwhelming. With a multitude of websites promising riches as a freelancer, what is the smartest way to go about getting some honest work? Here are a few tips for kicking off your freelance career- from finding work to managing your taxes.
Finding work can be the first, and most constant, challenge for freelancers. Are huge freelance websites the best way to go? If you are a beginner, you might want to look elsewhere. Since freelancers submit bids for assignments, many of the simpler assignments will be outsourced to writers in other countries who can afford to work for pennies on the dollar. If you are a professional writer with lots of experience, it’s possible that you can command a reasonable price for your skill. However, if you are in that position you probably have a Rolodex that is more useful than online searching.
Instead of using these large freelance websites, try instead searching for freelance jobs in the same way you would search for full-time jobs. By typing “freelance writing” into most job search engines, you will come up with a multitude of hits for reputable companies looking for per-diem writers (or photographers, designers, etc.). Additionally, keep your eyes and ears open for freelance opportunities in your current professional group. Companies who do creative work often need pinch hitters for writing or design projects- make sure they have your contact information. Consider sending out postcards with a link to your online portfolio to prospective clients or making phone calls to some old college contacts.
As you begin to find and accept assignments, it is important to think about the financial aspects of freelancing. Although you won’t always get to determine your own compensation for a project, you should have an answer ready should someone ask what you charge for your services. Try using FreelanceSwitch’s hourly rate calculator as a starting point. This tool is great in that it factors in things like supply costs and experience, which can be tricky to do yourself.
In addition to worrying about your pricing, make sure to stay savvy in regards to bookkeeping and taxes. Both of these things are considerably trickier for full-time freelancers (as opposed to freelancing for some extra cash). If you fall into the former category, seriously consider talking to a good accountant. Knowing when you can write off things like coffee shop meetings and gig hunting expenses can save you a lot of money. Talking to an accountant ahead of time can also help avoid the financial stresses of April.
What are your experiences with freelance work? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb