If you understand people and you like the idea of setting your own schedule, then working as a freelance marketing specialist could be a great option for your career. With a combination of distinct projects, you’ll never get bored – and with the right strategy, you can build a solid client base and maximize your earnings.
Here are ten steps to follow if you’re wondering how to launch your freelancing career.
Step 1: Define your specialty
Marketing is too broad a field to attract clients without some additional specialization. Potential areas of expertise include:
Picking your niche is often the hardest part. Once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to learn everything you can until you’ve acquired the necessary skills.
Step 2: Pick up side freelancing gigs initially
You can’t count on earning a sustainable living during the early months of your new career. That’s why it’s best to stick with your current job and work marketing gigs on the side while you get your foot in the door. Once you’ve gained some experience and developed a list of consistent clients, you can ditch the salaried position and focus on your freelance work full-time.
Step 3: Look at your finances
Your first weeks as a freelancer can be an exciting time, but you still need to focus on the nitty-gritty details of your finances. Ask yourself how much you need to make for your freelancing work to be sustainable. Then, ask how much you’d like to earn if everything goes according to plan. The answers to these questions will help you determine how much to charge and how many hours you’ll need to work each week.
Step 4: Find a mentor
How do you approach new clients? What’s the best way to format a cold email? How do you create invoices? These are all questions that the internet can answer – but vaguely. A mentor who gets to know the details of your situation will be able to offer more specific, applicable advice. That’s why it’s so helpful to find someone in your network who has experience as a freelancer and can help you get started.
Step 5: Research and understand local tax rules
Many freelancers are shocked to see a massive chunk of their earnings disappear when tax season comes around. If you learn ahead of time what percentage of your income you’ll owe, you can set the money aside, pay your quarterly taxes, and avoid nasty surprises that devastate your personal budget.
Step 6: Build a love for customer service
When you work on your own, much of your job revolves around building the right relationships. First and foremost, you need to be the face of your own personal brand. Your clients will expect you to be reliable and responsive, and you’ll only keep them on board if you treat them with respect. The sooner you develop a love for customer service, the sooner you’ll create a large enough client list to sustain your freelance career.
Step 7: Build a portfolio to showcase your ability
Clients will want to see samples of your work before signing a contract. That’s why you should make a point of compiling the work that best showcases your abilities. This can be hard at first when you don’t have much experience, but you’ll be surprised how quickly your portfolio will grow. You can always create some free samples at first just so businesses can appreciate your talents.
Step 8: Set your rates
Setting rates is often a thorny issue for beginning freelancers. Charge too much and you’ll scare clients away. Charge too little and you’ll condemn yourself to meager pay. While it’s normal to feel a little uneasy at first, you’ll slowly gauge how much to charge as you research the prices set by others in your niche and gain some experience working with different clients.
Step 9: Build your network
While networking is important in most professional spaces, it’s especially essential in the world of freelancing. You can’t get new clients if you never meet them – which is why your goal should be to meet as many potential clients as you can. This is where the internet is your best friend. Social networks like LinkedIn, forums dedicated to freelancing, and startup events announced online all help you sell your skills to the businesses that need them.
Step 10: Find jobs
Finding your first jobs requires casting your net as wide as possible. Apply to jobs on online forums. Reach out to potential clients on LinkedIn. Tell your friends and relatives about your work. If you keep at it, you’ll finally reach a point where you’re landing your first gigs. From there, it’s just a matter of working hard and maintaining your momentum.
About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.