Okay, I’ve officially been at this for a year, and I have to admit, it’s going pretty well. There are a few growing pains but they were expected. It has been a learning curve. I have absorbed a lot, navigated a bit and found what has been working well for me and what has not.
Not What I Thought
It’s true that until you’ve walked in some shoes, you don’t know what you’re going to do. When I decided to start freelancing, I had envisioned doing it the way most people and sources online recommended, particularly for someone with no network or experience freelancing.
The typical suggestion is to create profiles on freelancing websites, like Upwork, People Per Hour, Freelancer, Fiverr, Outsourcely, etc. to find jobs. There are also a lot of dishonest people, and people looking to take advantage of new freelancers, paying sometimes as little as 5% of a job’s actual cost while reaping the benefits of not only great work to pass off as their own but recommendations and reviews as well. To date,, I have only gotten a few jobs on Freelancer and once I found out that I was pretty much being used and would have to be ok with it for a while to make it on there, I stopped looking as much. These are great, but if you want to make a career, focusing on something specific, it may not be the best route, at least, not for every type of skillset.
Instead, I’ve invested in branding myself, sharping my focus on the skills and services I want to offer and Clients have found me via my Upwork profile and contacted me via my Email and my Website, but in terms of the Upwork website itself, nothing. Truthfully, for the entire past year, 95% of clients have found me, which is not what I expected at all. Some of those clients have found me using LinkedIn.
When I began, I would have told you that I don’t know anyone. I don’t feel that I know very many people or have networked enough to be able to freelance or anything else on my own locally. I did, however, find out first hand that the old saying, “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” is quite true. Once I started to seriously buckle down about increasing my social media presence, branding and ensuring that I’m highly visible online, I realized that my social media connections and friends were very supportive sharing, referring and providing patronage.
Very quickly, I realized that friends of friends, and those noticing when you think they aren’t are there. Many times I would receive a contact who said I got your info from so and so. So and so being someone I have never even spoken to. It’s still a lot out of my comfort zone, but I hear that’s where life begins. One of the best parts of this past year is that I’ve influenced and helped at least a half a dozen friends and associates to start blogging and/or freelancing. I feel a sense of purpose from it and I love that.
The Best Of Freelancing
So overall, I love it. I love the freedom it offers. There are definitely gaps n work, but fortunately, it has never lasted too long. I get to stay home with my daughter which is a huge plus, as well as choose the project I want to work on or clients I want to work with. However, the lack of contact with the outside social world and adults for days and sometimes weeks is maddening and I may or may not consider giving up the full-time toot.
Things I Learned
Have I been taken advantage of during the past year? Yes. I’ve had my work stolen under the guise of “show us what you can do.” I’ve had an experienced freelancer present a project valued at hundreds of dollars for less than US$40. I did it. Why? Because I said I would before I realized the dishonesty for what it was and I will keep my integrity. I have only two (2) outstanding payments currently (both local, which is unfortunate) and I don’t expect them to be collected. What they did do though, is force me to protect myself going forward. For writing projects, I require a NON-REFUNDABLE 50% downpayment for all projects over US$200, and to be paid upfront for projects costing less. I will also provide the completed project for viewing but no access until the full amount is settled.
So what have I learned along the way that I want to share? Here are a few things.
- Be Exclusive – As great as it is to be multifaceted, it can put a strain on advertising and your SEO standing in. If you are more niche specific in your branding, the faster it will help customers to locate you. Have more than one skill? I suggest picking one or two that you want to focus most of your energy on. The ones you want to be identified by first. I just realized this and I am following through. So for 2018, I’ll be branding ME, rather than just what I do.
Be Selective – Don’t accept every project that is offered, even if you are strapped for work. Sometimes, you can smell trouble from a mile away. Whether it is that the potential client is trying to secure your work for next to nothing, or don’t want to pay, sometimes you can tell. I’ve had a few consults and when the final amount was decided on, the potential client disappeared at the mention of paying half first. It’s a 50/50 risk and should not be an issue for a legitimate client.
Overall, I will keep at it, and hopefully, achieve some exciting things in 2018.