If you’re ready to skip gleefully out the office door and into your new freelancing career, be sure to read this post first.
Working as a freelancer is about who you know. To launch your career, let everyone you know know what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. As a freelancer, you’re your company’s salesperson, project manager, head of marketing and CEO — in addition to doing what you gave up your full time job to do: your passion.
You can’t hide behind your laptop and hope the work comes to you. It won’t. Reach out to friends and colleagues old and new, be it a former employer looking for a graphic designer, an old university lecturer looking for an editor, or that friend of your parents’ who desperately needs a website.
Finding work when you freelance, particularly at the beginning, is defined by these people. ( to tweet this bit of advice.) Small jobs and word-of-mouth recommendations will keep you afloat until you’ve established a name for yourself as a big player in your field.
Until that happens, value experience and a good reference above all other things. Your career rests on that recommendation so always, always do a good job.
You are who Google says you are
Using social and professional online networks, you can allow clients to how you want to be seen. Make it good. Make it professional. Make it detailed, comprehensive, friendly. Your online personal brand will be the equivalent of an offline recommendation.
And the wonderful thing is, you get to write that recommendation yourself. Make it glowing. Here’s a breakdown of the value to you as a freelancer of the three major social networks:
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of . The site doesn’t have the “cool” factor of other social networks, but it’s gold for your freelance career.
With over 225 million professionals, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network — getting your resume on there means mixing with the best in your industry and being contactable. Remember: LinkedIn isn’t the place to post your vacation photos, however unbelievable that sunset was.
Unlike LinkedIn, which is targeted at professionals, Facebook is open to interpretation. It’s easy to get carried away posting pictures of cartoon dogs without thinking about possible client browsing your page.
When you promote your skills in a professional capacity, you’ve got to decide who your audience is and what perception of yourself you want to present.
Believe it or not, Twitter isn’t just a great way to tell people about that amazing ice cream place you found. Twitter’s a tool to leverage your personal brand, and it puts you directly in front of potential clients.
It’s a straightforward way of reaching a wide audience quickly and showing a keen interest in your field by retweeting relevant individuals, supporting related causes and showing enthusiasm for advancements in your areas of interest.
How to make the most of your network
When you’re starting out as a freelancer, what can you do to grow your network and get to know some influential people who will define your career?
Don’t burn any bridges
Although it’s tempting to skip gleefully out of the office on your last day telling everybody how great your new freelancing life is going to be without them, don’t. You never know when you might need these contacts again or references from your employer.
Some freelancers even continue to work on an ad-hoc basis for their previous employer, as this can be a great way to get experience and build a reputation as a freelancer.
Even if you don’t continue to work for your old boss, the world is a small place, so it’s better to play it safe and do a good job right up until your last day, get your reference and leave with dignity.
Doing a brilliant hand-over for your replacement will also confirm what a fantastic employee you were, and you may even get a recommendation out of it.
Get known locally
Work on small projects for friends or small businesses when you’re starting off. By taking these projects, you’ll build a reputation as an expert in your field and help yourself become known as the local go-to person.
Charities, schools and local businesses are good places to approach because they’re likely to have smaller budgets and are willing to take a chance on a newbie. Also, as foundations of the community, if you do a good job, they’re likely to speak favorably of you to other local businesses.
Meet your competitors for coffee
We all know the expression “keep you friends close, keep your enemies closer.” This is even more true when you’re a freelancer. Become friends with and they could become key to your next job.
When they’re suddenly overwhelmed with too much work, they can call you to help. Do a good job and they might ask you again. They could even hand that client over to you completely.
Aside from work, you’ll be able to glean tips and advice on how they got to be where they are. At the very least, you’ll have someone to meet for lunch who can boost your morale when you’re having a quiet week. No one understands the frustrations of being a freelancer as well as other freelancers.
Find a mentor
Is there anyone in your field you particularly respect or admire? Individuals who have achieved a level of success you would love to emulate? Reach out to them, start a conversation, ask for advice.
But whatever you do, never ask them the question “Will you be my mentor?” Like asking someone to be your friend, this reeks of desperation and makes it sound like a much more demanding role than it would be, which would put a lot of people off.
Build a relationship first, ask questions, be proactive. Most importantly, listen carefully and sincerely to what the person has to say. Remember, they have a lot more experience than you. Try not to be defensive.
Once you’ve built up a relationship with a more experienced professional who you admire, offer something back — help or advice in an area they might be less experienced in. Show your gratitude and always say thank you.
What has been your experience of going freelance? Do you prefer giving out business cards or sending out emails? How do you make the most of your network? Let us know in the comments below.
Rosie Allabarton is a writer who lives in Berlin. Her journalism specializes in education, technology, employment and women in technology. She works as in-house writer and content manager for , an online educational platform that provides training in and , providing career changers with the skills they need to launch themselves onto the tech scene.