A Beginner’s Guide To a Career in Freelancing

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Dec 20, 2021

Dec 20, 2021 • by Rebecca Smith

Freelancing has grown in popularity in the past couple of years. The pandemic has especially pushed more people into finding alternative modes of employment.

In 2020, 36% of the US workforce did freelance work. This amounted to 59 million individuals. New freelancers (12% of the workforce) reported having a positive experience. It is a growing field.

It might seem intimidating, especially if you're new to the field. Freelancing gives you a lot of freedom, but it can be challenging to find a place to start. We hope our quick yet comprehensive guide can help you with that.

The Pros And Cons of Freelancing

Freelancing can be an excellent choice for a career, and many people have found success in it. Still, it is a job, and it has its drawbacks. 

Not every day is easy, and maintaining a successful freelance career isn't a walk in the park. Here are some things you might want to consider before jumping in.

Benefits of Freelancing

Here are some things you can look forward to as a freelancer.

  • Flexibility. You can set your schedule so long as you submit your deliverables on time. You can find a phone or wi-fi reception anywhere or get a portable connection. You can work anywhere and anytime you want.
  • Work-Life Balance. Working at home means not having to commute. Not only do you have control over your time, but you get more time in general. You can then spend this extra time on your loved ones or your other interests.
  • Earning Potential. You can set your rates and work with as many clients as you can. With the right strategy, freelancing can be very lucrative.
  • Full Control. You are in charge of everything. Your schedule, the type of jobs you do, and the people you work with. 

Drawbacks of Freelancing

Here are a few challenges that you might encounter when working freelance.

  • Keeping Up With Legalities. You won't be working for a company with a dedicated accounting department. So, you have to keep up with your taxes and do your accounting.
  • Competition. A lot of skilled people are also looking for the same jobs you are. With the massive labor pool, you'll have to do your best to stand out. Getting enough experience might take some time.
  • No Work, No Pay. Time is money in freelancing. If you don't take any jobs, you won't get paid. Sure, you can take a vacation, but you won't be earning anything while you're out of the game. 
  • You're On Your Own. Having absolute control might be an advantage, but it also has its drawbacks. You have to do everything to keep your business running. This includes taxes, marketing, and accounting--besides your actual job.

What Jobs Can You Get?

A lot of fields now offer gigs and freelance positions. Here are some of the most popular industries for freelance workers.

Administration

A lot of companies need administrative staff and assistants to keep things running. Being a virtual assistant is one of the most popular freelance positions out there. 

Writing

Writers are very much in demand, depending on your specialty. Employers may look for social media captions, website copy, blog posts, or even whole books. It's always good to be flexible with what you can do. You can also opt to pitch your concepts or articles to various websites.

Web Design

Web design has been increasing in demand and popularity these days. These jobs deal with a website's interactivity and how audiences perceive it. User interface and user experience designers are high in demand here.

Web Development

Web developers work on the functional structure of a website. Their work will support the web designer's job. They work more behind the scenes, writing code and building structures.

Graphic Design

Graphic designers are also highly in demand. They are essential for a brand's visual identity and communication. Graphic design work can range from logo design, print layouts, packaging design, etc. 

Essential Skills For Freelancers

Besides the skills you need for your field, you also need to pick up a few more. Not only should you be good at your official title, but you should also be a good manager. Learning these skills will help you manage your freelance work better. 

Portfolio Management

Aside from your resume, employers often look for a compilation of your previous works. These are especially essential for project-based or creative jobs. A well-presented portfolio can make you stand out among a sea of applicants.

It's a good thing there are a lot of easy ways to build an online portfolio. You can sign up for blogging sites, post your work on Behance, or even make your own website. Make sure to update your work frequently and as much as possible, only publish work that you are proud of.

Marketing

Another one of your essential duties is marketing yourself and your services. Most freelance jobs don't last very long, so you have to look for new clients constantly.

Social media is one of the most popular marketing tools today. You can create your own page or join groups related to your industry. You can then promote your services through posts or interactions. It's also a great way to find community. LinkedIn is a popular platform for this.

Learn to network and connect with people. Go to conferences, talk to people, and make friends. Sometimes, you can find jobs through these relationships. A friend's referral can be a powerful thing.

Project Management

Freelancers usually have more than one job or client at one time. Aside from knowing how to do your job, you also have to establish how to finish each task.

Since you're on your own, you need to be good at organizing your tasks and schedule. Make sure you have a good workflow and calendaring system in place to avoid any missed deadlines. Furthermore, you’ll need to engage your clients with interactive, personalized analytics so they can make sense of their own data.

If you don't need an assistant or cannot afford one yet, you can use mobile apps or computer software.

Financial Management

As we mentioned in previous sections, you have to do your own accounting as a freelancer. This means maintaining financial records and filing the correct paperwork. You should also keep up with any tax deadlines.

Sometimes, clients might not pay on time or have informal payment systems. Some employers or banks might require proof of income. 

It could be tempting to make little white lies on paper, but that wouldn't be too wise. Is it illegal to make fake pay stubs? Yes, it very much is. You could face criminal charges and possible jail time. It's best to stay honest, especially in official paperwork.

The Bottom Line

Just like any other job, freelancing has its challenges. But with persistence and the right strategy, success is achievable. If you're new, don't be afraid to dip your toes in. Who knows, you might find a lifelong career through freelance work.