The freelancing industry continues to grow at record rates in the last couple of years. In fact, the freelancer industry reportedly grew by over 12 percent as noted by the Financial Times. Freelancing in Nigeria has grown as more graduates look for modern ways of earning a living.
The jobs posted on notable freelance sites increased from 200,000 to 300,000 engagements over a 1 year period.
I believe that this growth rides on the need individuals have for independence and flexibility in pursuing careers, with technology and concepts such as working from anywhere (think to work from home) gaining of a wide appeal.
I also find that freelancing makes me and countless other practitioners of this trade happy as well as optimistic about the future and prospects of freelancing as a career path.
So if you are reading this, I assume that you may have decided to give freelancing a shot. Not a bad idea if you asked me; in fact, it is a great move which should give you the satisfaction of setting ( or negotiating) pay rates as well as following your own work schedules.
No hassles from bosses, no stress from commuting long hours (if you choose to work from home) among other perks and benefits.
But I do know you might feel overwhelmed by not knowing how or where to start. Well, there is some good news, my friend. Starting a freelance career is far easier than it appears. All I did- and what you should do too- revolves around taking the following steps:
Select a Skill or Craft
Trust me when I say that people require professional services for almost any task you can imagine. Outsourcing is the new kid on the block, and you might just have the skill or training required to fulfill a client’s request.
The important point to note here is that you can start with whatever skill or training you have had in your professional life.
While programming or graphic designing may be the big players in the freelance world, I still posit that other ‘less attractive’ skills offer plenty of opportunities in starting and sustaining a freelance career.
For instance, I have a flair for writing and I am building a freelance career creating written content for organizations, businesses, and individuals. Writing is one very popular way to succeed with freelancing in Nigeria.
So in essence, freelance offers you the choice of finding that skill, or hobby, or training that you have competence in and find joy in doing and getting paid while performing such tasks.
Build your Brand
I must be straight from the start- while freelancing offers flexibility and independence in the workplace, competition is becoming fierce and you have to really stand out from the crowd if you hope to secure work engagements on a consistent basis.
I find that an effective way of navigating this issue is by having a brand. A brand serves as the freelancer’s identity (this includes your website, blog and social media accounts) and it should clearly communicate your unique selling proposition- what stands your work out and why a client should pick you over someone else.
Branding also affords you the opportunity to go for specialization. For instance, the articles I write focus mainly on lifestyle, technology, and business.
With this specialization, I am far more attractive to a specific set of prospective clients. So it is, that your branding on the core services that your skills and training provided so that you gain consistent patronage from clients in need of your services.
Build a Portfolio and Ask for Testimonials
The freelance world is one of the most unpretentious industries in the world. On a functional basis, freelancing is akin to getting what one is seeing.
Often there are no elaborate games or complex strategizing. Many prospective clients do not bother about one’s qualifications or awards- all they want to see are your previous records of past jobs and whether these completed orders fit into their needs. No more or less.
As you start your freelance career, it is important that you compile your best work in a portfolio. Bear in mind that some clients would also demand that you show competence and experience, especially in work done for big clients.
One way of going around this issue is carrying out free jobs for notable clients. You will achieve a number of things with this step. First off, you will build an impressive resume that features quality assignments from top clients.
Secondly, I usually inform the clients I do such work for, of the cost if I had placed a fee for the service. In this way, I open up room for pay negotiations the next time the particular client need my services.
In addition, I will request that the client draws up a solid testimonial, confirming the quality of my work and recommending my services to other prospective clients.
So with extensive portfolios and glowing testimonials, you should be able to put your freelancing career on solid footing as soon as possible.
Pitch Pitch Pitch
So I assume that you have selected an area of specialization, you have a compelling brand in place and you are amassing a formidable arsenal of completed/ongoing jobs and glowing recommendation. The next step is reaching out to prospective clients by way of pitching.
Pitching, which bears a close resemblance to marketing, involves selling you freelance services to individuals/businesses that are most likely to patronize you. Your branding should give you a narrow focus.
With a narrow focus, potential clients are far more likely to take you seriously than if you offered a general service. Businesses want to work with freelancers who seemingly came into existence to serve them specifically — this illusion can be created through specialization.
I find that the keys to successful pitching include volume and relevance. For the latter, go for clients that fit your target audience.
Volume entails reaching out to many of the clients in your focus area on a consistent basis. The key is to focus and remain committed to your abilities.
You never know when that bid you submitted some time ago could bring the engagement you have been waiting for.
Go with the Odds and begin today
Like a full time 9 to 5 job, freelancing requires that you show up, each and every day. Ultimately securing freelance engagements is about numbers- the more clients you source, the better your chances of making earnings on a consistent basis.
But it is imperative you start today and get your freelance career off the ground. Crawl, walk, run or fly- the important thing is that you start and maintain momentum by honing your craft, building your portfolio, creating a compelling brand as well as attracting the audience that is appropriate for your freelancing business.
Freelancing offers the opportunity to earn a living from offering services based on one’s skill set or passion/hobby. I can understand if you have butterflies when you consider leaving paid employment and starting out in freelancing.
It does not have to be so initially. You can still keep your job but you must utilize your spare time in building your freelance structures and your portfolio.
Do this consistently and you will be ready in time for a freelance career, whether on a full or part-time basis.
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