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How to be a freelancer

What is freelancing, exactly? And why should you consider it? Glad you asked. Monster breaks it down for you.

How to be a freelancer

Whether you’re looking for a side-hustle gig for some extra cash or are trying to get out of the 9-to-5 grind, freelancing offers a variety of perks and opportunities. Let’s break down the essentials of starting a freelance career. 

What is a freelancer?

Unlike regular full-time employees grinding it out on the 9 to 5, freelance workers are self-employed and work on a contract basis, usually for more than one company at the same time. Some examples of popular freelance jobs include writing, graphic design, web development, programming, and photography.

For example, a freelance graphic designer may be contracted by a hotel to design their website and contracted by a publisher to design a book jacket.

Depending on a job’s requirements, freelancers may work from home or at a company’s office. Typically, when the job they were contracted to do has been completed, the freelancer has no further obligations to the company—off they go to hustle after the next freelance assignment.

Why be a freelancer?

Freelancing is already a way of life for a growing number of workers. According to the Freelancers Union, an estimated 57.3 million Americans are doing freelance work—up from 55 million in 2016—making up 36% of the workforce. Advances in technology not only make it easier to get freelance jobs, but also provide the best way to find new work. But what does it actually take to make an honest go of a freelance career, where being your own boss also means hunting for your next paycheck?

 

Steps to become a freelancer

Fear not: We’ve got some Monster-approved tips to get you on track to freelance success, and ensure that you’ll soon be celebrating independence in every sense of the word.

1. Define your brand

Yes, that means more than coming up with a funny name for your S corp. Like traditional job seekers, freelancers need to remember that the real product they’re selling is themselves: their services, their expertise, and their raring-to-go-it-ness. So don’t just tell a prospective employer who you are—tell them why they should hire you, and only you, above all others in your peer group.

The goal is to make your presence known. Do it with a slick personal website. Do it with a killer portfolio. Or do it by uploading your resume to job search sites such as Monster to make yourself available to recruiters looking to hire for short-term projects.

You should also develop a comprehensive business plan that, in fine detail, explains exactly what your services are, how much they cost, and how your clients stand to benefit. It’s worth mulling over the rate question in particular. One solid guideline on how to set a freelance rate is to determine the salaried pay of comparable work at your experience level, then factor in the value of a health insurance plan and other perks you’d get with traditional employment. From there, you can come up with an hourly or flat rate based on the type of project.

2. Use your connections

A stacked address book (or Rolodex, if you’re retro) is the lifeblood of any freelancer. When you’re always on the lookout for the next gig, you’ll often find yourself depending on the kindness of...well, not total strangers, but former colleagues, friends of friends, and that messy college roommate who went on to become a Silicon Valley big shot.

That’s especially true when you’re just starting out, before you’ve amassed a sizeable portfolio or developed a strong professional reputation. Don’t forget that you’re starting a business, and you need to market that business. One reliable approach is to reach out to contacts in your target field to let them know you’re now proffering your services as a freelancer. Like a cover letter, think of it as a way of pitching yourself to potential clients—be sure to mention your relevant professional experience, and link out to work of yours that best illustrates your talents.

Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention one obvious go-to for freelance gigs: job listings. You’re always free to check out the thousands of freelance jobs available on Monster right now.

3. Set a routine

For all the wonderful open-endedness that goes along with a freelance career, it’s important to remember that freelance work is still, well, work. Be a pro about it: Set a daily schedule and keep it consistent, make a point of not working in your pajamas, and consider finding a dedicated place to set up shop every day (if it’s in your home, you can also claim some much-needed deductions come tax season).

Similar rules apply for freelancers working in an office setting as part a larger team that may consist of other freelancers, contractors, and full-time employees. While you may have been hired on a project basis, you’re still responsible for showing up on time and meeting the expectations for professionalism that apply to any W-2 worker. Pay attention to (and participate in) the governing office culture—and remember, any of these people could easily be the ticket to your next gig.


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