In recent years, freelancing has become more popular than ever, with more than one-third of Americans venturing into it. And while some people are freelancing out of necessity, a majority deliberately choose the freelance lifestyle. This isn’t surprising when you take into account the freedom and potential perks of being your own boss. As a freelancer, you not only set your own schedule but choose which tasks to tackle and work from wherever you want. But how difficult is it to become a freelancer?
Freelancing, like any other thing, is not without its fair share of difficulties or drawbacks. In fact, it is a lot more complicated than most people think. Most people believe anyone with a computer, or laptop and an internet connection can work and earn money online. However, this isn’t true!
Freelancing is not a direct ticket to an easy life! While it comes with a plethora of benefits, it also has its pitfalls. Some people can navigate these pitfalls while some may not. But in general, how difficult freelancing is for you may depend on your personality, level of commitment, working style, and schedule as well as how well you tolerate uncertainty.
Freelancing can be very challenging because, more often than not, you have to build up your portfolio for working with more established clients. What’s more, if you are not highly disciplined, you are likely to have a rough time organizing yourself. And finally, being a freelancer means you have to handle an array of tasks that might not be your forte, from searching for clients and marketing your skills, or brand to maintaining client relations and managing your finances.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Freelancer?
While it may take a significant amount of time, dedication, and hard work to get started, becoming a successful freelancer is very achievable. However, it’s worth noting that there is no clear-cut answer to how long it might take you to become a successful freelancer.
However, the general rule of thumb for most businesses when it comes to profitability is that it takes an average of three years to build a successful business, assuming you make it past your first year.
And just like there’s no clear-cut answer to determine the exact amount of time it takes to become an established freelancer, there isn’t also a standard formula on how to do it. But there are certain things you can do to begin your freelancing journey on the right foot and enhance your chances of succeeding, including:
- Set a clear and realistic objective: The first step in your journey to becoming a freelancer is figuring out your reasons for deciding to work as one. Are you switching to freelancing out of choice, a lack of a job, or due to frustration with your office job? Would you like to do it part-time or full-time? Is it something you want to pursue long-term, and will it be your main source of income or side hustle? Defining what you want to accomplish as a freelancer is imperative, as it will guide your efforts as a freelancer.
- Plan a good strategy: After outlining your reasons behind your decision to shift to freelancing, you should design a plan. If you fail to plan, you are simply planning to fail. And it’s the same with freelancing. Without a clear plan, you are going in blind, and you’ll likely encounter numerous obstacles that could hinder your progress. Your plan should include the type of service you will offer, your niche, the cost of your services, how you plan to market your services as well as how you plan to build your credibility. You’ll have to do lots of research! Read lots of books, and blog posts, listen to podcasts, watch youtube videos, and maybe even purchase a course if you think you really need it. You want to find out how successful freelancers did it, what worked and didn’t work for them, and incorporate all these into your own strategy.
- Work on your portfolio: Portfolio simply refers to past projects you have worked on. Demonstrating expertise on similar projects will help win your client’s trust, and that’s where a portfolio comes in. What’s more, a powerful portfolio sets you apart from the crowd. So, create time to gather all relevant and important projects you have done in the past and showcase them in one place. There are dedicated sections on various freelance platforms that allow you to add a portfolio, but you can also build a personal site and add your past projects there.
- Choose your preferred platform: Once you feel the time is right for you to pitch to clients, your next step should be to choose the right freelance platform. Evaluate the pricing as well as the commission structure as well as the advantages and disadvantages of different platforms. Select a platform that fits your preferences and needs. It’s also not bad to sign up for multiple platforms, then channel your attention and efforts to one that offers the best results.
- Develop a relationship with your clients: As a freelancer, your clients are your business. And this is why it’s vital to nurture a positive relationship with them. Successful freelancers establish lasting relationships with their clients rather than thinking of the work as a one-off deal. And you can only achieve this by doing excellent work, building trust through consistency, and communicating effectively with your clients.
- Continue honing your skills: It’s important that you consistently enhance your freelancing skills, adapt to prevailing conditions, and expand your knowledge. Staying on top of and being aware of current trends is crucial to offering your clients the highest service level. Online learning resources such as Coursera, Udemy, and even YouTube are great starting points for making sure your skills are always relevant.
Is Being a Freelancer worth it?
There are many potential benefits of freelancing and working remotely. Below is a list of some of the perks you’ll enjoy while working as a freelancer!
- Being your own boss: The biggest benefit of freelancing is that you are the CEO of your enterprise. You are an autonomous entity. You are free to choose the type of work clients because you have the authority not to work with aggressively-difficult clients.
- Improved skill set: Freelancing means you take on multiple projects from many clients and every single project brings something new to the table, allowing you to expand your knowledge and skill set. You will find yourself learning newer things as you go!
- Flexible working hours: The ability to set your own work schedule can be particularly attractive. If you have children, you might choose to work while your kids are in school and after they’ve retired to bed. In general, provided you complete your work by the agreed-on deadlines, you have total control over when and how you do it.
- Global exposure: With freelancing, work can come from virtually anywhere. You are not bound by geographical restrictions. And this gives you a fantastic opportunity to create meaningful work relationships that help you network better and diversify your connections.
- Multiple income sources: A major advantage of working as a freelancer is that you have no limit to how much you can make. If you are a Jack of all trades, you can take up numerous projects which require different skills and work on them simultaneously. After all, there are no regulations that dictate the number of projects you can tackle at the same time! Many freelancers have polished their skills over the years and are earning significant sums monthly working just a few days weekly by taking up multiple projects at the same time!
Do freelancers make good money?
Currently, there are more than 57 million Americans in the freelance industry. And this is proof enough that freelancers make good money! While freelance jobs don’t guarantee the same security as full-time jobs, freelancers can actually make more money than those in traditional employment models. Freelancers doing skilled services earn a median rate of $28, earning more hourly compared to 70% of employees in the overall American economy.
What are the negative sides of freelancing?
As already explained, there are lots of potential benefits associated with freelancing. And while most freelancers, including me, are convinced that the pros of the freelance lifestyle outweigh the cons, it’s not a bad idea to want to know some of the negative sides of freelancing. Let’s discuss some of them below:
Self-employment income often ebbs and flows. One week you could have too much work to handle, and the next, you are left wondering where all your clients disappeared to. Unlike the consistent paycheck you get every month as an employee, your income can dip below what you need to meet your periodic expenses. This can be a huge challenge, particularly if you don’t have much of a financial cushion.
Building your brand can prove a daunting experience
As earlier explained, freelancing can feel like an overwhelming task when you first start. Nobody knows who you are, what services you offer, or if they can trust you! To break through, you will have to dust off your sales as well as marketing skills and ask for a potential client to give you a chance. You may even have to volunteer and work for free for your first client just to acquire some experience under your belt.
You lose the social aspect of work
One of the most common disadvantages of freelancing is not being able to strike a good balance between your freelance work and social life. When you are self-employed, you miss certain aspects of having co-workers around you. It’s just you! Your successes, as well as failures, are yours to experience alone, and you also have to motivate yourself. And while this may work well for some people, those who only thrive in a social environment are likely to struggle.
You don’t get employee benefits
As a freelancer, I’m afraid you can forget about the common benefits that workers receive, including paid time off, and insurance coverage, among others. If you want to enjoy any benefits beyond your hourly wages, you’ll have to provide them yourself.
Which skill is best for freelancing?
Technical skills are in great demand. Self-driven individuals who want to boost their earning potential through freelancing should take the time to learn desired skills to land more contracts and generate more income. What skills are most in demand?
It’s common knowledge that clients tend to value highly technical skill sets above anything else. In this regard, web development, copywriting, marketing professionals, content creation, writing, social media marketing, eCommerce, data analytics, accounting and bookkeeping, video production, and artificial intelligence are skills that are likely to command great earning potential.
And the best part about most of these skills is that they are fairly easy to learn and develop through free online learning. And once you master these skills, put them into practice so that you have tangible results to show. This means adding them to your resume or profile to attract potential clients.
Which freelancing jobs are best for beginners?
One of the most amazing aspects of being a freelancer is it allows you to make cash doing what you are good at and are equally passionate about. There are numerous types of freelance jobs out there and you just have to know where to look.
There are lots of freelance jobs for beginners that you can tackle, and it doesn’t matter if you have just a little bit of experience or none at all. They include freelance writing, proofreading, and editing, graphic designing, online teaching, virtual assistant, social media management, transcribing, virtual bookkeeping, and video editing.
The Bottom Line
If you are currently considering freelancing as a career path, you may have been encouraged and motivated by the promise of ultimate flexibility, unlimited earnings, and the ability to curve relationships beyond your geographical setting. However, like any other thing, freelancing has its drawbacks and you’ll soon find you have problems to cope with.
Contrary to popular belief, freelancing is far from easy. But with hard work and a big helping of commitment and determination, you can make it as a freelancer. More importantly, it takes time to learn, develop the necessary skills, and gain experience.
If you have that feeling in your gut that freelancing is for you, unless you give it a try, you’ll never know what might have been. I’m not going to tell you it will be easy, and you’ll definitely have times when you wonder if you’ve done the right thing. But when you’ve been self-employed for a length of time there’s a strong chance you won’t be able to imagine working for someone else ever again.
I was born into a family where self-employment was what you did and working for someone else was what other people did. I was never forced or even encouraged into being self-employed; it was just something that was in my blood. I’ve spent long periods in “normal” jobs and I’ve earned good and bad money in those jobs, but I kept going back to freelancing until I got it right and now I’ll never do anything else.