Key Newcomer Tips - Developing Your Freelancing Career
As a new freelancer, you are probably not spending a great deal of time thinking about your career years in the future. And that’s perfectly understandable: you have more immediate concerns. That said, it’s never too early to start thinking about the long term; here are a few thoughts to keep in mind about how you will want to build your career as you move forward.
The single most important resource for enhancing and expanding your freelancing business is the collection of clients for whom you’ve done work in the past. These individuals and businesses are valuable because they are known quantities with whom you already have experience and familiarity. Working with existing clients means often being able to bypass much of the overhead and risk associated with starting a new business relationship. And assuming that previous projects were successful, existing clients are a ready source of not only future work, but also potential references to other clients.
In most cases, freelancing customers take a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach—you finish the project, and they assume that they won’t hear from you again unless they ask you to do more work. However, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally dropping a line to a good client to ask how things are going, and generally remind them that you are still around. A good “hook” for this is to inquire about past work you’ve done to see if they are still happy with it. Just don’t do this too frequently, or the client could get annoyed, leading to the effort backfiring.
Some freelancers are loathe to interact or socially network with their peers, because they view the bidding process as adversarial. This view is both misguided and short-sighted.
First, while it is true that there is an element of competition in the online freelancing world, it’s rarely the case that you will consistently be bidding against the very same people for your work. This is just a mathematical reality: there are a lot of providers and a lot of projects, and no two people will have an identical overlap in the types of jobs they try to win.
But more importantly, viewing peers as merely competitors represents a great squandering of what could be a valuable resource. Freelancing is not strictly a zero-sum game, and you can learn a lot from other providers in your field. It’s even common for freelancers who network together to share and refer clients. Take advantage of this by participating in online communities on freelancing sites, as well as third-party resource like the Professional Freelancer’s Network.
The more areas you work in, the more potential you have to find work and grow your business. Once you are well-established in your primary field of endeavor, it is worth broadening your horizons to look for related or secondary areas where you can try to win projects and earn clients.
Being an online freelancer doesn’t mean you have to work exclusively online. Be sure to also look for and develop offline opportunities.
You should also work to move clients off freelancing sites whenever possible. Most sites have rules that prohibit moving customers off-site for a period of time, because the sites want to continue to earn fees from your transactions. Respect those rules, but once the exclusivity periods end, start to work directly with clients to save money and avoid hassle.
All fields of endeavor evolve and change over time. Be sure you take time every month to continue reading and learning so you stay on top of your game professionally.
Education is the key to unlocking new opportunities. Read books, take classes and explore online resources that will let you sharpen existing skills and gain new ones.
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The Online Freelancing Guide (http://www.FreelancingGuide.net)
Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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