Earning money by freelancing online is easier now than ever before. Unlike the generations before us, we have a clear way to do everything from building a reputation to planning for taxes: the Internet. By taking advantage of online platforms, you can grow authority as an independent contractor without pounding the pavement. Follow these four tips, and clients and customers will start coming to you:
Building a Reputation
As freelancers, business success relies squarely on reputation. Without appreciation from clients and colleagues in your chosen field, it’s hard to thrive as a freelancer. If you’re starting from scratch, ask former employers or coworkers for character testimonials that speak to your dedication and positive attributes. Even if your references have nothing to do with your future aspirations, they speak to who you are as a person, which carries a lot of weight in the freelance world. Post testimonials on your website or ask for references on LinkedIn.
Build your reputation and portfolio with smaller projects. Although I rarely suggest doing work for free, Catchafire is a great option for new freelancers — it’s a platform that connects volunteer freelancers with nonprofits who need their skillset. By nabbing a few projects for reputable non-profits, you can create a portfolio that will get you hired.
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Attracting New Clients
You need a digital “home” or somewhere that people can find you. To attract new clients, create a simple, brand-focused website that highlights your services. Break down your offerings and include sample projects for potential customers to browse. Wix and Squarespace both make it easy and affordable for non-techies to set up beautiful websites. Build corresponding social media profiles that reflect your branding. Focus on LinkedIn and Twitter if you want to appeal to companies as an independent contractor.
Despite the natural hesitation many freelancers feel about reaching out, don’t shy away from emailing companies you would want to work with. The worst that can happen is that you don’t receive a response. Find a specific point person at a company and connect with a cold email or a soft introduction through social media — both these strategies can help you find prospects, as long as you’re persistent. Also make use of your current network by reaching out to all your friends and family asking for leads to anyone in the field. Referrals are your best friend as a burgeoning freelancer.
Choosing High-Impact Projects
Freelancers take jobs for one of two reasons: awesome pay or exposure. Ideally, most of your freelance gigs offer you both advantages. When you decide to take on specific projects, consider their visibility and their potential to bring you new leads. Connecting and collaborating with influencers in your field — either high-performing organizations or individuals with a strong reputation in your field — can spark a long list of positive outcomes, including more work and better pay. That said, always honor your own salary. A high-visibility job should never leave you short of your financial benchmarks.
Planning for Taxes
Most of us think of taxes as a lurking monster that creeps out once a year to wreak havok. Taxes, though, don’t need to be a big, scary mess. Planning for the inevitability debunks that myth, one quarter at a time. Start by focusing on regular accounting. Once a week, tally your revenue and expenses, making note of your profit margin. Set money aside in a savings account for the corresponding taxes. Once the end of the quarter rolls around, you’ll know exactly how much you owe. Payable's platform can help with automatically save for 1099 taxes.
As with any business, your online presence should reflect your brand — and values. What do you do well? What sets you apart? These attributes will help you carve a personal niche for your freelance business, even on the most impersonal online platforms.