Why and How to Start Freelancing

We all have “weird boss” stories, so I’m not going to start trying to compete. Suffice to say that I had my fair share. It’s not so much the “weird” (I love a little quirky here and there), it was the abusive, the unfair, the racist, the totally-lacking-in-self-control, the dishonest. Also, when I found one of them lying under his desk after a bender with the local drug-dealers, that was the clincher for me. Done and dusted. I was out of there. *Picture the Road Runner* Now, all I had to do was figure out how to start freelancing.

I started freelancing in 2008 and have never, ever looked back. Not even when I had to give up my medical aid, figure tax out on my own (still on that journey, to be honest), give up formal office hours (haha, remember when work stopped at 5pm?), or almost ran myself into the ground when I was diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t work for months on end. Not even then.

So, while freelancing isn’t for everyone, there certainly are advantages.

Advantages of freelancing

    • I get to choose my hours – If I want to head to Cape Town for a long weekend, or take an afternoon off to go to my kid’s prize-giving, I can.
    • I can work when I’m away – whether it’s churning out a quick quote, writing a piece for a regular client, or just checking my emails to keep on top of things, I can do it from anywhere. I’ve travelled locally and even overseas without my clients feeling a thing.
Freelancing perks while traveling
Mauritius. On a weekday! The perks of freelancing.
  • I get to choose my rates and my clients – this is a biggy. I work hard, and I get to see and feel the benefits in a first-hand way.
  • Low overheads – I work from home and almost all of my communication is electronic. So, I don’t need an office space, fancy equipment, staff members, or even a pair of heels (I said I don’t need them, not that I don’t have far too many) to get my job done.

How do I start freelancing?

If you’re keen to go on this adventure, there are a few steps to take.

  • Decide why you want to freelance – what are your goals? This clarity will give you direction and drive, even when you hit a rocky patch.
  • Find your market – you need a specific target group; otherwise, your service or product becomes wishy-washy, confusing and frustrating (for both you and your potential consumers). Your target market needs to be as specific as possible without unnecessarily excluding anyone. Be exactly what your niche needs. Know their problem and solve it.
  • Define the types of clients that you want – are you focussed on SMMEs? Large corporates? Other one-man shows? Ask yourself who needs your services, who can afford to pay you, and who within those organisations you need to approach.
  • Set your prices – do research, connect with others in your industry, and stick to your guns. Most of all, charge what you deserve for the work you’re doing. This means being completely confident of your service or product. Don’t waste their time or earn a bad reputation by giving bad service. But don’t undercharge either.
  • Get your website together – don’t skimp. Hire someone to design and set it up to be professional, attractive, and SEO-friendly.
  • Have a portfolio – if you haven’t got material, create it. Do samples, where possible. Just have something physical to send to prospective clients.
  • Pitch yourself properly – your pitch should show that you’ve done your research, understand the problems of the client, know how to solve them, and are willing to do so. Be prepared to answer questions professionally and succinctly, and have examples of past work up your sleeve to prove your abilities.
  • ALWAYS provide your best service – no matter how small the client or the project, you don’t know who they know or what other jobs they may have in the pipeline. Make your competition be about value, not price.
  • If you’re still working a full-time / day job while establishing your freelance business, remember that the day job has first priority. That’s where your loyalties should lie and where you should focus when you’re there. Don’t breach contracts, or use company time or resources for your freelance career.

I hope this helps launch the exciting freelance career of a lifetime!

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