Since a lot of college grads are underemployed, some of us are finding other ways to do what we love – and getting the experience on the way. I don’t have to sell you on freelancing. It’s a proven way to learn the business, gain clients, and build a network to a job you love. That said, here are some pointers for the beginning freelancer that will make sure you start off right!
1. Good work begets money. Good work. Not shoddy, inconsistent, lazy work, but heartfelt, insistent, take-the-initiative work. Do your best at every opportunity you have.
2. Always deliver work ahead of time. A good way to do this is to plan how much time for the work is needed and set the deadline for 2 days after.
3. Consider doing work for free (or at a lesser price) in the beginning, in exchange for a reference, referral, or testimonial. I do this sometimes.
4. Write thank you notes to people who do you favors (i.e. use your work for a publication). If you can’t write it by hand, send an email.
5. Ask for a reference, referral or a testimonial in writing. A sample e-mail:
It was great working with you today on project ____. I hope I helped you!
If you have a chance, would you write a short testimonial about how I did ____ for you? It would be greatly appreciated.
6. Make a virtual portfolio. A website or blog is perfect for this, especially if you have insights on a specific industry. I use WordPress.com right now. It’s a great resource for people just starting out. Buying a domain name is $20-30 and there are many good free themes.
7. Network with people in your field. Join an organization that meets regularly and get to know the people. Odds are, they know someone that knows someone who has a job for you.
8. Become a mentee. Find someone who has ever freelanced – who also wants to mentor you – and sit under them. Mentors have great advice, help you make moves in unfound territory and can give you the confidence you need to step out!
9. Build a questionnaire. This step is crucial. Often people are unsure about what they want or what exactly they want you to do. A questionnaire is great for this. It will save you time and hypothetical money. I have a brief one here.
10. Get it in writing. The last – the least fun – and the most boring is probably the most important. Even if the work is minimal (and unless you’re just doing it for free), have both parties sign a contract. If you don’t want to be formal, don’t expect them to pay you formally either.
Got any more tips for new freelancers? Write them below!
Adrienne Johnson is a freelance writer & editor in Indianapolis, Indiana. A graduate of DePauw University and a self-proclaimed “nerdette,” she can’t get enough of witty shows like Community and New Girl while discussing articles from her favorite blogs with friends. She laughs loudly, sings constantly, and will always have a place in her heart for the cello. Get in touch.
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