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How to Become a Successful Freelancer

By Academy Xi

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Are you new to the world of freelancing? This blog will explain what freelance work is, its perks, and five freelance professions that allow you to reap the benefits of going solo.

Freedom – that glorious ability to do what you want, when you want, without too many external restrictions. In so many words, that’s what freelancing is all about.

Yet many of us live with the opposite – trapped in an office, confined to a desk, watching the clock hands slowly grind to 5:00pm. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

What is freelancing?

Freelancing is a form of self-employment, which entails delivering services on a per-job or per-task basis. Rather than being permanently employed by a single company, freelancing allows you to work for yourself and complete projects for a number of different businesses and clients.

In recent years, tech innovations and the improvement of remote work systems have broken down traditional employment structures. Businesses of every kind are now paying for the services of freelancers.

Far from being an employment niche, the stats indicate that freelancing is the future:

  • There are now 3.15 million freelancers in Australia (28% of the national workforce).
  • The freelance employment market is currently growing three times faster than the employment market as a whole.
There are approximately 1.1 billion freelancers in the world. This means around 31.4% of the world’s total workforce is freelance, and this number is expected to grow significantly in 2022 (Source: Thrivemyway)

How do businesses benefit from freelancers?

By supplementing core staff with freelancers, companies are able to:

  • Access a larger and more diverse talent pool than a permanent workforce offers.
  • Get the specialist skills they need just-in-time and complete projects with increased agility.
  • Spend more efficiently by accessing talent exactly when they need it.

What are the benefits of freelance work?

There are a number of benefits that come with striking it out alone as a freelancer. Some of the biggest perks include:

  • Choosing your clients
    As a freelancer you’ll have the unique ability to select the clients you work with. You might pick clients based on their brand image or stellar reputation, or because of a personal affinity with delivering a particular product or service.
  • Managing your workload
    Freelancing means you can manage your own workload and work as much or as little as you like. If you want to work full-time most of the year and only part-time during the summer months, you’ll have the flexibility to make that lifestyle a reality.
  • Following your passions
    Freelancing allows you to focus on the work you love without the distractions that come with a permanent contract (no more long commutes, office politics or meetings that hardly relate to what you do).
  • Working independently
    Freelancing means you’ll have the ability to work alone for long stretches of time (if you’re a people person, there’s always the opportunity to collaborate). Because freelancing is often remote, you can work anywhere wifi-connected.
  • Diversify your exposure
    Freelancing enables you to work on projects and with clients in a variety of industries, enabling you to broaden your horizons, diversify your professional exposure and build a unique CV.

What responsibilities come with being a freelancer?

As well as acknowledging the perks of freelancing, it’s important to understand the extra responsibilities.

As someone who’s self-employed, you’ll be responsible for:

  • Calculating and paying your own taxes. 
  • Funding your health insurance, pension and other personal contributions. 
  • Covering the lost income of holidays or being sick (it’s wise to put a little extra money aside, which will also support you when work proves hard to find).
Freelancer earnings statistics suggest there will be more freelancers in the tech domain soon (Source: Forbes)

Getting started as a freelancer is relatively simple. Essentially, a specialist skill-set + wifi = freelance capabilities. However, once your freelance operation is up and running, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to set yourself apart from the competition.  

You’ll need to build a professional portfolio that showcases your certifications, skills and examples of past work. Prospective clients will use your portfolio to assess the quality of your services and your suitability for a particular project. 

You’ll also need to create a brand and strategically build skills, work experience, a strong network and an online presence that helps you target a need among potential clients. 

If you want a steady supply of work, you’ll need to seek it out. There are a variety of portals that freelancers use to find work, including Upwork and Fiverr, which act as job marketplaces connecting businesses with specialists who are suitably skilled. 

There’s a wide range of specialist services that clients are searching for these days. To give you some food for thought, here are a five of the more popular options:

Freelance Digital Marketer

The internet and social media are crowded places where companies are striving to be seen and heard. A freelance digital marketer uses online platforms and digital tools to promote products and improve sales for their clients. Freelance digital marketers use various channels, including: 

  • Website content
  • Email
  • Social media marketing
  • Search engine marketing
  • Display advertising

Your goal as a freelance digital marketer is to help a company expand its brand awareness, increase conversions and ultimately grow as a business. All of this requires a razor-sharp strategic mindset. 

You’ll also need to be finance and budget savvy, data-driven, analytical, and a strong leader. Marketing is definitely a field where who you know is as important as what you know – so be prepared to network. 

To give yourself a headstart in a competitive industry, it’s wise to get a formal certification, as well as a portfolio demonstrating your real-world marketing experience. Academy Xi Digital Marketing courses give you all this and more, helping you develop the tactics and techniques needed to manage a digital marketing campaign from end-to-end.

Freelance Social Media Manager

With over 58% of the world’s population actively using social media, freelance social media managers plan, execute, filter and monitor the social media presence of a product, company or influential person. Some of the services this entails include:

  • Planning social media strategies
  • Creating content calendars and scheduling posts
  • Content creation – including photography, video and design
  • Copywriting – posts need to be short, snappy and attention grabbing
  • Community management – engaging with followers, answering DMs and replying to comments
  • Forecasting, analytics and reporting

Many social media managers have a formal certification. To be competitive, you might choose to get one too. Formal training will give you the practical skills and know-how needed to plan and execute an entire social media strategy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, freelance hourly rates remained stable and as many as 17 percent of freelancers actually saw their business increase (Source: Payoneer)

Freelance Web Developer

Every business needs a website these days, and good freelance web developers are in high demand. Freelance web developers design and build websites using coding and software design tools. You’ll liaise with clients and normally receive a creative brief outlining the project’s content and style.

Establishing a web development specialisation will give you an advanced skill-set that clients are searching for. There are several areas you can specialise in as a web developer, these include: 

  • Back-end development – using code to communicate between an application, server and database.
  • Front-end development – turning that code into a visual website that users interact with. 
  • User experience – making the website intuitive and user-friendly.   
  • User interface – designing the look and style of a website. 

Most clients will require you to be able to use HTML, CSS and JavaScript at a minimum. As websites are rarely built in vacuums, web developers who possess an understanding of UI Design and SEO will find their services highly regarded. 

Academy Xi Front-End Web Development courses give you hands-on experience writing and maintaining user-facing code for user-friendly, responsive and easy-on-the-eye websites.

Freelance Graphic Designer

Freelance graphic designers work with clients to produce branded logos, illustrations and other visual collateral. As well as being highly creative, graphic designers are excellent problem solvers, using their designs to convey a brand’s identity and build an emotional connection with a target market. 

Graphic designers work with text and images, delivering designs for a variety of media, including:

  • Websites and apps
  • Social media
  • Print – magazines, pamphlets and brochures

By using computer applications and software, you’ll develop sketches and layouts that bring your ideas to life. A client might need to see a rough draft of any concepts you generate, so editing and revisions are a big part of the job.

Industry-standard graphic design software includes the Adobe suite – InDesign, Photoshop and/ or Illustrator, all of which you’ll likely need to be fluent in. As the field of digital design progresses, you’ll also need to incorporate emerging technologies and software innovations into your practice.

Freelance graphic designers need an attractive portfolio of work, as well as a certification demonstrating those hard-earned skills. Academy Xi Graphic Design courses offer you both, helping you to combine business objectives with creativity and put together a portfolio of eye-catching designs that resolve brand or user challenges.

It is estimated that by 2027 freelancers will constitute over 50% of the total US workforce with a growth rate of around 65% over the next five years (Source: Thrivemyway)

Freelance Writer

Freelance writers offer their services to different clients, working across a variety of platforms and topics.

Unlike writers employed by a single company, who must consistently maintain that company’s brand voice, freelance writers have the freedom to explore their own writing style and preferred subjects. However, it’s possible to find more freelance writing work by being adaptable enough to complete any brief a client assigns.

If you’re keen to go solo as a professional writer, there are a few simple steps to follow:

  • Choose your niche – picking what you want to write about and the platforms your writing will be published on is a crucial first step.
  • Develop specialist skills – there are courses offering formal training in creative writing, copywriting, social media communications and journalism, to name a few.  
  • Set up a website or blog that tells your professional story and houses samples of your best work.
  • Pitch yourself everywhere and regularly check writing job boards.
  • Collect testimonials from your clients – these are your most powerful form of marketing.
  • Stay up-to-date with the hottest topics in your subject areas – the key to keeping your writing relevant is lots of reading.

So there you have it – an introductory guide to becoming a freelancer!

Freelancing offers you the chance to escape that office cubicle and the regimented 9-5 regime. Instead, you can cherry-pick your projects, manage your own workload and personally mastermind a career that you’re truly passionate about.

If you back yourself, develop the right skills and go it alone, who knows where your career will take you? Remember – the best opportunities in life won’t just fall in your lap, you have to get out there and create them.

Need some help in upskilling in any of these in-demand skills? Speak to a course advisor today and take the first step in your journey with a course from Academy Xi!