What is freelancing all about?
I can simply define freelancing as the art of leveraging your skills and knowledge to provide services to individuals and brands. One perk that makes it so enticing is the freedom that comes with it; freedom of choice, time, pricing, and the ability to work from anywhere in the world.
Freelancing is a representation of what the “gig” economy looks like. Using Nigeria as a case study, given the large percentage of unemployed youths in Nigeria; there has been a gradual increase in the activity of youth scouring the internet looking for platforms where they can learn a skill or offer their skill as a service to business owners and entrepreneurs.
After I dropped out of school, freelancing was by no means a choice but a means of survival. It was either this or nothing, this has been my drive up till this moment.
Table of Contents
Pick a profitable niche
There are so many pathways you can take when you want to start a freelance business. You could be a software developer, frontend web developer, backend web developer, content writer, technical writer, copywriter, virtual assistant, social media manager, etc. There’s a long list of areas you can specialize in, I’d advise you to research thoroughly before picking a skill.
I’ve been freelancing for the past 5 years dabbling into graphics design, motion graphics, web design using WordPress, and photography. It took me a while to pick a niche and ever since I’ve been earning good money from designing websites for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) in Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
Pro Tip: While generalization or specialization isn’t really critical at this stage, it is important to narrow down and streamline the area you want to specialize in.
For Instance, I’m developing my agency’s support page and I need a writer to help me out with the contents on it. I’m not just going to hire any writer I see, as you well know there are content writers, research writers, copywriters etc. I’d be looking for a technical writer who can break complex stuff down, and make the content on the page understandable even to a 5 year old child.
Learn a skill
Once you’ve chosen a niche and picked a skill, then comes the next aspect which is learning the skill. At the time of writing, there are a thousand and one resources where you can learn soft skills and entrepreneurial skills for free assuming you are not financially capable at the time to pay for courses or boot camps. These resources include Udacity, Udemy, Skillshare, and Youtube. Yeah! There are a lot of knowledge-based content or channels on Youtube, that specialize in educating anyone who wishes to learn about a particular skill/topic.
I’m happy there is this sensitization going on right now, making people understand the importance of gaining a skill. Irrespective of the degree you have, there is no job security. So all you need is your laptop and internet access to get started.
Define what your ideal client looks like
Now you’ve got a skill you will need to understand who your services are best suited for. My people always you cannot serve or please everyone, you’re not jollof rice. Like I mentioned earlier, back then I pictured my clients would be small and medium entreprises. Ofcourse I chose this because I wanted people who’ve got deep pockets or a good budget.
It is important to note that you might get it right on your first try so in order to help you figure out who your ideal client is (and how to start finding them), Here are questions you need to go over:
- What type of business has the problems I can solve with my skills?
- Can the business I want to work with afford my services?
- What demography should I target? Think about the: age, gender, geographic location, websites they frequent, social media and their personal interests.
This is a difficult decision to make at first, because it means turning away a lot of business. However, the process of narrowing in on your target clients that you work best with, will help you achieve much better results in the long run. Once you have a few clients who are willing to advocate for you, the momentum will really pick up.
I’ve able to work with serveral brands in Port Harcourt which is the city I’m currently based in Nigeria. The international gigs came as a result of referals by my clients because of the value I provided. So it’s possible to start from your current vicinity.
Determine your pricing
This aspect is very important, and would be a lot easier once you’ve been able to figure out who your ideal client is. In reality, there is no perfect formula for setting pricing for your freelance services as there are many factors can impact the amount that clients will be willing to pay such as:
- Your Experience
- Client’s Industry
- Project Scope
- Project complexity
- Client’s geographic location
Don’t charge too far above your value, but don’t ever undervalue what you’re doing for your clients. – Ryan Robinson
Create examples of what you offer
This aspect is often overlooked by beginners. No client is going to hire you without go through things you’ve don in the past. I encountered and kept struggling with this aspect when I started and a lot of potential clients I came in contact with at the time turned me down.
Since I offer website design & development service using WordPress I decided to create and host different websites. This helped me a lot and whenever a clients requests for a past job or example I had all links ready to be forwarded to them.
Same goes for other kinds of skills, as a writer you can guest blog or have a journal of medium or blogspot. As a software developer, you can develop simple programs or apps and host them on herokapp or github.
Create a high-quality portfolio site
The next step for you would be to create a site that would house all the examples you’ve created and jobs you’ve done. Think of the site as your CV, whenever a brand or client seeks you out they’d also ask to see your portfolio. So doing this at an early stage saves you the hassle trying to create one in a hurry.
Beyond that, you need to sell yourself on why you’re the best person for this type of work – for the clients you want to work with. According to Ryan, Here is a list of must haves for your portfolio website;
- Communicate your specialty & display examples of your work.
- List your contact information & show off your personality.
- Highlight your relevant skills, education, and accomplishments.
- Display testimonials (even if they’re from coworkers or former bosses when you’re just getting started).
- Have regular updates that show your evolution, new clients, and updated sample work.
My personal preference would be to create a portfolio website with a custom domain in your name such as emmanueleluwa.com. However, if you don’t have the capabilities to create such for yourself there are many free alternatives you can use such behance, dribble, disha.
Build your credibility
This is simply all about making your self trustable (If there’s any word like that) in the way your potential client perceive you. The secret to building your credibility is in providing VALUE to clients and potential clients.
To effectively build your credibility you can;
- Creating high quality blog content.
- Collaborate with notable influencers in your industry.
- Line up speaking engagements to start increasing your visibility within your niche.
- Get testimonials you can use as social proof.
I can say focusing a little bit on my online presence (social media specifically) in the past has helped me land different gigs. Even though I don’t post frequently on my personal accounts right now, I still get people check out my page and reach out because they love the contents on there.
Improve your marketing and sales tactics
Landing new clients isn’t just a matter of having your portfolio website up and running, you’d also need to refine your sales strategy. I am an introvert and I have issue associating with people however in this line of work, you would need to break out of your ‘shell’.
You’d need to have strategies how you would source for clients, you’d also have make the decision if you are going to make use of ads campaigns, cold emails or cold calling to generate leads for your business.
Other areas of concerntration would be;
- How you pitch yourself to potential clients.
- Your client onboarding process.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but learning doesn’t stop for you. It is a continual process.
That you completed a certificate course doesn’t actually make you an expert or authority in that regard.
Finally, I leave you with my final thoughts. Freelancing is the future and there’s no better time to start but now!