Freelancing 101

August 12, 2012 | Comments Off on Freelancing 101 | Uncategorized

I had the opportunity to share a bit on freelancing at the last TeamUp Careers Second Thursday career networking group and promised to post a follow-up today on my blog with a recap and some additional resources. If you’re here because of that event, thanks for dropping by! I’d love to hear in the comments whether you’re considering freelancing and if you have any questions.

First, I want to reemphasize that anyone has the opportunity to freelance. While commonly thought of as a form of work done by independent contractors in areas like graphic art design, social media, writing, marketing, etc., I consider freelancing to not be limited to these types of projects. The mindset of working for yourself on an individual project basis extends to other kinds of work, temporary or not, that may even be offline…cleaning, managing estate sales, etc.

If you’re looking for a more permanent career, freelancing is excellent because it can lead you to new connections, it provides an income stream that you can (hopefully) scale up or down depending on how busy you are, and it’s a way to fill up empty space in the timeline of your resume and develop your portfolio in the down times.

One of my favorite go-to resources for tech information is Mashable. A quick search reveals several relevant and extremely helpful articles:

Two of the sites that I mentioned at Second Thursday, which I have not personally used but have had recommended to me by others who have, are Elance.com & oDesk.com. It depends on the site, but typically these sites are funded by taking a percentage of the contractor’s revenues. They also offer screenshots for your client (so they know you’re working) and usually guarantee payment for you, the contractor. Another site that one of my favorite job-related websites, Corn on the Job, recommends is FlexJobs.

A caution is in order here because job sites and freelance sites alike can be prone to scams. People want your valuable personal information, and it’s important to watch out for job offers that look too good to be true, ask for information they don’t need to know, or request work on projects that appear illegal or sketchy (e.g., hiring you to harvest contact information from websites or artificially increase the “likes” on a Facebook Page).

While we’re talking legalities, it’s important to keep great records. You’ll want to keep records of any business expenses for tax purposes (keep in mind you may need to submit self-employment tax on a quarterly basis depending on your earnings), and invoice your clients in a professional manner (another thing the above sites are useful for). Writing up a contract or agreement of who is doing what is always advisable. You may want to create a draft template for quick and easy general projects.

I want to leave you again with two thoughts I mentioned at the meeting this week. First of all, don’t only think about what you want to do, are good at, or could do. Think about what you don’t want to do. Don’t forget that you can create a ripple effect and give other people work by contracting out what you don’t want to do. You can take on a larger project, and assuming that you have vetted your contractors and can trust them to uphold your brand’s standards, you don’t have to do every piece of the project yourself.

Finally, be prepared at the intersection of strategy and serendipity. Some of your jobs will come to you in the most unexpected ways, and if you’re prepared to take advantage of that, you’ll do well. Others will come only after considerable planning and implementation of wise strategies on a path to where you want to go. Both are a part of a successful freelancing business.

I wish you luck in all your endeavors and welcome any questions you may have about my freelancing experiences and what I’ve learned from them. That’s a wrap for this week!