Tips for becoming a badass freelancer

Tips For Becoming A Badass Freelancer

//Photo Courtesy: HerCampus//

Full disclosure, I probably watched Sex and the City way before I actually knew what the show was about. At 15, I barely understood every other line from Samantha Jones. But still, the depiction of Carrie Bradshaw’s carefree (and for the record, unrealistic) writing career stuck with me. Even now, when I think of a “freelancer” the image of SJP writing away in her trendy lower east side apartment window, always comes to mind.

Little did I know that a decade later I would find myself in a similar role: A full-time freelancer buying overpriced shoes.

For me, freelancing is something that happened on accident, driven from sheer panic.  The first time I was laid off I had nothing to fall back on and freelancing seemed like a good short-term solution. I was little lost because I hadn’t planned on freelancing soon in my career. Frankly, I thought I needed more experience, or at the very least, the backing of big name or company. Who was I to market myself independently? I was 22 and I’d essentially taught myself content marketing.

But then opportunities presented themselves, and soon I developed a fully operational side-hustle freelancing business. I hadn’t intended to do it full-time…and then my last lay-off happened.

The thing is this: Freelancing isn’t for everyone. But if you have a certain skill set and an interest in freelancing on the side, I believe that interest is worth exploring. I get a lot questions about what is I do, and how I get the opportunities I get. So I wanted to share a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

So whether your looking to amp up your freelancing portfolio or get your first client, here are my tips to get started:

DO: Create a website. 

Or at the very least, a web presence, whether that be with a blog or on social media (for tips on how to build up your social media brand read: Why Your Social Presence Sucks). If you don’t have a web presence to drive potential clients to, you might as well throw in the towel now. It’s important to illustrate who you are and the services you offer. If you don’t have many examples of work consider developing thought leadership pieces or blog posts that position you as an expert in your field. Potential clients will want to see some level of expertise and professionalism before they reach out to you with a job.

DO: Join a freelancing community.

Many people ask me how I hear about jobs, and about 90% of the time it’s through freelancing collectives or Facebook/LinkedIn groups. Gotta love the power of social networking right? Freelancing job boards are also a helpful network, being  the most comprehensive. But remember, just joining these groups or networks is only half the battle. You have to be an engaged member of the community. Yes that means talking back, commenting, reaching out to people, and all that other fun uncomfortable stuff.

DON’T: Try to be the jack of all trades.

I’m sure you’re a very skilled and multi-talented gal and you have a lot to offer potential clients, but for the sake of your brand (and sanity), try to focus on one or two specific offerings. Think about it, you want to produce incredible work right? Well if you try to do everything, most likely no one thing will be incredible. Instead focus on doing one or two things incredibly well. Soon you will become known for specializing in those things, and not long after, your inbox will be filled with job inquiries.

DO: Reach out to a recruiter.

Recruiters are an incredible asset if you’re looking for a more permanent freelance or contract job. In the last three years, recruiters have placed me in two full-time multi-month contracts with huge international companies. Developing relationships with recruiters is actually fairly simple. Find an agency that specializes in filling roles with your skill set, and give them a call. I recommend calling because like companies, recruiting agencies receive A LOT resumes.  Get someone on the phone and ask to set up an appointment to talk about potential opportunities. They will probably instruct you to email your resume, but going the extra step keeps you fresh in their brain when they do receive your materials. Which reminds me, before you reach out to a recruiter make sure you have an updated resume, examples of your work and/or a website to show them.

DO: Attend industry-specific events.

I can’t stress enough the value of for finding events relevant to your interest or industry. You may think you have the most specific job function, hobby, or skill set, but trust me, there’s a meetup group for you, probably holding an event right this very second. I would also suggest finding events targeted at whoever your client or customer is. For instance, I will occasionally attend events for women owned business owners or startups, because those are the people I service with Work It Web. Events give me a chance to meet new people, gain leads, and get face time with potential clients.

DON’T: Take on too many clients at one time.

Once you develop a solid client roster, it’s easy to get caught up and just say yes to everyone. My advice to you is simple: Don’t. Turning down a project is hard, especially when you’re trying to build your brand, but remember quality is better than quantity. This is a lesson many freelancers learn the hard way. Allow me to save you the pain. Idnetify what your bandwidth is and come up with a number that makes sense. How many clients or projects are reasonable at one time? How many hours can I really dedicate a week to freelancing? Then assess which projects are most valuable to your time (and bank account) and take those. All the others, take a deep breath and say it with me…. “no”.

DO: Cold call. 

Well, not exactly “cold call,” we’re not selling vacuum cleaners here. However, I do advise if you know a company you want to work for to just go for it. This is especially valuable for those of you who want to amp up your writing chops or are just getting started with freelancing. Publications are constantly looking for writers, and most of the time you will get a *small* stipend for every piece you write for them. Why wait for a job posting? Reach out to an editor and sell yourself. Even if they’re not looking for someone at the moment, the “cold call” gesture certainly put you on their radar for future opportunities.


So what do you think? Is freelancing for you? 



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