Taking the step from full time employment in to freelancing has become a reality for many over the past ten years. A culmination of technological advances and availability, increased opportunities to e-network and an opening of many markets via the World Wide Web, it's now much easier to sell your skill.
Whether you're setting up a Graphic Design company or baking wedding cakes, the risks are still the same. Sacrificing a full time income to build a business from scratch is terrifying, but the evolution of e-commerce in the past decade has drastically changed the market. Writing business strategies and sussing out competitors has gone from an almost insurmountable task to the quick click of a button. So why are we still taking the same advice that freelancers were being given ten years ago? Because old habits die hard. And these are three that need burying.
Start Slow -" Build a basic business and then run it on the side until it grows organically"
Setting up shop (virtually, as is the norm nowadays) used to be a case of printing business cards, setting up an Ikea desk and starting to tell everyone you knew and their dog what you're doing now. You needed to circulate leaflets and place local ads, then wait and hope that the work come in. But in today's marketplace, the instant gratification of the Internet has shifted potential customers expectations.
Instead of expecting a reply to a query within days, customers now expect quotes within hours. It's become a case of fastest finger first, with websites like PeoplePerHour showing that the most successful freelancers are online at all times, ready to fill in a proposal and pitch in real time. So fitting in your business in your the evenings or spare time is no longer an option. To succeed, you need to log in and get going, and this is done primarily during business hours.
The swiftly evolving and fast paced environment of start-ups and e-commerce means that if you don't win that contract, someone else will. Within minutes. But the good news is that it's completely possible to achieve almost overnight success and instant income with the right platform. It's just a case of finding the right website, setting up a clear portfolio and letting the powers that be match you with the right contracts. Don't start slow. Or you may never get started at all.
Set Your Rates Conservatively - "Start small on price to win business and build a client base"
The issue with this mind-set is that you've already lost the game here. If you have what it takes to flourish in freelancing, you must believe that you have something of value. If you feel like you're just joining the army to rise through the ranks then step aside - This is grown up work. Don't even get involved in the competitive world of freelancing unless you have the skills to back it up, and the motivation to excel and strive over your competitors.
Setting your rates should be about the value of your product, not just "filling the books". Devaluing yourself by setting a low rate is essentially telling your client what your work is worth, and the standard that they can expect. Build a foundation of mutual respect and, although negotiating is great, there's a bit difference between that and haggling. Check what your "Dream Clients" are paying for the work you want to be doing, and then set yourself up with that benchmark. Don't over-do it, and be ready to add value to your product, but don't cut the price. Charge what you're worth, and be worth what you charge.
Word Of Mouth/Reputation Is Key - "Your core business will come from existing contacts"
Word of mouth and your standing reputation is undeniably important, but where this piece of advice was true over a decade ago, a fresh faced freelancer shouldn't be dissuaded. A portfolio is vital, yes, but there are many other factors that help make a client's decision to engage with you. A professional manner, good communication skills and fast, clean, high quality work will always win over "my mate said this guy is good". When your potential future client is looking for your speciality, they may take personal recommendations into account, but will also expect much more immediate results than in years gone by.
In short, it's about getting up early, driving your business forward and remaining motivated. Then, in time, you'll be the one they're asking for advice.