What’s it like to be a freelancer?

You open your eyes, the alarm clock is ringing – it’s November, the sunrise is nowhere to be seen, it’s cold and dark outside. You get up and go about the routine which repeats every single work day. You brush your teeth, you shower and have your coffee with breakfast, only to storm out of the house and to your car – you are already running late. You manage to drive your way through the crazy traffic of the busy city in the early morning and pray that your employer will be in a good mood today. Once at the office, the first thing you get is a mouthful from the boss about being late again, followed by a day full of shouting, bickering and pressure.

By the end of the work day, you can barely keep your eyes open. You drive back home, going through the same (if not even worse) traffic you went through in the morning, find the power to spend an hour or two with your family through the exhaustion and then collapse in bed. In the morning it starts all over again… but wait, what if there’s another way?

Certainly, there are people who love this lifestyle. People who are used to it and cannot imagine another way of passing their day – people who need the activity, need to be on the move constantly and need the dynamic of such a day in their lives. For others, however, this may seem like a half-life or a nightmare.

1437726208timeTaking things into your own hands

What if I tell you that there’s a way to be responsible for your own income? A way in which you can choose when and how to work? A way to be your own boss? As unlikely as it may seem for some, there are people who say that this is the future of all business, with the incredible advances of technology and internet communications, the rise of the IT sphere of work and the broad availability of computers and laptops, it seems quite likely indeed.

Let’s talk about freelancing.

A freelancer is a self-employed person offering services, usually to multiple clients at a time. Operating as his own boss, a freelancer sets his own service menu, price, and target market of his or her clientele.

It’s really not a term used to describe only one line of work or profession. Regardless if you are a programmer, copywriter, translator, virtual assistant, data entry expert or anything else that you can possibly do directly via a computer, you’ll be able to start your own freelancing business – perhaps even a company!

How do I get started?

Of course, it’s not always easy to get started with such a thing. For someone without any sort of freelancing experience, it might take quite a bit of luck – yet persistence and patience will get you where you want to go.

Initially you will need a very good CV and profile. List all of the experiences which you have, no exception – every single bit counts if you are to catch someone’s attention. Don’t treat it as a chore, make sure your CV is engaging and interesting, unique and eye-catching. You want to stand out from the crowd of freelancers, you need to give the client a reason to pick you!Quite often, people will judge you only by your profile in a particular freelancing website.

You should start by making registrations on several of those websites. A few come to mind right away:
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You will be required to pick your field of expertise while making a registration, make sure to note everything that you are good at! Then fill in your profile and portfolio with everything you’ve got, don’t skimp in on the details, as a new freelancer who nobody knows you will need everything in your arsenal to attract your first client.

You will need to select a hourly ratio as well, there are two type of freelance projects – fixed price and hourly. Fixed price is usually used for short term projects, e.g creating a website or coding a particular software, in such case you and your client will agree on a set price before the project begins. Usually you will be paid upon completing the project, yet sometimes you can demand half of the sum first.

Hourly ratio is often used for long-term projects or employment in a company. As a new freelancer, you can’t allow yourself to be very expensive. Do some investigation of the competition, see what more experienced freelancers are offering for this kind of work and make sure to go lower – even if there is a fine line between low and “too” low. If you drop too low, the clients will often decline you out of concern that you will do a poor job or won’t be available as per their demands.

Once your profile is shining, it’s time to start posting offers. Take your time and look around the jobs, when you find something that suits your personal requirements, go for it. You will need to create an impressive cover letter which will attract the client’s attention and make him pick you over the rest. Make sure to mention your dedication, your availability and any additional skills you have which will help the particular project. NEVER copy and paste the same cover letter on different projects, this will be ignored in 99% of the cases as it’s a sign of lack of dedication. You need an unique cover letter as per the project you are applying for, this will show your client that you care for getting this job and are 100% serious about it.

If freelancing is so good, what’s the point of having a regular job? 

While freelancing sounds like a dream come true on paper, it really has quite a bit of minuses to it. Let’s talk about some of them.

First of all, nothing is guaranteed you are a freelancer. You don’t have any work guaranteed, you can fail to find a project entirely and be left completely without money. This is why I always advise to have at least some sort of a saved sum before turning to freelancing for the first time, it will make sure you have something to live off while getting comfortable with the new line of business. Finding your first freelance project will be quite hard, unless you get very lucky. And even then, there is nothing guaranteed – while there are certain systems such as Upwork’s one which guarantee that you get paid at the end of every week via client protection, they usually have large fees both for you and your client, sometimes reaching up to 30% of your earnings.

That is why many clients and freelancers make an agreement outside of those systems, using Paypal or direct bank transfer based on trust. This is very tricky when it comes down to a new freelancer, you need to be extremely careful when negotiating such things, as the freelance business is full of scammers which can simply cheat you out of your services and then disappear, leaving you without any payment.

Remember, there is no law for this, as your clients will often be from other countries entirely. There will be no work agreement which will guarantee your payment, it takes a lot of effort to land a stable project and a steady income as a freelancer, it’s much harder than working in a company.

Is being your own boss that good? Yes, from a certain point of view, and not so much from another. This really depends on what kind of person you are. While it’s true that as a freelancer you can mostly pick whenever you work and when you take a day off, this also means that your income will be based on those decisions. Remember, there are no paid days off in this line of work like the holiday you’d have on a regular job. Everything will be COMPLETELY up to you, if you fail to sort out your things or keep up with the deadlines of your clients, chances are you won’t get paid and will get a negative review on the freelancer website you are using, which in turn will make it even harder to find a future project.

There is also nothing that keeps your client from suddenly dismissing you for whatever reason he picks (or no reason at all). While in many countries you can legally sue your boss for such a dismissal, there is nothing you can do about it there.

Some final thoughts

All in all, it really depends on the type of person you are. What lifestyle you’d like to lead, what you aspire to be and what your goals in life are. There are many more ways of achieving your goals and dreams today than there were ten years ago. While freelancing is one of those ways, it has many drawbacks which also need to be considered before devoting yourself entirely to this type of work.

Before making such a step, you need to make sure that you have a back up in case things don’t work out, you will need to put extreme effort in breaking through before you are a known and wanted in your sphere freelancer. If you manage to do all of that, however, your life will be much easier
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Vasil Yordanov

Vasil is an IT student from New Bulgarian University, Sofia. He has had several years of experience in the administrative sphere as well as extended experience as customer and tech support. Currently his mission is to make sure everything on WPI runs smoothly - from customer satisfaction to marketing purposes.

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