I've been fortunate enough to make a good living as a freelancer. Now, I've written a book: 40 Freelancing Secrets: Get Work. Get Paid. Have Fun. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
What you don't need to be a successful freelancer
- A website. You don't need a website. I went without one for five years, and I only made this one because a potential client was asking for samples and it was almost as easy to build a site on Squarespace as it was to put files in a Dropbox folder. Some of the most talented people I know have a website that's been "coming soon" for 10 years. Or they just use their LinkedIn page.
- A killer portfolio. Yes, your book should be good. But your Rolodex should be better.
- Business cards. Your parents will want your business card to put on their refrigerator. But most of your work will come from word of mouth, and people who already know you.
- Office space . If you have a laptop, you can work from anywhere. Starbucks. Spot Coffee. The library. Or one of those co-working places.
What you do need to be a successful freelancer
- Contacts. Lots and lots of contacts. My clients include an old high school friend, two people I met at my first ad agency job, two of my neighbors, a friend of a friend from my third agency job, the last agency I worked for… you get the idea.
- A really comfortable chair. I still regret not splurging for an Aeron years ago, and getting an Office Max knockoff instead. It's fine, but if you're sitting on your butt 10 hours a day you want to be comfortable.
- Good speakers. A friend recommended these because of the subwoofer, and they've been awesome.
- Even better headphones. For when your kids are playing while you're trying to work, or the people next to you at Starbucks won't stop talking. I got these. They're uncomfortable at first but really, really good at blocking out noise. I also use these but they're bulkier and not as easy to carry around.
- A really powerful shredder. I'm on my second one in five years, and I'm ready to upgrade - again.
- A spouse who has health insurance - this is one of the biggest obstacles for people who want to be a freelancer. Yes, you can get insurance through your local chamber of commerce. But it's easier if your spouse/partner already has it through their work. (My friend "Sue" said you can get insurance thru Bene-Care… easy and no chamber dues.)
- Money in the bank. It's not uncommon to get paid two, three or even four months after you finish a job. Plan accordingly.
- A good computer, and someone to take care of it. I got a MacBook Air from MacSolutions Plus (one of my clients). It's fast. It's light. And those guys make sure it runs perfectly.
- The right attitude. As my friend Tim said, "Always remember that this is your job (and you're lucky to be doing something you love)."