Preparing for a Freelancing career

Tired of your 9 to 5 job, or hate working for a ‘Boss’, do you feel that being a freelancer and working on your own terms is much better.

Many people think that full-time freelancing is cool and want to take the plunge. Here are some tips to prepare yourself financially, mentally and any other aspects that you are worried about.

Freelancing

• If you are thinking about leaving your day job and want to start as a full-time freelancer do not quit just yet. Prepare and build a good foundation for freelancing. When you are confident that you have enough knowledge and preparation, only then take the leap.
• Freelancing sounds and feels romantic and gives an impression of complete freedom (which is true to a great extent). Still it is better to be prepared to tackle some known hurdles which you will face in the future.

• Be prepared to earn every rupee because there won’t be a monthly salary waiting for you at the end of a month. Every project has to be earned and every deal has to be honoured before you get paid.
• Finally, ask yourself if this is what you want to do for the rest of your foreseeable future. Because if you do not love what you do in your own business, then you will lose interest very soon. You will burn out very soon and would want to go back to your 9-5 job.

These are warnings and precautions from my own learning’s. Let me try and answer some frequently asked questions about Freelancing:

Q: “How can an IT professional start freelancing after few years of experience, after learning application development in JAVA, HTML or any Technology?”
• Freelancing is a business. You can be ultra sophisticated and start with a business plan, select your target audience, define half yearly or quarterly targets and have a well defined framework to work within. But most freelancers don’t do. It is hard to show the pros and cons of this methodology, but I suggest that you develop your own style of working.
• It is a secondary concern regarding which technology you are using to develop applications but good to stick to your strengths. Do not follow the “Herd mentality” and follow the most popular. Be good in a selected few things and deliver.
• Do not offer just products, offer solutions. Clients approach freelancers because they have a problem. Some want on-line visibility with a website, some want a software which will help them optimize their business. If you can understand and give them a solution to achieve their business goals, then you will become an immediate rockstar.

Q: “How and what will be the proper path to getting into freelancing”?
A: There is no proper path. Whatever works for you, is the right path. So keep trying. I personally have never recommended anyone to go to freelancing websites like Elance or freelancer etc. I always approach people. Through people you build lasting contacts. Through contacts you get referrals. Through word of mouth referrals you get more work. It takes time to establish yourself this way, but this is the best way in my perspective.
I feel this method is better because if you want to bid online then every time you bid you just hope that some project comes your way. But in my preferred way, you can choose which projects you want to work on, you can explain the client that why you have adopted such a technique to solve the client’s problem and you would have lot more control over your time and money. You can talk to client about future enhancements if required.

Q: “How and what will be proper path to earning close to or more than my salary”?
A: Money is a big factor. You would never want to work for free unless it is a family member’s requirement. Be smart and do not put all your hopes on one project or one client. Because on one rainy day, when things won’t be great, your solo hope might take a hit and so your source of income.

How to make money, is a different topic which has no definitive answer. This is because each person has found their own way. Follow freelancers around the world and you will find out that there is no “one” method which works for everyone.

How much money should I charge, depends on many factors like:
• How much value you can bring to a client?
• What kind of projects you can work on?
• What kind of projects you have executed previously?
It does create a chicken-egg problem where you cannot get a client without a great portfolio and you cannot have a great portfolio unless you do more client projects. So, You have to start working and show sample projects.

What is a good quote as a freelancer?
A: This is a again a debatable topic but start at a reasonable price. If you quote too high, people think that you are too expensive. Too low, people think that you do not build great stuff. Slowly as you gain confidence and knowledge, you can raise your rates.

Here are some final tips which could help you:
• Immediately make a personal website. If possible add a portfolio page with some projects. It would be even better if you could blog regularly (be it a personal or tech related one).
• Avoid working for free. If possible or as it seems practical, divide the whole project into parts which you can get timely payment. Do not commit yourself for a 3 month project and expect payment only at the end of 3 months. Your patience and encouragement will die at the end of first month and after that, you will be praying to get to the end of the project. This will stop you from focusing on the work at hand.
• Do not be afraid to turn down projects which do not suit your way of doing things. The reasons may be trivial but to give your 100% every time, you must believe in what you are creating. This comes only if you choose those projects which are close to your heart. It is better to walk away gracefully than to do a badly made project with half a heart.
• Invest in yourself. Learn every day and grow in every possible way. I met “Rohan Malhothra”(co-founder of Alma-Mater stores) in a meetup. He told me that there is nothing called too much information. Learn everything you can which may help you ahead.
• People are always looking for leaders to follow. Be one of the good ones if you can.

Finally, do not be too afraid. Just put yourself out there and things will work out.

About the Author: Tejaswi Bitra is a Web Develoment freelancer, and loves everything about Freelancing. You can reach him on his Twitter handle @teja2206.

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