How to Get Your Freelancing Career Kickstarted

March 7, 2022
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More people than ever are turning to freelancing as a career. According to recent data, the overall number of independent workers in the United States rose 34% in 2021, to 55.1 million from 38.2 million in 2020. Driven by the great resignation and the global pandemic, more people are choosing freelancing as a career option for its flexibility, variety and work-life balance. Freelancer demographics are also changing, with the freelance profession attracting more millennials (64%) and women (55%). 

Overwhelmingly, people who choose freelancing for a living are happier. 84% of freelancers say they are happier working independently, 78% feel healthier because of this career decision, and 2 out of 3 contingent workers feel more secure than traditional workers. 

Freelance roles in high demand

Job site Upwork defines skilled freelancers as those “that indicate that their current freelance work entails selling skilled services.” These skilled freelancers include programmers, writers, designers, IT and other professionals who have a college degree or the experience to back up their qualifications. According to Upwork, In 2021, 53% of freelancers qualified as skilled, and the number of skilled individuals choosing to freelance for a living has risen sharply, up 50% from 2020 to 2021 with numbers continuing to climb.

Tech freelancers have always been a hot commodity.  That is certainly still the case in 2022. Upwork notes that for the coming year and beyond include web design, WordPress, Web Programming, Javascript, CSS, HTML, PHO, Shopify, API and UI/UX developers and designers. 

JobBliss is also seeing a significant rise in demand for C# and full stack developers from its employer customers as companies increase their investment in custom software solutions to launch new business units and increase their innovation. 

Getting started building a freelance business

Getting started with a freelance career might mean a big bold leap for some. For others, it might constitute a gradual transition into a full-time freelancing career, through part-time gigs and side hacks. Whichever direction you opt to take, building a successful career as a freelancer is not quite as simple as hanging out your shingle and hoping clients turn up at your door – even for the most skilled and talented of individuals. Working for oneself certainly requires talent, but it also takes grit, hustle and a degree of personal motivation and organization in order to achieve a successful long-term freelance career. The best freelancers also know it takes good preparation and planning. They understand they are building a business and put in place the appropriate structures and tools to manage that business efficiently and effectively. 

To that end, the team here at JobBliss has assembled some helpful advice and resources for those embarking or building a freelance career. 

Finding freelance work

Marketing yourself and your skillset doesn’t come easily to all, but it is an important part of the freelance job. Some are lucky and jump into freelancing with an existing, established network that they can tap into using professional social networking sites like LinkedIn. Marketing yourself on the LinkedIn platform is really the digital version of networking. It’s about building the right kind of contacts, engaging with them on a frequent basis. keeping them apprised of your plans, and showcasing your expertise, current project successes, skills and portfolio of work.  People like to work with those they know, like and trust, so making your existing contacts, including former employers and colleagues aware of your freelance ambitions is a great place to get your career going.  

While it is very common for skilled professionals in the corporate world to work with a recruiter, those who wish to freelance for a living might have a different experience. It is a good to talk to your recruiter to better understand the rules around being introduced to clients and what the implications and rules may be around long-term contractual commitments between you and your favorite clients.

For those who are younger and may have less of an established network, you can turn to freelance marketplaces to land your first gig. Sites like UpWork,  Fivver , Guru, Freelancer and TopTotal allow prospective clients to post jobs and for freelancers to showcase their work. These sites have great critical mass, but do tend to be quite price-sensitive, and while talent is ranked and rated, it lacks that true warm referral that can only come from a first-degree network contact. Freelancers seeking work on these platforms also have to be careful to vett clients seeking their skills. All great that work is coming your way, but is the client reputable?  Do they have a good track record in managing freelance talent?  Will they pay for work rendered, on time and at the rate you charge?  These are all very real considerations for those who depend on freelancing for their livelihood. Just as employers like to work with those they like, know and trust, so do freelancers. It’s a huge confidence builder to know your work is coming from a very warm referral or connection. 

As part of its freelance management platform, JobBliss offers its own marketplace for freelance talent targeted at the more skilled, established segment of the contingent workforce. Employers can opt to keep their talent marketplace private (for only their company staff to see) or public (allowing others to view and engage talent). Freelancers can join for free. Unlike other marketplaces that often force freelancers into jobs that offer pennies on the dollar, JobBliss ensures skilled freelancers command the respect and top dollar rates according to their expertise and experience, so you don’t end up in client relationships where your worth is devalued. Nor does JobBliss take a cut of a freelancer’s rates as other marketplaces do. In fact we don’t make money off a freelancer at all. JobBliss’s primary customer audience is focused on the employer and our mission is to make the client/freelance relationship better. So for freelancers who join our community it is all about helping those individuals gain exposure across organizations they already work with, and find new employers via the marketplace. Once a freelancer starts working with companies, they can use JobBliss to message HR and hiring managers, develop a paper trail associated with projects and maintain a direct connection with their clients. And we’re now adding additional features for invoicing and calendar management to make life even easier for freelancers so they don’t have to use multiple tools to interact and do business with clients. 

Freelance billing, accounting and taxation

To win freelance work, you need to provide a client with a scope of work and an estimate. This means sorting out how you will bill for the work you render. Are you billing on an hourly basis? If so, how much are you charging? Does that hourly rate change based on the service rendered?  Are you better suited to project work, that has a beginning or end to it and a flat rate charge?   Do you prefer a more consulting-type engagement where you are “owned” by the client for a duration of time, or can you manage multiple client projects in parallel?  All are important considerations when establishing your freelance business.  There are many solutions available to freelancers and small business owners to manage the estimation, proposal, and invoicing process, such as Freshbooks, Wave, Simply Bill, Quickbooks and Invoicely – all with varying capabilities and pricing options depending on your needs and business model. 

For those planning to dedicate themselves to a full-time freelancing career, it’s a very good idea to get yourself a great small business accounting firm, a skilled bookkeeper and a taxation number. In Canada, if your business has revenue in excess of $30,000 in four consecutive calendar quarters, you have to register for a GST/HST number with the Canada Revenue Agency and tax rates vary across provinces. In the United States, small businesses are required to get an Employer Identification Number and they will be taxed according to the business model they set up. In Europe countries abide by the Value Added Tax, which has its own rules that freelancers and small business owners should understand. Small business accounting systems cited above all help freelancers tack taxes onto their fees, and some have robust reporting to show what taxes have been charged and collected. It’s always a good idea to check with your accountant if you plan to have clients and deliver services outside of your own provincial/state/country jurisdiction. 

A final gotcha from your friendly accounting department. That first year of freelancing can be a heady thing, especially if you land those first big client contracts and start pulling in revenue. But for those who are accustomed to working for an employer, all that income remains untaxed. It’s just too darned easy to forget to set aside a percentage of income for taxes only to get hit with a whopping income tax bill at year-end. So, make sure you establish a tax bank account and pay into it religiously. If you plan to grow your team (even a little bit) set yourself and your business up on a small business payroll system like Quickbooks, Zenefits or Wagepoint and Dext is great for collecting, documenting invoices and receipts. It will save your bacon come tax time. 

Managing freelance projects and client relationships

Established freelancers who freelance for a full-time living recognize that success comes from being organized and from managing and maintaining strong, long-term client relationships. That means keeping the communication flowing between yourself and the client. Transparency on both sides is vital. Those freelancers who are part of the JobBliss platform find it much easier to maintain solid client relationships because employers can see what projects they are assigned to, the status of work in progress, and can access information about freelancers such as their specific skills, credentials and employer ratings. This often results in more work for the freelancer because the information JobBliss provides establishes a strong level of pre-qualification. Freelancers who have the ability to connect with employers through a freelance management platform tend to feel more confident in their client relationship, have a better sightline into future work, and get more exposure to other managers who can supply a continuous pipeline of new work. Freelancers also use tools like Slack to communicate with their clients, Calendly and Zoom to book and host client meetings, DropBox and Google Drive for work sharing, and project management tools such as Asana, Trello and Basecamp to stay organized and adhere to deadlines and a project’s critical path. 

Freelancing can be a rewarding and lucrative career for many, especially those who are entrepreneurs at heart. Why not take the first step in your freelance career?  Check out our Getting Started In Freelancing Checklist and join JobBliss’s free freelancer and contractor marketplace today and put yourself and your skills out there into the market.